Wednesday, January 19, 2011

We need to round up corporate agriculture, not crops

I am not particularly well informed on agricultural issues; but I am in favor of sustainable farming, which means to me that we need to be careful what we use for fertilizers and herbicides. Jeffrey Smith, at the Institute for Responsible Technology, has written an interesting, and fairly scary, article about a "Sudden Death Syndrome" (SDS) that affects crops on land repeatedly treated with glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide). The article is well-illustrated, for us non-farming types. The illustrations provide documentary evidence of the claims made in the article.

According to Mr. Smith's research, such herbicides are not only responsible for SDS, but have led to crops lacking in nutrients. Glyphosate has entered our diets through corn, soybeans, meat, and milk, and has been associated with a number of human health issues, including a sharp increase in the incidence of Alzheimer's Disease since the 1990s. In support of that claim, the article notes that one of the primary triggers of Alzheimer's is a lack of copper and magnesium in the diet. A test of glyphosate applied to a Roundup-resistant alfafa (called "Roundup Ready") showed a 20% loss in the copper content and a 26% loss in the magnesium content the year following application of the herbicide.

Mr. Smith wants the Secretary of Agriculture to deny approval for Roundup Ready alfalfa. Approval of the strain will continue to support manufacturers of potentially dangerous genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

I am sure professional agronomists can find room for argument in the studies presented; but for the layman, it provides one more example of how large-scale government tends to protect the corporation at the expense of the individual. Decentralism will strengthen local governments and peer pressure; which I suggest would actually prove more effective at dealing with such issues.

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