Home Opinion What are the impacts of GMOs on the environment?

What are the impacts of GMOs on the environment?

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GMOsMIXRita Rector

Guest Columnist

Here are some headlines from Natural News.com: “Study Finds GMOs Destroy Environment and Human Health,” “Small Farmers Being Put Out of Business by GMOs,” “99.7% of GMO Crop Chemicals End Up Poisoning Environment and Water Supplies.”
Over 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are genetically modified for herbicide tolerance. As a result, the use of herbicides like Roundup (with Glyphosate) has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. GMO crops are also responsible for “super weeds” and “super bugs” which have developed immunity to the very poison designed to kill them. Now they can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons like 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange). The long-term impacts of GMOs are unknown, and once released into the environment these organisms cannot be recalled.
Responsible Technology warns that GMO crops and the herbicides used on them can harm birds, insects, marine ecosystems, and soil organisms. They reduce the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat, pollute water resources, and are not able to be maintained or supported in the future, especially without causing damage or depletion of a resource. Roundup herbicide has been shown to cause birth defects in amphibians, embryonic deaths and endocrine disruptions, and organ damage in animals even at very low doses. GMO canola has been found growing wild in North Dakota and California, threatening to pass on its herbicide tolerant genes to weeds.
During a press conference in Mexico on January 2014, it was announced that the number of monarch butterflies hibernating in Mexico reached an all-time low in 2013. The reason? The increased use of glyphosate, the herbicide used in Roundup, is killing milkweed plants, which monarchs rely on for habitat and food. Dr. Chip Taylor, an insect ecologist at the University of Kansas told the New York Times, “This milkweed has disappeared from at least 100 million acres of these row crops.” NaturalSociety.com
Dr. Mercola warns that for several years now, scientists have been struggling to determine why bee colonies across the world are disappearing, and one theory is that it’s being caused by genetically modified crops—either as a result of the crops themselves or the pesticides and herbicides applied on them, such as the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup. If it is proven that GM crops are causing bee die-offs, it could turn out to be one of the worst GM effects yet. New research from Emory University researchers found that wildflowers produce one-third fewer seeds when even one bumblebee species is removed from the area.  As bee die-offs continue, it’s clear that this could easily be one of the greatest threats to humans in the decades to come. Mercola.com
All GMOs designed to be sprayed with weed-killing chemicals are also coated in neonicotinoid insecticides. Neonicotinoids move through the plant and wind up in the pollen, where it’s believed to cause neurological problems in bees. Farmers now use so much Roundup that glyphosate, the active ingredient, has actually been detected in streams, the air, and even the rain at levels that could harm humans. This is just one of seven myths (“GMOs are safe for the environment.”) exposed at RodaleNews.com.
Trees are being genetically engineered to give them unnatural characteristics, such as the ability to kill insects, tolerate toxic herbicides, grow abnormally fast, or have altered wood composition. The paper pulp industry has to remove lignin from wood pulp before it can be used to make paper, which is an expensive part of the process. So, the biotech industry is working to create trees with lower lignin content. The problem is, lignin is what gives trees their structural integrity. It’s what allows trees to stand strong in wind and other weather, and to withstand diseases and damage from insect and animal browsing. Low-lignin trees are weaker and less able to withstand these environmental stresses. Dead low-lignin trees also decompose faster, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere more quickly, which contributes to climate change.
Disrupting forest ecosystems endangers the health of the entire planet. Native forests have been called the “lungs of the Earth,” providing food and wildlife habitats everywhere. Forests absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, filter water and release it back into the atmosphere. Many tree species, such as pines and poplars, can spread their pollen and seeds over great distances. Pollen can blow hundreds or even thousands of miles, opening the door for native forests to be covered with GE pollen. From: Say No to Gmos.
Biodiversity is critical in all ecosystems and to the sustainability of all species, and is being put at risk by GMOs. Many heritage seeds are no longer used, there are fewer weed flowers, less nectar for pollinators, fewer soil bacteria, nutrients are not returned to the soil, meaning the soil is becoming dry and useless, the irrigation used carries all these problems into water sources and the air, exposing different bacteria, insects and animals to the same problems. A cycle of dependence on GMO seeds is created.
If we continue to ignore biodiversity, the genetic diversity of the plants that we grow and eat and their “wild relatives” could be lost forever. This threatens future food security unless special efforts are made to not only conserve but also utilize them, especially in the developing countries. We may need that lost information in the future – to combat disease, to keep hunger at bay, to do things we can’t even imagine today. Valuable genetic information cannot be recovered once it is lost. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 75% of plant genetic diversity has been lost since 1900 as farmers turn to genetically uniform, mass produced crop varieties. (gmo-journal.com)
Dr. Don Huber noted a link between GM crops, engineered to withstand continued applications of glyphosate, plant diseases and spontaneous abortions and infertility in pigs, horses, cattle and other livestock. His concerns further emphasize the troubling fact that GM crops may likely have a larger negative impact on the agroecosystem and the surrounding environment.  More importantly, Huber’s revelations also point to the inaccurate assumptions made by the EPA.  GM crops are not substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts, they interact in unforseen ways to impact the plant, the soil and the animals that consume them and government agencies should think twice before deregulating any more GMOs. (gmo-journal.com)