Bill Nye on Glyphosate: 'We Accidentally Decimated the Monarch Butterfly Population'
— StarTalk (@StarTalkRadio) July 19, 2015
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."
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."
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By Dana Drugmand
An unprecedented climate lawsuit brought by six Portuguese youths is to be fast-tracked at Europe's highest court, it was announced today.
The European Court of Human Rights said the case, which accuses 33 European nations of violating the applicants' right to life by disregarding the climate emergency, would be granted priority status due to the "importance and urgency of the issues raised."
‘Protect Our Future’<p>Cláudia Agostinho (21), Catarina Mota (20), Martim Agostinho (17), Sofia Oliveira (15), André Oliveira (12) and Mariana Agostinho (8) are <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2020/09/03/youth-climate-lawsuit-portugal-33-european-countries" target="_blank">bringing the case</a> with nonprofit law firm Global Legal Action Network (<span style="background-color: initial;">GLAN</span>), arguing that none of the countries have sufficiently ambitious targets to cut their emissions.</p><p>Portugal recently sweltered through its <a href="https://www.ipma.pt/pt/media/noticias/news.detail.jsp?f=/pt/media/noticias/textos/resumo-clima-julho-20.html" target="_blank">hottest July in 90 years</a> and has seen a rise in devastating heatwaves and wildfires over recent years due to rising temperatures. Four of the applicants live in Leiria, one of the regions worst-hit by the forest fires that killed more than 120 people in 2017. </p><p>Responding to the development, André Oliveira, 12, said: "It gives me lots of hope to know that the judges in the European Court of Human Rights recognise the urgency of our case." </p><p>"But what I'd like the most would be for European governments to immediately do what the scientists say is necessary to protect our future. Until they do this, we will keep on fighting with more determination than ever."</p>
‘Highly Significant'<p>The decision represents a "highly significant" step, <a href="https://www.glanlaw.org/about-us" target="_blank">GLAN</a> Director Dr. Gearóid Ó Cuinn said in a <a href="https://youth4climatejustice.org/" target="_blank">press release</a>.</p><p>"This is an appropriate response from the Court given the scale and imminence of the threat these young people face from the climate emergency," he added. </p><p>By suing the 33 countries all together, the youths aim to compel these national governments to act more aggressively on climate through a single court order, which would potentially be more effective than pursuing separate lawsuits or lobbying policymakers in each country.</p><p>If successful, the defendant countries would be legally bound not only to ramp up emissions cuts, but also to tackle overseas contributions to climate change including those of their multinational enterprises.</p>
‘Major Hurdle’<p>The <a href="https://youth4climatejustice.org/the-case/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countries targeted</a> include all of the European Union member states as well as Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, none of which are currently aligned with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/paris-agreement">Paris agreement</a> target to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and pursue a limit of 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).<a href="https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> </a></p><p><a href="https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Action Tracker rates</a> most of Europe as "insufficient" in terms of its emissions reduction policies based on the Paris target, while Ukraine, Turkey and Russia are assessed as "critically insufficient" – meaning they are on track for a warming of 4 degrees C or higher.</p><p>The European Union has pledged to slash its emissions by <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/eu-climate-action/2030_ctp_en" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least 55 percent by 2030</a>. But the Portuguese youth plaintiffs are calling for cuts of at least 65 percent by 2030, a level that <a href="http://www.caneurope.org/energy/climate-energy-targets" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">European climate campaigners say</a> is necessary to meet the 1.5 degrees warming limit.</p><p> The 33 countries must each respond to the youths' complaint by the end of February, before lawyers representing the plaintiffs will respond to the points of defense. </p><p>"Nothing less than a 65 percent reduction by 2030 will be enough for the EU member states to comply with their obligations to the youth-applicants and indeed countless others," Gerry Liston, legal officer with GLAN, said in a press release.</p><p>"These brave young people have cleared a major hurdle in their pursuit of a judgment which compels European governments to accelerate their climate mitigation efforts."</p><p><span></span><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2020/11/29/court-advances-landmark-youth-climate-lawsuit-against-33-european-nations" target="_blank">DeSmog</a>. </em></p>
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