GMOs: The Ugly
If I could name one word that fully encompasses the ugliness of GMOs it would be: Monsanto. The Roundup debacle by this agricultural company has done as great a disservice to GMOs as Andrew Wakefield did to vaccines.
While GMO crops have the potential to combat food shortages, add nutrition to food, produce pharmaceuticals such as insulin, generate biofuels and produce vaccines, the first widely distributed GMO crop introduced herbicide resistance into plants.
Roundup Ready GMOs
In 1996, Monsanto began selling seeds for “Roundup Ready” crops. The GMO plants had been engineered to be glyphosate resistant. Glyphosate is an herbicide commonly known as Roundup. The idea was that farmers could plant Roundup Ready plants then spray Roundup on their crops to reduce weeds without harming their plants. For Monsanto, this worked out well because they sell the seeds and also produce Roundup. They were making money two ways on these GMO crops.
Roundup was believed to be relatively non-toxic and to have little effect on people that consume Roundup treated crops. And theoretically, the farmers would use less Roundup because they wouldn’t have to keep treating their crops.
Well, that backfired.
The Problem With Herbicide Resistance
Plants always seem to find a way to grow, and weeds became tolerant to Roundup. Farmers began spraying more herbicide on their crops to combat the problem. Eventually, “super weeds” grew that were resistant to Roundup. In fact, in 2012, half of all US farmers had Roundup resistant weeds in their fields.
Is Glyphosate Dangerous for Humans?
Meanwhile, studies began to emerge that Roundup isn’t as inocuous as Monsanto would like us to believe. In fact, in 2015 the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer decided to reclassify glyphosate as a probable carcinogen to humans. There have been other studies that claim that Round Up is not harmful to humans. I imagine both are correct and the result depends on how you design the experiment.
This might be a moot point if farmers weren’t spraying increasing amount of Roundup on their crops. But they are and we have to deal with the effects of people eating those crops !
Glyphosate is Harmful to Monarch Butterflies
An inadvertent result of farmers liberally spraying Roundup on their crops was the decimation of the milkweed. This weed is also one of the limited food sources for the Monarch butterfly.
No milkweed=no butterflies
Monarchs aren’t just pretty to look at. Along with bees, they are one of the important insects involved in pollination and food production.
No milkweed=no butterflies= no food
I think Monsanto is aware of the many concerns about their herbicide resistant GMOs. In fact, if you look at their website, you can see that they are proud to tout everything they are doing to make the world a better place.
I think though, their efforts would be better placed in talking about different kinds of GMOs rather than how they are fixing the problems their herbicide resistant crops have created.
Blogging my way from A to Z as part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge. Come blog through the alphabet with me.
Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart.