Quantcast
Food

Bill Nye on Glyphosate: 'We Accidentally Decimated the Monarch Butterfly Population'

Bill Nye is back with part two of his radio appearance, where he and co-host Chuck Nice delve even deeper into the Science Guy's controversial flip-flop on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

You can listen to the StarTalk podcast below where Nye points out some of the "unintentional consequences" of GMOs, such as the widespread decimation of the monarch butterfly due to the use of herbicides, as well as the threat of monocultures to pollinators such as the honeybee.

Here's what they talked about in the second part of Nye's appearance:

On the "accidental decimation" of monarch butterflies from the use of glyphosate

"People developed this herbicide called glyphosate that kills all the weeds, and kills all of everything except the plants that have this cool gene in them that allows them to grow right through it. We also killed the milkweed, and the milkweed is what the monarch butterflies rely on. So we accidentally have decimated the monarch butterfly population, reduced it over the last two decades by 90 percent … We don't want that where you are accidentally wiping out a potential pollinator species."

On the threat of GM-seeds flying into organic farms by the wind

"This is the concern of certain organic farmers, that these seeds end up in their soil and they get contaminated. [But] if you're not planting them on purpose, there's just not that much contamination. And the infamous cases, where when people claim they got canola growing that flew into their fields accidentally and started growing, there's substantial evidence that those cultivars were carefully cultivated. That is to say, one guy claimed that these seeds flew into his field, but they really didn't—he really planted them."

 

Read page 1

On the use of GM-seeds in other countries

"In India where there's a lot of subsistence or near-subsistence farming, in Africa where there's a lot of close-to-the-bone farming, everyone embraces genetically modified seeds because they get much higher yields and they are not subject to these pests and these plant diseases that are troublesome for farmers."

On the use of genetically modified animals for scientific experimentations

"We do genetically modify animals—we're talking about lab rats that glow in the dark, those little mice. These are very important to our research. These are very important to the way humans know our genes. On balance, I'm in favor of it, and I'm not a vegetarian and maybe one day soon I'll become one. But I understand we raise animals to kill them and eat them routinely. By analogy we raise, especially mice, for laboratory studies that enable wonderful things. With that said I'm very sympathetic. There's a line you draw. A rhesus monkey is very similar—and to me in many ways superior—to my old boss. So I understand when you don't want to do experiments on that guy or gal …. I think it's still very important for humankind to have access to so called 'laboratory models'—that's a noun they use to describe these rats and mice whose genes we have modified to understand our own genes."

On the pros of genetically modified food

"The good side is, we get more yield per hectare or acre. In other words, we have less impactful farming. In other words, we affect the ecosystem less because we'll produce more food on less land. We are using biology to fight pests and diseases rather than chemistry."

On the cons of genetically modified food

"The one that everyone has observed is the monarch butterflies, where we have reduced their population 90 percent not as as consequence exactly of raising genetically modified food, but by using this extraordinary effective herbicide that has killed the milk flowers, or milkweeds, which nourish the monarchs .... Are there other insects that you infected accidentally by messing up their food source?"

Nye continued,  "And the other unintended consequence [is] monoculture farming. Enormous tracts of a single type of plant make it very hard for bees, as pollinators, to get the job done. They got to go there, do that one crop, then there's nothing to do. And somebody puts them back in a box and puts them in a truck and takes them to a different crop, and they just get beaten up, they can't handle it."

"The unintended consequences are things like the monarch butterflies and this monoculture farming, which affects the pollinators and our whole agricultural system. So these are things that are avoidable. So it's good and bad, but it's manageable. I just think it's a necessary consequence when you're going to have 7.2 billion [people] become 9.2 billion you're join to have to do something to feed them."

On the public's fear of corporations controlling our food supply

"Bear in mind farmers make choices … they can buy seeds from this guy or that guy. And like everything else … things have gotten consolidated because international commerce has made it more efficient. And I understand our fear of corporations, but nevertheless, that is manageable through—dare I say it—regulation, where you would make it so the marketplace is generally fair. This seems like a very solvable problem ... I'm not worried about The Man taking over the world because farmers make choices, and producing seeds with certain characteristics is a very competitive business. [For instance,] RoundUp is a very famous brand, but there are dozens of companies, several of them are in Asia that manufacture a very similar glyphosate salt that is well-suited as an herbicide. It's a competitive business."

Nye added, "Farmers choose what seeds to plant based on the ones that perform the best, not based on gunpoint from a corporation."

On the organic farming market and Whole Foods' prices

"This is why the non-GMO movement has a place. We will see if that's economically competitive. You can say corporations are squashing them. I don't think so. You'll find that organic farming takes more input than farming with genetically modified crops. So we'll let the marketplace sort that out ... They call it 'Whole Paycheck' because the food is so expensive, because it's grown in small quantities with high input. So we'll see what happens in the marketplace."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Brad Pitt and Bill Maher Slam Costco for Selling Eggs From Caged Hens

Neil Young Ups the Ante in GMO Food Fight in Vermont

Republicans Stomp on GMO Labeling, DARK Act Heads to House Floor

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
Pexels

5 Ingredients for Health: Starting with Food

On Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg, Dr. Robert Graham—board-certified physician and founder of FRESHMed NYC—combines mainstream medical practices with therapies inspired by ancient wisdom: an integrative model of medicine. "My dad was a biochemist, so I grew up in this integrative model. One of the things that really stood out is my mom was distrustful about the conventional Western model. She still thinks she's the only doctor in the house, because food is such a powerful medicine, especially from her culture," said Graham.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Malte Mueller / Getty Images

When Profit Drives Us, Community Suffers

By David Korten

As I was reading the current series of YES! articles on the mental health crisis, I received an email from Darcia Narvaez, professor of psychology at University of Notre Dame. She was sending me articles being prepared for an anthology she is co-editing with the working title Sustainable Vision.The articles present lessons from indigenous culture that underscore why community is the solution to so much of what currently ails humanity.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The Revelator

Interactive Map: Air Pollution in 2100

By Dipika Kadaba

Having a little trouble breathing lately? That's no surprise. Air pollution is already bad in many parts of the country, and climate change is only going to make it worse. Even though many industries are reducing their emissions, a warming climate could actually offset these reductions by intensifying the rates of chemical reactions and accumulation of pollutants in the environment.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
ddukang / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good for You? A Doctor Weighs In

By Gabriel Neal

When my brother and I were kids back in the '80s, we loved going to Long John Silver's.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals

Dumpster Debacle Distracts From Serious Spike in Whale Deaths

This week, a video of a failed attempt to put a dead, 4,000-pound whale into a tiny dumpster made the rounds on the internet, garnering chuckles and comparisons to Peter Griffin forklifting and impaling a beached sperm whale on Family Guy.

The juvenile minke whale washed up on Jenness Beach in Rye, New Hampshire on Monday morning, NBC 10 Boston reported. It was found with entanglement wounds, so researchers with the Seacoast Science Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wanted to move the carcass from the beach to a lab for a necropsy to study its death.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Muir Woods, which costs $10 for entry, will have free entry on Sept. 22. m01229 / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Visit Any National Park for Free This Saturday to Celebrate 25th National Public Lands Day

If you're stuck for plans this weekend, we suggest escaping your city or town for the great outdoors.

This Saturday marks the 25th National Public Lands Day, organized by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
A glacier flows towards East Antarctica. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / CC BY 2.0

Temperatures Possible This Century Could Melt Parts of East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Raise Sea Levels 10+ Feet

A section of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet that contains three to four meters (approximately 10 to 13 feet) of potential sea level rise could melt if temperatures rise to just two degrees above pre-industrial levels, a study published in Nature Wednesday found.

Researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Queensland, and other institutions in New Zealand, Japan and Spain looked at marine sediments to assess the behavior of the Wilkes Subglacial Basin during warmer periods of the Pleistocene and found evidence of melting when temperatures in Antarctica were at least two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for periods of 2,500 years or more.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Oil well in North Dakota. Tim Evanson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pipeline Leaks 63,840 Gallons of Produced Water in North Dakota

A pipeline released 63,840 gallons (1,520 barrels) of produced water that contaminated rangeland in Dunn County, North Dakota, the Bismarck Tribune reported, citing officials with the North Dakota Department of Health.

Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas extraction, and can contain drilling chemicals if fracking was used.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!