He is one of the most influential experts on chemicals, pesticides, and U.S. farm and food policy, being named one of agriculture’s most influential leaders of the 20th century by Progressive Farmer in 2000.
While my understanding of GMOs has mostly been tied to how it has impacted our bodies, Ken’s presentation broadened my perspective to see how the planting of GMO seeds has impacted our soil, air and water supply.
Let’s lay the groundwork for his presentation. Looking at American farmland, the overwhelming majority of US soy and corn is Roundup Ready, meaning these genetically modified crops are resistant to glyphosate, the herbicide used by Monsanto’s Roundup.
When Monsanto introduced these genetically modified seeds, they came with the promise that this would be a time and labor saver for farmers as there would be less weeds to fight. What happened was that not all weeds were resistant. Over time, the non-resistant weeds became much more plentiful, creating what are now called superweeds.
“Monsanto promised this was going to be a revolution,” said Cook. ”Within really just seven or eight years we saw superweeds that loved to be doused with Roundup. It doesn’t bother them at all. They just keep growing. They are a big problem over millions of acres of cropland now,” he said.
So you take this amazing land that at one point was used for nature and species, turn it into a forced crop land where one seed is planted and doused over and over with certain chemicals, and after awhile the land responds.
” [Roundup] is in our water, it’s in our air. I would expect that if in a few years from now we started testing people, we will start finding Roundup in people’s blood. It is in wheat, it’s in a lot of places,” Cook said.
And I’m not sure about you, but I’d really prefer not to have Roundup running through my blood, streaming through our water system and floating around in the air. Remember, this the is chemical that is designed to stop things in nature from growing. Think about that for a second. Think about the short- and long-term consequences to our bodies and our Earth after repeated use of a chemical meant to destroy and not reproduce…
“Herbicide use has gone up on US cropland since biotech came into play in the mid-1990s as a serious factor on the farm landscape,”said Cook. “The only technology that so far seems to have reduced – at least temporarily – the use of a pesticide, an insecticide, is the use of the Bt-producing seeds for cotton and corn. But there again, we have insect resistance rising up because now this Bt is in the seeds and it is produced by the plant,” he said.
And the pressure to our land keeps coming. The amount of land that is being planted with these genetically modified seeds is increasing which puts a further strain on our air, water and land.
“We have gone to over 90 million acres of corn in recent years… over 70% of that is Roundup Ready, able to be sprayed with Roundup and we have had these Roundup resistant weeds springing up all over the country. Ninety-five million acres is a big difference from 70 million acres that was the total corn plantings just a few years ago,” said Cook. ”So we are really putting a lot of pressure on the landscape, a lot of pressure on agricultural resources, a lot of pressure on nature and nature is going to respond. When she does, you get insect and weed resistance and we get a legacy of heavy, heavy chemical use.”
The answer from the biotech companies to address the increasing problem of super weeds is new pesticides.
“In some cases, you do need insecticides or herbicides to deal with an emergency in conventional agriculture,” said Cook. “But by and large what we are doing now is overloading the system and Mother Nature is rearing her head back and saying, ‘Enough is enough.’”
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Ken’s complete presentation includes detailed information about:
- 2,4-D, a weed killer from the Vietman era that is being considered for use
- “Agent Orange Corn”
- GMO labeling laws