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Scientists find multiple problems with GMOs

"GMO seeds have not been shown to definitively increase yield potentials" and "in fact, the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties."

A February 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture report declared what many scientists already knew: There are no significant differences in yields of GMO and non-GMO crops. When asked about the USDA report, the chief technology officer for Monsanto declared, "American farmers are smart and wouldn't adapt a technology that didn't have tangible benefits."

Are the USDA and scientists around the world wrong in their conclusion about failure to yield? No.

Agroeconomists have shown repeatedly that the best-yielding, most-affordable crop varieties, to "feed the world", are those derived from conventional non-GMO hybrids (U.N Commission on Trade and Development).

Furthermore, CNBC's chief news correspondent, Mark Koba, quoted Mark Spitznagel, the chief investment officer of a billion-dollar investment firm, as saying GMOs are "distorting the natural process and will eventually lead to ruin," and, "Agriculture is heading for a wall."

Patented GMO crops stifle research

As a lifelong scientist, I am deeply troubled to report that promises of patent enforcement by American agrichemical seed companies have prevented U.S. scientists from researching what some exclaim are "problems" associated with GMO crops. We will not know the facts as long as the seeds and plants that we, our children, pets and livestock consume are not made available for conducting long-term, controlled experiments.

Norwegian scientists recently detected Roundup in 10 of 10 farms using genetically engineered soybeans. We had to also learn from these Norwegian (not American) scientists that the nutritional composition of soybeans grown on 31 Ohio farms differed depending upon the type of farm management system employed. Soybeans harvested from organic farms had higher concentrations of protein and essential amino acids, and higher concentrations of two minerals, and no Roundup residues (Food Chem. 2014).

Now we know from the scientific literature that the same concentrations of Roundup residues in soybeans is sufficient in laboratory assays to: induce hormone disruptions during frog development (mixed-sex frogs); kill young trout and tadpoles; stop the growth of earthworms in soil; inhibit activities of beneficial soil and human gut bacteria; and stimulate the growth of human breast-cancer cells assayed under laboratory conditions.

Toxin-resistant corn rootworm outbreaks are plaguing at least five Midwest corn-growing states, and the problems are related to failures in GMO management techniques (Proceedings, National Academy of Sciences, March 2014). An entomology professor from Cornell stated resistance problems could have been resolved sooner if Monsanto had allowed American scientists access to investigate and confirm the presence of the toxin-resistant insects (http://wrd.cm/1qogw9e).

A premier seed-growing location

Syngenta, a foreign corporation, is here in Jackson County producing Roundup-resistant seeds for Midwest sugarbeet plantations. The history of this agrochemical corporation goes deep to the first productions of DDT, 2,4-D, and manufacture of the controversial herbicide, Atrazine. This history seems consistent with the recent announcement that Syngenta will use a probable carcinogen, isoxaflutole (isox) initially on their U.S. soybeans. Scientists predict that isox use will greatly accelerate and will soon become one of the new controversial poisons used on our foods. One can only wonder if Syngenta will conduct exploratory experiments locally with sugarbeets using isox or 2,4-D.

More secrecy

Unfortunately, seed buyers have canceled local Swiss chard contracts because of the likelihood of cross-pollination by sugar beets. Sugar beet pollen travels two to four miles (Beta Seed Company, Oregon) and cross-pollination is likely with chard because GMO farms are usually secretly located. Syngenta contributes little to the local economy, while closing down business opportunities of permanent, local, tax-paying American farmers. Since glyphosate is already in our urine, air and rain, it was frightening to learn one of the known Syngenta crop farms is situated in proximity to two of Ashland's schools.

I, personally, resent this intrusion since my stepdaughter is a student at this school. She doesn't have the opportunity to know when the Roundup-containing hormone disruptor(s) will be flying through the air and be inhaled by young, developing students. Residents can take control of these insensitive practices by voting yes on 15-119 to return local control to where it belongs, here in Jackson County, not in Salem, not in Washington, D.C., and certainly not in Switzerland.

Ramon J. Seidler, Ph.D., of Ashland, is a professor of microbiology and a retired senior scientist and team leader for the Environmental Protection Agency's biosafety program.