8 Myths About Pesticides That Monsanto Wants You to Believe
Myths about pesticides are a testimony to the power of advertising, marketing and lobbying. Pesticide corporations, like Big Tobacco and the oil industry, have systematically manufactured doubt about the science behind pesticides and fostered the myth that their products are essential to life as we know it—and harmless if "used as directed."
Myths about pesticides are a testimony to the power of advertising, marketing and lobbying. Photo credit: Pesticide Action Network
The book Merchants of Doubt calls it the "Tobacco Strategy"—orchestrated PR and legal campaigns to deny the evidence, often using rogue scientists to invent controversy around so-called "junk science," for everything from second-hand smoke causing cancer to global warming to the hazards of DDT.
Here are eight of the seemingly plausible myths we hear from the "Big 6" pesticide corporations, including Monsanto, every day:
Myth #1: "Pesticides Are Necessary to Feed the World"
Reality: The most comprehensive analysis of world agriculture to date tells us that what can feed the world—and what feeds most of the world now, in fact—is small-scale agriculture that does not rely on pesticides.
If we were serious about feeding people, we wouldn't grow enough extra grain to feed one-third of the world's hungry and then pour it into gas tanks. Photo credit: Pesticide Action Network
Dow, Monsanto, Syngenta and other pesticide producers have marketed their products as necessary to feed the world. Yet as insecticide use increased in the U.S. by a factor of 10 in the 50 years following World War II, crop losses almost doubled. Corn is illustrative: in place of crop rotations, most acreage was planted year after year only with corn. Despite more than a 1,000-fold increase in use of organophosphate insecticides, crop losses to insects has risen from three-and-a-half percent to 12 percent (D. Pimental and M. Pimental, 2008).
More to the point, hunger in an age of plenty isn't a problem of production (or yields, as the pesticide industry claims), efficiency or even distribution. It is a matter of priorities. If we were serious about feeding people, we wouldn't grow enough extra grain to feed one-third of the world's hungry—and then pour it into gas tanks.
Myth #2: "Pesticides Aren't That Dangerous"
Reality: Pesticides are dangerous by design. They are engineered to cause death. And harms to human health are very well documented, with children especially at risk. Here are a few recent examples from the news:
The environmental damage caused by pesticides is also clear—from male frogs becoming females after exposure, to collapsing populations of bats and honeybees. Photo credit: Pesticide Action Network
- An entire class of pesticides (organophosphates) has been linked to higher rates of ADHD in children
- The herbicide atrazine, found in 94 percent of our water supply, has been linked to birth defects, infertility and cancer
- Women exposed to the pesticide endosulfan during pregnancy are more likely to have autistic children
- Girls exposed to DDT before puberty are five times more likely to develop breast cancer
- The World Health Organization recently designated the key ingredient in the widely used herbicide Roundup a “probable human carcinogen”
A large and growing body of peer-reviewed, scientific studies document that pesticides are harmful to human health. The environmental damage caused by pesticides is also clear—from male frogs becoming females after exposure, to collapsing populations of bats and honeybees.
Myth #3: "The Dose Makes the Poison"
Reality: If someone is exposed to an extremely small amount of one ingredient from a single pesticide at a time, and it was a chemical of relatively low toxicity and exposure occurred outside any window of biological vulnerability, it might pose little danger. Unfortunately, that’s an unlikely scenario.
Even extremely low levels of pesticides can cause irreversible, life-changing harm if they occur at a moment when organs or other systems are developing. Photo credit: Pesticide Action Network
First, pesticide products typically contain several potentially dangerous ingredients (including so-called “inerts” not listed on the label). Second, we’re all exposed to a cocktail of pesticides in our air, water, food and on the surfaces we touch. The combination of these chemicals can be more toxic than any one of them acting alone. Third, many pesticides are endocrine disruptors—and even extremely low doses can interfere with the delicate human hormone system and cause life-changing damage.
Finally, the timing of exposure can be just as—if not more—important than the dose. Even extremely low levels of pesticides can cause irreversible, life-changing harm if they occur at a moment when organs or other systems are developing. One stark example from a recent study using MRI technology illustrates the point: children exposed in utero to the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos experienced lasting changes in their brain architecture.
It’s also important to understand that research used to determine the safety of a pesticide is funded and conducted by the corporations marketing the product, often leading to distortion of findings.
Myth #4: "The Government is Protecting Us"
Reality: Our regulatory system is not doing its job. More than one billion pounds of pesticides are applied every year on U.S. farms, forests, golf courses and lawns. Farmworkers and rural communities suffer illness throughout the spray season and beyond, and infants around the world are born with a mixture of pesticides and other chemicals in their bodies.
Our regulatory system is not doing its job. Photo credit: Pesticide Action Network
As as the President’s cancer panel concluded in 2010:
The prevailing regulatory approach in the U.S. is reactionary rather than precautionary. Instead of requiring industry to prove their safety, the public bears the burden of proving that a given environmental exposure is harmful.
The cornerstone of pesticide regulation is a fundamentally flawed process of "risk assessment" that cannot begin to capture the realities of pesticide exposure and the health hazards they pose. Environmental Protection Agency officials remain reliant on research data submitted by pesticide manufacturers, who do everything they can to drag out reviews of their products, often for decades. Lawsuits are pending to force theEnvironmental Protection Agency to abide by the law and speed up their reviews.
A better, common sense precautionary approach to protecting us would assess alternatives to highly hazardous pesticides rather than accepting public exposure to pesticides as a necessary evil. Such a shift will require fundamental federal policy reform. Meanwhile, state and local authorities are pressing for rules that better protect their communities.
Myth #5: "GMOs Reduce Reliance on Pesticides"
Reality: Genetically modified organisms are driving up pesticide use, and no surprise: the biggest GMO seed sellers are the pesticide corporations themselves. The goal of introducing GMO seed is simple: increase corporate control of global agriculture. More than 80 percent of the GMO crops grown worldwide are designed to tolerate increased herbicide use, not reduce pesticide use.
The goal of introducing GMO seed is simple: increase corporate control of global agriculture. Photo credit: Pesticide Action Network
Monsanto, the world leader in patented engineered seed, would have us believe that its GMOs will increase yields, reduce environmental impact and mitigate climate change—and that farmers use fewer pesticides when they plant the corporation’s seeds. None of this is true.
On average, Monsanto’s biotech seeds reduce yield. In 2009, Monsanto admitted that its Bollguard GMO cotton attracted pink bollworm—the very pest it was designed to control — in areas of Gujarat, India’s primary cotton-growing state. Introduced in 1996, Monsanto’s Bollguard seeds, which include toxic traits from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), now account for half the cotton grown worldwide. In India, the productivity of Bt cotton has fallen while pesticide costs have risen by almost 25 percent, contributing to the tragic suicide epidemic among India’s debt-ridden farmers.
In 2009, 93 percent of U.S. GMO soybeans and 80 percent of GMO corn was grown from Monsanto’s patented seeds. “Roundup Ready” corn and soybeans, designed for use with Monsanto’s weed killer, mostly feed animals and cars rather than people. Now that weeds have developed resistant to Roundup, Dow and Monsanto are introducing GMO corn that includes tolerance of dicamba and 2,4-D, antiquated and dangerous herbicides prone to drift from where they’re applied on neighboring non-GMO fields and into neighboring communities.
Myth #6: "We're Weaning Ourselves Off of Pesticides"
Reality: After 20 years of market stagnation, the pesticide industry entered a period of vigorous growth in 2004. The global pesticide market was worth approximately $46 billion in 2012 and continues to grow. It is expected to reach $65 billion by 2017, with the U.S. accounting for 53 percent of global use.
The global pesticide market was worth approximately $46 billion in 2012 and continues to grow. Photo credit: Pesticide Action Network
About 80 percent of the market is for agricultural use, but non-agricultural sales and profit margins are growing faster, driven by the rise of a global middle class adopting chemically reliant lawns and landscapes. In addition, the industry strategy of promoting GMO seeds, most of which are engineered to tolerate higher applications of herbicides, has driven increased sales of weed killers.
Myth #7: "Pesticides Are the Answer to Global Climate Change"
Reality: Multinational corporations are working hard to increase their market share by exploiting climate change as a sales opportunity. As of 2008, Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont, BASF and others had filed 532 patents for “climate-related genes,” touting the imminent arrival of a new generation of seeds engineered to withstand heat and drought. Their approach will further restrict the age-old practice of farmers saving seeds with desirable traits—a practice that may prove even more important as the climate changes in unpredictable ways and demands more, not less, farm-scale diversity.
Evidence is showing that sustainable farming provides important solutions to climate change. Photo credit: Pesticide Action Network
In fact, evidence is showing that sustainable farming provides important solutions to climate change, with resilient systems that create far fewer greenhouse gases, promote on-farm biodiversity and create carbon sinks to offset warming.
Despite this latest gene-grab, none of these companies have yet been able to engineer any kind of yield-increasing or “climate-ready” seeds. Their promises to end world hunger through drought-, heat- and salt-tolerant seeds and crops with enhanced nutrition have proven empty.
Myth #8: "We Need DDT to End Malaria, Combat Bedbugs, etc."
Reality: The resurgence of bedbugs in recent years has nothing to do with the 1972 ban of DDT. Bedbugs, like many mosquitos, are resistant to DDT—and they were decades ago, when DDT was still in use. In some cases DDT even makes bedbug infestations worse, since instead of killing them, it just irritates them, making them more active.
In some cases DDT even makes bedbug infestations worse. Photo credit: Pesticide Action Network
Resistance is also an issue for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. DDT had been abandoned as a solution to malaria in the U.S. long before it was banned for agriculture use.
Around the world, practitioners battling the deadly disease on the ground report that DDT is less effective in controlling malaria than many other tools. A small cadre of chemical advocates continue to aggressively promote widespread use of DDT to combat malaria, bedbugs—even West Nile Virus—despite its lack of effectiveness and growing evidence of damage to human health, even at low levels of exposure.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Fifteen states are in for an unusually noisy spring.
- Millions of Cicadas Set to Emerge After 17 Years Underground ... ›
- Cicadas Show Up 4 Years Early - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Deep in the woods, a hairy, ape-like man is said to be living a quiet and secluded life. While some deny the creature's existence, others spend their lives trying to prove it.
- Why Hunting Isn't Conservation, and Why It Matters - Rewilding ›
- Decline In Hunters Threatens How U.S. Pays For Conservation : NPR ›
- Is Hunting Conservation? Let's examine it closely ›
- Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation | Oklahoma ... ›
- Oklahoma Bill Calls for Bigfoot Hunting Season | Is Bigfoot Real? ›
By Jon Queally
Noted author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was among the first to celebrate word that the president of the European Investment Bank on Wednesday openly declared, "To put it mildly, gas is over" — an admission that squares with what climate experts and economists have been saying for years if not decades.
- Fossil Fuel Industry Is Now 'in the Death Knell Phase': CNBC's Jim ... ›
- Mayors of 12 Major Global Cities Pledge Fossil Fuel Divestment ... ›
- World's Largest Public Bank Ditches Oil and Coal in Victory for the ... ›
Nine feet tall is gigantic by human standards, but when researcher and conservationist Michael Brown spotted a giraffe in Uganda's Murchison Falls National Park that measured nine feet, four inches, he was shocked.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="54af350ee3a2950e0e5e69d926a55d83"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yf4NRKzzTFk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
- Giraffe Parts Sold Across U.S. Despite Plummeting Wild Populations ... ›
- Green Groups Sue to Get Giraffes on Endangered Species List ... ›
- Conservationists Sound Alarm on Plummeting Giraffe Numbers ... ›
By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
- 5 Ways to Be an Eco-Friendly Pet Owner - EcoWatch ›
- Can Your Pets Get and Transmit Coronavirus? - EcoWatch ›