“Scientists have genetically engineered crops in addition to Bt crops to be herbicide-resistant. The most conspicuous example of this technology is something you may have heard of, Roundup Ready crops. Roundup is a relatively safe, highly effective, broad-spectrum herbicide made by Monsanto (who’s patent expired in 2000) that kills weeds but does not kill the GM crops the weeds threaten. In most public discussions about sustainable farming, the benefits of genetically engineered herbicide resistance and the tillage that this technology prevents have been either overlooked or drowned out in anticorporate venom. Nevertheless, the environmental implications are potentially significant. At the least, they deserve careful consideration as an important element of sustainable agricultural systems.” – James E. McWilliams
McWilliams has recently started a national harassing campaign against some of my urban farming friends, so I started looking into some of his writings, which are strewn all over the internet and what I found was pretty surprising. The more I read the more suspicious I became.
The above quote was taken from his book Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. It’s a diatribe on how factory farming, GMOs and CAFOs are better for us and the environment. From the quote above it’s clear that McWilliams failed to do his research. So let’s break his quote down before moving on to some other issues I have with McWilliams.
Roundup is a very common herbicide, but it’s far from safe. The crops that it’s sprayed on have shown to have some very alarming health consequences. Recent research in France on Roundup has shown that the “inert” ingredients amplify the toxic effects and that the herbicide mixture suffocates human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. Researchers now suspect that Roundup may be responsible for miscarriages, low birth rates, abnormal fetal development, interfere with hormones.
Glysophate, the active ingredient, has been shown to cause genetic deformities in amphibians and chickens, and increases our risk of developing non-Hodgkins lymphoma. You can read more about this in Scientific American.
Ranchers have been complaining that Roundup Ready crops causing infertility and spontaneous abortions in their livestock after feeding GM feeds. Their stories were recently verified when researchers found that a new type of organism was found on Roundup Ready crops. Where this new micro-fungal organism was found in high concentrations in animal feed, half of the cows that fed on it spontaneously aborted. More details can be found here.
Because of the overuse of Roundup, the effectiveness is in question. Superweeds are now becoming common and farmers are having to look at stronger, and more toxic, herbicides to control them. Some of the weeds have simply built up a resistance to the herbicide when they weren’t killed by initial spraying and then reproduced. Some, however, have been able to cross pollinate with Roundup Ready crops, thus passing on the gene that allows them to withstand the herbicide. The New York Times did an article last year about this problem.
So now I’ve destroyed McWilliams’ argument in favor of Roundup Ready crops in less than 15 minutes of research. Of course, I’m not the first one to do this. Tom Philpott wrote a scathing article about McWilliams late last year coming to the same conclusion I have.
He tried more of his fear mongering against pastured pork in an article he wrote for the New York Times, again in support of CAFO pork. My suspicions were getting stronger that McWilliams might be in the pocket of Big Ag. It is interesting that on that op-ed piece, the Editor had to add a note that McWilliams supported his entire argument against pastured pork off of a study done by the National Pork Board, which is in direct competition with pastured pork.
It should be noted that McWilliams likes to tout himself as a vegan (and animal rights activist), but his strong support of CAFOs,and GMOs, and is against organics makes me think that he may be in Big Ag’s pocket. So McWilliams, who is paying you?