Government serves many purposes, but voting against science and the future of agriculture should not be one.

The Plattsburgh City Common Council recently unanimously approved a resolution encouraging city departments and residents to make the city free of GMOs and pesticides (Press-Republican, Aug. 12).

They contend that GMOs and pesticides harm the food supply and that humans suffer serious health issues because of their use.

Yet study after study refutes the council’s concerns regarding GMOs and potential deleterious effects on the environment, food safety and human health.

The City Council is particularly concerned that GMOs, the commonly used herbicide glyphosate, and the insecticide class neonicotinoids (commonly called “neonics) are causing colony collapse disorder and loss of honey bees.

If true, this would be devastating because honey bees serve an important role as pollinators of food crops.

In fact, the preponderance of carefully conducted research concludes that neither GMOs, glyphosate or neonics impact bee colony health.

A primary reference cited by the City Council is work conducted by a Harvard University researcher with no formal training in entomology, whose work has been widely discredited by experts.

Just this spring, research conducted by national experts at the USDA Bee Research Laboratory concluded that chronic exposure of bees to neonics at doses that would be realistically encountered in the field had negligible effects on their health.

Despite the council’s resolution, most research concludes that colony collapse disorder is not directly related to use of neonics, glyphosate or GMO crops.

Not surprisingly, a recent paper in the pre-eminent journal Science stated that a combination of stressors is most likely responsible for any declines in honey-bee populations.

It is disheartening to see elected government officials passing resolutions that stoke misinformed public fear of agricultural technologies with so little supporting science.

Of course, this issue resonates far beyond the council’s resolution due to the ongoing debate over GMO food labeling laws and the pervasive fear among some consumers that GMO foods are unsafe.

Yet, a 2013 review of more than 1,700 papers on GMO crops and foods found no evidence of danger from use of GMO crops.

An astounding array of professional organizations endorse the safety of GMO crops and foods, including the American Medical Association, National Academy of Science, World Health Organization, and more than 20 other major worldwide scientific and regulatory bodies.

By now, we’ve all heard that by 2050 there will be approximately 9 billion people on this planet to feed. We face the daunting challenge of producing more food in the next 40 years than we have in the preceding 8,000 years.

Although we must address important issues such as food wastage, over-consumption and local food production, we forsake genetic advances in food production, such as GMOs, at our own peril as a human species.

Miner Institute was built on the concept of utilizing the latest concepts in science and agriculture. William Miner saw the value in making the most of scientific advancements that increase crop yields and protect our environment.

GMO products and associated crop management practices allow farmers to do just that.

Our Agriculture in Society speaker series seeks to engage the public and build their confidence in the safety and wholesomeness of our food supply.

Environmental stewardship is laudable, and we should all be concerned with best-management practices for GMO crops, pesticides and herbicides.

But sweeping condemnations of scientifically sound practices by our City Council is not the answer.

The USDA asserts that the best action the public can take to improve honey-bee survival is not to use pesticides indiscriminately and nurture pollinator-friendly plants.

Who can argue with that common-sense suggestion?

But the council’s sweeping resolution imploring state and national legislators to ban the use of GMO crops and proven pesticides ignores sound science, feeds unfounded myths and ultimately endangers the food security of our country and our world.

 

— Dr. Rick Grant is president of William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute.

 

 

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