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Economic, health & environmental impacts
of Roundup-type chemical
and Roundup Ready soybeans

Ronnie Cummins
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Farmers who plant Roundup Ready soybeans are hurting themselves as well as other soybean farmers economically, they are extending their bondage to Monsanto corporate America's chemical treadmill--that is the increasing use of expensive, ultimately ineffective, toxic chemicals on America's farmland -- and they are further eroding the trust between family farmers and consumers that must exist if we are ever to see farmers get a fair price for their products and consumers get food like our grandparents took for granted--that is chemically free, healthy, and natural food.

Although the 2-3% of farmers who planted RRS soybeans this year believe that they have saved some money on their herbicide bill, actually they lost (and caused their neighbors to lose) far more money, since the European consumer boycott has already caused U.S. soybean sales to Europe to fall by at least $150 million (and helped drive down the farmgate price for soybeans). And the way things look now there will be almost no U.S. sales to Europe in 1997 if genetically engineered grains continue to be mixed with regular grains--against the wishes of 90% of all consumers. In addition it is just a matter of time until weeds develop resistance to Roundup (as is already happening in Australia) and become superweeds.

At this point US farmers will not only have lost their $2 billion dollar market for soybeans in Europe and Japan and be receiving a lower price for their harvest, but will end up spending even more for their herbicides as well. Finally Roundup is not some harmless chemical. Its active ingredient mixed with its even more toxic inert ingredients have been registered as the third most common cause of pesticide poisoining for farm workers in California and the number one cause in Great Britain. As farmers know there is a cancer epidemic in America's heartland--partly resulting from exposure to chemicals like Roundup, and partly from ingesting contaminated food and drinking water.

80% of all consumers in recent polls say they are sick and tired of herbicide and pesticide residues on the food they feed their families, while 75% are alarmed about the health hazards of genetically engineered foods such as Monsanto's rBGH or Bovine Growth Hormone. Consumers, according to polls, are willing to pay a fair price to family farmers for healthy, natural food--but farmers must be willing to sit down with consumers, look them straight in the eye, and tell them the price they must receive in order to grow food the way we know it all should be grown--with low or no chemical inputs.

Published in In Motion Magazine November 21, 1996.

Ronnie Cummins is National Director of the Pure Food Campaign (PFC), a non-profit, public interest organization dedicated to building a healthy, safe, and sustainable system of food production and consumption in the U.S. and the world. The PFC's primary strategy is to help build a national and international consumer/farmer/ labor/progressive retailer boycott of genetically engineered and chemically contaminated foods and crops. To subscribe to the monthly electronic newsletter, Food Bytes, send an email message to: < majordomo@mr.net > with the simple message: subscribe pure-food-action

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