The Shocking Reality About GMOs

by Dave Opiyo
AllAfrica.com
July 12, 2011

The spectre of people developing new and strange allergies, indigenous seeds losing their genetic codes and disappearing altogether, farmers making bumper harvests — or no harvests at all — is in the air.

Two weeks ago on July 1, Kenya became the fourth African nation to permit imports of GMO crops, joining South Africa, Egypt and Burkina Faso.

Supporters of the move say it is essential in helping to stabilise prices and feed millions of hungry Kenyans, but matters are not that straightforward.

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia defines a genetically modified or genetically engineered organism (GEO) as one “whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.”

These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, explains the encyclopaedia, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are then combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes.

This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. Transgenic organisms, adds Wikipedia, are a subset of GMO organisms which have DNA that originated in a different species.

To put it more clearly, think of an orange with tomato genes. The coming into force of the Bio-Safety Act, 2009 on July 1 that allows the growing and sale of genetically modified crops has elicited mixed reactions.

GMOs are modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content.

But, as expected, anti-GMO lobbyists have kicked up a storm, saying the safety of genetically engineered crops has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt.

“The developers of GMOs have exerted great pressure to ensure that the Bio-Safety Act serves the interests of foreign agribusiness, rather than farmers and consumers,” Ms Anne Maina, an advocacy coordinator for African Biodiversity Network (ABN), says.

Recently, anti-GMO lobbyists, mainly from the ABN, Unga Revolution and Bunge La Mwananchi, protested the move, urging the government to revoke it.

 On May 25, Jeffrey Smith, who describes himself as a “consumer advocate promoting healthier, non-GMO choices”, argued in a blog:

“When US regulators approved Monsanto’s genetically modified “BT” corn, they knew it would add a deadly poison into our food supply. That’s what it was designed to do.

“The corn’s DNA is equipped with a gene from soil bacteria called BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) that produces the BT-toxin.

“It’s a pesticide; it breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them.” Monsanto is a market leader in bio-technology and production of GMOs.

According to the blogger, Monsanto and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) swore up and down that it was only insects that would be hurt.

The BT-toxin, they claimed, would be destroyed in the human digestive system and not have any impact on all of the trusting, corn-eating consumers.

“Now,” he continued, “doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found the corn’s BT-toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their babies, as well as in non-pregnant women.”

This is one of the many fights in Monsanto’s hands. In its website, the firm says food derived from authorised genetically-modified (GM) crops is as safe as the conventional (non-GM-derived) version.

Putting the matter into perspective, Monsanto says the first large acreage plantings of GM crops — herbicide-tolerant soybeans and canola — took place in 1996 after successfully passing US regulatory review.

Since then, additional GM crops with herbicide tolerance, insect tolerance and virus resistance have been given clearance for planting and consumption.

 These include varieties of corn, sugar beets, squash and papaya. All of these crops have been assessed for food and feed safety in producing countries, “and many more countries have approved the import of food or food ingredients that contain GM products”.

Hundreds of millions of meals containing food from GM crops have been consumed. There has not been a single substantiated instance of illness or harm associated with GM crops, the company argues.

According to Monsanto, some of the negative health effects associated with GMOs could be caused by other considerations.

In one response, it says: “There has been an increased interest in food allergies. Unfortunately, there are no stable diagnostic criteria for testing for food allergies and food intolerance.

“Together, these two factors have probably resulted in an increase in reporting of allergies. Therefore, rates of allergies may not have actually increased as much as it would appear.”

Implications on health

Such is the nature of the GMO controversy Kenyans will soon find themselves embroiled in. Anti-GMO groups say scientific evidence has shown that continued consumption of GM food is likely to have serious implications on not only health, but also the environment and food production.

Studies such as the one by Sherbrooke University Hospital have shown that those who eat genetically modified foods tend to see an increase in their allergic reactions to the types of foods they are already allergic.

Further, by eating these genetically modified foods, people also form allergies to foods which they were never allergic to before.

 Naturally, Monsanto refutes such findings with its own, sometimes poking holes on the research methodology and the findings by its critics.

In lab tests done on animals, there were cases where once the animals ingested genetically modified food, they became completely sterile in a matter of weeks.

In other cases, experimental animals died in a matter of weeks of liver, kidney and pancreatic complications. But that’s one side of the story.

The University of Nairobi’s Centre for Biotechnology and Bio-informatics Director, Prof James Opiyo Ochanda, was quoted in the Business Daily recently as saying that the use of GMOs could be beneficial to Kenya’s attainment of food security because genetically engineered crops are resistant to pests and diseases that often require expensive and harmful chemicals to eradicate.

“Instead of applying chemicals, scientists have engineered the plants to introduce genes or molecules that allow the crop to protect itself.

This is better than the application of chemicals that pollute the environment and harm the body, thus posing dangers to our systems,” he said.

Similar remarks were also made by Prof Samuel Gudu, a plant breeding specialist and Moi University’s Deputy Vice chancellor in-charge of planning and development.

In an interview with the same paper, Prof Gudu reckons that GM technology could help Kenya increase the production of key crops such as maize.

“GMOs are meant to improve the quality of maize. They can protect the crop against insects and what Kenyans should be asking for are the details of the consignment to be brought in as opposed to fear-mongering,” he says.

However, increasing yields and food safety are come at a risk, as the Sherbrooke University Hospital findings show.

And, as the debate rages, the National Bio-Safety Authority (NBA), which is tasked with ensuring that GMOs imported into Kenya are safe both to human beings and the environment, has called for caution.

“Propaganda should not be used as justification as to whether to accept or deny individuals from using GMOs in the country…. We are solely relying on scientific facts,” says NBA chair Prof Miriam Kinyua.

“We have to make sure that what is brought into the country is safe. By doing so, we have to ensure that the risk assessment is well done scientifically,” adds Prof Kinyua, who is also a lecturer at Moi University’s Department of Biotechnology.

“If the importer proves to us that the GMO is good, we approve it and inform the public of the same. If we have reservations because of some findings, we shall say ‘Sorry’.”

According to the Bio-Safety Act, the regulatory authority will communicate its final decision of approval or rejection of an importing license after three months of receiving the application.

After allowing an importer to place a genetically modified organism on the market, the law also allows any person to submit a written opposition within 30 days from the date the notice is posted.

Organisations and individuals opposed to the importation of GMOs will most likely seize this opportunity.

“Is Kenya ready for GMOs?” we asked Prof Kinyua, and she curtly replied that the fact that the government had created a specialised institution and “put in place systems means that we are moving somewhere”.

But “moving somewhere” certainly doesn’t mean full capacity. According to Prof Kinyua, the authority is yet to publish regulations that will guide the process, but that will be done soon.

How will the authority ensure that GM seeds don’t end up in the stomach unprocessed — or the shamba, because Kenyans tend to eat what they grow?

Dr Roy Mugiira, the acting head of the National Bio-Safety Authority, says millers licensed to import genetically modified maize must ensure that this does not happen to avoid the possibility of anybody planting them as seeds. A tall order, this one.

Any lapse on their part that could allow the seeds to be planted will lead to a fine of more than Sh20 million or 10-year prison terms or both. If this happens unintentionally, they will have to meet the cost of removing such seeds from circulation.

According to Dr Mugiira, one of the options being considered is to have the maize milled at the point of landing and then transported as flour, hence avoiding any deliberate or accidental escaping of seeds.

 Widespread opposition

GMO seeds, just like conventional maize, have the capacity to germinate and produce.

Initially, bio-technology firms sterilised GM seeds to forestall germination; but the technology, called terminator, was never commercialised following widespread opposition.

The maize being targeted by the millers has been engineered to develop resistance against weeds and pests.

Another type of GM maize is being tested in Kenya for drought resistance, but it is not yet ready for commercialisation.

If the current bio-safety laws are to be followed strictly, then the earliest the first GM maize can land in to the country legally is around October.

 In 2008, The Daily Mail published a story to validate a claim by Prince Charles that Indian farmers were killing themselves after the improved yields promised by a bio-technology firm failed, therefore ruining the farmers economically.

Some had borrowed heavily. A farmer, Shankara Mandaukar, couldn’t take it anymore when a promised unheard-of-harvest turned into two crop failures after he abandoned indigenous seeds.

“Ranged against the Prince” reported the papers, “are powerful GM lobbyists and prominent politicians, who claim that genetically modified crops have transformed Indian agriculture, providing greater yields than ever before.”

Humanitarian crisis

“However”, wrote the paper, “official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture do indeed confirm that, in a huge humanitarian crisis, more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves here every month.

“It seems many are massively in debt to local money-lenders, having over-borrowed to purchase GM seed.”

Pro-GM experts blamed the suicides on rural poverty, alcoholism, drought and ‘agrarian distress’.

Back to Monsanto, the bio-technology market leader says claims from anti-biotechnology activists that genetically-modified crops don’t increase yields, and that GM crops actually have lower yields than non-GM ones are simply false.

“In agriculture, desirable crop characteristics are known as traits. One of the most important traits is yield.

“Improving crop yield can be accomplished through both breeding and bio-technology. GM crops generally have higher yields due to both breeding and bio-technology,” explains Monsanto.

True, but Indian farmers will tell you of the other side of increased yields.

GMO created foods are biological weapons

“We have a greenhouse full of corn plants that produce anti-sperm antibodies,” said Mitch Hein, president of Epicyte, a California-based biotechnology company.

By Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
June 1, 2011

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) used to create food and crop seeds are true biological weapons to create infertility worldwide. There are several companies working in the field of biotechnology and nanotechnology, which exist for the sole purpose of studying, experimenting and creating genetically modified organisms that cause infertility in animals, plants and humans. The most famous of all the companies that produces GMO seed is Monsanto, whose executives have publicly said that they want Monsanto to become the only producer of seeds in the world and that no food should be grown that does not come from seeds manufactured by their company.

Monsanto is joined by other giants of biotechnology and chemistry such as Cargill, DuPont and ConAgra. But the creation and application of transgenic organisms is not limited to these multinational corporations. There are smaller contractors who do the same work, perhaps with more impressive results due to the expertise of its work. This is the case of Epicyte, a company in California, whose president has shown his satisfaction to be in possession of massive quantities of agricultural products infested with GMO ingredients, that after being consumed would cause the sterilization of those who ingest and absorb his company’s GMO ingredients.

A May 28 report states that the Codex international organization, founded by the United Nations, which regulates all foods, minerals and herbs in the world, does not believe that GMO products are food, and this places foods with these ingredients in a different place than food produced naturally, and as such, can be used for various practices, including birth control and the creation of infertility in a nation or people.

In one of his publications, the Salem News indicates that there are efforts at the local, regional, national and international levels to identify and label GMOs in products for human consumption, but governments and corporations refuse to accept such a request. After the implementation of Codex Alimentarius in 2009 the will of the big companies came true, for within the regulations set by Codex, it is clearly stated that GMOs are not considered food and therefore can not be identified on the labels.

The existence of genetically modified corn was analyzed in tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the company Epicyte. In announcing his success in a 2001 press conference, the president of Epicyte, Mitch Hein, said his company’s transgenic corn plants, “create anti-sperm antibodies.”

Hein said the creation of transgenic organisms and their use in food could be used as a tool to solve the overpopulation problem.

In 1996, after the creation and use of genetically modified organisms in corn and other grains sent to South America, Mexico and Africa, analysis revealed that, almost immediately after the introduction of Bt corn in the United States, the birth rate had fallen in an accelerated way; only three years after the introduction of GMOs into the food supply.

Many foundations push governments to expand and accept the use of GMOs in food and in that list are of course the corn, soybeans and rice. These three are the most widely used grains in the eradication of hunger and poverty in the world. The Gates, Rockefeller, Kofi Annan’s Agra foundations, are three of the most prestigious organizations that strive to increase the supply of funds and food to the neediest populations in the world. Many of these foods contain GMOs.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spends billions of dollars “helping” with the planting and harvesting of genetically modified crops in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Do you recognize the genocide? These foundations not only evade tax collection with their alleged philanthropy, but collaborate with the murder of millions of people who do not know what their food contains, or even knowing it, have no choice but to feed themselves with GMOs.

In the United States there is a continuing struggle between consumers and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to label products that contain GMOs. However, the government agency has given way to the requirements of large corporations before the public’s interest. Most uninformed or misinformed people continue buying and consuming contaminated food. Meanwhile, because GMO’s are not considered as “food” by Codex Alimentarius, those who oppose the use of these ingredients in food do not understand why the FDA still allows the corporations to put it in basic grains used to manufacture most some of the products that people eat, drink and use daily.

Creating a GMO that is used in the manufacture of food consumed by humans, which was modified to sterilize, is essentially an example of the use of a biological weapon with the sole aim of reducing world population by stealth. Well, this is no longer a secret. GMO foods are not considered by Codex Alimentarius as “food”, but at the same time it allows large and small biotech companies to use them in making consumer products worldwide. The purpose is very clear.

Bill Gates wants to vaccinate 90 percent of the world

NaturalNews.com
May 22, 2011

The infamous Bill Gates is on a crusade to vaccinate the entire world. In a recent speech, the Microsoft guru-turned-humanitarian put pressure on the governments of the world to “prevent four million deaths by 2015, [and] … ten million deaths” by 2020. He believes this will happen by vaccinating at least 90 percent of the world’s population.

Gates has been an outspoken proponent of vaccinations for years. His organization, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is constantly promoting vaccines anywhere and everywhere it can. The group’s website, in fact, says one of its goals is to vaccinate every single child on the planet, claiming that vaccines are “one of the most effective health interventions ever developed” (http://www.gatesfoundation.org/vacc…).

Among his many speeches, however, Gates has given conflicting information concerning the agenda behind his vaccination push. In his most recent speech, he claims vaccines will save lives. But in a speech he gave at a TED conference last year, Gates clearly stated that vaccines and health care were part of an equation to reduce the world’s population by 15 percent (http://www.naturalnews.com/029911_v…).

“The world today has 6.8 billion people … that’s headed up to about nine billion,” he said to his audience. “Now if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that by perhaps ten or 15 percent.”

You can watch the actual clip of Gates saying this at the following link:
http://www.naturalnews.tv/v.asp?v=A…

So which is it? Do vaccines help to save lives or end lives? When considering that vaccines are loaded with toxic adjuvants and chemical preservatives, many of which are known to cause serious health problems, sterility, and even death, the latter conclusion makes a lot more sense (http://www.naturalnews.com/031820_v…).

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/032475_Bill_Gates_vaccines.html#ixzz1N7ocphlN

Bacterial Genes, High Dosis of RoundUp may cause Sterility and Infant Mortality

Institute for Responsible Technology
April 5, 2011

Rats' testicles

“This study was just routine,” said Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov, in what could end up as the understatement of this century. Surov and his colleagues set out to discover if Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) soy, grown on 91% of US soybean fields, leads to problems in growth or reproduction. What he discovered may uproot a multi-billion dollar industry.

After feeding hamsters for two years over three generations, those on the GM diet, and especially the group on the maximum GM soy diet, showed devastating results. By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies. They also suffered slower growth, and a high mortality rate among the pups.

And if this isn’t shocking enough, some in the third generation even had hair growing inside their mouths—a phenomenon rarely seen, but apparently more prevalent among hamsters eating GM soy.

The study, jointly conducted by Surov’s Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Association for Gene Security, is expected to be published in three months (July 2010)—so the technical details will have to wait. But Surov sketched out the basic set up for me in an email.

He used Campbell hamsters, with a fast reproduction rate, divided into 4 groups. All were fed a normal diet, but one was without any soy, another had non-GM soy, a third used GM soy, and a fourth contained higher amounts of GM soy. They used 5 pairs of hamsters per group, each of which produced 7-8 litters, totally 140 animals.

Surov told The Voice of Russia,

“Originally, everything went smoothly. However, we noticed quite a serious effect when we selected new pairs from their cubs and continued to feed them as before. These pairs’ growth rate was slower and reached their sexual maturity slowly.”

He selected new pairs from each group, which generated another 39 litters. There were 52 pups born to the control group and 78 to the non-GM soy group. In the GM soy group, however, only 40 pups were born. And of these, 25% died. This was a fivefold higher death rate than the 5% seen among the controls. Of the hamsters that ate high GM soy content, only a single female hamster gave birth. She had 16 pups; about 20% died.

Surov said “The low numbers in F2 [third generation] showed that many animals were sterile.”

The published paper will also include measurements of organ size for the third generation animals, including testes, spleen, uterus, etc. And if the team can raise sufficient funds, they will also analyze hormone levels in collected blood samples.

Hair Growing in the Mouth

Earlier this year, Surov co-authored a paper in Doklady Biological Sciences showing that in rare instances, hair grows inside recessed pouches in the mouths of hamsters.

“Some of these pouches contained single hairs; others, thick bundles of colorless or pigmented hairs reaching as high as the chewing surface of the teeth. Sometimes, the tooth row was surrounded with a regular brush of hair bundles on both sides. The hairs grew vertically and had sharp ends, often covered with lumps of a mucous.”

“(a) The external appearance of the oral cavity. Gingival pouches (GP) with thick bundles of hair growing from their mucous lining are clearly seen. (b) Perforated bone tissue of the teeth of an adult Ph. campbelli. Numerous hollows are seen. A, hair.”

From A. S. Baranov, O. F. Chernova, N. Yu. Feoktistova, and A. V. Surov, “A New Example of Ectopia: Oral Hair in Some Rodent Species,” Doklady Biological Sciences, 2010, Vol. 431, pp. 117–120, Original Russian Text © A.S. Baranov, O.F. Chernova, N.Yu. Feoktistova, A.V. Surov, 2010, published in Doklady Akademii Nauk, 2010, Vol. 431, No. 4, pp. 559–562.

At the conclusion of the study, the authors surmise that such an astounding defect may be due to the diet of hamsters raised in the laboratory. They write, “This pathology may be exacerbated by elements of the food that are absent in natural food, such as genetically modified (GM) ingredients (GM soybean or maize meal) or contaminants (pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals, etc.).” Indeed, the number of hairy mouthed hamsters was much higher among the third generation of GM soy fed animals than anywhere Surov had seen before.

Preliminary, But Ominous

Surov warns against jumping to early conclusions. He said, “It is quite possible that the GMO does not cause these effects by itself.” Surov wants to make the analysis of the feed components a priority, to discover just what is causing the effect and how.

In addition to the GMOs, it could be contaminants, he said, or higher herbicide residues, such as Roundup. There is in fact much higher levels of Roundup on these beans; they’re called “Roundup Ready.” Bacterial genes are forced into their DNA so that the plants can tolerate Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Therefore, GM soy always carries the double threat of higher herbicide content, couple with any side effects of genetic engineering.

Years of Reproductive Disorders from GMO-Feed

Surov’s hamsters are just the latest animals to suffer from reproductive disorders after consuming GMOs. In 2005, Irina Ermakova, also with the Russian National Academy of Sciences, reported that more than half the babies from mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks. This was also five times higher than the 10% death rate of the non-GMO soy group. The babies in the GM group were also smaller (see photo) and could not reproduce.

In a telling coincidence, after Ermakova’s feeding trials, her laboratory started feeding all the rats in the facility a commercial rat chow using GM soy. Within two months, the infant mortality facility-wide reached 55%.

When Ermakova fed male rats GM soy, their testicles changed from the normal pink to dark blue!

Italian scientists similarly found changes in mice testes (PDF), including damaged young sperm cells. Furthermore, the DNA of embryos from parent mice fed GM soy functioned differently.

An Austrian government study published in November 2008 showed that the more GM corn was fed to mice, the fewer the babies they had (PDF), and the smaller the babies were.

Central Iowa Farmer Jerry Rosman also had trouble with pigs and cows becoming sterile. Some of his pigs even had false pregnancies or gave birth to bags of water. After months of investigations and testing, he finally traced the problem to GM corn feed. Every time a newspaper, magazine, or TV show reported Jerry’s problems, he would receive calls from more farmers complaining of livestock sterility on their farm, linked to GM corn.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine accidentally discovered that rats raised on corncob bedding “neither breed nor exhibit reproductive behavior.” Tests on the corn material revealed two compounds that stopped the sexual cycle in females “at concentrations approximately two-hundredfold lower than classical phytoestrogens.” One compound also curtailed male sexual behavior and both substances contributed to the growth of breast and prostate cancer cell cultures. Researchers found that the amount of the substances varied with GM corn varieties. The crushed corncob used at Baylor was likely shipped from central Iowa, near the farm of Jerry Rosman and others complaining of sterile livestock.

In Haryana, India, a team of investigating veterinarians report that buffalo consuming GM cottonseed suffer from infertility, as well as frequent abortions, premature deliveries, and prolapsed uteruses. Many adult and young buffalo have also died mysteriously.

Denial, Attack and Canceled Follow-up

Scientists who discover adverse findings from GMOs are regularly attacked, ridiculed, denied funding, and even fired. When Ermakova reported the high infant mortality among GM soy fed offspring, for example, she appealed to the scientific community to repeat and verify her preliminary results. She also sought additional funds to analyze preserved organs. Instead, she was attacked and vilified. Samples were stolen from her lab, papers were burnt on her desk, and she said that her boss, under pressure from his boss, told her to stop doing any more GMO research. No one has yet repeated Ermakova’s simple, inexpensive studies.

In an attempt to offer her sympathy, one of her colleagues suggested that maybe the GM soy will solve the over population problem!

Surov reports that so far, he has not been under any pressure.

Opting Out of the Massive GMO Feeding Experiment

Without detailed tests, no one can pinpoint exactly what is causing the reproductive travesties in Russian hamsters and rats, Italian and Austrian mice, and livestock in India and America. And we can only speculate about the relationship between the introduction of genetically modified foods in 1996, and the corresponding upsurge in low birth weight babies, infertility, and other problems among the US population. But many scientists, physicians, and concerned citizens don’t think that the public should remain the lab animals for the biotech industry’s massive uncontrolled experiment.

Alexey Surov says, “We have no right to use GMOs until we understand the possible adverse effects, not only to ourselves but to future generations as well. We definitely need fully detailed studies to clarify this. Any type of contamination has to be tested before we consume it, and GMO is just one of them.”

Monsanto’s Roundup Triggers Over 40 Plant Diseases

New Diseases Endanger Human and Animal Health

By Jeffrey Smith
January 19, 2011

While visiting a seed corn dealer’s demonstration plots in Iowa last fall, Dr. Don Huber walked passed a soybean field and noticed a distinct line separating severely diseased yellowing soybeans on the right from healthy green plants on the left (see photo). The yellow section was suffering from Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), a serious plant disease that ravaged the Midwest in 2009 and ’10, driving down yields and profits. Something had caused that area of soybeans to be highly susceptible and Don had a good idea what it was.

The diseased field on the right had glyphosate applied the previous season. Photo by Don Huber

Don Huber spent 35 years as a plant pathologist at Purdue University and knows a lot about what causes green plants to turn yellow and die prematurely. He asked the seed dealer why the SDS was so severe in the one area of the field and not the other. “Did you plant something there last year that wasn’t planted in the rest of the field?” he asked. Sure enough, precisely where the severe SDS was, the dealer had grown alfalfa, which he later killed off at the end of the season by spraying a glyphosate-based herbicide (such as Roundup). The healthy part of the field, on the other hand, had been planted to sweet corn and hadn’t received glyphosate.

This was yet another confirmation that Roundup was triggering SDS. In many fields, the evidence is even more obvious. The disease was most severe at the ends of rows where the herbicide applicator looped back to make another pass (see photo). That’s where extra Roundup was applied.

Don’s a scientist; it takes more than a few photos for him to draw conclusions. But Don’s got more—lots more. For over 20 years, Don studied Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate. He’s one of the world’s experts. And he can rattle off study after study that eliminate any doubt that glyphosate is contributing not only to the huge increase in SDS, but to the outbreak of numerous other diseases. (See selected reading list.)

Roundup: The perfect storm for plant disease

Sudden Death Syndrome is more severe at the ends of rows, where Roundup dose is strongest. Photo by Amy Bandy.

More than 30% of all herbicides sprayed anywhere contain glyphosate—the world’s bestselling weed killer. It was patented by Monsanto for use in their Roundup brand, which became more popular when they introduced “Roundup Ready” crops starting in 1996. These genetically modified (GM) plants, which now include soy, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets, have inserted genetic material from viruses and bacteria that allows the crops to withstand applications of normally deadly Roundup.

(Monsanto requires farmers who buy Roundup Ready seeds to only use the company’s Roundup brand of glyphosate. This has extended the company’s grip on the glyphosate market, even after its patent expired in 2000.)

The herbicide doesn’t destroy plants directly. It rather cooks up a unique perfect storm of conditions that revs up disease-causing organisms in the soil, and at the same time wipes out plant defenses against those diseases. The mechanisms are well-documented but rarely cited.

  • The glyphosate molecule grabs vital nutrients and doesn’t let them go. This process is called chelation and was actually the original property for which glyphosate was patented in 1964. It was only 10 years later that it was patented as an herbicide. When applied to crops, it deprives them of vital minerals necessary for healthy plant function—especially for resisting serious soilborne diseases. The importance of minerals for protecting against disease is well established. In fact, mineral availability was the single most important measurement used by several famous plant breeders to identify disease-resistant varieties.
  • Glyphosate annihilates beneficial soil organisms, such as Pseudomonas and Bacillus bacteria that live around the roots. Since they facilitate the uptake of plant nutrients and suppress disease-causing organisms, their untimely deaths means the plant gets even weaker and the pathogens even stronger.
  • The herbicide can interfere with photosynthesis, reduce water use efficiency, lower lignin , damage and shorten root systems, cause plants to release important sugars, and change soil pH—all of which can negatively affect crop health.
  • Glyphosate itself is slightly toxic to plants. It also breaks down slowly in soil to form another chemical called AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid) which is also toxic. But even the combined toxic effects of glyphosate and AMPA are not sufficient on their own to kill plants. It has been demonstrated numerous times since 1984
  • The actual plant assassins, according to Purdue weed scientists and others, are severe disease-causing organisms present in almost all soils. Glyphosate dramatically promotes these, which in turn overrun the weakened crops with deadly infections.

    Glyphosate with sterile soil (A) only stunts plant growth. In normal soil (B), pathogens kill the plant. Control (C) shows normal growth.

“This is the herbicidal mode of action of glyphosate,” says Don. “It increases susceptibility to disease, suppresses natural disease controls such as beneficial organisms, and promotes virulence of soilborne pathogens at the same time.” In fact, he points out that “If you apply certain fungicides to weeds, it destroys the herbicidal activity of glyphosate!”

By weakening plants and promoting disease, glyphosate opens the door for lots of problems in the field. According to Don, “There are more than 40 diseases of crop plants that are reported to increase with the use of glyphosate, and that number keeps growing as people recognize the association between glyphosate and disease.”

Roundup promotes human and animal toxins

Photo by Robert Kremer

Some of the fungi promoted by glyphosate produce dangerous toxins that can end up in food and feed. Sudden Death Syndrome, for example, is caused by the Fusarium fungus. USDA scientist Robert Kremer found a 500% increase in Fusarium root infection of Roundup Ready soybeans when glyphosate is applied (see photos and chart). Corn, wheat, and many other plants can also suffer from serious Fusarium-based diseases.

But Fusarium’s wrath is not limited to plants. According to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, toxins from Fusarium on various types of food crops have been associated with disease outbreaks throughout history. They’ve “been linked to the plague epidemics” of medieval Europe, “large-scale human toxicosis in Eastern Europe,” oesophageal cancer in southern Africa and parts of China, joint diseases in Asia and southern Africa, and a blood disorder in Russia. Fusarium toxins have also been shown to cause animal diseases and induce infertility.

As Roundup use rises, plant disease skyrockets

When Roundup Ready crops were introduced in 1996, Monsanto boldly claimed that herbicide use would drop as a result. It did—slightly—for three years. But over the next 10 years, it grew considerably. Total herbicide use in the US jumped by a whopping 383 million pounds in the 13 years after GMOs came on the scene. The greatest contributor is Roundup.

Over time, many types of weeds that would once keel over with just a tiny dose of Roundup now require heavier and heavier applications. Some are nearly invincible. In reality, these super-weeds are resistant not to the glyphosate itself, but to the soilborne pathogens that normally do the killing in Roundup sprayed fields.

Having hundreds of thousands of acres infested with weeds that resist plant disease and weed killer has been devastating to many US farmers, whose first response is to pour on more and more Roundup. Its use is now accelerating. Nearly half of the huge 13-year increase in herbicide use took place in just the last 2 years. This has serious implications.

As US farmers drench more than 135 million acres of Roundup Ready crops with Roundup, plant diseases are enjoying an unprecedented explosion across America’s most productive crop lands. Don rattles off a lengthy list of diseases that were once under effective management and control, but are now creating severe hardship. (The list includes SDS and Corynespora root rot of soybeans, citrus variegated chlorosis (CVC), Fusarium wilt of cotton, Verticillium wilt of potato, take-all root, crown, and stem blight of cereals, Fusarium root and crown rot, Fusarium head blight, Pythium root rot and damping off, Goss’ wilt of corn, and many more.)

In Brazil, the new “Mad Soy Disease” is ravaging huge tracts of soybean acreage. Although scientists have not yet determined its cause, Don points out that various symptoms resemble a rice disease (bakanae) which is caused by Fusarium.

Corn dies young

In recent years, corn plants and entire fields in the Midwest have been dying earlier and earlier due to various diseases. Seasoned and observant farmers say they’re never seen anything like it.

“A decade ago, corn plants remained green and healthy well into September,” says Bob Streit, an agronomist in Iowa. “But over the last three years, diseases have turned the plants yellow, then brown, about 8 to 10 days earlier each season. In 2010, yellowing started around July 7th and yield losses were devastating for many growers.”

Bob and other crop experts believe that the increased use of glyphosate is the primary contributor to this disease trend. It has already reduced corn yields significantly. “If the corn dies much earlier,” says Bob, “it might collapse the corn harvest in the US, and threaten the food chain that it supports.”

A question of bugs

In addition to promoting plant diseases, which is well-established, spraying Roundup might also promote insects. That’s because many bugs seek sick plants. Scientists point out that healthy plants produce nutrients in a form that many insects cannot assimilate. Thus, farmers around the world report less insect problems among high quality, nutrient-dense crops. Weaker plants, on the other hand, create insect smorgasbords. This suggests that plants ravaged with diseases promoted by glyphosate may also attract more insects, which in turn will increase the use of toxic pesticides. More study is needed to confirm this.

Roundup persists in the environment

Monsanto used to boast that Roundup is biodegradable, claiming that it breaks down quickly in the soil. But courts in the US and Europe disagreed and found them guilty of false advertising. In fact, Monsanto’s own test data revealed that only 2% of the product broke down after 28 days.

Whether glyphosate degrades in weeks, months, or years varies widely due to factors in the soil, including pH, clay , types of minerals, residues from Roundup Ready crops, and the presence of the specialized enzymes needed to break down the herbicide molecule. In some conditions, glyphosate can grab hold of soil nutrients and remain stable for long periods. One study showed that it took up to 22 years for glyphosate to degrade only half its volume! So much for trusting Monsanto’s product claims.

Glyphosate can attack from above and below. It can drift over from a neighbors farm and wreak havoc. And it can even be released from dying weeds, travel through the soil, and then be taken up by healthy crops.

The amount of glyphosate that can cause damage is tiny. European scientists demonstrated that less than half an ounce per acre inhibits the ability of plants to take up and transport essential micronutrients (see chart).

As a result, more and more farmers are finding that crops planted in years after Roundup is applied suffer from weakened defenses and increased soilborne diseases. The situation is getting worse for many reasons.

  • The glyphosate concentration in the soil builds up season after season with each subsequent application.
  • Glyphosate can also accumulate for 6-8 years inside perennial plants like alfalfa, which get sprayed over and over.
  • Glyphosate residues in the soil that become bound and immobilized can be reactivated by the application of phosphate fertilizers or through other methods. Potato growers in the West and Midwest, for example, have experienced severe losses from glyphosate that has been reactivated.
  • Glyphosate can find its way onto farmland accidentally, through drifting spray, in contaminated water, and even through chicken manure!

    Wheat affected after 10 years of glyphosate field applications.

Imagine the shock of farmers who spread chicken manure in their fields to add nutrients, but instead found that the glyphosate in the manure tied up nutrients in the soil, promoted plant disease, and killed off weeds or crops. Test results of the manure showed glyphosate/AMPA concentrations at a whopping 0.36-0.75 parts per million (ppm). The normal herbicidal rate of glyphosate is about 0.5 ppm/acre.

Manure from other animals may also be spreading the herbicide, since US livestock consume copious amounts of glyphosate—which accumulates in corn kernels and soybeans. If it isn’t found in livestock manure (or urine), that may be even worse. If glyphosate is not exiting the animal, it must be accumulating with every meal, ending up in our meat and possibly milk.

Add this threat to the already high glyphosate residues inside our own diets due to corn and soybeans, and we have yet another serious problem threatening our health. Glyphosate has been linked to sterility, hormone disruption, abnormal and lower sperm counts, miscarriages, placental cell death, birth defects, and cancer, to name a few. (See resource list on glyphosate health effects.)

Nutrient loss in humans and animals

The same nutrients that glyphosate chelates and deprives plants are also vital for human and animal health. These include iron, zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium, calcium, boron, and others. Deficiencies of these elements in our diets, alone or in combination, are known to interfere with vital enzyme systems and cause a long list of disorders and diseases.

Alzheimer’s, for example, is linked with reduced copper and magnesium. Don Huber points out that this disease has jumped 9000% since 1990.

Manganese, zinc, and copper are also vital for proper functioning of the SOD (superoxide dismustase) cycle. This is key for stemming inflammation and is an important component in detoxifying unwanted chemical compounds in humans and animals.

Glyphosate-induced mineral deficiencies can easily go unidentified and untreated. Even when laboratory tests are done, they can sometimes detect adequate mineral levels, but miss the fact that glyphosate has already rendered them unusable.

Glyphosate can tie up minerals for years and years, essentially removing them from the pool of nutrients available for plants, animals, and humans. If we combine the more than 135 million pounds of glyphosate-based herbicides applied in the US in 2010 with total applications over the past 30 years, we may have already eliminated millions of pounds of nutrients from our food supply.

This loss is something we simply can’t afford. We’re already suffering from progressive nutrient deprivation even without Roundup. In a UK study, for example, they found between 16-76% less nutrients in 1991, compared to levels in the same foods in 1940.

Livestock disease and mineral deficiency

Roundup Ready crops dominate US livestock feed. Soy and corn are most prevalent—93% of US soy and nearly 70% of corn are Roundup Ready. Animals are also fed derivatives of the other three Roundup Ready crops: canola, sugar beets, and cottonseed. Nutrient loss from glyphosate can therefore be severe.

This is especially true for manganese (Mn), which is not only chelated by glyphosate, but also reduced in Roundup Ready plants (see photo). One veterinarian finds low manganese in every livestock liver he measures. Another vet sent the liver of a stillborn calf out for testing. The lab report stated: No Detectible Levels of Manganese—in spite of the fact that the mineral was in adequate concentrations in his region. When that vet started adding manganese to the feed of a herd, disease rates dropped from a staggering 20% to less than ½%.

Veterinarians who started their practice after GMOs were introduced in 1996 might assume that many chronic or acute animal disorders are common and to be expected. But several older vets have stated flat out that animals have gotten much sicker since GMOs came on the scene. And when they switch livestock from GMO to non-GMO feed, the improvement in health is dramatic. Unfortunately, no one is tracking this, nor is anyone looking at the impacts of consuming milk and meat from GM-fed animals.

Alfalfa madness, brought to you by Monsanto and the USDA

As we continue to drench our fields with Roundup, the perfect storm gets bigger and bigger. Don asks the sobering question: “How much of the hundreds of millions of pounds of glyphosate that have been applied to our most productive farm soils over the past 30 years is still available to damage subsequent crops through its effects on nutrient availability, increased disease, or reduced nutrient of our food and feed?”

Instead of taking urgent steps to protect our land and food, the USDA just made plans to make things worse. In December they released their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Roundup Ready alfalfa, which Monsanto hopes to reintroduce to the market.

Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop in the US, grown on 22 million acres. It is used primarily as a high protein source to feed dairy cattle and other ruminant animals. At present, weeds are not a big deal for alfalfa. Only 7% of alfalfa acreage is ever sprayed with an herbicide of any kind. If Roundup Ready alfalfa is approved, however, herbicide use would jump to unprecedented levels, and the weed killer of choice would of course be Roundup.

Even without the application of glyphosate, the nutritional quality of Roundup Ready alfalfa will be less, since Roundup Ready crops, by their nature, have reduced mineral . When glyphosate is applied, nutrient quality suffers even more (see chart).

The chance that Roundup would increase soilborne diseases in alfalfa fields is a near certainty. In fact, Alfalfa may suffer more than other Roundup Ready crops. As a perennial, it can accumulate Roundup year after year. It is a deep-rooted plant, and glyphosate leaches into sub soils. And “Fusarium is a very serious pathogen of alfalfa,” says Don. “So too are Phytophthora and Pythium,” both of which are promoted by glyphosate. “Why would you even consider jeopardizing the productivity and nutrient quality of the third most valuable crop in the US?” he asks in frustration, “especially since we have no way of removing the gene once it is spread throughout the alfalfa gene pool.”

It’s already spreading. Monsanto had marketed Roundup Ready alfalfa for a year, until a federal court declared its approval to be illegal in 2007. They demanded that the USDA produce an EIS in order to account for possible environmental damage. But even with the seeds taken off the market, the RR alfalfa that had already been planted has been contaminating non-GMO varieties. Cal/West Seeds, for example, discovered that more than 12% of their seed lots tested positive for contamination in 2009, up from 3% in 2008.

In their EIS, the USDA does acknowledge that genetically modified alfalfa can contaminate organic and non-GMO alfalfa, and that this could create economic hardship. They are even considering the unprecedented step of placing restrictions on RR alfalfa seed fields, requiring isolation distances. Experience suggests that this will slow down, but not eliminate GMO contamination. Furthermore, studies confirm that genes do transfer from GM crops into soil and soil organisms, and can jump into fungus through cuts on the surface of GM plants. But the EIS does not adequately address these threats and their implications.

Instead, the USDA largely marches lock-step with the biotech industry and turns a blind eye to the widespread harm that Roundup is already inflicting. If they decide to approve Monsanto’s alfalfa, the USDA may ultimately be blamed for a catastrophe of epic proportions.