For years, scientists have been trying to unravel the mystery of a chronic kidney disease epidemic that has hit Central America, India and Sri Lanka. The disease occurs in poor peasant farmers who do hard physical work in hot climes. In each instance, the farmers have been exposed to herbicides and to heavy metals. The disease is known as CKDu, for Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown etiology. The “u” differentiates this illness from other chronic kidney diseases where the cause is known. Very few Western medical practitioners are even aware of CKDu, despite the terrible toll it has taken on poor farmers from El Salvador to South Asia.
Monsanto’s Herbicide Linked to Fatal Kidney Disease Epidemic: Could It Topple the Company?
Dr. Catharina Wesseling, the regional director for the Program on Work and Health (SALTRA) in Central America, which pioneered the initial studies of the region’s unsolved outbreak, put it this way, “Nephrologists and public health professionals from wealthy countries are mostly either unfamiliar with the problem or skeptical whether it even exists.”
USDA DECISION ON GE ALFALFA LEAVES DOOR OPEN FOR CONTAMINATION, RISE OF SUPERWEEDS
ROGUE AGENCY CHOOSES “BUSINESS AS USUAL” OVER SOUND SCIENCE
CENTER ANNOUNCES IMMEDIATE LEGAL CHALLENGE TO USDA’S FLAWED ASSESSMENT
The Center for Food Safety criticized the announcement today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it will once again allow unlimited, nation-wide commercial planting of Monsanto’s genetically-engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa, despite the many risks to organic and conventional farmers USDA acknowledged in its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). On a call today with stakeholders, Secretary Vilsack reiterated the concerns surrounding purity and access to non-GE seed, yet the Agency’s decision still places the entire burden for preventing contamination on non-GE farmers, with no protections for food producers, consumers and exporters.
“We’re disappointed with USDA’s decision and we will be back in court representing the interest of farmers, preservation of the environment, and consumer choice” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Center for Food Safety. “USDA has become a rogue agency in its regulation of biotech crops and its decision to appease the few companies who seek to benefit from this technology comes despite increasing evidence that GE alfalfa will threaten the rights of farmers and consumers, as well as damage the environment.”
On Monday, the Center sent an open letter to Secretary Vilsack calling on USDA to base its decision on sound science and the interests of farmers, and to avoid rushing the process to meet the marketing timelines or sales targets of Monsanto, Forage Genetics or other entities.
CFS also addressed several key points that were not properly assessed in the FEIS, among them were:
Liability, Implementation and Oversight — Citing over 200 past contamination episodes that have cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales, CFS demands that liability for financial losses incurred by farmers due to transgenic contamination be assigned to the crop developers. CFS also calls on USDA to take a more active oversight role to ensure that any stewardship plans are properly implemented and enforced.
Roundup Ready alfalfa will substantially increase herbicide use – USDA’s assessment misrepresented conventional alfalfa as utilizing more herbicides than it does, which in turn provided a false rationale for introducing herbicide-promoting Roundup Ready alfalfa. In fact, USDA’s own data shows that just 7% of alfalfa hay acres are treated with herbicides. USDA’s projections in the FEIS show that substantial adoption of Roundup Ready alfalfa would trigger large increases in herbicide use of up to 23 million lbs. per year.
Harms from glyphosate-resistant weeds – USDA’s sloppy and unscientific treatment of glyphosate-resistant (GR) weeds ignored the significant contribution that RR alfalfa could make to their rapid evolution. USDA failed to analyze how GR weeds fostered by currently grown RR crops are increasing herbicide use; spurring more use of soil-eroding tillage; and reducing farmer income through increased weed control costs, an essential baseline analysis.
“We in the farm sector are dissatisfied but not surprised at the lack of courage from USDA to stop Roundup Ready alfalfa and defend family farmers,” said Pat Trask, conventional alfalfa grower and plaintiff in the alfalfa litigation.
The FEIS comes in response to a 2007 lawsuit brought by CFS, in which a federal court ruled that the USDA’s approval of GE alfalfa violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa, the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and increased use of glyphosate herbicide, sold by Monsanto as Roundup. The Court banned new plantings of GE alfalfa until USDA completed a more comprehensive assessment of these impacts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice affirmed the national ban on GE alfalfa planting. In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa until and unless future deregulation occurs.
“Last spring more than 200,000 people submitted comments to the USDA highly critical of the substance and conclusions of its Draft EIS on GE Alfalfa,” said Kimbrell. “Clearly the USDA was not listening to the public or farmers but rather to just a handful of corporations.”
“In the 1990s, Monsanto found an ingenious way to sell large quantities of its broad-spectrum toxic herbicide RoundUp to farmers. The company’s scientists gene-spliced corn, soy, cotton, and canola with foreign DNA, enabling these “Frankencrops” to survive massive doses of RoundUp. Farmers could now repeatedly spray their fields with RoundUp, killing weeds but not the crop. Unfortunately, the collateral damage of heavy RoundUp spraying includes groundwater pollution, toxic residues in crops, and destruction of essential soil micro-organisms. The Genetically Modified (GM) crops themselves create herbicide-resistant Superweeds and spread genetic pollution to organic and non-GMO crops as well as plant relatives. Last but certainly not least, Monsanto’s GM foods have been linked to serious health damage – not only for animals, but humans as well.
Today, a major portion of crop-land in the US is sown with Monsanto’s “RoundUp Ready” corn, soy, cotton, canola, and sugar beets. Eighty percent of these GM crops are then sold as animal feed to the nation’s 125,000 factory farms or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) that produce most of the non-organic meat, dairy, or eggs sold in grocery stores or served in restaurants, schools, and hospitals. The other 20% of Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Organisms are laced into non-organic processed foods (soy lecithin, corn or sugar beet sweeteners, cooking oils, etc..) that are found in every grocery store aisle.
There is a direct correlation between our genetically engineered food supply and the $2 trillion the US spends annually on medical care, namely an epidemic of diet-related chronic diseases. Instead of healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, and grass-fed animal products, US factory farms and food processors produce a glut of genetically engineered junk foods that generate heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Low fruit and vegetable consumption is directly costing the United States $56 billion a year in diet-related chronic diseases.
Monsanto’s GM crops are highly profitable for the food industry, turning cheap, federally subsidised, genetically engineered crops and GE-fed animals into cheap, ubiquitous, junky foods. But from the standpoint of public health and environmental sustainability, Monsanto and their factory farm collaborators are nothing less than merchants of disease and death.
A critical mass of consumers would turn away from GMOs and Factory Farmed meat, dairy, and eggs – IF they knew what they were eating..”
“Over the next few years, the Organic Consumers Association will focus on strategic grass-roots campaigns to promote health, justice, and sustainability, with a special emphasis on local-based practical solutions to the energy and climate crisis. Organic soil and land management can and must be scaled up now in order to buy us the time we need to make the long-term transition to radical energy efficiency and solar, wind, and geothermal power..”
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