Another post for Owen Paterson if he manages to take an interest in the real issues surrounding GMOs, and not the fantasy that Monsanto has paid to place in his head.
The Environmental Consequences the White House Didn’t Account for in Its Green Plan
The ethanol boom has come at a far higher price than the US government is willing to admit. Millions of acres of conservation land has been destroyed—converted into corn fields.According to the featured article in the Star Tribune, five million acres of conservation land have disappeared while Obama has been in office. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined.More corn acres also mean more fertilizers being spread over greater areas and a further decimation of our valuable top soil along with continued mismanagement of dwindling water resources.In just five years, (between 2005 and 2010), American corn farmers increased their use of nitrogen fertilizers by more than one billion pounds. As a result, many areas now have to address increasingly polluted drinking water.In Minnesota, for example, about a dozen communities so far have spent millions of dollars to clean toxic nitrogen from their water supplies, and according to a recent government report, reducing the high levels from the state’s water supplies would require massive changes in how farmers grow their crops.Implementing these changes could cost upward of $1 billion a year. According to executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Steve Morse:“We’re doing more to address water quality, but we are being overwhelmed by the increase in production pressure to plant more crops.”Industrial monoculture farming practices as a whole pose a tremendous threat to water supplies, in multiple ways, whether through contamination or by depleting what little fresh water is available. And far from being a solution, GE crops make matters even worse, as they end up needing more agricultural chemicals than other crops, and typically require more water.
Fresh Water Reserves Also Depleted by Agricultural Irrigation…
Besides contamination by crop fertilizers, fresh water reserves are also being outright depleted by agricultural irrigation. An article in Harper’s Magazine3published in the summer of 2012 highlighted the rapid depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer—the largest subterranean water supply in the United States.“Until the Second World War, the Ogallala went almost entirely untapped… It wasn’t until the 1940s, when a variety of new technologies coalesced on the plains, that large-scale irrigation sprang up for the first time—but from there, the transformation was quick. Within a decade thousands of wells were drilled, creating a spike in productivity as unprecedented as it was unsustainable… [D]uring the early 1990s, farmers throughout the Great Plains began to notice a decline in their wells. Irrigation systems from the Dakotas to Texas dipped, and, in some places, have been abandoned entirely.”According to Kevin Mulligan, a professor at Texas Tech University who leads the effort to monitor the Ogallala, available water in the aquifer has gone down by about 80-100 feet in just the past 15 years, and none of the water is likely to be replenished. A mere 20 years from now, it’s unlikely that any irrigated agriculture will be possible on the high plains—the water will be all gone.
Rivers and Gulf of Mexico Suffer from Toxic Agricultural Runoff
The billions of pounds of fertilizer being used on all of these corn fields are also contaminating rivers, and contribute to an ever-expanding dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico—a zone, currently the size of Connecticut, that is too toxic to support aquatic life.“The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact,” Star Tribune4 reports.“The government’s predictions of the benefits have proven so inaccurate that independent scientists question whether it will ever achieve its central environmental goal: reducing greenhouse gases. That makes the hidden costs even more significant. “Upon closer analysis, it seems the White House “green” agenda amounts to little more than another gift to the pesticide industry, spearheaded by Monsanto. It’s certainly not saving the environment. Instead, Monsanto is rolling in dough courtesy of increased sales of its patented genetically engineered Roundup Ready corn… According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, ethanol is “good for business.” He claims it’s good for farmers, which from a financial perspective, it might be. But overall, the corn-for-ethanol agenda is nothing short of an ecological disaster that is costing us far more than money.
The World Is Running Out of Topsoil
A decade ago, farmers were paid about $70 annually per acre to enter the conservation program, which meant leaving their farmland idle and improve the soil fertility with cover crops. From an environmental perspective, this is important, as conservation lands trap carbon in the soil and prevent topsoil erosion. Grasslands also naturally convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, which is what you might call a “staple” for human life on Earth. The world may in fact be running out of usable topsoil, the layer that allows plants to grow.According to an article in Time World,5 soil erosion and degradation rates suggest we have only about 60 remaining years of topsoil. Forty percent of the world’s agricultural soil is now classified as either degraded or seriously degraded; the latter means that 70 percent of the topsoil is gone. Our soil is being lost at 10 to 40 times the rate it can be replenished, and our agricultural systems are to blame, which epitomizes the term “unsustainable.”