So who really won the Supreme Court case Monsanto Company v. Geertson Seed Farms? Both sides are claiming victory, but the reality is that while the Supreme Court may have ruled, the jury is still out and there’s still a good chance to stop a genetically modified (GM) alfalfa seed from overtaking the nation’s fields. The trouble began when Monsanto did an end run around the law by convincing the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS, the division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture charged with regulating genetically modified plants amongst other things) to approve its GM Roundup Ready™ alfalfa without the mandatory environmental review. Consumer groups and farmers hauled them to court, which completely banned the sale and planting of Monsanto’s GM Roundup Ready™ alfalfa until APHIS completed the required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a process that could take years. On the surface, the Supreme Court ruling may seem like a victory for Monsanto. The Court lifted two injunctions issued by the Ninth Circuit Court: one stopped farmers from planting any Monsanto GM Roundup Ready™ alfalfa seed. The other banned APHIS from performing a “partial deregulation” of the seed, allowing restricted or limited planting during the time an EIS is being prepared. However, the Supreme Court upheld the Ninth Circuit Court ruling that APHIS illegally approved Monsanto’s GM Roundup Ready™ alfalfa seed to begin with. In short, despite the furious spin from Monsanto and agri-business, GM Roundup Ready™ alfalfa seed remains illegal
A recent paper published by the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reveals that exposure to Organophosphates (OPs) could result in a higher risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among children. My major concern is that we are not talking about children who came into direct contact with excessive amounts of OP; the results suggest that that exposure to OP is potentially harmful to U.S. children at levels that are commonly found in their immediate environment.
Organophosphates are one of the most widely used pesticides across the world. Among other things, they are used as insecticides on grains, fruit and vegetables, to control parasites on farm livestock and pets, and for fly control in industrial and commercial premises. You might think that a product that has been around for more than 60 years–and which is used so widely–is safe and has no side effects. But sadly this is not the case.
We shouldn’t be too surprised that OPs are potentially harmful. These pesticides were originally developed in World War II for chemical warfare as nerve gases. Indeed, if we look further afield, it is clear that the side effects of these chemicals are already well known. Up until the late 1980s, it was compulsory in many parts of Europe to immerse sheep in an OP bath or dip to control parasites. But many of the shepherds who used these chemicals suffered horrific neurological and psychological damage, leaving them unable to farm. There is also a known link between OP toxicity and depression and suicide.
A recent report in a UK farming journal tells the story of a farmer who has been suffering from “OP poisoning” for more than 30 years. Residues of the OP chemicals from sheep dip that he used when helping his parents dip their flocks was found in the fatty tissue of his body, proving how persistent these chemicals are. So while some OP manufacturers such as Dow Agrosciences are not mentioned in the recent pediatrics research, we already know that there is clear evidence of the potential harm that all OPs can cause.
Animal Welfare Approved prohibits the use of organophosphates because of our concerns for both the health of farmers using them, and for the animals to whom these chemicals are directly applied. The fact that the metabolites of OPs are now being found in children from day-to-day low-level exposure shows just how important it is to have stronger restrictions on the use of these chemicals.
If you are unsure about whether or not your fruit and vegetables have been sprayed with OP insecticide, you should wash them thoroughly before eating them. And if you can, always try to seek out meat, dairy and other products from programs like AWA that prohibit the use of OPs in farming.