When scientist Arpad Pusztai reported that genetically modified (GM) foods caused serious health problems in rats, he was a hero at his prestigious UK institute — for two days. But after two phone calls (apparently) from the Prime Minister’s office, he was fired, gagged, and mercilessly attacked. When UC Berkely professor Ignacio Chapela discovered GM corn contamination in Mexico, he too faced a firestorm of distortion and denial that left him struggling to salvage his career. Find out how the biotech industry “engineers” the truth and what they are trying to hide from you. By Bertram Verhaag, with bonus film: Monster Salmon.
Film by Bertram Verhaag and Denkmal Films. 60 minutes, Plus 30 minute bonus documentary: Monster Salmon.
“One question means one career.” This was the harsh warning of UC Berkeley Professor Ignacio Chapela for those daring to conduct independent research on genetically engineered foods and crops. “You ask one question, you get the answer and you might or might not be able to publish it; but that is the end of your career.” Both he and biologist Arpad Pusztai dared to asked questions and do the research. And then all hell broke lose.
Using stunning visuals filmed on three continents, veteran German filmmaker Bertram Verhaag tracks the fate of these two scientists at the hands of a multi-billion dollar industry that is desperate to hide the dangers of their genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
BR Online says of the film, “Belief in noble and incorrupt research and science is reduced to absurdity.” Arthouse says the “movie shows how purchased truth becomes the currency in the perfidious business between science and multinationals.” And GMWatch writes, “Original research showing problems with GM crops is buried under a deluge of smears and follow up studies are not done.”
The insect-killing, career-ending potato
“As a scientist looking at it and actively working on the field, I find that it’s very, very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs.”— Arpad Pusztai, UK’s World in Action TV show
When Dr. Pusztai voiced his concerns about the health risks of genetically modified (GM) foods during a nationally televised interview in August 1998, his was not simply just another voice in a contentious debate. Pusztai was the world leader in his field, and he had received major government funding to come up with the official method for testing the safety of GM foods. His protocols were supposed to become the required tests before any new GMO entered the European market. Pusztai was an insider, and an advocate of GM foods—that is until he actually ran those tests on supposedly harmless GM potatoes.
The high-tech spuds were engineered to produce their own pesticide. “The point of the whole genetic modification experiment was to protect the potato against aphids, which are one of the major pests in Scotland,” he said. His team inserted a gene from the snowdrop plant into the potatoes, which did in fact protect the GM crop from the insects.
As part of his safety studies, he fed that insecticide producing GM potato to rats, along with a complete and balanced diet. Another group of rats ate natural potatoes. A third was fed not only the natural potatoes, but they also received a dose of the same insecticide that the GM potato produced. This way, if the insecticide was harmful, he would see the same health problems in both the group that ate the GM potatoes, and those that ate the diet spiked with the insecticide. To his surprise, only those that ate the GM potato had severe problems—in every organ and every system he looked at.
Massive health problems linked to GMOs
“After the animals were killed and dissected,” Pusztai recalled, “we found out that in comparison with the non-genetically modified potatoes, their internal organs developed differently.” The intestines and stomach lining, for example, increased in size, the liver and kidneys were smaller, and the overall rate of growth was retarded. And the immune system suffered. Pusztai emphasized, “They found in those data 36 – 36! – very highly significant differences between the GM-fed animals and the non-GM fed animals.”
Since the rats that ate the natural potatoes plus the insecticide did not have these issues, there was one obvious conclusion—the process of genetically engineering the potatoes caused unpredicted side effects, turning a harmless food into a dangerous one.
When Pusztai saw the extensive damage that his potatoes caused in the lab animals, he also realized that if biotech companies had done the safety studies, the dangerous potatoes would have easily made it to market. He knew this because a few months earlier, he had reviewed the confidential submissions from the biotech companies which allowed their GM soy and corn onto the market. “They were flimsy,” he said. “They were not scientifically well founded.” They would never detect the changes in GMO-fed animals.
Reading the industry studies was a turning point in Pusztai’s life. He realized what he was doing and what the industry scientists were doing was diametrically opposed. He was doing safety studies. Companies like Monsanto, on the other hand, were doing as little as possible to get their foods on the market as quickly as possible.
Pusztai also realized that the GM soy and corn already on the market had been produced using the same process that had created his dangerous potato. Thus, the GM crops being consumed in the UK and the US might lead to similar damage in the gut, brain and organs of the entire population.
Thus, during his TV interview, Pusztai flatly stated: “If I had the choice, I would certainly not eat [GM foods] until I see at least comparable experimental evidence which we are producing for genetically modified potatoes.”
After the TV show aired, Pusztai was a hero at his prestigious Rowett Institute, where the director praised his work to the press, calling it world-class research. After two days of high-profile media coverage throughout Europe, however, the director received two phone calls from the UK Prime Minister’s Office.
“It’s only when we think there was political pressure coming from the top that the situation changed,” said Pusztai. “And then the director, to save his own skin, decided that the best way to deal with the situation [was] A) to destroy me, B) to make me shut up.”
Pusztai was told the next morning that his contract would not be renewed, he was silenced with threats of a lawsuit, his team was disbanded, and the protocols were not to be implemented in GMO safety assessments. And then came the attacks.
Coordinated between the Institute, biotech academics, and even the pro-GMO UK government, a campaign to destroy Pusztai’s reputation was launched. They were determined to counter the negative media coverage and protect the reputation of GMOs—even if it meant promoting blatant lies and sacrificing a top scientist’s career. Because Pusztai was gagged, he said, “whatever they did say on TV, radio and wrote in the newspapers, I could not deny it, I could not correct it, I could not say what was the real situation.”
“The most hurtful thing of all,” remembers Pusztai’s wife Susan, “was that he wasn’t allowed to talk to his colleagues and his colleagues were not allowed to talk to him. So whenever he entered a room, they went silent within seconds.”
After seven excruciating months, a committee at the UK Parliament invited Pusztai to speak. This lifted the gag order, which allowed Pusztai to ultimately publish his research, and be interviewed for this film.
Oops—GMOs weren’t supposed to be there
Ignacio Chapela, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, had “a long-term relationship with a group of indigenous communities” in Mexico. Although GM corn was not yet legally grown in the country, Chapela decided to equip the Mexicans with a laboratory that could test for its presence, in case GMOs were eventually introduced. To help with the training, his colleague David Quist brought GM corn from the US. For the non-GM control corn, Chapela said, “we thought we should just use the local corn, which, of course, is going to be clean and wonderful. And the surprise came when the negative control started coming out positive. That means we started finding transgenic materials where they were not supposed to be.”
Chapela says, “The reason why our findings were so astounding was because it was thought that there was no transgenic corn being planted in Mexico at all. And people wanted it that way. . . . Why? Because Mexico is the center of origin of corn. The Mexican government was worried about maintaining the integrity of the land races.” Apparently GM corn imported as food was unknowingly being grown, and had already started contaminating the source of corn’s biodiversity.
According to Chapela the industry “had been telling the world that they really had control over these crops, that if they planted . . . transgenic corn in one field, that transgenic corn would not go anywhere else. So our discovery that we were finding transgenic corn maybe a thousand miles from the nearest legal transgenic corn field was a huge problem for them because it really showed very simply, and with real evidence, that they really did not have control.”
Chapela and Quist wrote up the finding, which was accepted for publication by the prominent journal Nature. This made “many people within the industry very nervous and very unhappy,” says Chapella. They “started a discreditation campaign for the paper. They did not want the paper to be published.”
Unable to stop Nature, however, a Monsanto PR company – the Bivings Group – deployed plan B. “They created two fictitious characters, two doctors,” recounts Chapela. “And these two doctors went on the internet and started spreading rumors that what we had said was false and that the paper was flawed.” The disinformation campaign went viral. It put huge pressure on Nature, spread the false notion that contamination had not taken place, and resulted in a campaign against Chapela by biotech advocates in his University.
“In my case,” says Chapela, “I was pushed out of the university at least three times. Every time I fought back and we managed to keep my job. But it’s been very difficult.”
Trashing scientists worldwide
The treatment of Pusztai and Chapela illustrates what happens around the world to scientists who discover harm from GM crops. The work of Russian scientist Irina Ermakova, for example, was viciously attacked, and there were repeated attempts to intimidate her: papers were burnt on her desk and samples were stolen from her lab.
Peeking through these stories of personal attacks are the very real dangers of GMOs, which compel the audience to question the use of GMOs in their own diets. Consider the impact of Ermakova’s research on young women planning to raise a family. After she fed genetically engineered soy flour to female rats, more than half of their offspring died within three weeks.
The film also unravels the claims of biotech benefits on the farm level. A visit to Brazil introduces herbicide-tolerant Roundup Ready soybeans, engineered to make weeding a field easier. Farmers can spray Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide right on the field, and the GMOs survive. But this has led to massive overuse of Roundup, which in turn has led to the emergence of herbicide-tolerant superweeds—no longer controllable with Roundup.
A natural reaction to these stories might be to ask why isn’t the government telling us the truth and protecting us. Unfortunately, they are part of the problem.
FDA cover up
The FDA scientists who reviewed GMOs in the early 1990s were uniformly concerned about their health impacts, according to attorney Andrew Kimbrell, who runs the D.C.-based Center for Food Safety. He was on the team that sued the FDA in 1998, forcing them to turn over nearly 60,000 pages of secret internal memos. Kimbrell extracts key memos from massive filing cabinets in his office, reading the scientists’ warnings: toxins, nutritional problems, loss of biodiversity, change in water use, etc.
“So the scientists asked for these studies,” says Kimbrell. “But the politicians at the FDA and in the administration at that time said no. They suppressed the science. And these questions, these studies, have never been done.”
Instead, the US government maintains the illusion that nothing is wrong, and that this science works just as the biotech companies are telling us. This is beautifully illustrated with excerpts of biotech apologist Nina Fedoroff, the former science advisor to the Secretary of State. Her bland assurances about the safety of GMOs crumble with each new revelation in the film.
Unprecedented risks; no benefits
“No one gets up in the morning saying I want to go buy a genetically engineered food,” says Kimbrell. “They offer no benefits, no more nutrition, no more flavor, no nothing. They only offer risks.” He says the average rational person would ask, “Why would I buy a food that offers me no new benefits but only risks?” Kimbrell, who wrote the book Your Right to Know, says it was “critical for the industry to get these foods out without anyone knowing, because if they knew, they would obviously choose not to buy them.”
But as Chapela’s discovery of self-propagating GMO contamination illustrates, the risk of GMOs extends well beyond individual considerations. He warns, “We are manipulating life in a way that we really do not understand, we cannot control, and then we’re letting it go into the environment. So it’s a change that is radical, that is unprecedented, that is beyond anything we can understand, and it is irretrievable. We cannot get it back. That’s my concern!”
Scientists Under Attack is recommended for all those who love nature, and for everyone who eats. To view the trailer, click here.
The Scientists Under Attack DVD includes a 30 minute bonus film Monster Salmon, also by Bertram Verhaag. It describes the efforts by the US firm AquaBounty to bring fast growing genetically engineered salmon to market in the US. Given the FDA’s recent attempts to fast-track this controversial fish, this additional documentary is important and timely.
Film by Bertram Verhaag and Denkmal Films. 60 minutes, Plus 30 minute bonus documentary: Monster Salmon.
Jeffrey M. Smith is the author of Seeds of Deception, the world’s bestselling book on GMOs, which also presents the stories of Arpad Pusztai and Ignacio Chapela. He is also the author of Genetic Roulette, and the Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology. The Institute’s Non-GMO Shopping Guide website, iPhone app, and pocket guide, help people navigate to healthier non-GMO foods. Mr. Smith appears in the film Scientists Under Attack, and has arranged for its distribution in the US.
|Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in your food may make you sick. Studies link GMOs with toxins, allergies, infertility, infant mortality, immune dysfunction, stunted growth, accelerated aging, and death. Whistleblowers were fired, threatened, and gagged.|
The following article reveals the devastating and unprecedented impact that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide is having on the health of our soil, plants, animals, and human population. On top of this perfect storm, the USDA now wants to approve Roundup Ready alfalfa, which will exacerbate this calamity. Please tell USDA Secretary Vilsack not to approve Monsanto’s alfalfa today. [Note: typos corrected from Jan 16th, see details]
While visiting a seed corn dealer’s demonstration plots in Iowa last fall, Dr. Don Huber walked past 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.)
|Sudden Death Syndrome is more severe at the ends of rows, where Roundup dose is strongest. Photo by Amy Bandy.|
Roundup: The perfect storm for plant disease
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 incentivizes farmers who buy Roundup Ready seeds to also use the company’s Roundup brand of glyphosate. For example, they only provide warranties on the approved herbicide brands and offer discounts through their “Roundup Rewards” program. 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 that when glyphosate is applied in sterile soil, the plant may be slightly stunted, but it isn’t killed (see photo).
- 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.
Wheat affected after 10 years of glyphosate field applications.
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!
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.
Please send a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging him not to approve Roundup Ready alfalfa, and to fully investigate the damage that Roundup and GMOs are already inflicting.
*The earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Monsanto requires farmers who buy Roundup Ready seeds to only use the company’s Roundup brand of glyphosate.