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10 Reasons Why We Do Need GM Foods… “The future rests in the soil beneath our feet”

Soil CompactionA couple months ago, waiting for my plane to take off, I found a lost National Geographic Magazine in the front seat pocket. With a lot of time ahead and not much to do, I decided to enjoy the eye-catching pictures you usually find inside. But, there was an article that caught my attention for most of the flight.

Traveling around the world, NatGeo journalist Charles C. Mann studied the way people take care of their soil to survive, and how human behavior can impact present and future generations. There are several ways of wasting our resources and human beings have been doing all of them. Regarding the soil, hundreds of thousands of America’s finest cropland acres are being destroyed by compaction–a process that takes place when livestock and heavy machinery compress the soil, causing it to lose pore space, reducing harvest and making Midwestern U.S. farmers lose $ 100 million in revenue every year.

When the soil has been compacted, roots can’t penetrate it and water can’t drain and runs off–causing erosion that can take years or decades to be reversed.

This process is a consequence of tillage. U.S. farmers have been tilling their fields to prepare soil by plowing, ripping or turning it for hundreds of years, but the introduction of tractors in the 1900s made modern and large-scale agriculture possible. Since then, our soil has been plowed over and over every year, converting this profitable activity into an environmental issue.

The use of tilling machinery in conventional agriculture inverts soil layers–mixing air into the soil and increasing microbial activity dramatically over baseline levels. When that happens, soil organic matter is broken down quickly and carbon is lost into the atmosphere, which–combined to the emissions from farm equipment itself–intensify the greenhouse effect, or global warming.

The introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops in the last decade made no-till farming possible. Biotech developed crops are resistant to the use of readily biodegradable herbicides, like glyphosate. Herbicides–when used in combination with crops that were genetically modified to resist their action–kill the weeds that compete with crops for the limited soil nutrients available. This increases the crop’s yield dramatically and in a safe way, since these herbicides are degraded by microbes and fungi in the soil or in surface water.

Thanks to the implementation of herbicide programs, the use of mechanical machinery is diminished, leaving the soil intact while all crop residues are left on the field–conserving soil structure in its natural way, slowing and sometimes stopping field carbon loss.

In addition, no-till farming increases soil quality, protecting it from water erosion and structural breakdown. Crop residues limit evaporation–conserving water for plant growth by helping water infiltrate the soil where it can be used.

Finally, less tillage of the soil reduces labor, and related fuel and machinery costs. This means important economic benefits for farmers, in addition to the monetary grants and awards that are becoming available to those who reduce their tillage activity.

In 1991, the International Soil Reference and Information Centre estimated humankind has degraded more than 7.5 million square miles of land, “trashing an area the size of the United States and Canada combined.” By 2030, Earth’s population will reach 8.3 billion people and to feed them “farmers will have to grow 30 percent more grain than they do now.”

Only 11 percent of the world’s land is used to produce food for the world population. It is time to understand the only way to survive as a species is taking care of our resources and spreading positive activities like no-tillage around the world.

10 Reasons We Do Need GM Foods

Santiago is a Manager of Public Affairs at Monsanto. He was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, post-graduate studies in Social Communication & Media and an MBA in Marketing Management. Prior to working at Monsanto, Santiago taught PR for almost seven years while working as a Communications Advisor for several organizations and industries. He also worked for a multi-national IT company and an Oil & Gas company as PR Manager.

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55 Responses to "10 Reasons Why We Do Need GM Foods… “The future rests in the soil beneath our feet”"

  1. The public trusted you before, and all we got was Aspertain, PCB’s, and Agent Orange. This has resulted in environmental destruction, millions of injuries and deaths, and our company has been found guilty of perjury in the past.

    Why should we trust you now?

  2. Another question may be, why do we have to limit ourselves only to the no-till option or the gm option. What about minimal-tillage organic farming with crop rotation? Accoording to this USDA article which compares minimal-tillage organic farming to conventional no-till, the organic farming produces better soil with higher carbon and nitrogen content.

    http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jul07/soil0707.htm

    From 1994 to 2002, Teasdale compared minimal-tillage organic corn, soybean, and wheat with the same crops grown conventionally with no-till.

    Many agriculturalists believe that no-till builds soil better than organic farming, which uses tillage to incorporate manure and control weeds. Tillage is known to destroy soil organic matter. But Teasdale’s study showed that organic farming built up soil better than conventional no-till because use of manure and cover crops more than offsets losses from tillage.

    In a 3-year study following the 9-year system comparison, Teasdale grew corn with conventional no-till practices on all plots to see which ones had the most productive soils.

    Those turned out to be the organic plots. They had more carbon and nitrogen and yielded 18 percent more corn than the other plots did.

    “It takes time for organic matter to build up, so we wouldn’t have seen these surprising results had we only looked after a few years,” Teasdale says.

    What About Weeds?

    Despite organic farming’s enrichment of the soil, weed problems during the 9-year study were enough to lower corn and soybean—but not wheat—yields below those of no-till crops.

    But in another long-term experiment begun in 1996, Teasdale learned that adding more kinds of crops to the organic rotation helped control weeds.

    “Weeds tend to adapt to crops whose growth timetable creates conditions favorable to weed growth,” Teasdale says.

    Planting the same summer annual crop year after year allows weeds suited to that growth cycle to keep maturing and adding their seeds to the soil. In organic systems, Teasdale showed that rotating diverse crops markedly lowers the numbers of weed seeds lying dormant in soil.

    In an ongoing experiment called the “Farming Systems Project,” Teasdale and ARS soil scientist Michel Cavigelli showed that after 10 years, corn yields were higher in diverse organic rotations that included a perennial legume.

    “This is one of a few studies that consider the effects of rotation length and crop complexity on organic grain yields,” Teasdale says.

    [Rodale incorporated GM into their Farming Systems Project just last year. It is being compared to conventional and organic systems in a multiple year study]
    http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/20080529/gw1

    Beginning this growing season [2007], the Rodale Institute began combining two exciting projects—organic no-till and the Institute’s long-term Farming Systems Trial (FST)—to see what complementary and synergistic benefits might be produced. This initiative is assisted by funding from a Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant.

    Now in its 28th year, the FST has compared conventional farming using Penn State Agronomy Guide input recommendations to both legume- and manure-based organic systems. Results have shown organic yields to be within 5 percent of conventional yields in most years and the organic systems outperforming the conventional system in years of extreme weather patterns such as drought.

    In 2002, Rodale Institute also designed, built and began experimenting with a no-till roller-crimper, which allowed for the marriage of two best management practices—organic farming and no-till. The roller allows for the mechanical killing of cover crops without conventional no-till’s typical reliance on herbicides. The resulting living-mulch mat acts as a barrier against weeds, conserves moisture, protects the soil, provides an extensive rhizosphere (root zone) for beneficial microorganisms, and—in the case of leguminous cover crops such as hairy vetch—provides a source of nitrogen to the cash crop. Rodale Institute’s own success with this system was followed by an ongoing NRCS-funded project that paired farmers and researchers across the country using the no-till roller approach under a variety of conditions and cropping systems.

    The project also gives the Institute the opportunity to enhance its conventional system with the benefit of feedback from conventional farmers, he said. “We’re introducing no-till into our organic systems and updating our conventional system,” Ryan said, adding that no-till management strategies will be overlaid onto the three existing systems—conventional, legume-based organic, and manure-based organic—for a total of six systems.

    “This should help address some perceived biases by updating and integrating best-management practices into our conventional system and also taking a massive leap forward with organic no-till,” Ryan said. Those management practices, he said, include incorporating the use of genetically engineered corn and soybean into the conventional systems.

    Earlier this year, Rodale Institute began an aggressive campaign to show how organic farming can fight climate change. Part of that message has been that converting all U.S. agricultural lands to management practices utilizing cover cropping, crop rotation and compost application instead of farming with mineral fertilizers and synthetic pesticides could be the carbon-offsetting equivalent of removing nearly 80 percent of all operational vehicles from U.S. roadways. The Institute believes that the addition of organic no-till would significantly increase that mitigation capacity. Now, through the benefit of the SARE grant, scientists there have the opportunity to put that idea to the test.

    Also, part of the project will include an energy analysis across all systems, Ryan said. “We expect organic no-till to be favorable….much more energy efficient.”

    The other side of the same coin, Curran said, is the opportunity to introduce no-till methods into the organic systems and quantify the results. “I think we’re all thinking about a rotational no-till system,” he said. “How we can fit that in and make it work is a very exciting thing.”

    [But according to this comment, it will take at least 3 years to draw a conclusion from adding GM to the Rodale Farming Systems Trial http://rodaleinstitute.org/bowman/20090130 :

    Update for Alex280: Rodale Institute announced in June that we had added conventional no-till and genetically modified corn to the Farming Systems Trial. We did this to directly compare these technologies on the same basis as the other trial subplots. We also added organic no-till, which uses our typical organic regime (no synthetic chemical fertilizer, no insecticides, no herbicides) and no-till planting, with our no-till roller-crimper. Some Institute supporters objected, but we explained the addition of GM corn as a critical step in obtaining the strongest possible scientific comparison for our organic system with these heavily promoted non-organic technologies. Useful data comparisons take a while to develop, so it will be at least three years (through crop season 2010) before we an make initial interpretations.

  3. I work for Monsanto and Brad asked me to respond to Deborah’s post on minimal organic tillage. Santiago’s original post described how the use of herbicide tolerant crops has helped spread the use of conservation tillage methods in conventional agriculture. Deborah suggested that organic producers could also use conservation tillage methods when rotations or mulch rather than herbicides are used to control weeds. This is a good point, there’s not one “right” way to do most things in agriculture. However, when one person says GM and the other says organic, both sides are likely to shut down their ears and often their brains.

    It’s a digression, but you might take a look at the book Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food by Ronald and Adamchak. It’s a nice discussion about genetic engineering and organic agriculture.

    Anyway, let’s start with what I think most folks will agree on: 1) Organic matter is good for soil health. It increases water and nutrient retention capacity, improves soil structure and promotes better crop yields. 2) Most agricultural soils can be improved by increasing the amount of organic matter they contain. Heavy plowing without the additional organic matter that cover crops or manure can bring has greatly reduced organic matter levels in most fields. 3) Soil erosion is not good. Loss of topsoil, which is typically where most of the organic matter is, depletes fields and can reduce water quality. 4) All good field management plans should increase soil organic matter and control erosion.

    Now you can get into a debate about how “best” to increase organic matter and control erosion. This is the part where there isn’t one answer. The answer for a given farmer and field depends very much on what you want to grow and where you are. Manure applications are a good place to start and should be used where possible, but not everyone has access to enough affordable manure and you may still run into application rate limits due to nutrient content. Cover crops are another attractive alternative, but are not widely used due to practical limitations. Cover crops add planting and killing costs, can reduce available water in the spring and their use can be limited in crops that push growing seasons to their edges (We finished our corn harvest in December this year!). However cover crops can bring real benefits for soil health and nutrient management. In my opinion, this is an area that could do with some more research. The benefits are real, but fuel, labor and yield loss all need to be reduced for cover crops to be more widely used in row crops. Finally you get to tilling. Conservation tillage, where either no or limited tilling is done can help build soil organic matter, control erosion control and also saves farmers time by reducing passes through the field. Stand establishment and weed control can be challenging, but improvements in soil quality and time savings more than offsets these challenges. These basic methods of increasing soil organic matter and controlling erosion are used to varying degrees by both organic and conventional farmers depending on what they’re growing and where their fields are located. No particular combination of methods is the “best”. You can disagree about the role of herbicides, labor costs and genetic engineering in a production system. The important thing is that a management system is used that builds soil organic matter and controls erosion.

    If you made it through the last paragraph, hopefully I’ve convinced you that conservation tillage is one of several possible tools for increasing soil organic matter and controlling erosion. It’s a very nice tool, but its large scale use has been limited to applications where herbicides are used to control weeds. Originally conservation tillage was done using herbicides and conventional crops. Since then, the introduction of herbicide tolerant crops has made conservation tillage much simpler to implement. Herbicide tolerance allows farmers to use high speed sprayers to move rapidly across fields, greatly reducing the cost weed control in conservation tillage systems. According to the Conservation Technology Information Center, conservation tillage was used on 49 million acres of soybean and 34 million acres of corn in the US in 2007. Because of the reliance on herbicides implementation of the conservation tillage has been difficult in organic systems. Deborah Rubin has nicely pointed out that cover crops can be used in place of herbicides when the cover crop is mechanically killed and left to act as mulch. This allows both organic and conventional farmers to take advantage of the benefits that conservation tillage brings to a farmers field. As she’s pointed out, it’s not an either/or choice. While herbicide tolerant crops make it much easier for a farmer to use conservation tillage methods, you don’t have to use herbicide tolerant crops to run a no-till operation.

    If you have access to the Agronomy Journal, Glover Triplett has written a nice review on conservation tillage that includes conventional methods, methods with herbicide tolerant crops and methods that don’t use herbicides.

    Triplett GB, Dick WA (2008) No-Tillage Crop Production: A Revolution in Agriculture! Agron J 100:S-153-S-165

  4. So they are comparing organic farming with a fertilizer added to a no till system without added fertilizer? It’s an apples to oranges study. It shouldn’t be any surprise that fertilizer adds to soil fertility and crop yields.

  5. “The public trusted you before, and all we got was Aspertain, PCB’s, and Agent Orange. This has resulted in environmental destruction, millions of injuries and deaths, and our company has been found guilty of perjury in the past.

    Why should we trust you now?”

    Well you could start with the fact that the things you mentioned were discovered decades ago. To suggest that Monsanto’s (and indeed the entire technical world’s) knowledge of safety and environmental impact has not improved since then is disingenuous at best.

    Furthermore, why even bring those things up? The Monsanto of the new millennium is a seed company, not a chemical company and its products and processes are subjected to the rigorous scrutiny of the FDA, EPA and other regulatory agencies.

  6. Mike E. says:

    No particular combination of methods is the “best”. You can disagree about the role of herbicides, labor costs and genetic engineering in a production system. The important thing is that a management system is used that builds soil organic matter and controls erosion.
    *********************************
    I would agree that different methods better suit different areas. But all other factors being more or less equal, it’s high time to employ the methods that are the least degrading/disruptive to the environment and have dependable, healthful yields for the farmer and the consumer. I sometimes think the consumer is ironically taken out of the cost/benefit analysis when he or she is the whole reason for the endeavor in the first place.

    From the FST’s, I think we are seeing that organic methods are comparable to conventional methods, more consistent in times of extreme weather; and since GM is comparable in yield to conventional per USDA, we may see the same results between GM and organic as we did comparing organic to conventional as far as yield goes. For chemical and financial inputs, we’ll have to wait and see.

    An interesting, individually-crafted farming technique I recall involved the microdosing of conventional crops in West Africa. I realize this is probably not applicable to mass farming, but it stands on its own merit in its own cultural context and results.
    http://www.africafertilizersummit.org/Online_Press_Room/ICRISAT%20Microdosing%20Press%20Release.pdf

    That story is truly a fascinating read and no GM crops were planted per Dr. Twomlo. To make a brilliant but long story short, after analyzing the soil demands and using a microdose of the right fertilizer at the right time in the season, the farmers increased yields 44-120%. And when this agricultural method was combined with an an economic inventory credit system called warrantage, incomes of farming families increased 52 to 134%. This is a good example of how tweaking the technique, which actually lowered the anticipated cost of inputs, can increase the yield and the success of the farmers in very extreme environmental and economic situations.

    It seems to me that more often than not, in our efforts to increase our harvests and decrease costs, we have too often failed to recognize our impact on the whole system and to foresee the hidden costs to our health and the environment. There has always been a short-sightedness in the implementation our technologies. Because of their insidious nature, the consequences often are not apparent until the problems are quite pervasive and in serious need of remediation–which then leaves us with our original challenges compounded by new ones. Think of the numerous “bad pharmaceutical drugs” we are hearing about lately as another example.

    According to Richard T. Wright, in his book, Environmental Science, 2008, pages 417 and 418, “The chemical approach fails because it ignores basic ecological principles. It assumes that the ecosystem is a static entity in which one species [or more], the pest, can simply be eliminated. In reality, the ecosystem is a dynamic system of interactions, and a chemical assault on one species will inevitably perturb the system and produce other, undesirable effects. To achieve sustainability, therefore, we must understand how ecosystems work and adapt our interventions accordingly.”

    To that point, if a similar yield and soil quality can be achieved without herbicides that not only pollute the land, air, and groundwater but also leave a harmful residue on human food, the choice seems clear to me–even if more mechanical effort is employed. The overall energy inputs will be included in the Rodale analyses, so they can be compared.

    Do we really need to genetically modify the plant–with all of the inherent risks and unknowns–or can we merely modify our farming techniques and produce adequate, healthful yields? Perhaps we need to dig deeper to expose the real roots of our problems so they can be dealt with directly. To create a truly sustainable system, farming or otherwise, requires the integration of all sciences: agricultural, ecological, social, biochemical, nutritional, demographics, etc, etc. It’s all interrelated.

    The Infinite Earth theory has been debunked in the minds of most people. We are working within an abundant, interconnected, resilient, responsive and beautiful system. But ultimately, within the constraints of space and time as we know it, our Earth is a closed system and it has its limitations.

    Referring back to the success story of microdosing in West Africa, we can assume that this meaningful, yet modest, degree of success can be further nurtured and cultivated there. But is biotech the answer? Is that a comprehensive approach to all of the issues in West Africa itself and its place in the Global Society?

    How many people on this Earth are undernourished. And why?

    In recent history, prior to 2008, there had been no overall shortage of food crops grown in total; yet, tragically, countless people starved every year, every day, every hour. The problem is a complex one of social issues (war, poverty, values, etc…), local famines, population distribution, environmental degradation, food distribution systems, and undeniably, our priorities. We only have to look to Haiti, where some people actually resort to eating mud to quiet their hunger pangs so they can sleep at night, to see how an impoverished country can exist so close to our own land of plenty. Indeed, we have hungry people within our own cities and towns. These inequities and misfortunes will not be overcome solely by increasing food production. They will also require social infrastructure changes. We have so many overfed people in the Western World whose bodies are still starved for proper nutrition.

    The large amounts of meat we eat, a diet that is catching on in other developing nations, increases our demand on the land, water, energy, and crops–all elements of our food supply, itself. Our ravenous appetite for energy, coupled with questionable political policies, is converting more of our crop farms into energy production offshoots, which further drives up food costs and demands. And so we have looped back to still further and further increasing our demands without even increasing our human population. The system, itself, is circular and spiraling ever outward.

    We are being told that biotechnology can fix this for us, too. We can modify food crops to produce more ethanol more easily. We can stack in more pesticides and use more herbicides, create refuges. That will hold off resistance….for a while. Then we can stack in more, Others. We can genetically modify insects.

    But still, farmers are using atrazine and other persistent, harmful herbicides as part of the Roundup regimen. How is this an improvement? This is where I feel the disconnect is: instead of cultivating an ecological equilibrium, we are losing ground to herbicide and insect resistance and contaminating our planet. Our food is becoming more and more toxic. Instead of working with nature in a sustainable system, we are caught up in a never ending battle, a self perpetuating feedback loop that is not sustainable and will eventually collapse in on itself.

  7. Rodale’s results look good on paper but whether they will translate to agrigulture on a broader scale are yet to be seen.

    Firstly the yield match for a given crop is only good for a given year – the rotation of crops is not going to allow for a farm to rotate Corn and Soy alone so farmers will take a hit in off years financially – environmentally not a big thing, but farming is a business, and I don’t know of many businesses which are willing to take a guaranteed hit in profitability every 3 years so long as they are guaranteed near equal profitability with their competitors for the other two years.

    Secondly, and this applies only to the animal fertilized part of the study – looking at figures for suggested manure useage per acre on organic farms the figure is around 20T, the average cow produces ~24T of manure in a year (eww), ~250 million acres are predicted to be planted 2008 and on… requiring ~1 cow/acre to fertilize if we switched. As there were 95million cattle in the US at the start of 2009 there is a clear problem here for this particular method.

    We dont really have to wait and see for the inputs differentials – Rodale’s results detail these also – there is a significant drag in revenue/ac for legume (as we’ve discounted fertilizing with manure) N application which would require an approximate 10% premium in pricing to match conventional methods – in today’s market achieving this premium is no problem, as supply of organic food increased from 1-2% to 95%+ of total available food it would be hard to maintain any sort of increased premium.

    Also, Rodale’s study found that organic legume farming, over the 13 years of the study leached out ~30kg/Ha more nitrate than either the animal or conventional systems – extrapolate this over 250 million acres in the same time period and you see an increase of ~6500 million lbs of nitrate leached from the soil. Nitrate leaching is one of the most obviously harmful effects of large scale farming (zone of anoxia in the gulf of mexico being a prime example) arguably far more harmful on a global scale than herbicide and pesticide use combined.

  8. Ewan, would you please cite your source?

    This issue you raise is a great reason to take a comprehensive look at farming as it relates to environmental degradation and how degrading our environment weakens the system as a whole. The leaching of nitrates and pesticides is another good reason to reconsider growing crops for fuel as well–besides the impications for the hungry. While growing crops for fuel does raise the market value, how do we weigh that against the hunger and environmental concerns that many of us have. How should we/can we take from the land? Is this a sustainable demand?

    http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/07/17/10414

    Last year’s dead zone reached some 7,900 square miles, but the record came in 2002, when the area totalled nearly 8,500 square miles.

    Record corn harvests throughout the Midwest are clearly adding to the problem, according to Eugene Turner, a scientist with LSU, and leader of the research team.

    U.S. farmers are planting “an awful lot of corn and soybeans,” he told reporters, adding that both crops leach nitrogen easily into soil and groundwater.

    Corn production in the United States has shot up dramatically in recent years, driven by demand for corn-based ethanol. The U.S. Agriculture Department estimates some 87 million acres of corn were planted this year.

    “The nitrogen is undoubtedly coming down in larger amounts because there’s more planting of corn this year than there has been in a very long time,” Turner said.

    Some 817,000 tons of nitrogen, roughly 35-45 percent above normal, seeped into the Gulf between April and June, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, USGS.

    Added to the mix is a record amount of phosphorous flowing into the Gulf.

    The USGS reported that 85,000 tons of phosphorous entered the Gulf from April through June, some 85 percent above normal levels.

    Turner said his team is uncertain what impact last month’s record floods in the Midwest will have on the dead zone.

    Although researchers can’t quantify the effects yet, he added, it is likely that the zone will expand from as a large pulse of floodwater coming down the Mississippi enters the Gulf.

    *****************************************

    As far as leaching goes, is it safe to assume leaching rate depends on method, weather, soil type and topography, crop type, etc, etc?

    While nitrogen (and phosphorus) run-off are certainly a big factor in the Gulf’s Dead Zone, the destruction of our wetlands has removed a living bufferzone to our waterways. Our sewage input, livestock facility runoff, and weather patterns all factor in the Dead Zone. But I do agree that nitrate and other chemical runoffs from farming must be reduced for many reasons. Nitrates in drinking water affect human and animal health as well. Nitrous oxide also pollutes the air and is a greenhouse gas.

    Farming mitigation strategies also help reduce runoff of nitrates. Some that I know of include:

    http://www.maf.govt.nz/mafnet/rural-nz/sustainable-resource-use/climate/abatement-of-agricultural-greenhouse-gas-emissions/abatement-of-agricultural-greenhouse-gas-emissions-18.htm

    Synchronising nitrogen supply and demand
    Cover crops
    Buffer zones

    Strategies known to be effective for reducing nitrate leaching include reducing fertiliser nitrogen application rates, synchronising fertiliser nitrogen supply to plant nitrogen demand, balancing the input of different nutrients, growing a cover crop and use of buffer zones (Cameron et al, 2002; Di & Cameron, 2002b). Winter cover crops reduced nitrate leaching by up to 30 kg N ha-1 compared to fallow, and delaying the cultivation of pasture leys until late autumn reduced the amount of nitrogen released from mineralisation which resulted in reduced leaching (Cameron et al, 2002). Application of irrigation water at the optimum rate for plant growth increased nitrogen uptake and reduced leaching of nitrate, but may increase leaching if too much water is applied (Cameron et al, 2002).

    Studies in a wide range of temperate ecosystems have shown that riparian zones and deep ditches interfaced between farms and rivers or lakes are very effective in reducing the nitrate content of run-off and groundwater reaching the water bodies (Blackwell et al, 1999; Burt et al, 1999; Groffman et al, 1998; Nguyen et al, 2002; Well et al, 2001). Schipper et al (1993) found that over 90% of the nitrate in the incoming water was removed by the riparian zone.
    *************************************
    This is the information I found from Rodale, but I would be interested in seeing your source as well:

    http://ecommons.library.cornell.edu/bitstream/1813/2101/1/pimentel_report_05-1.pdf

    Nitrate Leaching- Overall, nitrate-nitrogen concentrations of leachates from the farming systems varied between 0 and 28 ppm throughout the year (per sampling event). Leachate concentrations were usually highest in June and July, shortly after fertilizer application in the conventional systems or plow down of the animal manure and legume cover crop. In all systems, increased soil microbial activity during the growing season appears to have contributed to increased nitrate leaching (Figure 14).
    Water leachate samples from the conventional system sometimes exceeded the regulatory limit of 10 ppm for nitrate concentration in drinking water. A total of 20% of the conventional system samples were above the 10 ppm limit, while 10% and 16% of the samples from the organic-animal and organic-legume systems exceeded the nitrate limit, respectively (Figure 15).

    Over the 12-year period of monitoring (1991-2002), all three systems leached between 16 kg to 18 kg of nitrate-nitrogen per hectare per year
    These data contrast with experiments in Denmark that indicated that nitrogen leaching from the conventional treatments was twice that in the organic agricultural systems (Hansen et al., 2001). Overall nitrogen leaching levels were lower in the Farming Systems Trial rotations study than those reported by Hansen and others.
    =========================================
    I do not believe these trials all of the mitigation strategies I listed, but the leaching rates could surely be reduced.

    More food for thought: In 2002, more than 70% of the US grown grain was fed to livestock. http://www.upc-online.org/environment/020527latimes_bone.html
    How must this farming practice and way of life affect our environment.

  9. Source :-

    Organic and Conventional Farming Systems:
    Environmental and Economic Issues
    By David Pimentel1, Paul Hepperly2, James Hanson3, Rita Seidel2 and David Douds4
    July, 2005 Report

    Report by Cornell university and Rodale Institute on the full study – most of the info I pulled out was from the graphs and other figures towards the bottom of the article.

    I’m glad we can at least agree that a reduction in fertilizer use would be a good thing. My big hope is that in 8-10 years time nitrogen use efficient GM crops will begin to make a meaningful impact in this area.

  10. One more point to my above post, consider that more than 70% of US grain is grown to feed livestock. This is truly a self-feeding loop in our disruption of the nitrogen cycle.

  11. A healthy, non-biased discussion/debate on this topic is great and badly needed on a larger, more public scale. But it does no good arguing with Monsanto employees sitting in their cubicles getting paid to rationalize the actions of their employer.

    ‘Dan’ says things like: “Furthermore, why even bring those things up? The Monsanto of the new millennium is a seed company, not a chemical company and its products and processes are subjected to the rigorous scrutiny of the FDA, EPA and other regulatory agencies.”

    Isn’t that why you people created this blog? to bring issues like that up? To “clean your image” in the blogosphere? There wouldn’t even need to be a discussion if those “regulatory agencies” would regulate Monsanto instead of the other way around. The FDA has been in Monsanto’s pocket since before I was born.

    Also, Deborah touched on this but it was completely ignored so I’ll add to it: The number of hungry little kids on this Earth will continue to increase exponentially, but genetically modifying our food will do nothing to cut through the regional, social, cultural, and most of all political restrictions in the way of feeding them. So quit acting as if Monsanto has the well-being of the human race on it’s agenda, which is almost as ironic and hilarious as your corporate sustainability initiatives. A Biodiesel bus??!! Really?

  12. Dan says “Its products and processes are subjected to the rigorous scrutiny of the FDA, EPA and other regulatory agencies”.

    None of the members of these agencies have ever worked for Monsanto, have they? Sure, the revolving door between biotech and regulatory agencies doesn’t render the agencies utterly suspect, but it does prohibit you from applying the phrase ‘rigorous scrutiny’.

  13. James, I think this might do some good–especially if more people with different perspectives get involved in the discussion. Thank you for reiterating my point about hunger and poverty. I hope it will be addressed by Monsanto some time soon. How can impoverished people buy GM crops or food when they can’t afford the food and supplements that are available now? How will people living in a war zone benefit from GM?

  14. James says:-

    “A healthy, non-biased discussion/debate on this topic is great and badly needed on a larger, more public scale. But it does no good arguing with Monsanto employees sitting in their cubicles getting paid to rationalize the actions of their employer”

    Why is it no good debating with Monsanto employees? Would the debate be better if it excluded Monsanto employees? (also I cant speak for any of the other Monsanto employees responding here, but I get paid for something completely different and just do this because it’s interesting to me)

    • As an extra add on, all Monsanto employees comment because we want to, not because we have to!

  15. On hunger and poverty – the Water efficient maize for Africa (WEMA) project might be worth a look for anyone doubting that Monsanto might be involved in anything to do with human well being.

    This may not knock down all the barriers which cause world hunger, but as a seed company this seems to me to be a great step forward in ameliorating the problem.

  16. I’m not sure it will knock down any of the barriers which cause world hunger. How does Monsanto think it will help? There is enough food for everyone right now. And still so many starve to death.

  17. What rubbish. GM did not start no till, it is methodology that is widely adopted in non-GM countries and has been for years.
    In West Australia, almost all of our canola is herbicide tolerant but it is all non-GM. While the worlds most popular GM crop is Roundup Ready, it can be achieved very easily by non-GM means. Our weeds are developing resistance to glyphosate without us wanting them to.
    With GM canola, you can only spray it between the 2-6 leaf stage so it does not control our worst weeds radish and ryegrass. Ryegrass must be controlled on emergence so another alternative chemical is to be applied – treflan – OK so now the grasses have a residual control and it is nothing to do with GM.
    And most of the worst broadleaves (ie radish and turnip) pop up after the 6 leaf stage and can seriously affect the sample quality.
    So whats the point? Why should farmers grow it? We don’t want to grow GM yet we are expected to accept any liability for economic loss caused by not being able to keep GM from our non-GM product. Heck we are even meant to be fined for contamination we did not want to start with. No thanks.
    Why isn’t Monsanto liable for any economic loss your product causes?
    If Monsanto believed your own propaganda that there is no problem with GM, why not accept the liability for it?

  18. I was just pointing out that your arguments might not be quite so objective when the company in question is the one that signs your paycheck.

    As for Ewan’s lone ‘humanitarian’ example… This is yet another Monsanto attempt at emotional blackmail… to distract us from the real final goal, which (dare I say it!) is a global monopoly on life itself.

    Also, this might be above your pay grade but I would just like to know where it stops. Once you’ve obtained patents for every species that humans eat and your frankenseeds have contaminated every naturally raised crop in the world what’s next?

    Well let’s see… we would potentially have a (‘seed’) company that (in no particular order):

    – Cares nothing about the environment (Agent Orange, PCBs, Dioxin, etc etc)
    – Cares nothing about consumer health (BGH, GMOs in general)
    – Has no ethical integrity (not enough space in this comment box for this one)
    – Controls goverment regulatory agencies
    -and oh yea, is the single source of food for everyone on the planet!

    This is why so many people blog about Monsanto. I’m all for debate if this is how you really feel and you really want to stand up Monsanto’s actions, past and present. But your pride in your employer and your obvious PR initiatives have no place in this debate and I just wanted to make that clear. That applies to comments like Kathleen’s little Hoo-rah! above, and especially to Santiago’s attempt at his 10 reasons.

    On a lighter note, I’ll have my camera ready next time I’m at whole foods and I run across a Monsanto employee badge hanging from someone’s belt loop. Only joking, but really?

  19. While researching water efficient maize I came across some articles about Monsanto and biofuel production in Africa. I am wondering what interest Monsanto has in urging South Africa to use its precious arable land and water to grow biofuels? Is this sound, sustainable land management of the arable, but vulnerable, land and water resources when so many on the continent are starving? I’ve seen news of Monsanto promoting biofuel development in other African countries as well, and wonder if that is true.

    But regarding this USDA article I will cite below, why does Monsanto feel it has any right to wield national policy interests in South Africa despite the resistance of their president who says he is concerned about food security as a priority? It is noted that South Africa often makes up for food shortages in the Subsaharan with their surpluses.

    http://www.docstoc.com/docs/851456/Republic-of-South-Africa-Biofuels-Situation-Update

  20. Sorry for once again splitting the citation from the quotation, but here it is:

    Monsanto was among the many agricultural sector players who also criticized the decision by South Africa to exclude corn from its bio-fuels policy, saying it would hurt farmers and deal a blow to the government’s land reform policy. “We in the agricultural sector want to say to government that we are willing to assist with agricultural matters. Big international agribusinesses, like Monsanto, invest in the country and its economy, and government must realize that we are here to stay. For that reason we have to map the future together. Using corn for bio-fuels would allow the government to settle black farmers on farms through its land reform policy with a big demand for corn that they could plant. Now government has put a lid on all this.” said Kobus Lindeque, managing director of Monsanto for sub-Saharan Africa.
    _______________________

    Why does South Africa have to map the future with Monsanto?

  21. Just for James’ reference, yes I’ve been in a Whole Foods and even a Trader Joe’s and worn not only my badge but a logoed Monsanto shirt. No one’s ever said anything about it to me, and I’ve never engaged in discussion about it with anyone else. And I’ve usually done it on my way home from work or an event, lest you accuse me of wanting to spark controversy.

    I’m all about good tasting food regardless of the way it’s grown. Monsanto employees do shop at a variety of stores – including Whole Foods.

    Where was it ever stated that Monsanto didn’t want to make money? Isn’t that point of a company or corporation – to be profitable? That doesn’t mean that we can’t also contribute to efforts that are worthwhile. Our involvement in WEMA will aid farmers, and yes, maybe someday if their economic and personal situations evolve then maybe they will have the opportunity and the choice to buy Monsanto seed. But if by that time they are in that place, then obviously their own situation has improved. And even then it will be a choice. I guess we should discount any good any big business or corporation may do because it will always be “tainted” in the minds of some. Well, not me. I’ll take good works where I can get them regardless of whom it comes from.

    And by no means do we believe biotech itself is the solution to world hunger. We can positively contribute to the problem, but as Deborah points out this is a much more complicated situation then we could ever possibly address. But Deborah are you honestly saying that there is no reason to produce more food – ever? I understand that this may not be the primary reason for hunger today, but should we not work toward the goal of producing more food? What about the increasing global population?

    Or then why not advocate for all this extra food that you believe we don’t need to go toward biofuels? Surely that would make sense if you believe we don’t need more food. The point is that farmers – through improved plant breeding and agronomic practices – can produce enough grain to meet all needs – food, fiber and fuel.

    Nobody HAS TO “map the future together” with Monsanto. It’s a phrase for goodness sakes! I think it means “partner together,” as stated earlier in the comment “we are willing to assist.” Sheesh.

  22. Sheesh, Are you sure you read my post? I don’t think that was the point. I know I mentioned sustainable land management, compared different farming techniques and some of their outcomes, ecology, human priorities, the tragedy of hunger, the consideration of 70% of our grain feeding livestock, herbicide pollution, increasing herbicide usage with HT crops, herbicide resistance, and nitrate runoff mitigation with riparian areas.

    I don’t think the arable lands can sustainably supply us with healthy food and biofuels–and the question of land dedicated to feedstock and ranching should be examined, in my opinion. Some day it will have to be–even if this sounds radical now.

    Oh, and I asked what vested interest Monsanto has in African nations growing biofuels when there is such a food shortage on the continent. How does that benefit Monsanto? What is the cost to our humanity and our environment? From the articles I read, it looks like Monsanto is exerting pressure. I don’t think your company should have a role in government as policy makers. Not here, not in Africa!

  23. In terms of corn for biofuels in South Africa I imagine that an issue here is that food/crops grown in South Africa either make it onto the global market, or are used to provide to south african needs – based on my (pretty limited) knowledge of the economic status of south africa as compared to other african nations (particularly those which suffer most from food shortages) exports of foodstuffs from SA to the rest of africa probably arent economically viable – therefore in terms of farming for profit (which can alleviate poverty for South African farmers) biofuel production may be a better option for south african farmers (again the only reason these farmers would plant biofuels over food is if there is an economic incentive for them to do so – as with all Ag products – if it isnt good for the farmer, they wont use it (which applies across the board to herbicides, GMOs, pesticides, fertilizers, organic practices, high density planting(the way of the future…), GPS guided automated farm machinery etc etc)

  24. Mica, thanks for taking my joke seriously and not responding to the issues I raised that actually matter. This adds to my point though about your (Monsanto employees on this blog) conflict of interest. You can try to rationalize and write these blog posts all you want but at the end of the day, you think twice before eating that ‘food’ or feeding it to the ones you love.

  25. Hi James

    I am not a scientist nor am I in management or even an expert in agriculture (I didn’t even grow up on a farm which makes me an anomaly at this company) so I leave it to my colleagues who are more knowledgeable and informed on specific points to address some of the issues you and others have raised. I think thus far you have asked some excellent questions and I have read with interest all of the posts back and forth.

    I guess what really gets me is the blanket generalization and personal attacks on the integrity of Monsanto employees. I’m not going to justify to people my list of good qualities or that of my colleagues or even our leadership because I know that won’t change anyone’s minds and that’s okay. It is obvious to me that there is nothing I could say that would convince detractors that I don’t wear devil horns nor do I do my job blindly following the status quo.

    Brad and team – good luck with this blog. Keep up the good work. And thanks to all who have commented and provided feedback good and bad.

  26. Oh, I forgot to mention that I DO think twice before I feed food to my loved ones – including my 7-month-old son. I take a look at the organic and the conventional baby food, pause, (to think at the absurdity of it all and to poor moms who are well-intentioned but misinformed) and then purposely buy the conventional jar.

  27. Monsato’s interest is two fold, firstly to improve farmers lives (I’ve been assured Hugh Grant will give anyone a hug who answers this as their job, hopefully this wont get me in trouble for divulging company secrets…) and secondly to generate revenue (boo hiss I guess) – what with the nature of business and all.

    In answer to James comment about not feeding GM food to the ones you love in terms of shopping at whole foods etc – I also occasionally shop there as it’s about the only place I can go to get quality fish and meat (not a fan of purchasing fish anywhere where the fish department actually smells fishy…) however I also make a point of embarassing my wife by asking if they have any inorganic food (something I started doing long before any monsanto affiliation), and am perfectly happy to purchase pre packaged meals etc from other stores – choice of a given store isnt neccessarily due to it being ‘organic’ or ‘non-organic’ but also to the quality of certain food items completely outside of the organic/inorganic divide.

  28. The debate is about choice. While a Monsanto employee can choose if he wants a hug from Hugh Grant or not is up to them.
    If a farmer wants to choose to market as non-GM or organic, our choice is removed as it is too difficult and too expensive to avoid contamination from GM crops.
    If a farmer wants to avoid additional costs associated with GM, our choice is removed as market perception is that all of our crops become contaminated unless it is proven not to be – a difficult and expensive task.
    If a consumer wants to avoid GM foods, our choice is removed because most GM foods escape compulsory labelling and farmers are unable to supply the non-GM product required as to label the product as “non-GM” legally means no GM which is too difficult and too expensive.

  29. As a registered nurse working on the forefront of healthcare and seeing the new rise in disease and resistant bacterias popping up all over, I DO NOT trust your company and the idea of being the solution to world hunger. I have yet to hear from Monsanto, the effects their “seeds” have on human health; and NOT just in the immediate, the future as well. I highly doubt we will hear anything in that respect. Of course food IS directly linked to disease, there is no denying that.

    I don’t believe anything your company tells the public; your company is a wolf in sheeps clothing. I’ve done plenty of research and talked with many people, varying from MD’s to other RN’s, biotech scientists and friends who work for Monsanto and friends who have no idea about GMfood. The information I have gathered points to a corporation much like the big pharma companies of the world who are only out for profit. And as James stated, a complete monopoly of the worlds food source.

    Some people have not seen your companies true colors as of yet, but that will change.

  30. “just say no” –

    Nobody is denying that food can be linked to disease – obviously it can be, look at the recent spate of food scares and illnesses/fatalities surrounding them (predominantly from organic sources if I’m not mistaken).

    Monsanto has repeatedly told everybody willing to listen that the GM foods available in the market today have no direct effect on human health (as compared to non-GM varieties of the same crop) – although in some instances it can be argued that there is a potential for a benefit in human health/wellbeing due to reduced inputs being used (such as an almost total reduction of class I pesticides (the worst ones) on bt-cotton, and the substitution of harmful herbicides for non-harmful glyphosate on roundup ready crops.

    Is Monsanto out for profit? Indeed they are. Is this the only driving force behind what Monsanto does? My own view is that no, it isnt. Projects like WEMA support this view, as does Monsanto’s commitment to providing funding towards agricultural education, involvement in the mississippi river partnership program etc.

    A lot of people refuse to see Monsanto’s true colors, it is my hope that in time more will.

  31. Well, here is a perfect example of how your company feels about the safety of their “seeds”, as I spread it to every person I know.

    A Monsanto official told the New York Times that the corporation should not have to take responsibility for the safety of its food products. Here is the direct quote “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of ‘bio-tech’ food,” said Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications. “Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.”

    So let me get this straight. You’re saying your company should HAVE NO RESPONSIBILITY in the SAFETY of it’s food to consumers? How can a company wanting to change their image say something like this and expect people to believe you? You’re still the same company that sprayed agent orange on and then turned their backs on people.

    As I stated before, a wolf in sheeps clothing.

    • The quote you stated is taken out of context in this instance and in many instances. Of course Monsanto worries about the safety of its products, but it is the FDA’s job to provide standards and guidelines for food safety that we and other companies follow.

  32. Look, you can “candy coat” it any way you want, the truth is right there. Yes, it is up to the FDA to assure food safety, but your company is obviously taking safety quite carelessly. The proof is right there in that comment made directly to the NYTimes. “OUR INTEREST” is in selling as much of it as possible. This is FOOD we are talking about.

    I DON’T TRUST monsanto and I will do everything in my power as an advocate for health to WARN everyone and INFORM everyone of your corrupt companies ideals and goals. You’ve done nothing to convince me otherwise. You evade.

    James was on point when he said it is pointless to debate with employees, as you’re all brainwashed into believing your company is in this not only for profit, but the well being of humanity.

    You should open your eyes and look outside of the box.

  33. i agree, JUST SAY NO! ask/goog;e canada’s percy schmeiser what he thinks of monsanto’s integrity. this worst of all corporations has sued scores of farmers for unknowingly growing gm crops- contaminated by “drift”.

    it sued ( oakhurst dairy in maine for labelling its milk free of artificial growth hormones, saying the claim implied a superior product.
    “This is an FDA-approved product and now they are telling us we can’t use it and the ladies buying the milk are getting shafted every time they pay a penny more,” Areias said. “Whether it’s organic, rbST-free or regular, it’s all exactly the same.”

    Some consumer groups, including Food & Water Watch in Washington, D.C., vehemently disagree, despite an FDA finding that milk from cows treated with the hormone is completely safe.

    They note that, after extensive debate, the European Union, Japan, Canada and Australia did not approve rbST. The reasons included questions about human and animal safety, as well social and economic considerations.

    Europeans worried about putting small farmers at a disadvantage, milk surpluses and the possibility of consumer backlash, according to a Canadian study.

    Posilac has been approved in such countries as South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Korea, Costa Rica, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Israel, Jamaica, Kenya and Mexico.

    Patty Lovera, Food & Water Watch’s food program director, pointed to research that shows injections of rbST increase another hormone, insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1, in cows. Too much IGF-1 in humans is linked with increased rates of colon, breast and prostate cancer.

    Food & Water Watch says synthetic hormone use also increases the rate of mastitis, a bacterial udder infection. That in turn leads to increased use of antibiotics, whose overuse is already a serious problem in the livestock industry.

    Meanwhile, belief is spreading quickly that growth hormones induce puberty in humans earlier than normal, said Laurie Demeritt, a consumer marketing specialist at the Hartman Group in Bellevue, Wash.

    She encountered the theory while doing a survey last year in which 61 percent of consumers said their main reason for buying organic foods was to avoid products that relied on antibiotics or growth hormones.

    In other market research, the Natural Marketing Institute’s 2006 Health & Wellness Trends Database found that 53 percent of primary grocery shoppers said they were looking for dairy, meat and poultry products that are free of antibiotics. The same number said they shop for products free of hormones.

    Monsanto spokesman Andrew Burchett said the company does not believe there is a mass movement against hormones.

    “We do not see a broad-based consumer demand for farmers to give up Posilac,” Burchett said. “In the absence of deceptive labels and advertising, consumers consistently say buying milk is based on price, expiration date and fat content.”

    Right.

    and monsanto has been a partner with the fda using our tax dollars to develop so-called “terminator technology” which would create seeds incapable of reproducing themselves, ending the millennia-long practice of humankind to save seed. Talk aboout profits for monsanto. that would make it illegal and impossible for people to save seed. check out vandana shiva, india’s nuclear physicis, and her reasons for opposition. i will believe anyone who speaks from a position of moral integrity and selflessness ANYTIME before i believe any statement from a company such as monsanto. i guess europe agreed, for years ago monsanto was forced (for how long I’m not sure) to give up such research because europe pulled out so much investment money. is the us as bright? probably not in absence of adequate reporting. this site is propaganda.

  34. JSN – if we’re obviously taking safety quite carelessly what exactly is your evidence for this?

    Monsanto run safety studies on all our products (there are various links in the blog detailing what is done) before taking them to market, millions are spent in the regulatory process to ensure that products are safe – as stated many times, GM foods are the most rigorously tested available foods on the market – nothing else goes through the same level of testing.

    Any business is going to try to sell as much of its product as possible, (well bar a few who opt out of the capitalist system) to equate this with a lack of safety or evil intention is pretty bizarre in my opinion. Working for Monsanto it is obvious that yes, profit is a top priority for the company, but as the company stands, right now, so is making a difference to the well-being of humanity – you’re free to completely disbelieve that whole statement as I work for Monsanto (in which case I’d hope you also completely discount the statements of everyone venomously opposed to GM tech – I’d guess it is probably best to leave any debate to the disinterested according to your logic) but I’m personally not sure that 6 months is long enough to brainwash anyone (while working 9-5 and having basic human rights at least), having held my convictions about the need for GM products for over a decade now, and coming from a society which was essentially anti-science I’d consider my opinions to be self formed rather than externally forced upon me by an employer who was unaware of my existance until within the last year.

  35. Lynn –

    To correct a couple of points made – Monsanto has not developed terminator tech – this was done by Delta Land & Pine in conjunction with the US government (the USDA and not the FDA I think) – DL&P was subsequently purchased by Monsanto so it is true that Monsanto owns the patent on that particular technology – it is also true that Monsanto has repeatedly stated that it does not intend to use the technology.

    Furthermore – legally anyone using patented hybrid seed (GM or non GM) cannot save seeds and replant (there are national differences in the exact nature of this law, such as Australia where it appears you can legally replant, but cant sell the crop from the replant)

    Also the presence of terminator tech would pose no real threat to the ability of people to save their own seed or replant it – logically think it through – the technology causes seeds not to germinate, therefore any contamination of a crop would have to be 100% before it caused a total crop failure, due to the nature of the gene it is completely incapable of becoming entrenched in the genetic pool of any species as it removes itself from the gene pool by its very nature.

    And finally – perhaps you should take a look at Percy Schmeisser’s integrity also – a man who in court admitted to spraying his crop with glyphosate (effectively selecting for all plants which contained patented glyphosate resistant genes), taking and segregating the seeds from the surviving plants, saving them until the next season, and then planting them over 1000 acres – how this can be even remotely considered as an innocent man being prosecuted due to the presence of unwanted contamination beggars belief.

  36. Ewan Ross Says:

    April 7, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Monsanto has repeatedly told everybody willing to listen that the GM foods available in the market today have no direct effect on human health (as compared to non-GM varieties of the same crop) – although in some instances it can be argued that there is a potential for a benefit in human health/wellbeing due to reduced inputs being used (such as an almost total reduction of class I pesticides (the worst ones) on bt-cotton, and the substitution of harmful herbicides for non-harmful glyphosate on roundup ready crops.

    +++++++++++++++++++
    Okay, you have told us, now show us the safety studies. Hold them up for public scientific peer-review. We aren’t convinced by your word.

  37. Hi Lynn,

    In reference to your milk, you’re correct. Injecting hormones into cows has MANY detrimental effects on the human body. I know this for a fact, as I was raised on a farm with cattle. My father, both a farmer and agriculturalist would NOT allow us to drink the cows milk if the cows were on antibiotics, yet so many in the milk corporations who want to make a buck will beg to differ and tell people it is “safe” to drink it. When I definitely know otherwise. Ingesting hormones also has an effect on womens reproductive health. Women these days are starting premenopause in their late 20’s, which in the past, women have started in their mid to late 40’s.

    Ewan,

    As an RN, I ALWAYS receive the most up to date information on nutrition, preventive care, disease and treatments. I have to be honest with you, monsanto may claim that GM food goes through far more rigorous testing before it is sent out than other food, but I’ve heard nothing about it. And this is something I as a soon to be parent, everyday consumer concerned about my health and an RN make certain to keep up on. I would also challenge the statement made by Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications which I posted above. Kathleen said the statement was taken out of context, yet I’m not sure “how”. It seems like a pretty simple statement and it’s direct enough about its point. I am also aware that to the best of my knowledge and I am a regular reader of the times, did Phil Angell apologize for his statement or even try to correct it. If he did, please send me the link, otherwise I will take it for face value in believing exactly what the man said.

    Lastly Ewan you said “A lot of people refuse to see Monsanto’s true colors, it is my hope that in time more will.”

    Well, I can honestly say that with people who are advocates for health and who care about the health of the environment, their own personal health and the health of humanity, everyone will see monsantos true colors.

    Perhaps in time, you may as well. Six months with a company is not much time to see their true colors, yet easy enough for them to fill your mind with propaganda in order to protect their own reputation.

  38. Quote from the Canadian Supreme Court document regarding Mr. Scheiser’s claims of “contamination” of his crop by GM:

    “Mr. Schmeiser complained that the original plants came onto his land without his intervention. However, he did not at all explain why he sprayed Roundup to isolate the Roundup Ready plants he found on his land; why he then harvested the plants and segregated the seeds, saved them, and kept them for seed; why he planted them; and why, through his husbandry, he ended up with 1,030 acres of Roundup Ready canola which would have cost him $15,000.”

    and again:

    “…tests revealed that 95 to 98 percent of this 1,000 acres of canola crop was made up of Roundup Ready plants. …The trial judge found that “none of the suggested sources [proposed by Schmeiser] could reasonably explain the concentration or extent of Roundup Ready canola of a commercial quality” ultimately present in Schmeiser’s crop.”

    Read the court docs yourself at:
    http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/2001/2001fct256/2001fct256.html

    http://decisions.fca-caf.gc.ca/en/2002/2002fca309/2002fca309.html

    http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/2004/2004scc34/2004scc34.html

  39. Beany
    You are mistaken on several fronts:

    1. You suggest that as an RN you would have been notified of GM Saftety testing. I think it is unlikely that many RNs would get information on FDA, USDA and EPA policies and study submittals/testing regarding GMO foods. There is quite a bit of regulatory and safety information that is beyond the scope of your job (GM and otherwise). You could not keep up with it all.

    The fact that an RN is not aware of GM safety testing is neither surprising nor evidence that it does not exist.

    Similarly, I do not get information on the latest precautions with chemotherapy agents, syringes, etc.

    2. Drug labels and the dairly laws both forbid the drinking of milk from cows treated with antibiotics for some period of time after they are adminsitered (there may be some exceptions). These are known as withholding period and no company will tell you to drink milk during the witholding time. It is illegal to send milk to market from a cow during such a witholding period.

    3. You need to speak to one of your endocrinologist colleagues about making broad statements about hormones. Not all are created equal. The bovine somatotropin (BST) and it’s recominant identical twin, do not cause the phenomena you discuss – early menopause, etc. BST is present in ALL cow milk – even organic. If BST caused these problems, we would have been seeing them increase since mankind began ingesting cow mil. Milk from cows treated with rBST is indistinguishable from that from untreated cows.

  40. Deborah –

    some peer reviewed science regarding the safety of GM crops

    http://jds.fass.org/cgi/reprint/84/e-suppl/E9.pdf

    -2001 review of safety of GM crops in animal feeding studies (chicken, cows(beef + dairy, sheep) which subsequently led me to find the following monsanto studies:-

    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf061482m

    http://jas.fass.org/cgi/content/abstract/83/2/400

    http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/126/3/717

    http://ps.fass.org/cgi/content/abstract/87/6/1089

    http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=2468764

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/120174789/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

    To rattle off just a few (this is by no means an exhaustive list) – it appears that the lack of peer reviewed monsanto safety studies on GM crops in the public arena is essentially a made up phenomenon (just use google scholar, find a monsanto researcher name, and bring up monsanto research around our products which is published in the public literature)

  41. Ewan, Are you presenting these as animal production studies or applicable to long term human health?

  42. Deborah – previously I listed what I found in a 5 minute google search fest… had I actually just stuck to monsanto resources I may have been more helpful more quickly….

    http://www.monsanto.com/products/techandsafety/safetysummaries.asp

    has a pretty exhaustive list of peer reviewed safety studies for various Monsanto products aswell as safety summaries etc – I’m not sure why this hasnt been linked previously, but to my eyes at least it is a pretty good one stop shop for the evidence that apparently doesn’t exist/we wont release (some of the pdfs are dated 2005/2006 so there may be some more recent info available that I am not aware of)

  43. No one said this doesn’t exist, Ewan. As usual, you are misrepresenting my remarks, at least. I have asked for a separate thread several times where these studies can be discussed individually. Can you set up such threads, so if people should want to participate, these studies can be gone over individually.

    I would appreciate it if Monsanto would state whether or not they feel the study is applicable to long term human health or an animal production study.

    Would Monsanto state what the parameters of the study and the findings are? For example, which animal systems were investigated and what conclusions were drawn; were abnormalities noted and followed up with further studies; how do the findings relate to human consumption of the GMO; does the study measure or examine gut function, liver function, kidney function, immune system response, endocrine system, blood composition, potential to cause cancer, impacts on gut bacteria; why the sample size and composition was chosen; is the sample size standard and useful in determining statistical significance; effects on the unborn; multigenerational impacts; was the protein used–if isolated–the same as the one produced in the gmo; if only the protein is used, how can we know that other compostional changes have not occured as a result of the gm process and been overlooked; how is the diet composition formulated and why; how are the controls relevant; are the detection methods used considered state of the art; how is the length of the study determined to be sufficient to predict long-term safety–especially in humans over a 75 year average lifetime; etc.

    Then people, hopefully including scientists, could ask questions.

  44. Deborah – the studies cover animal feed studies, rat toxicology studies, mode of action, environmental safety and broiler chicken studies (plus some others)in Bt and roundup-ready transgenic lines – all the evidence suggests that there is no health effects of GM foods. As such (and as has been previously stated) no long-term studies (at least that I am aware of) on effects to health have been embarked upon – because the evidence shows that there is no need for these studies.

    Animal feeding/toxicology studies apply to human health when the evidence points to zero difference from the unmodified crops (or indeed if there had been an indication of an effect)

    If the only evidence that you will accept for the safety of a given foodstuff is a long term human study then you will never get this evidence for a number of reasons – firstly the ethical considerations of doing any long term experimentation on humans (controlled experimental conditions dont really meld well with basic human rights) aswell as the vast number of environmental variables on any such study which would make such studies a nightmare to draw any conclusions from, all we can then do is point to the 1 trillion meals served containing GM products, and the zero cases of human health issues caused by GM products – backed by all the shorter term safety studies which would lead us to expect zero issues.

  45. Deborah (apologies for the multi posting – your prior response hadnt appeared by the time my last one was posted…)

    I’d love to see such a thread also – my hope is that someone more intimately involved with the regulatory process might find the time to set one up.

    My assumption that you dont believe these studies exist in the public forum rests mainly on comments like

    “Okay, you have told us, now show us the safety studies. Hold them up for public scientific peer-review. We aren’t convinced by your word”

    “all base the safety studies on the unchallenged word of the inventor and lack transparency of the entire methodology of the studies. The problem with that is that one cannot question information one is not privy to”

    If I’ve misinterpreted you then I apologise.

  46. Ewan Ross Says:

    April 13, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Animal feeding/toxicology studies apply to human health when the evidence points to zero difference from the unmodified crops (or indeed if there had been an indication of an effect)[but Animal Livestock Production Studies are intended for that purpose]

    If the only evidence that you will accept for the safety of a given foodstuff is a long term human study [I have asked over and over for a discussion of the studies and the evidence of safety extrapolated from them] then you will never get this evidence for a number of reasons – firstly the ethical considerations of doing any long term experimentation on humans (controlled experimental conditions dont really meld well with basic human rights) [nor do uncontrolled experiments on the population at large] as well as the vast number of environmental variables on any such study which would make such studies a nightmare to draw any conclusions from, [how convenient–but pharmaceutical companies do their best with perexisting conditions thrown in for fun!] all we can then do is point to the 1 trillion meals served containing GM products, and the zero cases of human health issues caused by GM products [because there is no data or control groups to compare] – backed by all the shorter term safety studies which would lead us to expect zero issues.

    ——————-

    My first reaction is that we are involved in a long term feeding study with no controls. How could doing feeding studies on willing humans have been any less ethical than what you are doing now and have been doing–feeding studies with no controls on mostly uninformed humans? The only difference is there is no consent and no data to compare. The experiment is on and has been for a decade. There is absolutely no proof of zero health issues because you do not have an experimental group to compare to controls. There is a lack of evidence. What is the life expectancy of a broiler hen? What is the life expectancy of a human?

    But again, trying to Clarify, what I am requesting is that Monsanto set up a forum–each study getting its own thread. Then Monsanto could say what safety info is gathered from the study, what was not looked at, how they determined no further studies were needed by looking at the data, etc. Then the public, including scientists, could comment on what they would still like to know or if they feel the evidence is conclusive and scientifically rigorous.

    I am asking for Monsanto to tell me how these studies preclude the need for further study. I don’t think that is too much to ask. Then I would like Monsanto to answer any follow-up questions the public has.

    That is the part I have not seen done so far.

    There is a presentation, but no follow up. The average citizen who is above average in his awareness of gmo’s in his or her diet may not realize what is NOT looked at unless someone else points it out. The average person may not know what questions to ask.

    So I would like to see a discussion back and forth. The questions are out there; Monsanto must be aware of this. A direct answer to the questions about the studies would serve the public well.

  47. please note edit to my first bracket. It should have read that Animal/Livestock Production Studies are NOT intended to prove human safety. Or are they?

  48. “Perexisting” conditions should have been “pre-exisiting.” In my frustration, I failed to edit. I have explained this over and over. Furthermore, I find your explanation for why a long-term feeding study on willing humans, perhaps those at Monsanto, who would eat the food that everyone is eating now with monitoring and data collection is unethical to you when we are doing just that without consent or monitoring. It’s hard to reconcile with reality. So this is ethical because…

  49. The non-ethical nature of the study is the fact that controlled long-term studies on humans are by their nature unethical (aswell as essentially logistically impossible with regards to GM foods) – at least as far as I remember any discussion around the ethicality (yes I made that word up) of experimenting on people.

    Not all the studies linked were livestock production studies – there was also rat gavage studies involved, aswell as non-health related environmental impact studies. I’ll admit that livestock production studies are not designed to assess human health risks, although I would argue that the neutral performance of GM products in these studies does add weight to the arguement that GM foods have no human health implications (equally should a livestock production study show that GM food harmed livestock in production it would be a pretty fair assumption that this could be applied to human health also)

    In my opinion, all the animal safety studies can be taken as evidence towards the safety of GM foods to humans – I wouldnt go so far as to say any individual study offers definitive proof – but the evidence available shows no differences (and hence no followup with longer term safety studies – which possibly would be worthwhile undertaking for Monsanto as a purely PR exercise) – I think (John?) summed up the reasoning behind broiler hen studies etc rather well, so I’ll just refer you back to his posting (wherever it is) for the logic there.

  50. It would be good to discuss the studies case by case on a separate forum to get more specific feedback, in my opinion. Assumptions must always be questioned and hopefully backed up with evidence. Any instructor would require validation of assumptions, as do peer-reviewed journals if done well. Animal production studies usually look for things like weight of deboned breast meat, fat pads, etc. When we look at human health, we often want to measure different indicators of health. A hen has a very different digestive tract from a human, as does a cow. A trout is really pushing it in my opinion. But I am sure there are lessons to learn. It depends on the design of the experiment.

    As for the studies I have asked for to be released, I’m not certain that all of Monsanto’s safety studies have been released to date, along with the data. I know the Freedom of Information Act was used to release some of the studies. I believe the people deserve to know what facts the assumed safety of their food is based on.

    I still would like to know if Monsanto is denying scientists access to gm lines and non-gm near isolines for study? We have lots of accounts of this. If so, why? Any study can be reproduced by Monsanto or reviewed for design etc. Why not support research,or at least give access to seed samples? I find that odd and suspicious. Is Monsanto discouraging information and the scientific method?

    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/corporateMonopolyOfScience.php

    What is less well known is that the agreements also prohibit you from using the seeds for research. That may not matter to most farmers, but it is important because it means that research into GM crops can be done only by the biotech companies or with their approval. If they don’t want a particular piece of research carried out, they can refuse permission to use their seeds. Even when they have given permission, if they don’t like the way the research is turning out they can stop it, or prevent the results from being published. Consequently, important decisions on GM crops and all GM organisms (GMOs) are increasingly based on evidence selected by the companies to put them and their products in the best possible light.

    That’s why when the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invited comments from the public in advance of two meetings on GM crops it was holding earlier this year, twenty six scientists submitted a statement protesting the “technology/stewardship agreements” they have to sign, which inhibit them from doing research for the public good. [2] As a result, “no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology”. The full statement is reproduced in the Box.

    [see article link for statement]

    The three companies Pollack contacted, Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer, told him that the restrictions were necessary to protect their relationship with government agencies. But when Pollack asked an EPA spokesman about this, he was told that the government only requires management of the crops’ insect resistance. Any other conditions were down to the companies; they have nothing to do with the government.