By Dr. Harold Willis
The major development in soybean agriculture over the last decade has been genetically modified (GM) soybeans. Since being marketed and promoted by Monsanto beginning in 1996, their first GM variety, Roundup Ready, has been adopted by most U.S. growers and is now planted on 90% of U.S. soybean acres. It is resistant to the general-purpose herbicide glyphosate (trade name Roundup, made by Monsanto).
Genetically engineered organisms are produced by using high-tech methods to insert one or more genes from one species (plant, animal or microbe) into another species (soybeans in this case). In crop plants the inserted genes are usually ones that give herbicide resistance or pest resistance to the GM variety, thus, according to the marketing hype, the farmer can use less herbicide or insecticide, with cost savings and less environmental pollution. The promoters of GM crops have claimed that the technology is entirely safe—safe as food and safe for the earth.
Actually, they haven’t really turned out that great, and now are undergoing lawsuits around the world because of how they, and the pesticides they depend on, work to destroy ecosystems. Not to mention, surveys of GM-using farms have found either very slight reductions in herbicide/pesticide use, or in the case of GM soybeans, considerably higher herbicide use.
Another major worry is that the herbicide and/or pesticide-resistant genes can be transferred to weeds or pests, producing “super weeds” or “super pests.” Already, a few cases of this have happened. It turns out that the pollen of GM crops can travel much farther than expected and can infect non-GM species.
Even worse, tests of feeding GM food to lab animals and livestock have found serious health problems, including crippled immune systems, pre-cancerous cell growth, liver damage, abnormal development of certain body organs, sterility, and premature death. Yet soybeans are used so extensively in animal feeds as well as in thousands of processed human foods, we must seriously question the wisdom of growing GM varieties. A number of foreign countries recognize the risks and refuse to import any GM crops.
Previous varieties of GM crops did not produce yields any larger than non-GM varieties, so Monsanto has recently developed a “second generation” GM soybean, called Roundup Ready 2 yield, which gives 7-11% higher yields. It is not yet available commercially, but the marketing blitz will no doubt be massive.
Considerable experience by sustainable and organic farmers has shown that it is not necessary to grow high-tech crops to obtain high yields and to produce high quality, nutritious food. Healthy, vigorous plants have few pests, and weeds can often be controlled with little or no herbicide. It all goes back to maintaining fertile, healthy soil, with loose texture and abundant beneficial soil organisms.
Source: How to Grow Super Soybeans