Diary

It's time to roundup Roundup and the corrupt corporation who created it

Just looking at the title of this entry, I’m sure anyone on this site who sees it will be wondering, “what in the world is this about and what does a pesticide have to do with politics and the conservative movement in general?”  It’s a fair and valid question to ask, and in this diary entry I’ll attempt to answer it.

Before I go in depth, let me give a short version of my answer to that question.  As conservatives, we always talk about how the gov’t needs to be smaller, more efficient, and looking out for the average american instead of their cronies on wall street and in big business.  We tend to focus on the cases where gov’t goes out of its way to make life harder for the little guy by forcing them to follow some ridiculous regulation or outdated law.

But there are often cases that are the opposite, where a gov’t agency goes out of its way to avoid doing its most basic duties because it’s beholden to special interests such as big agri-businesses who influence it to show them favoritism in the enforcement of regulations and laws and giving them a pass while coming down hard on small farms and businesses who don’t have the influence or money to fight back.  This is exactly the case with Roundup and the use of other pesticides and herbicides by giant agricultural companies.  Despite many valid concerns and evidence that these chemicals are harmful to both the environment and humans, the EPA has continued to look the other way and allow these chemicals to be used in massive quantities on the staple crops around the country that are our main sources of food.  This is simply unacceptable, and as conservatives we must demand better from our gov’t, even when it’s on an issue that we’re not particularly thrilled about such as the environment.

The purpose of this diary is to urge conservatives to pressure members of congress to pass a bill banning Roundup and roundup-ready seeds and crops, along with any pesticides that have been proven to be harmful enough to humans to cause disease and developmental defects.  It would be both good policy and politics.  It’s good policy because despite what the EPA says, (who has a clear conflict of interest, which I’ll discuss later) there’s plenty of evidence that these pesticides and herbicides are highly toxic and have been linked to autism and other diseases, and good politics cause it would show that the gop is actually looking out for the average american citizen by protecting them from such harmful things.

Normally the USDA and EPA are engaged in vast overreach in terms of regulating and oppressing smaller farmers and businesses, and I, along with other conservatives, have been the first to point out the many extreme examples of this overreach.  I’ve written about it here.

But from time to time we see cases where gov’t agencies intentionally ignore things that are hurting the overall population, and this almost always involves big businesses, who they always favor over small businesses.   So I wanna draw your attention to the case of Roundup, a herbicide that’s made Monsanto tons of profits and is used by all the major agri-businesses as a spray on their crops.  This is a perfect example of when gov’t agencies intentionally ignore a problem because it involves corrupt big businesses who they’re in bed with.

This isn’t a conspiracy.  Let’s look at the USDA’s own statement about why they haven’t looked into the issue of glyphosate (the chemical in Roundup) toxicity.   “This month, the USDA released a study finding that although there were detectable levels of pesticide residue in more than half of food tested by the agency, 99% of samples taken were found to be within levels the government deems safe, and 40% were found to have no detectable trace of pesticides at all. The USDA added, however, that due to “cost concerns,” it did not test for residues of glyphosate.”

Of course anyone with common sense knows this is a joke, the USDA has a huge budget and can choose to use its resources in many different ways, and prioritize some things over others.  They never have a problem with cost concerns when they’re harassing amish farmers for selling raw milk or sending inspectors all over the country to intimidate small farmers and make sure they’re following every single regulation to the letter of the law, which is very expensive to do.

Nor do they have a problem going out of their way to protect Monsanto while aggressively attacking any farmer or beekeeper who might actually wanna do something to protect his bees or crops, like Terry Ingram:

 “Even more frightening, government agencies always seem to side with industry. In Illinois,organic beekeeper Terry Ingram had accumulated fifteen years of research supporting his belief that Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops cause CCD. But when he asked the Illinois Department of Agriculture to test one of his honeycombs for chemical contamination, since the bees wouldn’t touch it, the agency refused to test for chemicals but instead tested for foulbrood, a disease that affects bee larvae, and subsequently confiscated his bees, beehives, and equipment, and destroyed his fifteen years of research. Ingram calls it a subterfuge to destroy all incriminating evidence against Monsanto.”

 

The obvious question to ask is why does the EPA and USDA so desperately try to protect Monsanto time after time and viciously attack anyone who might have incriminating evidence against them and their product?  This clearly goes against their stated mission of protecting us, our food, and our environment from harmful things.  Two words:  revolving door.

It’s been well documented that executives at Monsanto have been promoted to high positions in our gov’t, and even run the agencies that are supposed to be watchdogs against corrupt companies like Monsanto.  The revolving door swings in the other direction too, with heads of gov’t agencies getting high-paying jobs at Monsanto after they step down from their posts.  This is far beyond a conflict of interest, this is crony capitalism and legalized corruption of the highest order.

Who’s watching the watchdogs when the watchdogs are motivated not to do their jobs, but to increase the profits of their friends in the business world?

That responsibility should fall to Congress, but here again we have an incestuous relationship, with Monsanto lobbyists building relationships with members of Congress and Monsanto and other multinational corporations donating large amounts to members of Congress:

“Companies like Syngenta Corp, Cargill, Monsanto and affiliated PACs have donated $7.5 million to members of Congress since 2009, and $372,000 to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee.” Eight members of Congress own stock in Monsanto. [mc_name name=’Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’B000575′ ], who allegedly helped draft the biotech protection provision, has alone received some $88,000 in campaign contributions from Monsanto and was among Congress’s top three recipients of Monsanto campaign contributions in both the 2008 and 2012 election cycles. With allies in Congress as well as at the FDA—where Monsanto’s former vice president for public policy, Michael Taylor, has been deputy commissioner for foods since 2010—and little to no opposition from Obama, the biotech industry has been extremely successful in shaping policy to its advantage.”

As recently as last year the gov’ts own GAO found that the EPA was basically letting chemical manufacturing companies make and sell harmful pesticides/herbicides without making sure they’re safe, including one that was directly linked to the massive die-offs of bees.  So it’s on record that the gov’t agencies who are supposed to be the watchdogs protecting us against these dangerous chemicals aren’t even trying to do their jobs.

The corruption reaches deeper than that though.  The EPA claims it will study any potentially harmful effects of Roundup next year, but guess who they’re getting their data from?  That’s right, the giant chemical manufacturers who are responsible for the vast overuse of harmful pesticides on our crops, including, the very company who makes Roundup, the herbicide at the center of this supposed study.  I think anyone with a functioning brain will be able to predict what the final conclusions of this study will be, and it won’t be in favor of banning Roundup.

That leaves the responsibility up to us.  We have to pressure those members of Congress who aren’t in bed with lobbyists and big business to pass a bill banning these harmful pesticides and herbicides, and dare President Obama to veto it.  We can get together with various groups and sue these companies as well as the EPA, which has already been done successfully before.

This is actually an area where liberal environmentalists and conservatives can unite under a common cause.

Now I know some people will choose to focus on the autism angle of this story, but that’s not why I’m writing this diary, it’s a separate debate that I don’t wanna get into here.  The only point I’ll make about that is to clear up the following:  I’m not saying it’s been proven with direct evidence that Roundup causes autism or the other diseases referenced in this diary.  It often takes decades to prove a causal link between some chemical and a disease or physical problem, as has been the case with other carcinogens, and when we’re dealing with small amounts of a substance, the damage to the body isn’t immediate, but builds up over months and years.  What I’m saying is that based on the evidence we’ve already found, it’s likely that there’s a link between accidental consumption of glyphosate in our foods and the drastic increase in many diseases we’ve seen since Roundup started to be sprayed on crops in massive quantities, including autism.

 

What I’m focusing on in this diary entry is the willful neglect of duties by a gov’t agency that’s tasked with protecting the public from harmful substances in their food supply.   These chemicals aren’t just in our food supply, they’re in US too:    “Glyphosate is present in unusually high quantities in the breast milk of American mothers, at anywhere from 760 to 1,600 times the allowable limits in European drinking water. Urine testing shows Americans have ten times the glyphosate accumulation as Europeans”.

Many people who are skeptical of the argument that pesticides and herbicides in general are harmful to humans will say, “so what”?  Is it such a big deal that this herbicide has been found in high quantities in urine and breast milk?  Well, if it was as harmless as the EPA claims then the answer would be no.  But the EPA has chosen to ignore a ton of evidence showing why glyphosate is very damaging to the human body.  Furthermore, it’s even worse than that, because glyphosate isn’t the only harmful chemical in Roundup:

“Roundup is a compound that includes both glyphosate and a surfactant called TN-20. Studies have found that the combination greatly increases glyphosate’s toxicity, resulting in mitochondrial damage, and both apoptic and necrotic cell death. It’s suspected that TN-10 disrupts the integrity of the cell barrier, which allows entry by glyphosate. “

If that isn’t enough evidence for you that Roundup and other herbicides/pesticides should be banned, maybe the fact that a certain class of chemicals used as pesticides have been directly linked to the collapse of entire colonies of bees around the world.   In fact, some beekeepers have made a pretty convincing case that at the very least, Roundup is partially to blame for this phenomenon.  Why isn’t the EPA doing anything about this?  I thought EPA stood for Environmental Protection Agency.  Apparently now it stands for  Executives’ Profits Agency, as in the executives of these multinational corporations receiving huge rewards for the massive profits their companies are making at the expense of our health and the health of the planet.  “Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency seems to be turning a blind eye to the situation. Even though they acknowledge that pesticides kill bees, they hurry to differentiate this from colony collapse disorder.  And when listing possible causes of colony collapse, pesticides are conspicuously absent.”

It goes without saying that it’s absolutely crucial that we have a healthy population of bees not only in this country, but around the world.  Life on this planet literally wouldn’t be possible without bees because of their pollination of plants, which we either eat or feed to animals that we then eat as well.  So anything that harms bees and significantly reduces their population could have potentially devastating effects on both the ecosystem, our economy, and our survival and prosperity as a nation.

“Colony collapse disorder is very dangerous because bees are an integral part of the ecosystem—roughly one-third of crop species in the US are pollinated exclusively by honeybees, including fresh vegetables and fruits. If bees die off, half of the world’s food supply will disappear. Forget about the billions of dollars in agricultural losses: if we lose the bees, we will have worldwide famine of unprecedented proportions.”

But that’s exactly what’s currently happening.  In fact, large die-offs of bees have been taking place for a while now, going back to at least 1995, but the cause wasn’t known until relatively recently when a researcher at MIT made the link between the massive and widespread spraying of a certain class of pesticides called neonicotinoids on staple crops and bee die offs in the areas surrounding those crops.  It’s a fascinating story which you can read about here.

Lastly, even if you don’t buy any of the evidence I’ve outlined in this diary about the dangers and health impacts of using Roundup and other pesticides and herbicides on our crops, there’s another logical reason to support a ban on Roundup-  it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.  The whole point of creating a “herbicide-GMO crop pairing” that was supposed to be effective at killing the weeds around plants was to increase crop yield, but that hasn’t happened.

“Another recent study showed that genetically engineered corn hasn’t led to any yield improvements in the United States either. The study found that in western Europe, where genetically engineered crops are prohibited, average corn yields between 1986 and 2010 were actually higher than in the U.S., where GE corn is widespread – representing 90 percent of all corn production.  Not only aren’t GE crops improving yields, they’re also increasing the use of harmful herbicides like Monsanto’s Round-Up.”

The debate over GMOs is another debate, but they must be mentioned here because Monsanto has paired their GMO “roundup ready” seeds with Roundup, which are supposed to work together to increase crop yield.  But as I just pointed out, this pairing hasn’t increased crop yield.

Furthermore, and much more importantly, Roundup and other potent chemicals used on crops are having the same kind of effect on weeds that the overuse of antibiotics has had on pathogenic bacteria, which is that it’s creating “superweeds”, or weeds that are resistant to the pesticides/herbicides that are supposed to kill them.  This isn’t conjecture on my part, it’s already happening.

“The wide spectrum herbicide glyphosate has been sold by the company Monsanto under the name Roundup since 1974. In 1996 the first glyphosate-resistant weeds were reported and in the decade since then – which coincides with the increased cultivation of genetically modified, glyphosate-resistant plants – ten different glyphosate-resistant weed species have been found in fields planted with glyphosate-resistant crops. These include common waterhemp (Amaranthus rudis), common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), and horseweed (Conyza canadensis). The latter has evolved increased resistance to glyphosate since resistant populations were first detected in fields planted with Roundup Ready soybeans in Delaware in 2000. Since then, resistant populations have been found in fourteen other states as well as in Brazil and China.”

The saddest part of all of this is that all of this obsession and overuse of harsh chemicals as a means to reduce weed growth and increase crop yield just isn’t necessary.  There are natural solutions that have already worked that can be used by these agri-businesses and small farmers alike, including organic/non-toxic herbicides, but of course that would take away the massive profits the chemical manufacturing companies are making on the pesticides/herbicides.

The bottom line is the USDA is ignoring the effects of pesticides and herbicides on humans, and the EPA is ignoring their effects on bees.  As the saying goes, when there’s smoke there’s a fire. When two gov’t agencies that are known for being notoriously zealous in using their resources and power to go after small businesses and farms who aren’t perfectly adhering to their laws and regulations intentionally ignore big businesses’ blatant violations of those same codes, despite the harm their products are doing to people and the environment, you can be sure there’s corruption and crony capitalism behind it.

It’s time to shine some sunlight on all the filth in our agricultural industry and start making the cockroaches scurry out of their hiding places and be exposed for what they really are-  corrupt crony capitalists.  It’s time to expose the dirty and incestuous relationships these businesses have with both members of Congress and the very gov’t agencies that are supposed to be regulating and policing them.  If we don’t do it, nobody will.