Science, Nature reject Dr. Bronner's advertorial on GMOs

Dr. Bronner’s places major ad buy to present clear evidence of skyrocketing herbicide and insecticide use on GMO crops. Science magazine rejects the advertorial, citing concerns about battling with the GMO industry.

This month, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, family-owned maker of the top-selling natural brand of soap in North America, is running a full-page advertorial by company president David Bronner entitled, “Herbicide and Insecticide Use on GMO Crops Skyrocketing while Pro-GMO Media Runs Interference; Former EPA Senior Scientist’s New Article Sets Record Straight,” which summarizes a white paper by Dr. Ramon J. Seidler, “Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered Crops.” A former EPA senior scientist, Dr. Seidler documents the rapid widespread failure of the Bt insecticidal trait in genetically engineered corn in the face of emerging resistance in target insects, leading to huge increases in both systemic insecticides that coat seeds and pre-emergent insecticides injected directly into soil. Dr. Seidler also documents the still underreported failure of herbicide-tolerant traits leading to huge increases in herbicide use. Dr. Bronner’s ad-buy is intended to spread this research and analysis far and wide, including in media outlets that have been publishing misinformation regarding GMOs.

The ads will run between Oct. 15 and Nov. 1 in The New Yorker, Scientific American, Harpers, Harvard, The Nation, Mother Jones, The Progressive, and Thrive magazines.

“We are running these ads because the public needs to know that rather than reduce pesticide inputs GMOs are causing them to skyrocket in amount and toxicity,” says David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s. “Unfortunately, recent high-profile pro-GMO articles in The New Yorker and other publications amount to pro-industry puff pieces that provide cover to the chemical industry even as the EPA and USDA rubber-stamp their next-generation 2,4 D herbicide-tolerant crops. Dr. Seidler cites and links recent scientific literature and media reports, and should be required reading for all journalists covering GMOs, as well as for citizens generally to understand why their right to know if food is genetically engineered is so important.”

Illustrating the concern that the GMO industry exerts undue influence over journalists and scientists, Science and Nature magazines refused to run the advertisement. In an email to Dr. Bronner’s staff, a Science magazine representative stated: “This has gone up the ladder quite far and our CEO along with the board have come back saying that we cannot accept the ad. We're concerned about backlash from our members and potentially getting into a battle with the GMO industry.” Nature magazine initially attempted to sideline the ad into a small biotechnology journal before refusing to run it in their main journal. 

David Bronner provided these further comments: “I’m concerned how cowardly the leading scientific publications in the world are being here, although I appreciate Science’s upfront explanation in writing. Science and Nature magazines, along with the scientific enterprise in general, are already embroiled in this mess. They are not above the fray and have at times uncritically helped perpetuate industry myths; for example, in an addendum to Dr. Seidler’s white paper, we illustrate how Science in their August 2013 ‘Special Issue on Smarter Pest Control,’ published a misleading chart showing soil-applied insecticide use declining over time ending in 2010 versus increasing Bt corn adoption until 2013. This clearly misleads readers into thinking that soil-applied insecticide use remains at historical lows to the current day on Bt corn, rather than spiking dramatically in recent years due to rapid widespread resistance in target insects. Furthermore and inexplicably, neither Science (nor USDA) bother to count the newer more problematic systemic neonicotinoid insecticides that now coat over 90 percent of GMO corn and soy seeds. As a lover of science and subscriber to Science magazine, I hope to see scientific skepticism increase toward the chemical industry and their fog of bad science.”

Mr. Bronner continues: “The truth of the matter is the chemical industry has bought the seed industry and both political parties in this country, has pulled the wool over our media, political and scientific elites, and taken a page from Enron gaming our food and agricultural systems in plain light of day. Unfortunately, prominent journalists and scientists are running interference, bamboozled and blind to their own bias focusing on irrational elements and straw men in the anti-GMO movement, while celebrating commercially insignificant or nonexistent applications of GE agriculture and ignoring the plain facts in US soil and the regulatory pipeline. Over 99 percent of GMO crops in US soil are engineered to produce insecticide and/or tolerate heavy herbicide use, which like overdosing antibiotics in factory farms has rapidly created resistance in target weed and insect populations, which are now saturated with ever more toxic pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides banned in the EU due to suspected link to massive bee die-offs and Colony Collapse Disorder. And GMO crops are not ‘feeding the world’: over 40 percent of GMO corn kernels are inefficiently converted to ethanol in another Big Ag boondoggle, and most of the rest is factory farm animal feed, as is the vast majority of GMO soy. We have to transform our agricultural policies and dietary choices and eat more sustainably, which requires that citizens are properly informed and empowered to make wise choices. It’s embarrassing that in the land of the free we don’t even know whether our food is engineered to be saturated in pesticide, unlike 64 other countries including every country in the EU, and Japan.”

Dr. Seidler also commented at the request of Dr. Bronner’s: “We have only recently discovered how neurotoxic systemic neonicotinoid insecticides have increased 10-fold in use in the last 10 years, now coating over 90 percent of genetically engineered corn and soy seeds. Rainfall and wind at planting events disperse the neos off the farm and into other habitats increasing the exposure of non-target beneficial organisms, including pollinators, to their lethal effects. Other insecticides called pyrethroids and organophosphates, along with fungicides, are also directly injected into the soil at seed planting time. Over-spraying the herbicide glyphosate on crops engineered by chemical companies to survive high doses has also caused widespread resistance in weed populations, and the industry has now pushed 2,4 D herbicide-tolerant crops through USDA and EPA approval processes. 2,4 D is an older much more toxic herbicide that, like soil-applied insecticides, was ostensibly no longer needed on genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant Bt crops. American farmers are returning to highly lethal chemicals because of widespread overuse and failure of the genetically engineered Bt toxins to control corn rootworm infestations, and glyphosate in controlling weeds. Despite the purchase and use of all these extra chemicals, corn yields do not appear to be consistently increased. A return to so many lethal chemicals perpetuates the cycle of killing the soil and attempting to resuscitate it with more chemical use in the following crop year. A sad non-sustainable approach without any ecologically based thought does not bode well as we think of Rachel Carson’s warnings in Silent Spring published over 50 years ago. As mentioned six years ago by Professor Charles Benbrook in his memorial lecture for Dr. Carson, a train wreck in American agriculture is coming. Now, in 2014 and beyond, the train wreck has arrived.”

To read David Bronner’s article, published Sept. 15 on Huffington Post, click here.

To read Dr. Seidler’s article and new addendum published by Environmental Working Group, click here.

Both Dr. Bronner’s and Dr. Seidler are supporting voter-led initiatives to label genetically engineered foods in Oregon and Colorado, Measure 92 and Initiative 105, respectively. The company has donated $1.5 million to Oregon and $50,000 to Colorado, and re-worked its iconic quart soap labels this fall to educate consumers across the country about the importance of labeling genetically engineered foods. Images of the special ‘GMO Info’ labels are available on the Dr. Bronner’s website.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps’ commitment to healthy and sustainable agriculture, corporate accountability, and consumers’ right to know is part of the company’s mission to put into practice the social and ecological principles that inform Dr. Bronner’s philosophy printed on the company’s iconic soap labels.


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