Wounding Nature -- and Ourselves

Judy Hoy has been rehabilitating injured and orphaned birds, deer, and other wild animals in the mountains of Western Montana for more than forty years. In an article she coauthored with other wildlife scientists in 2002, she hinted there might be a connection between endocrine-disrupting pesticides and birth defects in white-tailed deer. Sixty-seven percent of killed or injured white-tailed deer “showed varying degrees of apparent genital developmental anomalies.”

In another article that appeared in 2015, Hoy and other biologists abandoned their doubts on the harms of pesticides. They found a widespread, insidious, and deleterious influence of farm sprays on humans and the natural world: Pesticides and especially the increasing amounts of the weed killer glyphosate, they say, have been responsible for diseases of the newborns of humans and animals and general populations of Americans and wild and domesticated animals. These diseases of the newborn, in both humans and animals, include head and face abnormalities and disorders affecting metabolism, skin, eye, and lymphs. “Cancer of the liver in humans of all ages,” Hoy said to me about her study, “correlated with the increase in use of glyphosate by 93%.”

In addition, Hoy and her colleagues documented a dramatic decline in reproductive and developmental health among humans and animals. This started in the 1990s when glyphosate took off as the engine of genetically engineered crops. Since then farmers have been drenching their crops with glyphosate.

Hoy and her colleagues traced the root causes for the decline of public and environmental health to mineral deficiencies in the sprayed soil and the disruption of thyroid hormones caused primarily by glyphosate.

Monsanto made glyphosate the king of toxic sprays in both the United States and the world. It now bears a grave responsibility for the wounding of humans and the natural world.

“Our over-reliance on chemicals in agriculture is causing irreparable harm to all beings on this planet, including the planet herself. Most of these chemicals are known to cause illness, and they have likely been causing illnesses for many years. But until recently, the herbicides have never been sprayed on food crops, and never in this massive quantity. We must find another way,” Hoy and her colleagues wrote.

I knew and admired the work and moral fiber of Hoy. But, quite by accident, we came in touch. She has no doubt that by now, in 2017, the use of glyphosate is a “full blown chemical warfare.” Why? Because, she says, “it is so toxic / poisonous / lethal / deadly.” And the other reason why Hoy equates glyphosate to chemical warfare comes from her experience. She explains: “Since glyphosate began being used in huge new amounts of millions and millions of pounds upwind of our area in [the] summer of 1996, what I have observed on animals and humans is like living in a really sick bad B horror movie.”

She has done necropsies on hundreds of dead deer and birds. She observed birth defects, deadly tumors, and the “emaciation and slow wasting” of animals. This rush of death came about rather suddenly with the new sprays of glyphosate -- everywhere.

She was struck seeing mule deer without genitals. Even the bison in Yellowstone National Park have been afflicted by a plague of reproductive malformations. Hoy said to me, “it is difficult to find an adult male bison in Yellowstone National Park that has a normal… scrotum.”

Hoy is certain that only 30 percent of the animals have normal genitals. Seventy percent of animals suffer from some kind of sexual organ abnormality.

“What is quite puzzling to me,” Hoy said, “is that male humans often ask me what a normal mammal scrotum looks like. Don’t men know what a scrotum looks like on a mammal?” She told those questioning her to look themselves in the mirror.

Environmentalists, including university scientists, should embrace Hoy and her research. Study the impact of pesticides on wildlife. Hoy said to me the entire scientific and political community of Montana revile her, denying there’s anything wrong in wildlife, much less human beings.

This behavior is offensive. We must duplicate her passion for loving wildlife, the natural world as is rather than as we are trying to make it. Second, her conclusion that pesticides are causing irreparable harm on all life is reminiscent of Rachel Carson’s warning in 1962, Robert van den Bosch in 1978, Carol van Strum in 1983 and Rosemary Mason in 2010s. I, too, raised my voice in 2014. My experience of working for the EPA for several years convinced me pesticides are a real threat to our health and the health of the natural world. In addition, in January 2017, the United Nations highlighted the global pesticides threat. Time has come, the UN said, for an international treaty to ban pesticides.

Pesticides bring us to the agrichemical industry, one of the key linchpins of many of our health and environmental woes. The pesticides industry has captured the EPA and the government. Colin Todhunter, a British researcher, says this industry “wallows like an overblown hog in a cesspool of corruption.” He accuses pesticide merchants for causing more death and disease than tobacco companies. The agrichemical industry, he says, “hides behind corporate public relations, media misrepresentations and the subversion of responsible-sounding agencies which masquerade as public institutions.”

We need to understand Hoy’s work, indeed the work of all environmentalists, in the context of the threat from agribusiness and pesticides. Second, defending wildlife is defending us.

It goes without saying that glyphosate and most pesticides have no place in our society and the world. We know how to raise food without poisons. So start the struggle by eating organic food grown without pesticides. Support our organic farmers or raise your own food.

This is especially important now that plutocrats headed by Trump are running the government. These corporate managers are running America like a casino. They want you into the arms of the agrichemical industry and other polluters.

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