Perhaps no group of science deniers has been more ridiculed than those who deny the science of evolution. What you may not know is that Monsanto and our United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are among them. That's right: for decades, Monsanto and its enablers inside the USDA have denied the central tenets of evolutionary biology, namely natural selection and adaptation. And this denial of basic science by the company and our government threatens the future viability of American agriculture.
Third Grade Science
Let's start with interrelated concepts of natural selection and adaptation. This is elementary school science. In fact, in Washington D.C. it is part of the basic third grade science curriculum.
As we all remember from biology class, when an environment changes, trait variation in a species could allow some in that species to adapt to that new environment and survive. Others will die out. The survivors are then able to reproduce and even thrive under the new environmental conditions. For example, if a drought were to occur, some plants might have traits that allow them to survive while other plants in the same species would perish. The drought-resistant plants then become the "evolved" species, and they are able to reproduce in the drought environment.
Obvious, you are thinking. But let's explore how Monsanto's top scientists and government regulators would have failed a third grade science class in D.C. and the dire consequences that it is bringing to us all.
Biotech's Dirty Little Secret
First a little background. Since the early 1980s, Monsanto has endlessly hyped genetically engineered (GE) crops they claim could reduce hunger, reduce pesticide use, and survive droughts. In reality, no such "miracle" crops exist. No significantly greater yielding crops, no more effective drought resistance crops. And as for the claim of less pesticide use, behind this myth lies the "dirty little secret" of agricultural biotechnology. Namely, that GE crops actually add hundreds of millions of pounds of pesticides to our fields and crops, and create greater agrochemical residues on our food. Why? Because around 85 percent of all genetically engineered crops in the United States and around the world have been engineered to withstand massive doses of herbicides, mostly Monsanto's Roundup. Usually, if toxic weed-killing chemicals such as Roundup come into contact with a crop they will destroy it as well as the weeds around it. But Monsanto scientists genetically engineered a cassette of bacterial and viral DNA into plants that allowed them to tolerate these herbicides. So the weeds are killed, but the crops remain.
In the United States, more than 50 percent of all our cropland is devoted to GE corn, soy and cotton. They are commodity crops that feed cars, animals in industrial meat production and are used for additives like high fructose corn syrup. Almost none directly feeds people. So rather than feeding the hungry, this technology is about chemical companies selling more chemicals, a lot more chemicals. So as noted, each year 115 million more pounds of Roundup are spread on our farmlands because of these altered crops.
Profits versus Science: Science loses
If half of our nation's cropland is doused year after year with a particular herbicide, that is a significant change in the environment. The accompanying problem of adaptation and selection has probably already occurred to you. Wouldn't that massive increase in Roundup use over that huge a portion of our cropland cause some weed populations to develop resistance? Wouldn't weeds with natural resistance thrive in this new environment? Wouldn't these new "superweeds" eventually become a major problem for U.S. farmers, overrunning their crops?
As government regulators were considering whether to approve these plants in the mid-1990s, they asked Monsanto just that question. No doubt considering the billions they were going to make selling more Roundup, this is a moment when Monsanto's scientists seemed to find it convenient to their bottom line to deny basic evolutionary science. They stated, "Evolution of weed resistance to glyphosate (Roundup's active ingredient) appears to be an unlikely event." They also suggested that massive use of Roundup would lead to "no resistant weeds." Independent scientists were aghast. They mocked Monsanto's view that Roundup was somehow "invincible" from the laws of natural selection, and pointed out that the company's scientists purposely ignored numerous studies that showed there would be weed resistance. But incredibly, despite the strong contrary evidence, the USDA regulators just nodded in science denying agreement with Monsanto.
Of course, adaptation and natural selection did take place. As a result, in less than 20 years, more than half of all U.S. farms have some Roundup resistant "superweeds," weeds that now infest 70 million acres of U.S farmland, an area the size of Wyoming. Each year we see major expansion of this "superweed" acreage. Texas has gone so far as to declare a state of emergency for cotton farmers. Superweeds are already causing major economic problems for farmers with a current estimate of $1 billion lost in damages to crops so far.
Last year in a panel discussion with Robert Fraley, Chief Technology Officer for Monsanto and a founder of these herbicide tolerant crops, I confronted him. How could he and the other Monsanto scientists have claimed that natural selection would not take place? How could they ignore basic evolutionary science and clear contrary evidence? He just shook his head and said "You're right, weeds have evolved resistance." But apparently, Monsanto and their government regulators still haven't learned this third grade science lesson. They're denying science once again, and the stakes are even higher.
"Agent Orange Crops" and More Science Denial
Now Monsanto and Dow Chemical have received government approval to market new genetically engineered corn, soy and cotton, that are "stacked" with engineered DNA that make them resistant to Roundup as well as 2,4-D (one of the chief elements of "Agent Orange"). Monsanto has also gained approval from the USDA for the same three crops that can tolerate Dicamba. 2,4-D and Dicamba are older, more toxic herbicides than Roundup, and these companies are reverting to them because they have brought us to the point of peak herbicides. They simply don't have any new ones, similar to the current crisis in antibiotics.
But won't the weeds simply become resistant to these herbicides as well? Not according to the science deniers at Monsanto and Dow Chemical. Despite predictions that their new crops will add hundreds of millions more pounds of these herbicides each year, they say not to worry. They claim -- as they did 20 years ago -- that natural selection will not happen; that it is extremely unlikely for weeds to survive simultaneous attacks from two or more different herbicides with different methods.
Weed scientists have shredded this argument, noting that weeds in the past, through adaption, have done this and will almost certainly do it again. So in a few years we will be overrun with "superweeds" that are virtually indestructible by any known chemical. But by then Monsanto and Dow will have made billions selling their chemicals and can leave the "superweed" agronomic nightmare for others to solve. Nor will they have to deal with the other nightmares that could possibly occur: increased rates of cancer and diseases like Parkinson's associated with exposure to these herbicides.
A Better Way
A science-based, and safer, way forward is to abandon this doomed-to-fail chemical arms race against weeds and use ecologically based weed control. There are proven organic and agroecological approaches that emphasize weed management rather than weed eradication, soil building rather than soil supplementing. Crop rotation and cover crops can return productive yields without ridding the land of genetic biodiversity, and could reduce herbicide use by 90 percent.
So it's long past due that our government required real and rigorous science when regulating GE crops. It's time for them to say "no" to these herbicide-promoting crops, and prevent the looming agronomic disaster they will inevitably bring with them.
In the meantime, the next time you read hear about "GMO science deniers" -- think of 70 million acres of superweeds; think cancer, Parkinsons and other diseases caused by this growing use of herbicides; think Monsanto and its enablers at the USDA.
The number of Vietnam veterans affected by the chemical Agent Orange is astonishing.
Roughly 300-thousand veterans have died from Agent Orange exposure -- that's almost five times as many as the 58-thousand who died in combat.
“Did it save lives? No doubt. Over there it did, but nobody knew it was going to be taking them later,” said Dan Stenvold, President of the North Dakota branch of the VVA.
The Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) define Agent Orange as a highly toxic herbicide used by the U.S. military to kill vegetation during the Vietnam War.
"You know we killed the jungle with back packs, sprayed so we had a good perimeter," said Stenvold.
According to Stenvold, one tablespoon of Agent Orange in the drinking water of Los Angeles would kill the entire city.
That toxicity is coming back to haunt veterans and it's also affecting their children...
“Well my dad was a Vietnam veteran, my brother has brain cancer believed to be caused by Agent Orange passed through my father,” said Ashely Busby, daughter of a Vietnam Vet.
…And their children's children.
“Our daughters that can't have children, there's a lot of them. I was telling Ashley I know of at least 70 in North Dakota alone where the daughters can't have kids,” said Stenvold.
11 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed in Vietnam over 20 million acres, putting three million Vietnam veterans and their families at risk.
"It’s an everyday question kind of, you know, what's passed on, what's not passed on," said Busby.
Stenvold did three tours in Vietnam and in 2002 he was diagnosed with diabetes linked to Agent Orange.
Since then he says he's made a vow to raise awareness.
Two years ago, the VVA received 50 thousand dollars from the state to do just that.
"It’s amazing how many Vietnam veterans don't know about it and you know it's really opened the eyes, I gotta thank the North Dakota legislature because two years ago they had enough faith in us to go out and do what we're doing and it's working," said Stenvold.
There are about 50 diseases connected agent orange exposure and nearly 20 birth defects recognized in the children of Vietnam veterans.
"I had a close friend who died a five years ago from lymphoma and he's laying in Minot, he's from Minot, dying and he says, "you know we all took a bullet over there, some of us just didn't know it. We're all going to die from it, eventually, or a lot of us will," said Stenvold.
Mcneilus steel in Fargo made history as the first corporation in North Dakota to donate money to the VVA.
The employees and the company gave a total of $1,500 dollars to this cause.
We had a lovely time on Tuesday. Unfortunately, we failed to take many pictures. When Chris arrived, he and Dom headed to Bogalusa for my Baking Powder, and swung by Dennis' house to shoot turtles. Joe arrived a few hours later and hung out with me as I was cooking. I baked my traditional Soda Bread, Oat Farls, Corned Beef, Cabbage, Potatoes and Carrots. For dessert we drank Baileys and Jameson's Irish Whisky on the rocks. All 6 of us had a great time. Next year, MORE PICS!
Blessed St. Patrick's Day! From 'St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer': I bind unto myself the Name, The strong Name of the Trinity; By invocation of the same. The Three in One, and One in Three, Of Whom all nature hath creation, Eternal Father, Spirit, Word: Praise to the Lord of my salvation, Salvation is of Christ the Lord. Amen.
Investigational monoclonal antibodies, such as daratumumab and elotuzumab, could potentially change the role of stem cell transplantation for patients with multiple myeloma. These new therapies, and others on the horizon, offer options for patients who are ineligible for a stem cell transplant, and serve as a pretreatment method for patients who wish to delay the procedure.
To discover how these advances will impact patients, OncLive interviewed Ravi Vij, MD, associate professor, Division of Oncology, Section of Bone Marrow Transplantation, Washington University School of Medicine and the Siteman Cancer Center, on what the future holds for stem cell transplantation in multiple myeloma.
OncLive: What is the role of pretransplant therapy in myeloma?
Vij: The goal of the treatment is to establish some element of disease control prior to transplantation. We know that deeper levels of disease control usually correlate with longer survival. Therefore, the goal of therapy is to try and get the disease under control before a transplant will reduce it further, and provide more durable disease control.
How could pretransplant therapy change in the era of monoclonal antibodies?
It is a very vibrant area. It is difficult to say how things are going to evolve. We have a number of new drugs that are coming up—monoclonal antibodies or proteasome inhibitors—and these are going to be initially incorporated into the treatment of relapsed or refractory patients, but will gradually move their way to frontline treatment.
So far, we have generally used three drug combinations to produce the best responses, but it is possible in the future, especially with the monoclonal antibodies, that four drug combinations may be coming into vogue. Oral proteasome inhibitors will probably offer a more convenient regimen. I think its impact is more going to be on the durability of treatment for both transplant and non-transplant, the convenience of long-term oral administration.
What do you see as the role of transplantation in the future?
The role of stem-cell transplantation is still very secure in the treatment paradigm for patients with myeloma. The best results so far have been achieved with good induction therapy, early stem cell transplantation, and post-transplant maintenance. There are certainly patients who are not candidates or wish to delay transplantation, and for them to delay it until first progression is certainly an option.
As far as removing transplant from the paradigm, I think, in the immediate future, there will still be a need for transplantation for several years to come. As newer drugs are tested and trials are conducted and compared to stem cell transplantation, it is possible it will no longer be a necessary treatment paradigm one day. Right now it is something that I think helps the majority of the patients. It is a treatment that is relatively well tolerated, with usually a 1-2% treatment-related mortality rate. It is well tolerated even by older individuals.
Medicare pays for treatment for myeloma for those who are up to 78 years old. Although we may reduce the dosage a little bit in older individuals, they tolerate it well. Several studies have shown, at least in a retrospective manner, that older patients do benefit from stem cell transplantation.
What are some of the barriers to greater adoption of stem cell transplantation?
There is certainly a lot of work being done, which is looking at some of the barriers to greater adoption of stem cell transplantation. Socioeconomic status has been shown by our group to really matter. We know that certain demographics within the population are not even offered the opportunity to see a transplant physician, even if one is available in the vicinity. The number of transplants could literally double if appropriate referrals are made.
Often, the reluctance on the patient’s part can be overcome by explaining to them what the procedure involves, how well it is tolerated, and the benefits it has. It is often more difficult to convince a community physician to make the referral so one can at least have the opportunity to assess a patient. It is a procedure that, contrary to popular belief, is relatively well tolerated and still benefits a lot of patients.
Monsanto is now instantly recognized as the company dominating the global food supply with its more than 7000 current worldwide patents. But today’s Monsanto is not a corporate newcomer. Although its literature heralds the company as having a clear and principled code of conduct and a pledge to demonstrate integrity, respect, ethical behavior, and honesty in everything they do, the truth is that this company has a legacy of contamination and cover-up that dates back more than a century.
The Rise of one of ‘The Worst Corporations in the World’
At the turn of the 19th century, John Queeny founded Monsanto Chemical Works to produce such nefarious products as saccharin, synthetic vanillin, and laxative and sedative drugs. The company was well positioned as a leading force in the dawning American chemical industry.
From the 1920’s until the late 1960’s, Queeny’s son, Edgar Monsanto Queeny, expanded the company into a global franchise, and changed its name to Monsanto Chemical Company in 1933. He added sulfuric acid, PCBs, DDT, synthetic fibers, and an array of plastics that included polystyrene to the product line.
During this time, Monsanto also created Agent Orange, one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971.
Agent Orange was a combination of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. The 2,4,5-T used to produce Agent Orange threw off dioxin as a byproduct, a compound the World Health Organization classes as highly toxic. Dioxin can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, hormone disruption, and the initiation of cancer. Dioxin persists in the environment and accumulates in the body, even at minimal exposure.
In areas where Agent Orange was used, the concentration of dioxin was hundreds of times greater than the levels considered safe by the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA). This resulted in a host of terrible health consequences for anyone exposed. and led to decades of litigation during which Monsanto fought tooth and nail to avoid paying for the horrific damage military personnel suffered from. The class action case that followed was settled out of court in 1984 for $180 million, reportedly the latest settlement of its kind at the time.
Read: Sorry Monsanto – Organic Food Demand is Exploding
More than 60 years of Contamination and Cover Up
Dioxin Leak at Nitro – $93 Million Settlement
From 1929 until 1995, Monsanto operated a chemical plant in the small town of Nitro, West Virginia, where it manufactured Agent Orange. In 1949, a pressure valve blew on a tank of the herbicide, sending plumes of smoke and vapors containing dioxin throughout the town, coating residents and the homes they lived in with powdery residue.
In a short time, some people developed skin eruptions and were diagnosed with an enduring and disfiguring condition known as chloracne. Others had prolonged pain extending from their chest to their feet. According to a medical report following the explosion, “It caused a systemic intoxication in the workers involving most major organ systems.”
Monsanto’s reaction? The company down-played it, claiming the chemical was slow-acting and just a minor irritant.
To get rid of the dioxin, the company dumped it into storm drains, streams and sewers, and stored it in landfills. Dioxin persisted in waterways and in the fish that lived in them. When residents sued for damages, they were told by Monsanto that their allegations had no merit and that the company would defend itself vigorously.
The residents of Nitro or their descendants finally received $93 million from Monsanto in 2012.
PCBs Contaminate the Town of Anniston, Alabama
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are used in many industries as hydraulic fluids, sealants, and lubricants. These chemicals have been demonstrated to cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems.
Monsanto’s plant in Anniston, Alabama produced PCBs from 1929 to 1971. Since then, tons of contaminated soil have been hauled away from the plant, but the site continues to be one of the most highly polluted areas in the country.
Why was it such a mess? During its production years, waste PCBs were dumped into a nearby open landfill, poured into a creek that ran alongside the plant, or just allowed to run off the property during storms. During those years, the townspeople drank from their wells, ate fish they caught, and swam in the creeks, oblivious of the PCBs. When public awareness began to mount, authorities found high levels of PCBs all over the place, and in the bodies of those people, where it will remain forever.
In 1966, a Monsanto biologist testing waterways near the Anniston plant found that when live fish were added to the water, “All 25 fish lost equilibrium and turned on their sides in 10 seconds and all were dead in 3 1/2 minutes.”
In 1970, the FDA found high levels of PCBs in fish near the Anniston plant, and Monsanto jumped into cover-up mode. A leaked internal memo from a company official outlined steps for the company to take to limit disclosure. The strategy called for engaging public officials to fight the battle for them. “Joe Crockett, Secretary of the Alabama Water Improvement Commission will try to handle the problem quietly without release of the information to the public at this time,” the memo promised.
A statement eventually released from Monsanto’s world headquarters in St. Louis stated, “Quoting both plant management and the Alabama Water Improvement Commission, the PCB problem was relatively new, was being solved by Monsanto and, at this point, was no cause for public alarm.”
The class action suit for Anniston was finally settled in 2003, when Monsanto was forced to pay $700 million.
More PCBs Dumped into the Environment
In 1977, Monsanto closed its PCB plant in Whales, but not before dumping thousands of tons of waste into the quarry of the town of Groesfaen. Authorities there say the site is still one of the most contaminated in Britain.
Internal papers indicate that Monsanto knew about the PCB dangers as early as 1953, when toxicity tests on the effects of PCBs killed more than 50% of the lab rats subjected to them. In 2011, Monsanto reluctantly agreed to help in the clean up after an environmental agency found 67 chemicals at the quarry site that were exclusively manufactured by Monsanto. Yet that effort remained underfunded and the quarry remains contaminated.
The Guardian reported that Monsanto wrote an abatement plan in 1969 which admitted “the problem involves the entire United States, Canada, and sections of Europe, especially the UK and Sweden.”
Navy Rejects Monsanto Product Because it was ‘Too Toxic’
Monsanto tried to sell its hydraulic fluid, known as Pydraul 150, to the navy in 1956, and supplied test results in their sales pitch. But the navy decided to do its own testing, and the company was informed that there would be no sale because the product proved to be too toxic. In an internal memo divulged during a court proceeding, Monsanto’s medical director stated that“no matter how we discussed the situation, it was impossible to change their thinking that Pydraul 150 is just too toxic for use in submarines.”
Monsanto Moves into Food, Biotechnology
Monsanto’s move into biotech began in the 1970’s, and in 1983 the first genetic modification of a plant cell had been achieved. Synthetic bovine growth hormone (rBST) was on the horizon. Monsanto’s public relations department portrayed GM seeds as a panacea for alleviating poverty and feeding the hungry. In 1985, the company bought NutraSweet artificial sweetener, a branded version of aspartame – the compound responsible for 75% of the complaints reported to the FDA’s adverse reaction monitoring system.
Monsanto Seeks Clean Image, Creates Solutia
In the late 1990’s, Monsanto created a new company known as Solutia, and off-loaded its chemical and fiber businesses. L. Bartlett and James B. Steele, chronicling the rise of Monsanto for Vanity Fair magazine, noted the reason for the spinoff was to channel the bulk of Monsanto’s mounting chemical lawsuits and liabilities into the spun-off company, thereby creating a clean image for Monsanto. Solutia became Monsanto’s solution!
As the company, now known simply as Monsanto, moves through the 21st century, it has a ‘new cleaned-up image,’ and a fine sounding mission statement. It refers to itself as a relatively new company that promotes sustainable agriculture and delivering products that support farmers around the world.
Except Monsanto is the 3rd most hated company in the world.
Monsanto’s legacy of contamination and cover-up should be a wake up call for you to run from the GMOs they have spawned. Remember the old adage that says leopards can’t change their spots?
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Clifford Anderson’s serious health problems began when he was in his 30s.
It began with a diagnosis of colitis, an inflammation of the inner lining of his colon, in the early 1980s. By 1990, his colon had to be removed.
“When they took the colon out, the doctor at the university said they’ve never seen a colon like that before,” Anderson said. “It was like battleship gray.”
His health continued to deteriorate over the years as he developed poor circulation, bleeding ulcers on his ankles, blood clots, eye disease and now a rare cancer that leaves small tumors on the inside of his intestines.
Anderson, 67, of Joy, Ill., is convinced that his health problems stem from his exposure to Agent Orange, a highly toxic chemical sprayed on trees and vegetation during the Vietnam War. Anderson served with the 101st Airborne Division from February 1966 to September 1967.
“I felt sorry for myself for a long time,” Anderson said Saturday. “But I tell you the worst thing is, and I’ll just put it very bluntly, the hell I put my family through.”
Now, he worries about the effects of the drug being passed down genetically to his son and eventually his granddaughter.
In fact, the effects of Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals that soldiers may come in contact with during war may be felt in the next five to seven generations, said Maynard Kaderlik of the Minnesota State Council, Vietnam Veterans of America.
“We beat up ourselves a lot over the years,” Kaderlik told a packed room of veterans and their families at the Rogalski Center at St. Ambrose University in Davenport on Saturday. “Don’t blame yourself for this issue, OK? We didn’t know that the stuff was going to do this to us.”
The town hall forum lasted much of Saturday and is the first of its kind in Iowa, said Gary Paulline, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 776, Bettendorf.
The Department of Veterans Affairs currently recognizes about 50 illnesses, such as Parkinson ’s disease and multiple forms of cancer, connected to exposure to Agent Orange.
The VA also recognizes some birth defects, such as spina bifida and hip dysplasia, of children born to female Vietnam War veterans.
"We believe genetically we passed it on to our children and now the dioxin is in our tissue, so we don't know when the bomb's going to go off," Kaderlik said.
Since the Vietnam Veterans of America began doing the town hall meeting several years ago, they have identified about 750 diseases that may be linked to Agent Orange and other toxins, Kaderlik said.
It's not just Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to toxic agents.
In the Gulf War, service men and women were exposed to such things as depleted uranium used extensively in American armor-piercing ammunition and to enhance armor protection for some tanks. In the case of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, they were exposed to the smoke and fumes of burn pits used to burn everything from basic trash to chemical waste and human feces.
During the Agent Orange town hall meetings, the Vietnam Veterans of America also has collected stories from Vietnam War veterans and their families and plan to share them Congress in a push for legislation that calls for more research for toxic exposure research and support for military families.
They are doing it, in large part, for the future generations who may be affected by Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals, Kaderlik said.
"We have to fight the fight, we have to keep at it," he said.
Kaderlik encouraged veterans to file claims with the Veterans Administration for themselves and family members and register with the VA's Agent Orange registry, which provides a comprehensive health exam that alerts veterans to possible long-term effects related to Agent Orange.
Anderson said his son, born in Belgium in 1970, has had issues with his teeth, heart and hips for much of his life. He worries about his granddaughter, who has not shown any symptoms.
“We’re talking about the children here, but I’m still a firm believer that if we don’t get this on the registry and get proof of this, we’re all in trouble,” Anderson said.
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Celebrating 29 years of marriage in December '17. After over 7 years of remission, Dom's Multiple Myeloma (Cancer of the blood plasma cells- attributed to Agent Orange Exposure while Dom served in Vietnam) has returned. Much of this blog concentrates on our adventure leading up to a Stem Cell Transplant, his remission, and our new adventure.