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Chuck Benbrook and his Heartland Health Research Alliance has the data, the solutions, and the dirt on the pesticide disaster that we face today. Dr. Benbrook tells Jeffrey Smith about powerful, practical solutions that will make our agriculture and our bodies way more healthy. He also discusses a groundbreaking study that might just have the world up-in-arms, ready to make those changes.
Learn more at: https://hh-ra.org/
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Notes for this week's Podcast
This week's Transcript
Speaker 2: (00:07)
Hi everyone. I'm Jeffrey Smith with the Institute for responsible technology. And I have a unique way to introduce my friend, Dr. Chuck Benbrook. One of my closest friends in the research of GMOs that in these 25 years was Dr. RPOD poos tire funded mine from Hungary, who was the world's leading researcher in his area and discovered incriminating evidence about GMOs. So I was hanging out with our pod when he was in the United States and I introduced him to Chuck and then left the room for awhile. I came back and there was this beautiful smile on our pods face. And he said, this man is my kind of scientist.
Speaker 2: (00:50)
So I have never forgotten that, Chuck. Yeah, that was the, I was high praise from one of the great scientists. And I looked at your background and I understand, I mean, you have had over 50 peer reviewed studies published in 12 different areas. So you are rare in the ability to put things together. You've worked a high in Washington as a, as the senior staff of a subcommittee of the house agriculture committee. You've worked as, uh, as the chair of the board of the, um, uh, what is it? The national academy of sciences, agriculture group. So many different areas been research professor, but what you do is you put things together and what I'm so excited is today, we're going to see some conclusions that narrow-minded scientists cannot create because they're in their little areas, but you have put together a deep understanding of the evolution of the pesticide tragedy, where GMOs fit in, where herbicide resistance fit in and where the next generation stands at risk and then some incredibly simple solutions to get out of it. So, first of all, Chuck, I've been wanting to say this for 20 years. You're my kind of scientist.
Speaker 3: (02:08)
Well, thank you. Thank you very much and glad to have a chance to talk to you about our commentary that recently came out in the, uh, peer review journal, environmental health.
Speaker 2: (02:19)
So I don't know exactly which way I want to go in, but what I think we should start where there's some research, some very important research that you're running and leading that I think was strategically brilliant. Choosing that research as the linchpin, that's going to create a revolution to fix everything. So let's talk about that. Well, to fix every use, I'm not going to overstate it to fix lots of things.
Speaker 3: (02:50)
Yeah, well, I mean, it, it, it doesn't take in-depth research to recognize we management systems in the, in the Midwest are unraveling. Um, they're, they're failing, um, because of the spread of glyphosate resistant weeds and weed phenotypes that are in fact resistant to multiple families of herbicides that in the past work well. And so the, the, the problem of herbicide resistant weeds is not new. Uh, and, and it has plagued, um, farmers around the world for almost a half century, but the, the, the scale and scope and speed at which the, the, uh, glyphosate resistant weeds have, uh, spread, uh, really around the world, not just in the United States is, is completely unprecedented. And the reason is because the, the back in the, in the 1990s, the, the pesticide industry was investing heavily in the tools of bio technology. And they discovered ways to make corn soybeans, cotton seeds resistant to the broad spectrum, herbicide, glyphosate.
Speaker 3: (04:21)
Um, and so they, they, uh, gained approval and commercialized this so-called Roundup ready system. And it was such a dramatic improvement in the options that conventional farmers had to deal with. You know, one thing that most people don't no is that we management for corn soybean cotton farmers is actually the most difficult part of growing their crop. Uh, they, they have adequate tools to deal with other pests, uh, other pests come and go, oh, but weeds are a part of every farmer's management system every year on every field that they're just, they're always, they always have to be dealt with. So when this Roundup ready system came along, which allowed farmers to spray over the top of a, of a crop, uh, the broad spectrum, herbicide glyphosate, it turned one of their most difficult and challenging and constantly management tasks into the simplest one. And one that they almost couldn't screw up because, you know, if, if they, if they sprayed their Roundup, uh, on the field, and let's say it rained two hours later, they could just go back the next day and spray again.
Speaker 3: (05:49)
I mean, it was, it was a very reliable, robust and simple system, and that's why it went, you know, being new on the market to over 90% of the acres of soybeans and cotton planted to Roundup ready varieties in like six or seven years, it's just, there's never been a major technological change in, uh, a major row crop, uh, grown in the United States that that happened that dramatically in that quickly. But the speed at which the technology was adopted that contained the seeds of its demise, because there was so there's been so much selection pressure now from glyphosate imposed on, on weed populations that over time, you know, four or five years, uh, uh, first weeds that are less sensitive. And then after a few more years, weeds that are fully resistant, they evolve. And, and that's, that's why we started the Heartland study, uh, which is a birth cohort study in the Midwest or 13 states that make up the, the Midwest census bureau region and Arkansas, where, um, herbicide use has been going up, uh, dramatically starting in the early, the early two thousands.
Speaker 3: (07:15)
Uh, and, and so not only is herbicide use going up, but farmers are being forced to go back to some old chemistry high-risk chemistry, like two, four D and Dicamba. And, uh, you know, it's a, it's a significant concern. Um, uh, you know, what, what corn and soybeans are grown on it 170, 180 million acres every year, it's over half of us, agricultural land is planted to these two crops. They are the backbone of our food system. And the fact that, that the, the way that farmers control weeds is, is, um, failing now, uh, and, uh, it is, is hugely worrisome. And, and so we, we started, uh, a clinically based birth cohort study to try to determine whether this increase in herbicide use and exposures are triggering more frequent or more severe, uh, adverse birth outcomes, um, which could include, uh, birth defects, autism, ADHD, preterm birth, low, low birth weight, uh, uh, deliveries, et cetera. And, uh, where, where, uh, the, the, our clinical research is ongoing. We're enrolling pregnant women in the first trimester of pregnancy. And we feel fairly confident that in two or three years, we will have some solid answers.
Speaker 2: (08:47)
Oh, this is amazing because, I mean, I remember where you were the source for all of our information about the actual increase in herbicide use because of the herbicide tolerant crops. So for the years, years and years traveling around the world, I quoted 256 million pounds increase in the first 16 years in the first 13 years. That was your research, but you're taking it way further. Not only have you been tracking the accelerated increase, but you've understand you understand the mechanisms, why, and now you're looking at the impact on the next generation. So before we get into the details of that study, and also a little bit more about the, what you're calling for a solution, please tell people where they can go to follow your research as it develops, because you are very prolific. And the information you put out is really relevant and sometimes astounding. So please give the deeper,
Speaker 3: (09:44)
The, the, the website of the Heartland health research Alliance, it's www.hh-ra.org. And all of our peer reviewed papers are, are w are available there. And we have a, uh, very, uh, detailed bibliography where you can search, um, search against end points, search by pesticide. Um, there's, I think we've got eight or 900 papers in the bibliography. Most of them, uh, full PDFs available. So anyone who is interested in learning more or conducting their own research on pesticides and birth outcomes and reproduction, uh, you know, are welcome to use our bibliography as sort of an on-ramp into the literature. Uh, we, the Heartland health research Alliance, you know, we have as one of our missions, of course, conducting, uh, new clinical research on key public health issues at the nexus of farming systems and health. Uh, but we also have, uh, a significant and have made a significant commitment to education.
Speaker 3: (11:05)
One of the things that, you know, I'm sure you've run into in your career, uh, uh, as I have is the, um, general lack of just basic knowledge about how, uh, crops and food are grown and processed, uh, in the, in the U S and, and I, you know, I think as agriculture becomes more, uh, technologically sophisticated, uh, as the science becomes, you know, more and more fine grained, a lot of people just think they kind of zone out and, and they, they feel that they can't keep up with, uh, the, the, the science or the concepts. And so they, they, they kind of just, don't, don't even try to understand what's going on. And so we want to explain to people just regular people, not scientists, for example, what is a heritable epigenetic change? What the heck is that? Um, it's not something that, uh, any adult in the United States was taught in school because it's, uh, you know, epigenetic changes have only been recognized for the last 10, 15 years or the impacts on the microbiome. I mean, none of us use the we're aware of the term microbiome or its importance in our health until the last five years or so. So we, we, um, put a lot of effort into making contemporary science accessible to the general public.
Speaker 2: (12:44)
You know, I just realized that I think I'm running this on the wrong page, I'm running it on my personal page instead of the institutes page, which means that we're going to have to rebroadcast this again on the IRT page, but let me just tell, um, my team that that's where it is so that they can, um, okay. Find it. I'm so sorry. Um, we may have to do this again with your next update. Um, here we go. Yeah. So I'm afraid I did it on the, on the wrong page. Um, so when we find the results of your Heartland study and people go up in arms and they want to make a change, what are some of the practical solutions that you have to shift us over to lower pesticide, um, intensity?
Speaker 3: (13:46)
Well, you know, I, I think that, um, our goal, the goal of the Heartland health research Alliance is to, is to, uh, help farmers, uh, recognize and pursue safer ways to control weeds safer for the farmers and their families and their neighbors, uh, safer for the critters that live in and around, uh, uh, you know, farm fields, uh, safer for the birds, the bees, the fish, um, and that, that, um, the, the path to safer ways of controlling pests, it doesn't necessarily result in less use of pesticides overall often it does. We definitely want to reduce the use of, of hazardous ones, ones that are known to cause either environmental or public health problems or both. And, you know, unfortunately they're, they're in, in common, you use on an American farms, uh, you know, a dozen or so pesticide active ingredients where the science has been pretty clear for many years, that, that they, they do pose significant risks for those people who are, who handle them and apply them or live near where they're being sprayed, take the herbicide Paraquat the connection between Paraquat and Parkinson's disease has been written about in the scientific literature for over 20 years.
Speaker 3: (15:29)
And the, uh, the Michael J. Fox foundation, which is a major funder of Parkinson's disease research has steadily supported scientists in, um, conducting state-of-the-art work on the precise mechanisms, through which Paraquat triggers or causes Parkinson's disease in the human population. And the, you know, it, it, the, the, um, the degree to which that mechanism is now fully elucidated published in the peer reviewed literature replicated by different, uh, research groups is, is, is really, uh, amazing. And yet the, the, the U S EPA in its infinite wisdom has just decided to reregister it for another, uh, 15 years. Um, and, and, and they, they they've done it. They've done it because the data that they have on Paraquat and its impact on the brain and the neurological system is, uh, primarily from registrants with studies,
Speaker 2: (16:51)
The company that produces Paraquad that does the research and then gives those research. And we've seen from Monsanto's the Monsanto research, how it rigs, research and hides evidence and use of the wrong statistical methods and the wrong detection methods, and non-existent control groups that are imported for historic data, et cetera, et cetera.
Speaker 3: (17:11)
Yeah. So, I mean, uh, you know, a, a chemical company, a, a pesticide company that has a, uh, a profitable well-established product, like Roundup, glyphosate based herbicides, Paraquat based herbicides, [inaudible] insecticides. They, they, they have invested in that molecule and developing that market for 30, 40, 50 years. I mean, Paraquat came on the market in the, in the early sixties, uh, and, you know, they, they've created, you know, an entire supply chain from where they get the precursor chemicals to, uh, formulating the end-use product that's ultimately sold to, to, to farmers or other weed managers. They've invested hundreds of millions of dollars in, in the, the science that's required to meet regulatory rules requirements, uh, and, and, you know, they, they are, um, all of the companies are determined to, uh, present to regulators studies that support continuation of the uses. That's what they do, that is their goal, and they've gotten very good at it.
Speaker 3: (18:37)
Um, so the, the, one of the huge problems with contemporary pesticide risk assessment and regulation is that the science base on which it does Pence is largely controlled and produced by the companies that stand to benefit from the continued sale of the products. And, you know, it it's taken me a long time to really realize it, but so if you're, uh, a Monsanto in the case of Roundup or Syngenta in the case of Paraquat, um, you know, you're, you're not gonna design a study and submit a study to the EPA that supports canceling the use of your pesticide. You're just not gonna do it. Um, and if you, if you look over the history of pesticide testing and regulation, it's very difficult to find even a single example of a container pestered regulatory action taken by EPA on a pesticide that was based on the data submitted by the company.
Speaker 3: (19:57)
I challenge anybody to point to one example, the, the pesticides that have gotten in trouble and have, have been either restricted or banned and have, have, have, uh, ha experienced that fate because of independent science that scientists academia, or in research institutes or government sites scientists have done. So are the, the nine coauthors of our commentary. One of the, probably the single most important recommendation in our paper is that going forward now, both in case of a new active ingredient and the initial toxicology data package that's done on a new food use pesticide and the, the updated newer studies that are done in the course of, of re-registering an older product, like glyphosate, like Paraquat should be done by independent scientists that don't have any financial, uh, uh, job, uh, ideological connection or commitment to the industry. They just need to be regular scientists that want to want to do good, honest science.
Speaker 3: (21:17)
And so that that's, that will change things dramatically and Jeffrey it, you know, it's the bill, the, the, the amendment to the federal insecticide fungicide, and rodenticide aside act FIFRA to bring that change about, you know, anybody could, could write the, the legislation in 30 minutes. It's just, it's a very simple change. And, and it's also one that isn't going to cost any more money. You know, the, the, right now, the, the companies pay for the studies that they control. So, you know, the, the, the lights have to be turned on in the lab and the mice and rats have to be fed. And, you know, it costs a couple million to $3 million to do it to your cancer study and in rodents. And, and now the company is, are, are paying that money and controlling the research. And what we're calling for is the EPA should increase the fees that they, that they already charge for processing an application.
Speaker 3: (22:29)
You know, it's, it's a pay to play situation with most regulatory agencies at the federal level and the state level, if you know, the, the, the people petitioning regulatory agencies to do something, they have to pay something fees to support the process. So what we're recommending is that, is that the Congress passed a simple amendment that, uh, increases the fees sufficient to do that basic. Uh, there's about, about 10 talk studies that form the core basis for, uh, conducting, uh, a pesticide risk assessment, a human health risk assessment just increase the fees too, you know, with a fair market value of what those studies cost, um, and let the, let the EPA, I don't know if they partner up with the national science foundation or NIH to do a competitive grant program, but th th th th the federal government knows how to, um, support independent research, uh, in, in, in academia and research institutes, they put out a request for proposals and they specify the studies that need to be done.
Speaker 3: (23:42)
And then people that feel that they've got the experience and, and facilities to conduct the studies, they, they compete for the brand and some of them get it. And so it's, it's the same money is going to get spent, or roughly the same money, but instead of, uh, having leaving the companies in total control of how those studies are designed, how the studies are conducted and how the results are statistically evaluated, uh, you know, at each one of those, those critical parts of, uh, of a tux logical study, there's, there's a wiggle room there there's, uh, opportunities to, um, tilt the outcome in a direction that, that the, the, uh, the, the companies feel will, will quote unquote, support what they're asking EPA to do. So this is, this is a huge, this would be a huge change. It's a change that's being debated around the world.
Speaker 3: (24:50)
Europeans are talking about it. The people in Asia are, are talking about this change. And, you know, I, I hope I live long enough to see it, uh, put in place. I think it's inevitable that, um, the, the degree to which the companies have learned how to sort of game the system now and make sure that they conduct studies and submit results to regulators that support the decisions that the companies want, that the, the scientific community is learning about this. Um, just in the last few years, uh, with a degree of clarity that has not been the case in my 40 year career working in this area. And the reason that this is coming into such focus is the, the, these major, uh, court cases that, um, that allow scientists, that don't work for the companies that aren't affiliated with them to have access to their internal communications, their internal documents, where the scientists in Monsanto talk about how can we design this study that we have to give to EPA? How can we design this study and carry it out in a way that it's going to support our ongoing, uh, registrations and, uh, Jeffrey. It is remarkable what these companies put in writing. I know
Speaker 2: (26:31)
It's, I found it shocking. And, um, I've interviewed Brent Wizner chief attorney. I've interviewed Carrie Gillam. I've interviewed a number of, of
Speaker 4: (26:40)
The, uh, attorneys associated with
Speaker 2: (26:42)
This. And it's as if Monsanto was completely convinced that they would never have to turn over their internal memos. So they're talking about ghost writing. I mean, they found that the absorption rate of Roundup into human cadavers skin was 3.3 times the allowable level. So they breathe, they cook the skin, then frozen, and then applied the Roundup to that leather, like human cadaver skin, and then told the EPA without mentioning the cooking or the freezing hardly anything gets absorbed. Look the other way, squirrel. And the thing is, it would be interesting. You know, I want to support you. I want the Institute for responsible technology to support your goal of putting that into FIFRA to rewrite it so that the money that's that's, um, spent on the research is done by independent science. We know that the regulatory agencies are captured some of those same Monsanto documents.
Speaker 2: (27:36)
You were a test, you testified at some of those trials, you're deeply aware from your own experience, having worked in government, et cetera, that we can't just go to the EPA and say, come on, let's all have a good time and do it right. It's got to be a con, a congressional mandate that pulls the EPA captured organization out from any choice associated with it. And in order to convince the congressional representatives, I'd love to see, to show them exactly how the chemical companies rigged their research in the most stark and, and incriminating ways. Then show how the approval costs money on all these different sectors, health, um, dead zones, agriculture, the microbiome, the, I mean, you're an agricultural economist, and I don't know if anyone has ever calculated the actual cost of the herbicides, the pesticides used in the United States on the entire ecosystem and human health.
Speaker 2: (28:40)
But if we could show these elected officials, the blatant lies by companies like Monsanto, and then the impact that those lies have had, then we can say, no, how are we going to correct it? Not by simply chastising the EPA, but by or chastising the companies pulling it out of their, um, ability to manipulate, and then requiring very specific third-party evaluations. I read in a blog that you're posting this week, that the requirements by the EPA for assessment done by the companies were not even state-of-the-art in 1980s, right? So that's a demonstration of willful abdication, not just scientific ignorance, willful application,
Speaker 3: (29:32)
But Jeffrey let's let's, let's just, you know, in the, in the interests of, of, uh, uh, fair treatment of the history, let's go back to the early 1980s. And there was a huge scandal around fraudulent pesticide testing at a industrial bio bio testing lab IBT, right? And, uh, the, basically this was a rapidly growing private lab that was set up to produce science, that the drug industry and the chemical industry, including pesticides needed to submit to regulators. It was a time when new regulatory requirements were being imposed across the government. And so this company IBT set up shop and started, uh, doing these, these animal studies. They grew very rapidly. They grew faster than they could sustain quality research. And the whole thing came crashing down, uh, in 80 19 82 and 1983 because of a guy named Dr. Adrian gross, who was a pathologist that worked for, uh, had worked previously for FDA, but moved to EPA.
Speaker 3: (31:01)
And he was assigned to the part of EPA that inspects laboratories that he he's, he was one of the scientists that went and inspected laboratories to see if they were following quote unquote, good laboratory practices. So, you know, the kind of the, the, um, in perimeter of, of proper and carefully done science. So he, he realized that this, this company was cooking the books, just making stuff up, uh, you know, taking dead animals out of a cage and putting a healthy animal in just things that, that, that were, I mean, there were beyond unethical that they were illegal. And so it was a huge black eye for, for the pesticide industry. And as a result, Congress pushed EPA to get even more, uh, serious and thorough in establishing exactly how studies had to be done, what it meant, what good laboratory practices were. And so if, if you go into the federal register to, to read about the two year mouse cancer studies that the pesticide companies have to do, I mean, it's laid out in, in incredible detail.
Speaker 3: (32:30)
And it, the EPA did that as in response to this breakdown and failure of the system. But the, the, the downside of it was it, it took about 10 years to get all these regulations, uh, protocols for how to do the studies on paper, through the rule-making process and in the code of federal regulations. But once they're there, the science stops, that's how the studies are done. And, and so by the early nineties, there was a profound bias in EPA, in the office of pesticide programs to any science that was done on a pesticide that didn't follow their guidelines and adhere to their good laboratory practices. And so what was done to assure quality science and weed out truly fraudulent labs, like IBT locked the science in place, right? And that's, that is a huge problem because, uh, the underlying sciences that support pesticide risk assessment are rapidly progressing.
Speaker 3: (33:53)
Uh, we can, now we can now identify markers of disease, either biochemical markers or genetic markers of disease. Uh, and, you know, for example, the Paraquat Parkinson's disease connection, there is a group of scientists at the university of Arizona with long-term funding from the Michael J. Fox foundation. They have a set of markers that w identify who is going to get Parkinson's disease. And roughly how many years before the disease will progress to the point where they'll be diagnosed as you have Parkinson's disease. This is like amazing new science. And, and, but there was no sense that this could be done 10 years ago. And now in, in August of 2021, the, this team published a high-impact paper in a scientific journal, and they laid out here are either six or eight markers, molecular markers that, uh, taken together reliably predict whether someone is going to get Parkinson's disease and, and rely on sort of reliably predicts.
Speaker 3: (35:15)
The, the reason that an individual gets it. Cause you know, not everybody that that gets Parkinson's Zs gets it for the same reason or the, in the same way, the human body is incredibly complex. And it's our interactions with them. Our environment is what makes pesticide risk assessments so incredibly complicated. Um, so, so now EPA has just, uh, re basically renewed the registration of Paraquat first, conceivably 15 years, they, they put no weight, zero weight on this, this new science, these new markers. Um, they're not reporting firing, uh, the, the, the manufacturer, the primary manufacturer of, uh, uh, Paraquat, which is Syngenta, uh, not requiring them to do it anything they're not, they're not having the, uh, national institutes of health in, in the, in the part of NIH that funds work on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, they're, they, they haven't requested that, uh, federal research dollars be, be, um, invested in applying these markers now to, to fine tune them and sort of calibrate this system of recognizing Parkinson's disease years before someone would be diagnosed this kind of science, Jeffrey it's happening across all of the, the things that cause morbidity and mortality in the human population, obviously COVID, and, and, uh, Corona viruses are the, what's getting the most focus in the last two years for obvious reasons, but, but, uh, the, the progress that's being made with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, uh, prostate cancer, uh, the metabolic diseases, autism and ADHD, these big costly worrisome, uh, causes of, of an individual not having a full and healthy life.
Speaker 3: (37:34)
Uh, we are scientists are rapidly, um, gaining detailed understanding of what's causing them and the mechanisms and the markers and, and this new science it's. It should definitely be applied systematically to understate the health risks of the most widely used pesticides. Cause the whole entire American population every day is exposed to pesticides and their diet, unless they're rigorous and eat a hundred percent organic diet, which very few people do. And certainly only a small percentage of the us population could, could do it because of the limited supply of, or, or organic food. So, you know, this, this, um, bias and unwillingness of the office of pesticide programs in EPA to take advantage of this new science, which is it's not being developed in the companies it's being developed in universities and research institutes, they they've, they have to open the door to, to these scientists and this new science to bring pesticide risk assessment, you know, um, from, from the, you know, sort of not really cutting edge science in the eighties, uh, you know, let's, let's bring it up to date 50, you know, advance it by 50 years, but that's gonna take, you know, th th that, that is believe it, or not a very complicated thing to accomplish because the, the study protocols and the requirements, and that govern the, the studies that EPA requires the pesticide manufacturers to do, they, they are they're codified in the code of federal regulations.
Speaker 3: (39:31)
Many of them have been litigated. So there's, there's court records, uh, uh, that, that, uh, have resulted in certain changes in how the studies are done. You just, you just can't snap your fingers and, and, and change that. So there has to be an understanding in Congress and action by Congress to direct the EPA, to, um, create mechanisms for modern science to routinely be used in the pesticide risk assessment process. And that'll take, it'll take at least five years, if not 10 years from the day that Congress says you have to do this EPA, and here's the money to do it for it to actually be done and, and be, uh, materially improving the science base of pesticide risk assessment is, like I said, it's fi that's five or 10 years down the road. And that's, if the industry is not able, as they usually are to influence the process, uh, in their favor, because they have so much power and so much money to spend on, on, you know, uh, sending their scientists and, and, and university academic scientists that are friendly to the industry, uh, to, uh, advisory committee meetings, uh, to submit comments.
Speaker 3: (41:06)
I mean, the, the depth of the science that EPA has to master to, uh, significantly restrict or ban a widely used pesticide that's been on the market is, I mean, it's, it's hundreds of millions of dollars of, of science and scientific inquiry that supports that. I mean, I can remember back in the day, uh, I was in, uh, at a pesticide industry meeting in North Carolina, what research park triangle, which is where at that time, I think it was Novartis the precursor company to today's Syngenta. And they're big, they're big, uh, pesticide was a herbicide called atrazine. And at, at that time, uh, it had been shown that that atrazine is a, a factor, a risk factor for breast cancer in human females. And, um, that, uh, Novartis was carrying out its defense of atrophy of atrazine against this new science that was being published in prominent, widely respected peer reviewed journals.
Speaker 3: (42:24)
And there was a, there was a reception, and there was a whole cluster of Syngenta people that were having an animated conversation about what Syngenta or Novartis was doing at the time to defend atrazine and the woman that was the senior corporate official managing the defense of, of accuracy. She said to this group, we'll spend a hundred million, 200 million in a year, defending atrazine, whatever it takes, we'll spend it. And, and, you know, she was just being, she was being straightforward and honest with people that, you know, they, they know what ha they, they, they would figure out what science they needed to generate to keep EPA from restricting atrazine. And they figured that out, they paid for it, and atrazine is still on the market in
Speaker 2: (43:26)
The United States, but not in Europe because they didn't have the leverage in Europe. Now we're towards the end of our, of our conversation. And I just want to reflect on, on something that sort of verifies what I had said in the beginning, you are an expert as a scientist in the science, you're also an expert at the regulation. You're also an expert at the influence of the, of the corporations on the regulation. You also understand the mechanics in Washington having worked at the house committee and national academy of sciences, and you're in a unique position to see all the dominoes, how everything connects. And within that, within that you'd even published recently showing that, you know, switching to our guest, switching, the 1.2% of American agricultural acreage from fruits and vegetables would reduce the overall pesticide burden on American consumers by nine, over 95% ridiculous information that no one knew, but you were able to do. And with all of those things, you're, I, you have identified the Heartland study as like a key leverage point. How do we actually move the system? If we can show that the next generation is going to be suffering from autism and ADHD and these other markers, then that may be the bell that's heard around at least Congress to get, to be able to overcome the one to $200 million expenditures and to make the changes.
Speaker 3: (45:02)
So look, look, Jeffrey, our whole team hopes that we do not find clear evidence that today's rising levels of herbicide use and exposure in the Midwest, which there there's no question about that, that, that, that piece, those pieces of the puzzle are, are known. They're there they're documented. We don't know. I mean, there's a lot of things that are impacting pregnant women and the, the, the health of the fetus as it develops the delivery process, and then impacting that critical first three years, would that little, that tiny newborn, a baby, you know, becomes, uh, you know, uh, uh, a fast talking fast walk. And three-year-old, uh, th there's many things that, that are impacting the, that the, the journey that every new person on the planet goes through from conception to adulthood. And, you know, we, we see reasons and evidence in the literature to expect that there might be some serious population-wide adverse effects, uh, occurring that could, for example, shave two or three or four IQ points off the average baby born from 2010 to 2030 or 40, when farmers finally realized they got to get off this herbicide treadmill, they, they, they can't just keep spraying more and more and more as resistant weeds become more prevalent and more serious that's.
Speaker 3: (46:55)
That is what they are doing that excessive reliance on herbicides created the resistant weed problem. And it was in the pesticide seed industry's best interest in terms of profit to put all of their, most of their, their seed breeding investment in creating these herbicide tolerant varieties so that farmers could spray more easily spray, more on these fields that have, uh, resistant weed prob uh, new resistant weed problems. You know, I, over the years I use, I have used many times the analogy created multiple herbicide tolerant, corn, soybean, cotton varieties, so that farmers can spray more to deal with resistant weeds. It's kind of like pouring gasoline on a fire to put it out. It's just, it's fundamentally flawed. It's a fundamentally flawed tactic. It's, it's bound to fail, you know, and it is failing. And so that that's, to me, you know, I, in my lifetime w you know, we've gone from, you know, 15 or 20 herbicides in the seventies that were used on, you know, there, there was significant reliance, even in the seventies on herbicides, but nowhere near the degree of reliance today.
Speaker 3: (48:32)
So, so, so in, in the, in the seventies into the eighties, the average corn soybean cotton farmer would, uh, would apply only one herbicide. And some of them would have to apply to, well, now they're up to four or five and, uh, for some of them two applications in a year. And so that's, so, you know, just thinking it's only in a, in a 50 year period, if we, with the, the, the, the need going up on a trajectory like that, I mean, the, the companies are, are filing patents and developing, uh, corn soybean cotton varieties that are, that are genetically modified to resist six, seven herbicides. W you know where at, at some point, all of these trans genes that they're, they're cramming into the breeding lines, we'll, you know, we'll have, I think already are having an impact on the ability of a corn plant, a soybean plant, a cotton plant to, to defend itself and respond to the standard, uh, biotic and abiotic stresses, uh, from drought to, uh, heat, to extra moisture, to weeds, to, uh, nematodes, to, uh, Diamondback moth all of the, all of the threats that can, um, reduce yields in a farmer's field.
Speaker 3: (50:05)
The, the, the genetic capacity of the plant to defend itself is the most important part of pest management after, after all, and yet by, by using biotechnology to alter the genome, it's in so many different ways, and it's, it is undermining the inherent ability of plants to stay healthy. And, you know, it's, it's the kind of thing where I think most, most of the people breeders in the industry know that this is happening there. They, they, they can see it in how their varieties behave, but, you know, they, they've got farmers on this trajectory of increasing the number of seeds planted per acre. I mean, back in the seventies, there was 18,000, 20,000 corn plants on an acre that how many that's, how many seeds they were planning. And now it's double that the area rich farmers in the high 30,000, some of them over 40,000.
Speaker 3: (51:11)
So, you know, th th they're, they're cramming more plants in a given square foot of, of soil. There's less soil for each plant to extract nutrients and water from that increases the vulnerability of the overall crop to either too much water or not enough water. And the th the system, the system is just becoming less and less, uh, robust. And, um, I think that, that there, there are many people involved in row crop agriculture from farmers to scientists, to people that, that, you know, work in the support industries that, that they, they, they know they see what's happening and they're concerned, but the solution that the industry always comes up is by something, you know, a new chemical, a new GM crop spray, more of this spray, more of that. And they have convinced the American farmer that if you're a modern farmer, if you're a sophisticated farmer, these are the technologies that smart technologically sophisticated farmers utilize. And yes, as I said, at the beginning, when Roundup ready, uh, seeds came out in 1996, they worked incredibly well. It was absolutely clear why they were so successful in the marketplace, but just a couple of years after they came on the market, academic weed scientists were saying, Hey, you know, if farmers plant Roundup soybeans one year Roundup ready corn, the next year back to Roundup ready soybeans, four or five years, there's going to be resistant weeds. And they were right. It was 25 years
Speaker 2: (53:07)
In 2001, the very first 2001.
Speaker 3: (53:10)
So, and it's just, I mean, it's gotten immeasurably worse since the first Roundup resistant weed was found in that no-till soybean field in Delaware. Right then 2004 was the next huge milestone, uh, glyphosate resistant, Maurice tail and Palmer amaranth by 2010 private sector surveys were showing that about a third of the acres in an American agriculture had one or more resistant weed problem. That's, that's 2010. Now it's probably 80% of the entire agricultural land base has one to three resistant weeds that are part of the landscape now. And that's, that's why the, the, that's why we're in such a, uh, a critical kind of turning point. If farmers don't back off of this herbicide treadmill that they're on now and bring what's called integrated weed management practices back onto their, their fields in, in, uh, there's going to be a three or four or five-year period when none of the herbicides work anymore.
Speaker 3: (54:31)
Well, well, enough to control weeds. So what are they going to do then? Uh, and, um, that's that, that, that actually, it already happened in the Southeast, in several areas where Roundup ready, cotton and Roundup ready soybeans were, were rotated. They got to the point where they were having to hire crews of people to God, into the fields with hose, and, and try to try to pull out the, the Palmer MRF plants that are as tall as you and I, a plant that sets 400,000 seeds one plant. So if you have as the king, yeah.
Speaker 2: (55:13)
And, and it could break the tires of the tractors going over. Uh, it was, people were buying machetes down there as well. Now we're going to end it here. And I just want to, if you could remind people of the address, where to go on your website. And I want to say when you're there, take a look at some of these publications, because as you heard earlier, um, Chuck is, is, says, it's people need to understand it. And a lot of people's eyes just glaze over when they think about agricultural science, if you look at the way the abstracts are written on, for example, the two papers that came out this year, it's so easy to understand. It's such a relief.
Speaker 3: (55:55)
We try to, we try to make the science accessible to people. Uh, and so again, visit, visit the Heartland health research Alliance website, www.hh-ra.org. And we'll post it on your link on your website.
Speaker 2: (56:14)
Oh yeah. It's actually already on the it's on the description as well.
Speaker 3: (56:17)
I enjoyed the chat, um, and, um, uh, best of luck with your ongoing work Jeffrey
Speaker 2: (56:23)
Figure, it we'll look into ways to support creating new laws and not simply going to the EPA, asking for it to reinvent itself, but to go to Congress since we're working with Congress and our protect nature now campaign we'll we'll we'll, uh, we'll put our heads together on that. Thank you so much. All right. Take care. Take care. Bye bye-bye.
Speaker 4: (56:53)
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