By Dr. Mercola
Twenty-one weed species around the world are now resistant to glyphosate, up from zero in 1996 -- the year Monsanto started marketing its genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops.
Glyphosate, now the world's bestselling weed killer and the key ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, is emerging as one of the most dangerous Monsanto products to date, in part because super weeds are emerging at an alarming rate.
A briefing by GM Freeze noted that in the United States, the worst-affected country (which is not surprising since the U.S. also leads the world in GM crop acreage), 13 resistant weed species cover more than 11 million acres, mostly those planted with Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) soy, corn and cotton crops.
The weeds are not only making Monsanto's promises that their GM crops would reduce pesticide use completely laughable -- since farmers are being forced to use multiple, and more, pesticides to keep weeds in their GM crops under control -- but also are turning out to be a very big thorn in Monsanto's proverbial side; one that ironically might turn out to threaten the very GM crops that created them.
Investors Warned About Monsanto's Super Weeds
As GM Freeze reported, one investment company is now advising its clients to sell Monsanto shares because of the company's problems with weed resistance, which are arguably set to snowball even further out of control in the very near future. Monsanto's competitors, biotech giants like Dow and Bayer CropScience, are chomping at the bit to take over where Monsanto has failed, and already have released GM seeds with tolerance to multiple herbicides designed to be used on their own or in rotation with Roundup Ready crops in a last-ditch attempt to delay resistance from developing.
(No word yet on how these companies intend to deal with the new generation of super weeds that will inevitably develop in response to the new herbicide cocktail … )
So this dark cloud's silver lining is the fact that, with super weeds becoming an undeniable threat that can no longer be ignored, the powers that be may be forced to acknowledge that GM crops are not all they've been cracked up to be. And Monsanto is also being shaken to its core by the grand scope of this environmental catastrophe.
"Monsanto is taking the problem of the rapid development of glyphosate resistance very seriously, as it represents a threat to their main sources of income.
… Monsanto has embarked on major changes in weed management in RR crops, which still includes the use of glyphosate on its own, but also in combination with other herbicides. This is increasing herbicide usage on these crops. So instead of the promised decrease in pesticide use on GM crops, the arrival of resistant weeds has resulted in herbicide use increasing on RR crops. Analysis of USDA data has found increases in herbicide use in all the crops where RR maize, cotton and soyabeans varieties dominate.
… Previous attempts to control resistant weeds by increasing the rate at which glyphosate is applied have proved unsuccessful, yet Monsanto appears to have no intention of taking responsibility for the failure of their technology."
GM Crops Have Failed to Deliver … and That's an Extreme Understatement
Herbicide tolerant (Roundup Ready) GM crops were supposed to control weeds and GM Bt crops were intended to control pests. Instead of controlling weeds and pests, GM crops have led to the emergence of super weeds and super pests
And despite claims that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will lower the levels of chemicals (pesticides and herbicides) used, this clearly has not been the case. This is of great concern both because of the negative impacts of these chemicals on ecosystems and humans, and because there is the danger that increased chemical use will cause increasing numbers of pests and weeds to develop resistance, requiring even more chemicals in order to attempt to manage them.
According to Jeffrey Smith with the Institute for Responsible Technology, by 2004 farmers used an estimated 86 percent more herbicides on GM soy fields compared to non-GM fields. Unfortunately, Monsanto's plan to circumvent the inevitable development of more superweeds is to douse fields with more and more chemicals.
"As Einstein famously quoted, 'no problem can be solved with the same consciousness that created it.' That is precisely what Monsanto is doing: advocating more and more herbicides to be used. New guidance published by the company to manage resistance includes:
• The use of a cocktail of pesticides including 2,4-D, prior to sowing crop seeds
• The production of GM seeds expressing tolerance to more than one pesticide. DuPont has already commercialised seeds tolerant to glyphosate and glufosinate. Monsanto has recently announced an agreement with the German pesticide and biotechnology company BASF to develop crops stacked with glyphosate and dicamba tolerant genes
• The use of herbicides that remains active in the soil, killing any seedlings as they germinate, including sulfentrozone
The consequences of increasing herbicide use are likely to put the environment and people at further risk."
Why Glyphosate is a Health and Environmental Disaster
Glyphosate is the world's bestselling weed killer, and it's found in more than 30 percent of all herbicides -- an extremely disturbing scenario considering the data showing it to be an immense threat to human health and the environment.
GM expert Jeffrey Smith has reported that glyphosate promotes the formation of certain types of fungi that are dangerous to people and contaminate food and animal feed. One such fungi, the Fusarium fungus, has been linked to plague epidemics, cancer, infertility and animal diseases. Residues of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide found in GM food and feed have also been linked to cell damage and death, even at very low levels. Researchers have also found it causes membrane and DNA damage, and inhibits cell respiration.
And in one animal study, rats given 1,000 mg/kg of glyphosate resulted in a 50 percent mortality rate, and skeletal alterations were observed in over 57 percent of fetuses!
Research published last year shows that glyphosate causes birth defects in frogs and chicken embryos at far lower levels than used in agricultural and garden applications.
The malformations primarily affected the:
- Midline and developing brain
- Spinal cord
Other independent scientific research has also found that glyphosate causes:
✓ Endocrine disruption
✓ DNA damage
✓ Developmental toxicity
✓ Reproductive toxicity
✓ Liver Damage
✓ Kidney Damage
Many of these effects were apparent at much lower doses than the typical levels of pesticide residues found in food … Yet despite the evidence of widespread human exposure, which strongly suggests that the precautionary principle should be applied, regulators are turning a blind eye.
Additionally, researchers have now linked glyphosate to Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), a serious plant disease, in many fields around the world. Numerous studies have also shown that glyphosate is contributing not only to the huge increase in SDS, but also to the outbreak of some 40 different plant and crop diseases! It weakens plants and promotes disease in a number of ways, including:
- Acting as a chelator of vital nutrients, depriving plants of the nutrients necessary for healthy plant function
- Destroying beneficial soil organisms that suppress disease-causing organisms and help plants absorb nutrients
- Interfering with photosynthesis, reducing water use efficiency, shortening root systems and causing plants to release sugars, which changes soil pH
- Stunting and weakening plant growth
The herbicide doesn't destroy plants directly; instead, it creates a unique "perfect storm" of conditions that activates disease-causing organisms in the soil, while at the same time wiping out plant defenses against those diseases. So the glyphosate not only weakens plants, it actually changes the makeup of the soil and boosts the number of disease-causing organisms, which is becoming a deadly recipe for crops around the globe.
On a slightly brighter note, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finally looking into the damaging effects of glyphosate on humans and the environment and plans to make a decision regarding its future by 2015. At that time, Roundup could either continue to be used as it is now, be required to have some modifications to its use or be banned from use entirely in the United States.
How to Opt-Out of the GMO Experiment
It's quite clear that genetically engineered foods are not only threatening the food supply with the creation of super weeds, but they can also pose potentially serious threats to animal and human health when consumed. Fortunately, now you, too, can let your opinion be heard on this issue. Several organizations, including Mercola.com, the Organic Consumers Association, the Institute for Responsible Technology, and the Environmental Working Group, are working to generate a tipping point of consumer rejection to make GMOs a thing of the past.
Here's how you can get involved:
- If you live in California and are willing to attend a short training session and then start collecting petition signatures (you will be part of a team of 2-4 people) for the California Ballot Initiative, sign up here. (For more information see: The California Ballot Initiative: Taking Down Monsanto.) Also remember to share this information with family and friends in California!
- Whether you live in California or not, please donate money to this historic effort.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the California Ballot. It may be the only chance we have to require the proper labeling of genetically engineered foods.
- Distribute WIDELY the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. Look for products (including organic products) that feature the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal to be sure that at-risk ingredients have been tested for GMO content. You can also download the free iPhone application that is available from the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
- For timely updates, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter
- Look for in-depth coverage of the issue at the Institute for Responsible Technology, subscribe to Spilling the Beans, and check out their Facebook or Twitter.
- You can also join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or Twitter
In the meantime, the simplest way to avoid GM foods is to buy whole, certified organic foods. By definition, foods that are certified organic must never intentionally use GM organisms, must be produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and come from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs. Additionally, grass-fed beef will not have been fed GM corn feed, although now that GM alfalfa is approved, grass-fed will not always mean GMO free.
You can also look for foods that are "non-GMO verified" by the Non-GMO Project.