Genetically Engineered Soil Microbes: Responsible Agriculture Takes Another Hit - Moms Across America

Genetically Engineered Soil Microbes: Responsible Agriculture Takes Another Hit

In the era of Big Biotech reign and genetic engineering, the introduction of genetically modified (GE) soil microbes into agriculture raises significant concerns. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have jurisdiction over different types of GE microbes and neither organization has developed regulations that account for their unique properties, leaving corporate agriculture giants to their own devices.

Once products are released, there is no surveillance or safety testing in place. According to Friends of The Earth, at least two live, genetically-engineered GE microbes are already being used on millions of acres of U.S. farmland — a nitrogen-fixing GE bacteria from Pivot Bio called Proven® and BASF’s ‘2.0’ version of its Poncho®/VOTiVO® seed treatment, which combines a GE microbe that aims to improve plant viability with an insecticide and a non-GE microbial nematicide (Nematodes are microscopic, worm-like organisms that can beneficial to soil health).

The Environmental Protection Agency’s website states that it has registered eight GE microbes as pesticides. However, the regulatory system is marked by such a profound lack of transparency that there is no publicly available information on what they are or whether they have been commercialized. The regulatory system is set to quickly greenlight new GE microbes without assessing their potential health and environmental risks. And given that the biotech market is booming (with Bayer, Syngenta, BASF, and Corteva spending millions to acquire biological patents and corporations) we are clearly on the cusp of a wave of new GE biologicals moving from the lab to the field – and into the soil – with no consideration for the impact on human health. What’s worse, is the upcoming Farm Bill is set to override local protections against pesticide use, which would include GM microbes.

The sordid history of GE agriculture does not bode well for the role of genetically modified microbes in the crucial work of soil management. One prominent voice in this debate, Vandana Shiva, is a distinguished scholar and environmentalist who has extensively worked for the protection of natural seeds against genetic alteration and commercial control. Shiva's anti-globalization philosophy centers around the significance of seeds as the essence of life, but nearly all of her activism has pointed back to the criticality of biodynamic soil: “Technology is a tool and you look at what the tools do,” says Shiva. “In the case of agriculture, a tool is a very small component. The soil fertility decides how much (food) you'll get. The potential of the seed decides. The biodiversity intensification decides.” Industrial farming has already depleted and contaminated the soil for decades, but as if that wasn’t enough – now Big Ag is coming for the soil itself.

Healthy food requires healthy soil. Shiva contends that regenerative agricultural systems – the type of food production Moms Across America promotes – produce more food because they intensify biodiversity. “The more biodiversity there is, the more nutrition per acre there is,” says Shiva. “The industrial system which is called the ‘use of technology’ actually destroys biodiversity and has destroyed the fertility of soils,” says Shiva. Through this lens, the narrative of industrialization of agriculture — that it's essential to produce enough food – falls flat.

Shiva has tirelessly fought against the encroachment of genetically modified (GM) crops and the dominance of powerful chemical corporations. As GM soil microbes enter the Big Agriculture picture, Shiva has emphasized that healthy soils, enriched by robust ecological systems involving billions of microorganisms, can significantly increase food production, especially if biodiversity is intensified.

Shiva has also challenged the narrative that GMOs lead to reduced pesticide use, citing studies that indicate an increase in pesticide application in certain GM fields. Industrial agriculture has not kept its promise to reduce carbon emissions, superweeds, or super pests, to increase food production (in terms of nutrition per acre), so the track record leading up to the release GM soil microbes is not good.

By introducing GM soil microbes, chemical companies are enslaving agrochemical farmers into their hamsterwheel system. The corporations are genetically modifying bacteria, patenting them, and having farmers pay them through pesticide and fertilizer sales to fix the very problem that they caused.

What should be happening is the increasingly obviously necessary shift to regenerative organic farming. Poison has no place in our food system. Instead, corporations continue profiting off of an attempt to rehabilitate the soil from the poison they inflicted upon it.

This recovery method, patented, genetically modified bacteria, has the potential to contaminate the ecosystem and alter it, as GM CRISPR studies have already shown, causing thousands of off-target mutations. We’ve seen enough nintended consequences in the soil that grows our food. We need to be intentional in regenerating the soil with nutrients and bacteria found in nature, as biodynamic farming provides. Millenia of regenerative farmer experience and decades of modern organic and agroecological farming show the clear way forward.

Jeffrey Smith, a bestselling author and filmmaker, has been at the forefront of sounding the alarm on the potentially devastating consequences of soil microbes. He advocates for ecological (regenerative) agriculture to counteract these negative effects. Smith’s influential works, including "Seeds of Deception" and "Genetic Roulette," delve into the negative effects of GMOs, and warn that genetic engineering has the potential to destroy entire ecosystems, emphasizing the serious repercussions on health and biodiversity. GM soil microbes take this devastation even deeper.

Smith explains the problem with tampering with soil microbes: “You equip the soil microbe with anti-microbial genes causing it to kill other microbes in the [human] gut and become antibiotic resistant.”

According to Smith, the implications of GM soil extend to national security. While Bayer and Ginkgo Bioworks collaborate on the development of genetically engineered soil microbes, the potential risks were outlined in a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The risks reported include: accidents, terrorism, biological weapons, and economic harm. The risks outlined underscore the importance of an informed and vigilant public. As we continue to push back against genetic engineering in agriculture, this new call to action resonates loud and clear: advocate for responsible agriculture and protect the delicate tapestry of nature.

We must engage with legislators to ensure a thorough assessment of the risks associated with GMO soil microbes. Before legislative representatives permit the widespread deployment of these GMO microbes, it is crucial that they thoroughly understand the potential consequences outlined in the risks report. Moms Across America urges you to contact your legislators, ensuring they are informed about the risks and implications of such endeavors and ask them to oppose GM soil.

Contact your legislators and urge them to thoroughly assess the risks of GMO soil microbes before permitting their widespread deployment. Urge them to shift subsidies to regenerative organic farming practices, ban glyphosate (which kills the soil microbes), and discontinue the practices that are causing the soil microbe problem in the first place.

  1. Ban glyphosate. Glyphosate herbicides, sprayed to the tune of 280 million pounds a year on our farming soils, kills the soil microbes, depletes the soil of nutrients, contributes to increased pests and plant disease, and sickens and kills human beings, marinelife, and wildlife. Just stop allowing it, and the soil microbes will begin to repair themselves.

  2. Fund regenerative organic farming. Not the “regenerative” Bayer is talking about regenerative organic farming, cover crop farming utilizing animal grazing, and NO toxic herbicides. The elimination of toxins is essential for the repair of the soil. Regenerative organic farming recovers the soil naturally.

  3. Fund natural solutions for soil regeneration such as Dr. Don Huber’s recommendation "PaleoPower Microbial from Ancient Organics Bioscience, Inc. This product has been shown to remove glyphosate and AMPA from the soil in 30 days.

If we don’t protect the soils, very little is going to be left healthy on Earth. Together we can raise awareness which will create healthy communities. Your voice matters. Please contact your legislators today!

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  • Dr. Leo and Pat Holland
    commented 2024-01-19 16:38:43 -0500
    Thank you, Moms Across America for alerting so many to this. It would be great if you had an action letter , addressed to members of the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture Committees that people could sign and click to send. As well as click to share.
    You could also give folks the phone numbers of those members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees as well as the president.

    Again, Thanks!
    Pat Holland
  • angela braden
    published this page in Blog 2024-01-18 20:38:11 -0500

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