From the impacts to nearby non-GMO crops, and the harm to beneficial insects, to the increasing levels of pesticides in our environment from growing crops engineered to resist pesticides, the environmental impacts of GMOs are sobering:
1) Harmful to bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects
Fifteen years ago, a laboratory study published in Nature Magazine showed that pollen from corn that was genetically engineered to produce its own insecticide caused high mortality rates in monarch butterfly caterpillars. Source: http://www.nature.com
These findings were corroborated in a more recent study, as cited in a July 2011 article in the NY Times – Source: http://www.nytimes.com – and again in a study published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity – Source: http://www.startribune.com
But monarchs are suffering on another level: the weedkillers used on crops that are genetically engineered to resist weedkillers are killing off milkweed—the only plant used by Monarch butterflies—both to lay their eggs, and for the young caterpillars to eat. As of January 2014, the Monarch population is at its lowest point in history. Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/01/29/the-monarch-butterfly-population-just-hit-a-record-low-heres-why/
And it’s not just butterflies… experts believe the dramatically decreasing populations of bees—both in Canada and the United States, as well as abroad—are directly related to genetically engineered plant pollen and the high levels of pesticides used to grow GMO crops. Source: http://www.globalresearch.ca/neonicotinoid-pesticides-ongoing-death-of-the-beas-epa-slapped-with-lawsuit/5334816
When GMO corn’s internal insecticides leach into nearby streams, all of the caddis flies living in those streams are affected too, because they are in the same family as the pests targeted by the insecticide in GMO corn. Caddisflies are not only a major food source for fish and frogs, their exposure spreads the contamination even further afield. Source: http://www.pnas.org/content/104/41/16204.abstract
2) Harmful to other non-GMO crops
GMOs have the potential to contaminate all non-genetically engineered crops with their unique and possibly hazardous genetic material. Crops engineered to produce industrial chemicals and drugs could already be poisoning ostensibly GMO-free crops grown for food. Source: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4709-crops-widely-contaminated-by-genetically-modified-dna.html#.U3pW4cYz3Ro
GMO Canola is spreading via migratory birds, who eat the plants in one area, then fly and deliver “fertilized seeds” to the fields in another area. Monsanto’s telling farmers they must pull these weeds by hand, since you can’t use Monsanto’s weedkillers to kill their own weedkiller-resistant plants. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jEX654gN3c4
Another study published in the Journal of Bioscience in June 2011 showed that even GMO plants themselves can be harmed by genetic engineering, resulting in cell development defects, stunted growth, and seed sterility. Source: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1110603/jsp/nation/story_14065280.jsp
3) Super weeds and resistant bugs
For over a decade, farmers growing GMO crops have been able to spray weedkillers as often as needed, since their crops were engineered to resist weedkillers. Until weeds began evolving to resist the weedkillers…
Today, farmers are reporting “super weeds” that grow up to 7 to 8 centimeters a day, with stems as thick as 10 centimeters in diameter that damage conventional farm machinery.
Experts are calling the super weed epidemic “the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” warning that it could lead to higher food prices (due to the increasing amount of hand labor required to eradicate these weeds), lower crop yields, rising farm costs, and even greater pollution of land and water.
The same is true of invasive pests:
Just as some populations of mosquitoes developed resistance to the now-banned Monsanto insecticide DDT, insects are quickly becoming resistant to crops that have been genetically modified to produce their own internal insecticide.
As far back as 2008, the US Department of Agriculture was already finding higher damage rates / insect survival rates than a study they performed just two years prior. In 2011, increasing damage from evolved corn rootworm was being reported by several midwest universities; followed by armyworm evolution in late 2012. Sources: http://www.agriview.com/news/crop/western-corn-rootworm-resistance-turns-up-in-iowa/article_d0d74504-cf2f-11e0-ad2a-001cc4c002e0.html -and- http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-16/dupont-dow-corn-defeated-by-armyworms-in-florida-study.html
The most recent study found more than 1/3 of the 13 major pest species have become immune to GMO corn and cotton, with several other insect species in the process of developing resistance. In the scientist’s own words, “You’re always expecting the pest to adapt. It’s almost a given that preventing the evolution of resistance is not possible.” Source: http://grist.org/news/five-pest-species-now-immune-to-gmo-corn-and-cotton/
Today farmers are saying that weed and pest control is “back to where we were 20 years ago.”
4) Significant increases in pesticides harms all levels of our environment
Because more than 90% of genetic modification enables increasing use of herbicides and pesticides (which coincidentally, the “ag-bio” corporations also manufacture for a very profitable closed loop), increasing use of these harmful chemicals are causing a myriad of detrimental effects on the environment.
Fifteen years of research by the USDA indicates that the chemical glyphosate, the key weedkiller ingredient that GMO crops are engineered to resist, could be causing fungal root disease that harms the root structure of plants. Source: http://www.reuters.com
Studies have also shown that soil biology is negatively impacted when it’s used to grow GMO crops, due primarily to the heavy use of weedkillers, not to mention the negative impacts of long-term mono-cropping and fossil fuel-based fertilizers. Source: http://www.sciencedirect.com
Once soil becomes saturated with weedkillers, it leaches into the groundwater, where it is drawn back up for use as drinking water and crop irrigation. Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22101424
Multiple studies are finding the key ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp weedkiller (glyphosate) is present not only in soil and groundwater, but even in the air and rainfall. For a complete list of glyphosate studies with sources, click here: http://gmo-awareness.com/resources/glyphosate/