Evaluate seeds of concern

In an effort to get more grain out of the Bread Basket of America, we have turned to science.
Jan 7, 2014

Genetically altered seeds, and massive herbicide and pesticide application on acres of soybeans, wheat and corn are now the norm.

Agriculture giants such as Monsanto, Bayer CropScience and Dow AgroSciences have developed seeds resistant to things like pesticides and herbicides. When these seeds are planted and grow, farmers can then spray them with all the pesticides and herbicides they like without killing the plant. In return, farmers get a more bountiful crop of corn, beans or wheat.

This is what happens when farming becomes big, BIG business.

What also happens is weeds become resistant to the herbicides, and the crops are so very altered that they have little resemblance to the nutrient-rich, pesticide-free grains of our past.

In fact, many farmers have talked about how deer, squirrels and other wildlife won’t even touch the grain. While that’s good in terms of crop yield, they are wondering how if the animals won’t eat it, why should humans?

And what does the slight overspray of the chemicals do to nearby waterways and neighborhoods?

Now the USDA has opened the door to yet another genetically-altered seed that is of great concern. This one will resist 2,4-D, a chemical that was included in Agent Orange of the Vietnam era. Yes, the same Agent Orange that cleared swaths of vegetation in Vietnam, and caused cancer in veterans and deformities in children.


Keep in mind that the USDA doesn’t approve the use of the pesticide 2,4-D, just the use of the seeds. The EPA is charged with considering the mass application of 2,4-D on farm fields. This is a two-step, two-agency process.

If these seeds are deregulated, and the EPA clears the use of this particular herbicide, Dow stands to make a whole lot of money. Big money.

But at what cost?

Perhaps that cost will never be tallied. But that doesn’t mean we should blindly accept that our government knows best. Clearly it does not, as evidenced by many other debacles – DDT, anyone? Agent Orange, anyone?

The USDA has a public commenting period of 45 days before it could deregulate this most recent set of seeds. We the People could potentially put a halt to this most recent science experiment if we speak up. We urge you to do so.

Check out this website — aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/fr_notices.shtml — for a list of all genetically altered, pesticide- and herbicide-resistant seeds that are working their way toward our fields via the USDA. These are all open for public comment, and there’s a link to submit a public comment on each item. The 2,4-D proposal will be included on the list soon.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.


Former Grandhavenite

Personally I don't worry nearly as much about genetically modified crops as I worry about the ones drenched in pesticides. A crop that's been genetically modified to produce a larger yield is definitely something worth investigating. In a sense, we've been "genetically modifying" crops since the dawn of agriculture when people would select the seeds from the best plants as the ones to cultivate. Repeat that process for thousands of generations of selecting the 'best' and the plant probably bears little resemblance to the original. If we're doing the same thing on a faster time scale and with more advanced methods I don't see that as being inherently bad, but the modified crop should be carefully evaluated for safety before we throw it into the food supply.

Also being resistant to pesticides isn't necessarily a bad thing. The danger is that it encourages the overuse of pesticides by making it easier to dump huge amounts on everything. The USDA needs to make sure that overuse isn't happening by cracking down on the allowable levels of pesticides remaining in the crop. Some of it can't be removed even by washing, cooking, etc. Also a lot of individual pesticides are clearly unsafe but the factory farm lobbyists and ADM/Monsanto/etc have tied the inspector's hands.


You can't compare cross breeding with GM foods. They're night and day. Inserting genetic codes into the sequence is messing with something we don't understand. I've got a degree in biology with plenty of genetics behind it from a very well known institution. We may be able to describe what we observe, splice it, replicate it and stuff it back into a package, but we have no idea what we're REALLY doing. Think about all the pharmaceuticals that get pulled (like Tylenol) because we later find out they're not safe? The same bunch is screwing around with the food source? This is madness at it's finest.

Former Grandhavenite

Good points. It might be a situation where it'll take a lot of time and quite a few generations of seeds (or generations of humans who have consumed the food) for any problems to become apparent.

It should definitely be studied carefully, but I worry that the industry will just push ahead at full speed, and the regulators and politicians will be too greased by the industry to do anything about it. The very fact that Tylenol is still on the market even with all the liver issues and lack of efficacy compared to alternatives illustrates the power that the companies hold over the regulators. I hate that whole trend of adding acetaminophen to nearly every OTC drug nowadays even when there's no reason for it whatsoever.


Thank you for printing this article. Genetically Modified seeds are a huge concern and many people are not aware of the dangers associated with them.

Back to the Wall

Are the dangers you fear from the seeds themselves? Fears of a "Jack and the Beanstalk" super plant and uncontrollable mutations of our food supply?

Or are your fears based, as the article tries but fails to articulate, in the projected changes to crop management and the anticipated increase of broadcast applications of selective hebicides?


There are many different aspects of the dangers of GM seeds.
Here are a few:

GM seeds contain the DNA of a different species. This is a forced process that was never intended by nature. The inserted DNA could be a virus, bacteria, or anything never intended to cross the species barrier.
Corrupted DNA has been known to cause cancer, fertility problems, and other nasty side effects.

SuperBugs/Superweeds: Many of these crops have been modified to withstand being drenched in toxic chemicals and live through the process. The weeds and bugs become resistant and become more powerful. Why would we want to consume something drenched in poison? Plus, it is a big pollution problem for the land and people living near it.

GM seeds can contaminate heirloom crops. For farmers who grow NON GMO or organic varieties, they are responsible to avoid being contaminated by the GMO crops nearby. Many have been sued by the big ag companies after being unwillingly contaminated.

GMO's are not required to be labeled. We should know if we are eating them. It took a bit of research, but I have learned to avoid GMO's in my food.

GMO companies have tried to fool people into thinking we need them to "feed the world". The process of growing GMO crops completely wipe out all other living things around them, creating a monoculture.
There is a great study written by Vandana Shiva called "Health Per Acre" that is worth checking out.

Nature cannot be "improved". It will also adapt. There is a reason why there are species barriers and humans should not be messing with it.

There are so many other corrupt things going on in this industry. It just takes a little research. These companies pay big bucks to glorify what they are doing.

So, to answer your question, the dangers are both uncontrollable mutations of our food supply, and more widespread use of toxic chemicals. There are too many problems to list.

Former Grandhavenite

I found a helpful list of the "dirty dozen" foods that tend to have a lot of pesticide residue. These are the ones that are said to be most worth buying organic:
Peaches, Apples, Sweet bell peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Pears, Grapes (imported), Spinach, Lettuce, Potatoes

The ones LEAST vulnerable to having pesticide residue, that you can probably get away with buying the non-organic version:
Papayas, Broccoli, Cabbage, Bananas, Kiwifruit, Sweet peas (frozen), Asparagus, Mangoes, Pineapple, Sweet corn (frozen), Avocados, Onions

If I could afford it, I'd just buy all organic stuff, but I found these lists helpful when trying for a good balance between cost and pesticide levels.


There is only one reason for GMO and thats profit. These comoanies are very dangerous. Only time will tell how much havoc these greedy corporations wreak on the genepool and our food supply. Think about this do you think that pests are the only insect effected by constant pesticide use? There are numerous species of benificial insects in any healthy sustainable farm. Any coincidence that the honey bee is slowly dissapearing?
Drowning plants in pesticides will have disastrous consequences for our precious earth. The problem is we are all too busy on our smart phones or inline at starbucks to stop for a second and care. These greedy politicians dont care, in fact I wouldnt doubt if they are getting some kickbacks from monsanto lobbyists.
Its funny to me, we try to pass alaw that gives the sick and poor health insirance and.people act lime the world is ending. Then this crap comes along and you dont hear nearly the kind of whining you did over yhe ACA.

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