October is non-GMO month! Let’s NOT celebrate with a little Agent Orange!
Agent Orange, the defoliant used over 40 years ago in the Vietnam War, was just approved by the USDA. It will be spliced into a new strain of genetically modified corn and soybeans destined for our dinner tables! Even more unimaginable is that these crops will not be labeled as genetically modified and there will be nomention of Agent Orange! But, wait, there’s more, Agent Orange will be sprayed on crops too!
ENLIST – AKA AGENT ORANGE
Not only are new genetically modified crops being developed with 2,4-D (the chemical used in Agent Orange) spliced into them, but a new herbicide with this same chemical will be sprayed on crops. This herbicide, called Enlist, is made by Dow AgroSciences’ and was originally known as Agent Orange. This herbicide is “designed to be used on corn genetically engineered to tolerate 2,4-D” (agfax.com/08/05/50-federal-lawmakers). 2,4-D is actually Agent Orange which is a mixture of two herbicides (2,4-D and 2,4,5-T). It was used in Vietnam to remove the trees and dense tropical foliage where the enemy was hiding. According to www.publichealth.va.gov “More than 19 million gallons of various “rainbow” herbicide combinations were sprayed, but Agent Orange was the combination the U.S. military used most often. The name “Agent Orange” came from the orange identifying stripe used on the 55-gallon drums in which it was stored.”
A double whammy by way of Agent Orange means not only will the seeds have Agent Orange (2,4-D) spliced in them, but they will also have Agent Orange (2,4-D, Enlist) sprayed on them. The terms Agent Orange, 2,4-D and Enlist are interchangeable.
RISK IS HIGH FOR YOUNG CHILDREN AND THE ENVIRONMENT
The Food Quality Protection Act, is designed to protect children, “who are especially susceptible to harm from pesticide exposure. Yet, despite acknowledging the significant harms that would result from the widespread use of 2,4-D on GM crops” (agfax.com) the USDA approved its use.
Additionally, from the same source, “vastly increased use of 2,4-D crops would correspondingly increase crop damage, putting farmers of sensitive crops at grave risk. Wild plants, waterways and wildlife – including pollinator – habitat would also be threatened.” It is tragic that this deadly herbicide was approved for use. There is reputable research proving the use of 2,4-D creates numerous health risks. The ingredient, 2,4-D in Enlist has health risks we don’t want to take, as this herbicide” has been linked to development problems in children, reproductive issues, birth defects, and various forms of cancer” (www.takepart.com).
A PERSONAL STORY ABOUT AGENT ORANGE
I found this story by Robert Cummings on the Vietnam Veterans of America website. This is his story about his service in Vietnam and the years following when he returned home to the United States and started his family. It points out the multi-generational devastating health effects of Agent Orange.
Robert was born and grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. In 1971-72, he served (in Vietnam) with the 101st Airborne and 1st CA. He remembers clearly the aircraft overhead, spraying the defoliant, (Agent Orange) soaking the jungle and the troops below. He knew it was “weed killer,” but had no clue to its toxic effect on human beings.” Returning home, he and his wife had their first child, who was born with Spinal Bifida. This was followed by a second child, a daughter, who had Bell’s palsy. A third child was born with a congenital heart defect. When his third child, now 25, told Robert that he was afraid to get married because he might pass on this defect, Robert wondered if there was a connection between his children’s medical problems and his exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
After meeting with other Vietnam Veterans at a VVA chapter meeting, Robert and others began making a clear connection between Agent Orange and the long-lasting effects of the herbicide not only on them, but to their families as well. Robert says, “I feel like all Vietnam veterans have a ticking time bomb inside of them, and we don’t know when it will rear its head. My motto has always been, what can we do for the children who are the innocent victims of this war? We, as Vietnam veterans, have an obligation to do whatever we can to get help for our children. Significant numbers of Vietnam veterans have children and grandchildren with birth defects related to exposure to Agent Orange.” On www.vetsfirst.org it states “Agent Orange is a toxic substance that has been scientifically linked to certain diseases, including some cancers, diabetes, and ischemic heart disease.”
In 1984 Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation was brought forth in a lawsuit by Vietnam Veterans and their families regarding injuries incurred as a result of the exposure of Vietnam Veterans to chemical herbicides used during the Vietnam War. The class action case was “settled out-of-court for $180 million dollars, reportedly the largest settlement of its kind at that time” (www.benefits.va.gov/compensation).
We, like Robert, have an obligation to protect our children and ourselves from this insidious chemical.
2,4-D VERSUS ORGANIC METHODS
The Pesticide Action Network informs us that “2,4-D is a very toxic herbicide. It is a suspected endocrine disruptor and has been linked to cancer and reproductive harm. As with many chemicals, children are particularly susceptible to its effects. 2,4-D is much more harmful to plant life than RoundUp (glyphosate). Specialty crops (like grapes, tomatoes, beans and sweet corn), and soy and cotton are extremely sensitive to 2,4-D. 2,4-D resistant “superweeds” will arise and spread. RoundUp resistant “superweeds” have taken over farms and countryside in the Midwest and Southeast and widespread use of 2,4-D will spur more of the same” (www.panna.org).
Rather than using conventional methods to fight weeds, the chemical companies continue to use stronger chemicals on our soils, and on our crops, which ultimately end up in us and in the environment. AgAlert, the weekly newspaper for California Agriculture is listening to the concerns of farmers who don’t want to use these chemicals. It now includes a section with organic methods to combat insects and weeds.
Companies such as Arbico Organics sell a wide variety of OMRI Certified (Organic Materials Review Institute) soil care products including fertilizers, soil amendments, lawn care and pest control aids. So, it’s not that organic, eco-friendly products aren’t available to fight weeds and pests; it’s that the chemical companies are choosing not to use them.
LABELING IS THE KEY
The pesticide and junk food industries are the ones who are fighting to keep our foods from being labeled. They know we are becoming more and more concerned about our food and have upped their fight to keep products from being labeled. The Grocery Manufacturers Association of America (GMA), “which consists primarily of pesticide producers and junk food manufacturers” (mercola.com/articles/2014/09/23) heavily funds opposition to all GMO labeling laws. For instance, the largest contributors to defeat GMO labeling laws recently in California and Washington include: Monsanto – $13 million, Dupont – $9 million, Pepsico – $4 million, Coca-Cola – $3 million, Nestle, Bayer, Dow, BASF, Kraft Foods, General Mills, and ConAgra Foods all at $2 million, Kellogg’s – $1 million, Campbell’s Soup and Smucker’s at $900,000+ (www.huffingtonpost.com). It’s disappointing to read who is actually behind the deception!
Some markets though, like Sprouts Farmers Market, are listening to their customers. A recent one-page Sprouts ad read “you can find more than 2,300 wholesome, non-GMO products at Sprouts! Shop our organic produce bins or browse our grocery aisles, frozen foods and meat cases for certified organic products.” The latest weekly one-page Sprouts ad was focused on organic products.
The November, 2014, Consumer Reports magazine, pages 15 and 17, features an article entitled, “OMG. It’s GMO.” The article addresses reliable labeling. It states, “In this confusing world, accurate labeling is key; it gives consumers the option to avoid buying foods containing GMOs if they choose to. Products labeled with third-party verified claims such as “USDA Organic” and Non-GMO Project Verified” should be reliable. (GMO ingredients can’t be used in organic products.) This testing is part of an ongoing project at Consumer Reports on GMOs. We expect to report more results in future issues. You can also check online at ConsumerReports.org/health.”
AGENT ORANGE IS NO CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION
I will continue Giving Back information as it surfaces about GMOs, Agent Orange and 2,4-D. We must stay vigilant and buy only USDA Organic and non-GMO Project Verified products. By doing this we tell these companies we don’t want genetically modified foods, Agent Orange or other dangerous chemicals in our kids or on our tables.