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The Center for Food Safety (CFS) just released a detailed scientific report, revealing the severe impacts of herbicide-resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops on the monarch population, which has plummeted over the past twenty years.

The report makes it abundantly clear this iconic species is on the verge of extinction because of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crop system.

The critical driver of monarch decline is the loss of larval host plants in their main breeding habitat, the Midwestern Corn Belt. Monarchs lay eggs exclusively on plants in the milkweed family, the only food their larvae will eat.

Monarch butterflies have long coexisted with agriculture, but the proliferation of herbicide-resistant transgenic crops threatens that balance. Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistant Roundup Ready corn and soybeans have radically altered farming practices, sharply increasing the extent, frequency and intensity of glyphosate use on farm land. Glyphosate – one of the few herbicides that kills common milkweed has become the most heavily used herbicide in America. As a result, transgenic corn and soybean fields in the GMO growing belts have lost 99% of their milkweed since just 1999.

For the one or two people on the continent who don’t know Dr. Mehmet Oz, he is a respected cardiothoracic surgeon with his own TV show. With almost 1000 shows under his belt, Dr Oz has been dubbed ‘America’s doctor’ . He's known for his belief that western medicine can be reductive focussing on illness instead of health; he supports the need for a deeper connection with patients; he has given considered opinions on alternative approaches to cure and prevent illness; and yes, sometimes he's gone afield of what many professionals in his field would consider sound medical advice. But then again he would be the first to say his show is not about medicine per se, it's about self empowerment. He is also a vocal advocate for labelling GMO foods and believes glyphosate, an agrochemical used in the biofood industry, is a serious threat to public health. That philosophy, perhaps more than any other, has placed him in the crosshairs of some very powerful people.

Dr. Oz holds the surgery department vice chair at Columbia University. He has held that position for over 20 years. Recently he received a letter from 10 doctors calling on Columbia to fire him from his post. The letter states his “presence on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution unacceptable.” and “We are surprised and dismayed that Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons would permit Dr. Mehmet Oz to occupy a faculty appointment, let alone a senior administrative position in the Department of Surgery.” They claim the television personality has "repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops”….. and there you have the first hint.

The New York Times pointed out that some of the doctors who signed the letter are connected with the American Council on Science and Health, a pro-industry advocacy group that supports genetically modified foods. To be clear, Oz does not claim that GMO foods are dangerous, but he does believe that they should be labeled, just like they are in over 64 countries around the world. His response to the letter was swift.

In the past, Oz has had his share of controversy. One questionable claim about a weight-loss product landed him in front of a Senate subcommittee hearing. But this accusatory letter carries the invisible watermark of the chemical barons who control the GMO seed and agrochemical industry. Aside from their questionable genetic practices and controversial biofood ingredients, their best selling agrochemical, glyphosate, is under attack. At one time the industry claimed glyphosate was as safe as aspirin which undoubtedly helped the herbicide become the world's best selling herbicide. But in March 2015, a division of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. Argentina’s union of 30,000 doctors and health professionals, FESPROSA, issued a statement in support of that decision. Argentina is currently the second biggest producer of transgenic BT soy in the world. To pay back its foreign debt, the country adopted an industrial agriculture export model and the use of glyphosate skyrocketed at great cost to the country's fieldworker health. These hardworking citizens have experienced a three-fold increase in birth defects and cancer rates increased fourfold and many health professionals and independent scientists believe glyphosate is implicated.

Dr Oz became a vocal opponent to glyphosate in response to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval to a newly engineered bioseed and chemical spray called Enlist Duo. Created by Dow AgroSciences to combat weed resistance, the two active ingredients, 2,4-D and glyphosate, are linked to a higher risk of contracting non-Hodgkins lymphoma as well as other serious health issues. Despite all the input from independent scientists around the world about the dangers of 2,4-D, the EPA gave the green light to Dow for commercial use in 2014. Canadian officials approved commercial application of Enlist Duo in 2013.

Dr Oz started a petition on his TV show calling on President Obama to block approval of the highly toxic herbicide. The petition garnered over 115,000 signatures. That's the second hint as to why Dr Oz is such a threat. Oz is not only smart, he's influential and that's a combination that threatens an industry that makes billions in profits annually by selling questionable chemicals.

These chemical barons have a long history of trying to silence those who are vocal and influential. As far back as the early 1990s, they were casting a wide net to suppress independent science and freedom of speech.Dr. Arpad Pusztai, is a Biochemist and Nutritionist In the early 90s, he was awarded a $3 million grant by the UK government to design the system for safety testing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Within 10 days, the test mammals that were fed GMO fodder developed pre-cancerous cell growth, smaller testicles, partially atrophied livers and damaged immune systems.

Dr Pusztai saw a public health crisis in the making. Worried that GM foods may have similar affects on humans, with permission from his director, Pusztai gave an interview on TV and expressed his concerns. He became an instant hero at his institute -- for two days.

A phone call from the pro-GMO prime minister’s office to the institute’s director resulted in the firing of Pusztai. He was threatened with a lawsuit if he continued to speak out about his concerns and his team was dismantled. Then the smear campaign started. The Institute that had employed him for 35 years, together with the biotech industry that funded research at the Institute and the UK government launched a campaign to destroy Pusztai’s reputation. Eventually, the British parliament lifted his gag order and his research was published in the prestigious Lancet, but not before he and his wife lost their jobs, their livelihood and their reputations.

Embryologist Andrés Carrasco told a leading Buenos Aires newspaper about the results of his research into Roundup, the glyphosate herbicide sold in conjunction with Monsanto’s genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops. His studies of amphibians suggested that the herbicide could cause defects in the brain, intestines, and hearts of fetuses. His concern was the amount of Roundup used on GM soy fields was as much as 1,500 times greater than that which created the defects. The biotech industry mounted an attack on Carrasco, ridiculing his research and even issued personal threats.

Epidemiologist Judy Carman investigated outbreaks of disease for a state government in Australia. She knew that health problems associated with GM foods may take decades to discover because the onset of disease is not acute - it's chronic. Moreover, the short-term animal feeding studies usually did not evaluate “biochemistry, immunology, tissue pathology, gut function, liver function, and kidney function” and were too short to test for cancer or reproductive or child health.

Carman was awarded a grant by the Western Australia government to conduct a long-term animal feeding studies on GMOs. GMO advocates demanded the grant be withdrawn. When the Western Australian Government refused to withdraw the grant, opponents successfully interfered with Carman’s relationship with the university where she was to do the research.

In February 2004, prominent virologist Terje Traavik presented preliminary data at a meeting at the UN Biosafety Protocol Conference. The data demonstrated that Filipinos living next to a GM cornfield developed serious symptoms while the corn was pollinating; that genetic material inserted into GM crops transferred to rat organs after a single meal; and key safety assumptions about genetically engineered viruses were overturned, calling into question the safety of using these viruses in vaccines.

The biotech industry attacked Dr. Traavik stating he presented unpublished work. But presenting preliminary data at professional conferences is a long-standing tradition in science. The biotech industry relied on in 1999 to try to counter the evidence that butterflies were endangered by GM corn.

In 2014, the New Yorker reported Syngenta was orchestrating attacks scientists whose studies have shown atrazine to have adverse effects on the environment and/or human and animal health including Professor Tyrone Hayes, PhD, an amphibian expert at University of California, Berkeley. Hayes was contracted to determine the affects of atrazine on frogs. He discovered males exposed to this endocrine disrupter would develop eggs or ovaries in their testes, or the amphibians would turn into hermaphrodites. Further study showed that sometimes the frogs completely turned into females. When he presented the data, Hayes claimed the manufacturer, Syngenta, wanted him to manipulate the data and keep his original findings under wrap. Instead of being intimidated, Hayes started his own campaign and that put the good professor squarely in the cross hairs of the giant chemical company. Syngenta criticized Hayes' science and conduct in press releases, letters to the editor, and through a formal ethics complaint filed at University of California-Berkeley.

There's a reason the chemical barons are so quick on the draw. The market value of the agrochemical industry is $42 Billion annually. So it's little wonder these deep-pocketed corporations go to great lengths to suppress independent scientific investigation. They've been known to block independent research by withholding GM seeds and genes or threaten to withdraw funding from the universities or they resort to sullying the reputations of reputable scientists. The millions they spend on lobbying our governments is another matter entirely.

“Agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers ... Only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of a peer-reviewed journal.”
Scientific American, August 2009

The close ties that have developed between bio science, commerce and governments have created a protective moat around industrial agriculture. The most common claim is that they are protecting intellectual property. But the cultivation, distribution and manufacturing of food needs to be held to a higher standard than commerce. If GMO foods are as safe as the pundits claim, why not encourage independent research to support their claim? What are they trying to hide? If biofoods are safe why not label it as such - that marketing messaging should be worth millions in sales. So what do they fight labelling initiatives instead? Forty-two billion dollars in sales is certainly part of the answer. If it's labelled no one will buy it is another. Over 80% of consumers in Canada and the US want GMO ingredients listed on food labels.

People like Dr Oz is a threat because he's not only smart, he's influential. Millions of Americans and Canadians listen to his advice about cultivating conscious choice. That spells trouble for the chemical barons. The last thing they want is an audience of millions thinking for themselves and making the conscious choice about not purchasing GMO laced and pesticide infested biofoods.

Today, there is approximately 10,400 pesticides approved by the EPA on ‘conditional registration’. This fast track, toxic treadmill allows pesticide manufacturers to get products to market without fully testing all the active ingredients for health or environmental impact and that's a danger to us all.

"Over the past 30 years, more than 100,000 chemicals have been approved for commercial use in the United States. Among these are more than 82,000 industrial chemicals, 9,000 food additives, 3,000 cosmetic ingredients, 1,000 pesticide active ingredients and 3,000 pharmaceutical drugs...due to funding constraints and industry litigation, in the years since the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TCA) was passed, the EPA has been able to require safety testing on only about 200 of the 84,000 chemicals listed on the TSCA chemical inventory."
The New Puberty, 2014, Louise Green, M.D. and Julianna Deardoff, PhD

Early in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), determined glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, was to be listed a “probable carcinogen” (Class 2A). The recommendation was based on evidence showing the popular weed killer was linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer in humans,as well as convincing evidence that the pesticide can also cause cancer in animals.

Monsanto maintains the classification is wrong and continues to claim glyphosate (and Roundup) is one of the safest pesticides on the planet. However, Reuters reported Monsanto has now been slapped with a growing number of lawsuits alleging they long knew that Roundup’s glyphosate could harm human health.

… ‘We can prove that Monsanto knew about the dangers of glyphosate,’ said Michael McDivitt, whose Colorado-based law firm is putting together cases for 50 individuals. ‘There are a lot of studies showing glyphosate causes these cancers.’” In fact, internal Monsanto documents reveal they knew over 30 years ago that glyphosate caused adenomas and carcinomas in rats.

Now California environmental officials intend to add glyphosate to their Proposition 65 list of cancer-causing chemicals. Established in California in 1986, Proposition 65 requires consumer products with potential cancer-causing ingredients to bear warning labels. Most companies reformulated their product ingredients to avoid warning labels altogether, and not just in California.

Monsanto, however, is trying a different strategy. They filed formal comments with the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment saying the plan to list glyphosate as a carcinogen should be withdrawn because the claims had no merit.

Listing glyphosate as a cancer cause "has the potential to deny farmers and public agencies the use of this highly effective herbicide," Monsanto said in its public filing. "Global regulatory authorities... agree that glyphosate is not carcinogenic."

But many scientific studies have raised questions about the health impacts of glyphosate and consumer and medical groups have expressed worries about glyphosate residues on food.

Corporate actions happens for many reasons. Sometimes they are tied to economic shifts, other times ephemeral political winds are a trigger or as we all know technological revolutions like transgenics can cause major upheavals. This week two major agribusinesses have taken actions to correct some serious wrongs. Mind you, they are not admitting anything, they're just throwing money at two problems that they contributed to originally. Step in the right direction? Yep. Enough to make a major difference? Nope.

Monsanto whose popular weed killer Roundup has been blamed, in part, by critics for knocking out monarch butterflies' habitat, said it is committing $4 million to efforts to stem the worrisome decline of the black-and-orange insects. They are donating the funds to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund -- one-third of that money matches what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is contributing. The remaining funds will be set aside to mirror what other federal agencies plan to offer over the next three years. But to be clear, this contribution focuses on habitat restoration, not chemical assessment.

Then the state of New York announced that, after negotiations with the global agribusiness conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland, ADM will adopt a no-deforestation policy for soy and palm oil. This comes at a critical time because evidence indicates that after years of progress, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is increasing again. Just outside the Brazilian Amazon — in Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, and in Brazil’s Cerrado region people have been cutting down the forests where there has been less pressure to stop. The move from ADM provides a clear warning to farmers who are considering the costs and benefits of clearing more land.

ADM laid out a specific set of commitments and a plan for implementation. This announcement is the latest in a cascade of no-deforestation commitments set off when Wilmar, the largest palm-oil company, pledged to stop buying from suppliers who cut down rainforest. ADM owns 16 percent of Wilmar.

“ADM has a steadfast commitment to the development of traceable and transparent agricultural supply chains that protect forests worldwide,” wrote Victoria Podesta, ADM’s chief communications officer, in an email. “We are confident that our No Deforestation policy is both strong and appropriate for our company.”

Last year, another agribusiness, Cargill, announced a plan to stop buying all commodities that caused deforestation. While this ADM commitment is more narrowly focused on soy and palm oil, it applies more stringent rules than the Cargill pledge, said Ben Cushing, spokesperson for the advocacy group Forest Heroes. “For soy, this puts ADM out front,” he said.

As the awareness of the devastating destruction and health issues that surround palm oil and soy, this move may have as much to do with supply chain management than altruism. A closer look at the 'why' reveals that while a group of NGOs — Forest Heroes, Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the National Wildlife Federation, SumOfUs, and NRDC all urged the company to make its business more sustainable, it was the New York State Common Retirement Fund that asked ADM to take this step. The retirement fund holds $83.1 million in ADM stock.

Evidence reveals Monsanto's hand may indeed have been in the EPA's regulatory cookie jar. The revelations are contained in a court filing brought by more than 50 people suing Monsanto claiming the company's glyphosate based herbicide branded Roundup gave them or their loved ones non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) after exposure to the herbicide. The filing includes information about alleged efforts within the Environmental Protection Agency to protect Monsanto’s interests and unfairly aid the agrochemical industry and that Monsanto has spent decades covering up cancer risks linked to the chemical. The EPA’s stamp of approval for the safety of glyphosate over the last few decades has been key to the success of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, glyphosate-tolerant crops.

The filing included alleged correspondence from a 30-year career EPA scientist accusing top-ranking EPA official Jess Rowland of playing “your political conniving games with the science” to favor pesticide manufacturers such as Monsanto. In the correspondence, longtime EPA toxicologist Marion Copley cites evidence from animal studies and writes: “It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer.” She also accuses Rowland of having “intimidated staff” to change reports to favor industry,

Lawyers for the plaintiffs want the court to lift a seal on documents that detail Monsanto’s interactions with former top EPA brass Jess Rowland regarding the EPA’s safety assessment of glyphosate. Monsanto turned the documents over in discovery but marked them “confidential,” a designation plaintiffs’ attorneys say is improper. They also want to depose Rowland. But Monsanto and the EPA object to the requests, court documents show.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared in March 2015 that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, with a positive association found between glyphosate and NHL. Monsanto has been fighting to refute that classification.

Rowland has been key in Monsanto’s efforts to rebut the IARC finding because until last year he was a deputy division director within the health effects division of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, managing the work of scientists who assessed human health effects of exposures to pesticides like glyphosate. And, importantly, he chaired the EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC) that issued an internal report in October 2015 contracting IARC’s findings. That 87-page report, signed by Rowland, determined that glyphosate was “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

The handling of the CARC report raised questions when it was posted to a public EPA website on April 29, 2016 and kept on the site for only three days before being pulled down. The agency said the report was not final and that it should not have been posted, but Monsanto touted the report as a public affirmation of its safety claims for glyphosate. The company also brought a copy of the report to a May court hearing in the Roundup litigation as a counter point to the IARC cancer classification. Shortly after the CARC report was removed from the EPA website, Rowland left his 26-year career at the EPA.

Further Readings
What Killed Jack McCall
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carey-gillam/what-killed-jack-mccall-a_b_9...
Monsanto Fingerprints Found all Over Attack on Organic Food
https://usrtk.org/tag/monsanto/page/2/

California regulators stated that glyphosate will appear on the state’s list of cancerous chemicals beginning July 7, 2017. That means new labels may be appearing as soon as next year in California that include a cancer warning on Roundup and other glyphosate-containing weed killers.

The final say on whether Roundup will get a cancer warning label is still up in the air as Monsanto has filed yet another appeal in an attempt to block the labeling. Monsanto continues to contest the classification, even as it’s become clear that they may have worked with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official to stop glyphosate investigations.

California’s decision to add the chemical to its Prop 65 list of cancer-causing chemicals came in response to the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) 2015 determination that glyphosate is a "probable carcinogen.

From The Source:
Ingredient in popular weed killer going on list as cancerous

Ingredient in popular weed killer going on list as cancerous


California lists Roundup ingredient as a chemical linked to cancer; Monsanto vows to fight
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-roundup-cancer-20170626-story.html
EPA Official Accused of Helping Monsanto ‘Kill’ Cancer Study
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-14/monsanto-accused-of-g...

From the University of Maryland, a 2016 study focussing on the honeybee colonies’ exposome, a term traditionally used in cancer research. It's defined as the measure of all exposures over an individual’s lifetime and how those exposures relate to health. In their investigation, researchers did not look at individual honeybees but instead treated the colony as a single super-organism basing its results on lifetime exposure to agricultural chemicals. Simply put, these models attempted to summarize potential risk from multiple contaminations in real-world contexts.

Researchers gauged the effect of pesticide exposure not only by looking at the number of pesticides in colonies, but also their toxicological relevance over a specific threshold, as well as through the calculation of a hazard quotient (HQ), which evaluates the cumulative toxicity of various pesticide residues.

Pesticide detections and HQ spiked when colonies were placed in agricultural fields for pollination (including blueberry, apple, citrus and cucumber production), and decreased when placed in a holding yard or put into honey production.

The 91 honey bee colonies studied were exposed to a total of 93 different pesticide compounds throughout the course of their pollination season. Of these residues, 13 different compounds were found in bees, 61 in beebread (packed pollen within the hive), and 70 were found in wax.

Pesticide load and hazard were also elevated in colonies that experienced a queen event —when a queen is replaced, in the process of being replaced, or queenless. A queen event is a predictor that a colony will die-off within ~50 days. Researchers found levels of synthetic pyrethroids were higher in colonies with a queen event, echoing past research showing adverse effects to bee reproduction from pyrethroid exposure. While scientists did not find a significant contribution from neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals widely implicated in bee and other pollinator declines, co-authors of the research note the study may not have been set up to adequately investigate their impact.

The implications of this research stretch beyond a single class of chemicals. While the body of science on neonicotinoids, including EPA’s own determination that these chemicals are highly toxic to bees, indicates that they should be immediately removed from use, it is evident that chemcial-intensive agriculture in general is owed much of the blame. Rather than focus on reducing pesticide exposure or refraining from use when bees are present, agrichemical companies, the conventional farming community, and federal regulators must take a long look at what practices are truly sustainable in the long term. It is clear that insect pollination and its subsequent health and economic benefits will not be maintained if measures aren’t taken to drastically shift agricultural production toward safer practices modeled on organic agriculture. By focusing on soil health, biodiversity, cultural practices like crop rotation and intercropping, and limited off-farm inputs, organic systems represent a viable, scalable path forward.

Related Links
University of Maryland - Study High Number of Pesticides Within Colonies Linked to Honey Bee Deaths
https://cmns.umd.edu/news-events/features/3628
In-hive Pesticide Exposome: Assessing risks to migratory honey bees from in-hive pesticide contamination in the Eastern United States
http://www.nature.com/articles/srep33207

In 2015, Bayer CropScience  scored a big win on both sides of the Canada/US borders. That's when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it completed the registration of Bayer’s new pesticide, flupyradifurone. The chemical spray can now be marketed as an alternative to neonicotinoid pesticides and “safer for bees.” Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), also proposed full registration for the sale and use of flupyradifurone. Good news for the honeybees right? Well, not so much. A closer look reveals the EPA and Health Canada may be misleading the public on the ecological safety of pesticide.

Flupyradifurone (flup) is similar to neonicotinoids (neonics) in that it attacks the nervous system of intended and unintended insects. Like neonics it’s a systemic pesticide and is very persistent in the environment with half-lives in soil ranging from 38-400 days. The major difference is that neonics are lethal to honeybees on contact and toxic when ingested. That’s why the class of pesticides is banned in Europe. Flup is acutely toxic only when ingested. As a systemic pesticide, that thin line of distinction gets lost very quickly in agricultural ecosystems because flup is persist in all the plant tissues, including pollen and nectar for two weeks.

Both agencies note the potential threat to honeybees, birds and other small wild mammals. Health Canada’s solution to minimize risk is to requirement the manufacturer to state the hazards on the label. They also recommend spraying early in the morning or in the evening. The EPA rationalizes that “residues declined in pollen and nectar within a two-week window following treatment.” This means honeybees will be exposed the lethal toxin for at least two weeks. For those adult honeybees that forage on this pollen and nectar during that time, death is imminent. However, using some bazaar reasoning, the EPA believes that while honeybees may touch or tread on flup residues, they’ll be alright as long as they do not ingest the pollen or nectar. You don’t have to be an apiarist to understand this is totally counterintuitive to honeybee behaviour. Honeybees are foragers - they’re not out for a Sunday stroll.

These regulatory reviews raise more questions than answers. Honeybees and native pollinators are essential to agricultural ecosystems. Without their contribution most fruits and vegetables cannot produce. Surely at a time when honeybee populations are in such a steep decline, it seems inappropriate and perhaps even irresponsible for regulators to introduce yet another honeybee toxin to the market. So why is this latest chemical with known risks to honeybees and other wild life even being considered? Both agencies maintain that in spite of the acute oral toxicity, flup has no measurable impact on honeybee colonies, fish or other small mammals based on 38 studies. But who sponsored the studies was unclear.

Another concern is the failure to take into account the cumulative impact of flup and neonics like imidacloprid and clothianidin on honeybees and other non-target insects in the environment. Neonicotinoids, as well as a host of other insecticides are currently used as seed treatment combined with use in other areas of agriculture, the home and gardening sites. Adding flup to the chemical mix already found in the environment will mean that honeybees and other non-target organisms will be exposed to mixtures of chemicals that have yet to be evaluated for their combined or synerg

Neonicotinoids (NNIs) are the most widely used insecticides in the world. In theory, they are the perfect pesticide, coating the seeds of a crop so the growing plant is seeped in their poison, killing any munching marauder. No sloppy spraying, no residue, no toxic runoff into nearby streams - according to the marketing speak. In truth, however, NNIs are much less precise than advertised. They are persistent and water-soluble, so they do wash into streams and they target more than nibbling pests. The chemical is a threat to the wellbeing of honeybees, birds as well as other pollinators and make pollinators more susceptible to disease.

On July 1, the province of Ontario will become the first jurisdiction in North America to reduce the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-coated corn and soybean seeds. Agriculture Minister, Jeff Leal, said by 2017, the new rules should curb the acreage planted with such seeds by 80 per cent. Europe is already in the middle of a two-year ban on the controversial pesticide. Great news right? Yes it is, but let's not celebrate yet.

These new regulations may be a good first step, they are baby steps at best. NNIs are only one chemical group in a long line of pesticides that have been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and in dietary illnesses in our kids. Unfortunately, the alternatives that are being proposed are no less questionable.

In truth, the agrochemical industry is valued at over $42 billion. The industry operates with impunity while over 355,000 people die from pesticide poisoning every year, and hundreds of thousands more are made ill - many of whom are children.

Sobering stats on agricultural pesticides:

Each year, around 2.5 million tons (2,500,000 tons = 5 billion pounds) of pesticide are dumped on the crops. [2]
In 2002, an estimated 69,000 children were poisoned by pesticides in the US [3]
The World Health Organization reports 220,000 people die every year worldwide because of pesticide poisoning. [2]
Although most pesticides (80%) are used in the rich countries, most of the poisonings are in poor countries because safety standards are poor. [2]
Pesticide residues in food are often higher in poor countries. [2]
Farmers who use pesticides have a 'significantly higher rate of cancer incidence' than non-farmers. [2]
In the US, nearly one in ten of about 3 billion kilograms (that's 6,613,800,000 pounds) of toxic chemicals released per year is known to be capable of causing cancer (in other animals as well as people). [2]
1. US EPA Pesticide Market Estimates; 2. Public health risks associated with pesticides and natural toxins in foods, David Pimentel et al., College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA; 3. US EPA fact sheet.

Bt toxin is produced by Bacillus thuringiensis in an inactive form (protoxin), which is transformed to its active form (delta-endotoxin) in the guts of certain insects. The active toxin binds to receptors in the gut, killing the insect. There are different forms of Bt toxin that are specifically active against certain groups of insects.

Spores and crystalline insecticidal proteins produced by B. thuringiensis have been used to control chewing insects since the 1920s based on the premise that they are harmless to humans. They are used in organic farming.

In transgenic crops, engineers isolate the active agent of Bt toxin, so it can be transferred to crop seeds. The subsequent plant then inherits the ability to produce the insect toxin on its own. A Belgian company, Plant Genetic Systems was the first company to develop genetically engineered tobacco plants with insect tolerance by expressing the cry genes from B. thuringiensis in 1985. Bt cotton, corn and potatoes were first planted in 1996; by 2006, Bt corn and cotton was planted in over 32 million ha. worldwide.

There is clear evidence from laboratory settings that Bt toxins can affect non-target organisms. Typically, exposure occurs through the consumption of plant parts such as pollen or plant debris, or through Bt ingested by their predatory food choices. In November 2009, Monsanto scientists found that the pink bollworm had become resistant to Bt cotton in parts of Gujarat, India.