By Dr. Mercola
Dr. Don Huber is an expert in an area of science that relates to the toxicity of genetically engineered (GE) foods.
(Alternative terms for GE foods include genetically modified (GM), or "GMO" for genetically modified organism.)
His specific areas of training include soil-borne diseases, microbial ecology, and host-parasite relationships.
Dr. Huber also taught plant pathology, soil microbiology, and micro-ecological interactions as they relate to plant disease as a staff Professor at Purdue University for 35 years.
In part one of this interview, Dr. Huber discussed the shocking discovery of a brand new organism in genetically engineered (GE) crops—an organism that has been clearly linked to infertility and miscarriage in cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, and poultry that are raised on GE feed.
In part one we began the discussion on the hazards of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, and its contribution to a new phenomenon referred to as "Sudden Death Syndrome" (SDS).
Here, we continue the discussion on glyphosate.
The "Biodegradable" Weed Killer that Wasn't…
The public's appreciation of the toxicity of glyphosate is rather limited. The fact that Monsanto marketed Roundup as "environmentally friendly" and "biodegradable" may have quite a bit to do with this general lack of insight. (In 2009, a French court upheld two earlier convictions against Monsanto for false advertising.)
Glyphosate is actually, in many ways, similar to DDT, which is known to cause reproductive problems among other things.
"There are some similarities," Dr. Huber says. "… I am familiar with DDT, and the fact that it's a very difficult compound to degrade. It's biologically degraded primarily by a process we call co-metabolism… [T]here are very few organisms that can utilize this as a direct nutrient source.
There are a few organisms that can utilize glyphosate as a direct nutrient source, but again, most of the degradation appears to be by co-metabolism. In other words, an organism just happens to produce the extracellular enzymes that will degrade it, rather than the organism really getting any benefit from it."
Glyphosate Persists in Soil, and Promotes Disease-Causing Pathogens
According to Dr. Huber, glyphosate can accumulate and persist in the soil for years. Persistence is determined by biological activity, soil PH, clay content, and how firmly it's sequestered or absorbed in the soil. This is bad news, because glyphosate not only decimates beneficial microorganisms in the soil essential for proper plant function and high quality nutrition, it also promotes the proliferation of disease-causing pathogens.
"The organisms that are stimulated are the pathogens," Dr. Huber says. "…all of the natural biological control organisms are very sensitive to that concentration of glyphosate. What we see with the fusaria, which causes sudden death syndrome in soybeans, is that it can be stimulated by glyphosate… so we find [up to] 500 percent increase in root colonization by this fungus. It's a very serious pathogen, not only on soybeans. Fusaria on most of our crops is a major disease organism that we have to deal with."
This 500 percent increase in root colonization of the fusaria fungus occurs even on Roundup-ready crops, because the technology does not 'cancel out' the effects of the glyphosate in the plant in any way.
"All it does is make it possible for that plant to survive and to accumulate more glyphosate. We still change the soil ecology, microbial ecology, and… our intestinal microbiology."
To quickly recap what we discussed in part one of this interview, while glyphosate promotes the growth of more virulent pathogens, it also kills off beneficial bacteria that might keep such pathogens in check—in the soil, and in the gut of animals or humans that ingest the crop.
"[W]ith glyphosate, we also see an additional stimulation of virulence, so we see increased ability to cause disease, as well as the loss of the natural biological controls," Dr. Huber says.
It's important to understand that the glyphosate actually becomes systemic throughout the plant, so it cannot be washed off. It's inside the plant. And once you eat it, it ends up in your gut where it can wreak total havoc with your health, considering the fact that 80 percent of your immune system resides there and is dependent on a healthy ratio of good and bad bacteria.
Glyphosate—The Most Abused Chemical in the History of Man
Interestingly enough, when asked which toxin he would prefer to use if he had to make a choice between two evils, Dr. Huber says he'd take DDT over glyphosate any day.
"A lot of these materials can have a very beneficial use. I'm certainly not anti-chemical. But we have to use some common sense. What we have with glyphosate is the most abused chemical we have ever had in the history of man," he says.
"… When future historians write about our time, they're not going to write about the tons of chemicals that we did or didn't apply. When it comes to glyphosate, they're going to write about our willingness to sacrifice our children and jeopardize our existence, while threatening and jeopardizing the very basis of our existence; the sustainability of our agriculture." … It doesn't mean that it's not reversible… But it means that we need to recognize what the concerns are, what's happening, and then we need to change."
According to Dr. Huber, we're now seeing the results of a massive experiment based on flawed science and failed promises. We jumped in without the basic understanding of what these products do, and this was done just to support the bottom line of a few large companies, such as Monsanto. That's madness!
Assumptions, Presumptions, and Flawed Science—All Potentially Deadly
As explained in part one of this interview, glyphosate is a strong chelator, meaning it immobilizes critical micronutrients, rendering them unavailable to the plant. As a result, the nutritional efficiency of genetically engineered (GE) plants is profoundly compromised. Micronutrients such as iron, manganese and zinc can be reduced by as much as 80-90 percent in GE plants.
Didn't anyone know this could happen? Part of the problem goes back to the fact that Monsanto's scientists were really only looking for a mechanism that would kill weeds. That's what happens when you assume and refuse to double-check your assumptions…
"As I read some of the early documents, it stated that it 'inhibits the EPSPs enzyme. Actual herbicide mode of action unknown.'" Dr. Huber says. "In 1984, it was very well-documented that the way it kills weeds and plants is by compromising the defense mechanisms, making them very susceptible to these soil borne organisms… It's a debilitating type of situation, more like AIDS than a direct killer...
Also, since humans and animals don't have the shikimate pathway, it was assumed that this is a pathway that exists only in plants and microorganisms. Therefore, it's going to be safe for us. It was also assumed that the foreign proteins – whether it's BT; the protein from glyphosate; that new EPSPs gene from the Agrobacterium – would readily be degraded in the gut… It's a flawed science."
The Unfulfilled Promises of Genetically Engineered Crops
The situation is equally disturbing with respects to the genetic engineering of the crop itself. Many experts have admitted that we really do not yet understand genetics enough to dabble in this way and release it into the wild. Because what we do know is that when you insert a foreign gene, you alter not just one feature—you're altering multiple things, and you can end up with some highly unpredictable and unforeseeable results.
Most of the biotech industry's promises have turned out to be false with respect to genetically engineered (GE) foods. For example:
- GE crops are supposed to be more drought resistant, but the opposite turns out to be true. Says Dr. Huber:
"It takes twice as much water to produce a pound of a Roundup-ready crop soybean plant treated with glyphosate, as it does with soybean plant that's not treated with glyphosate."
- GE crops are supposed to be nutritionally "better" or at the very least "equivalent" to conventional foods, but they're not. On the contrary, they're nutritionally inferior due to glyphosate's chelating mechanism, which blocks absorption of micronutrients. GE crops contain about 50 percent less manganese, and up to 70 percent less zinc. They also contain less copper, iron and magnesium, just to name a few. This affects the overall health of the plant, and its reproductive ability, and when you eat this nutritionally inferior food, you're not getting the micronutrients your body needs for proper function either. All animal products are similarly affected when raised on GE soy- or corn feed.
Has it Gone Too Far, or is There Still Time to Turn it All Around?
Glyphosate was first introduced as a weed killer in 1974, prior to the introduction of genetically modified crops. According to Dr. Huber, it has been so overused for the past 30 years that many essential soil organisms have been eradicated.
"Typically… when we would apply an herbicide, we would tell our growers, "You rotate the chemistry, just like you rotate the crop." Therefore, when you had an effect on a specific group of organisms, you have an opportunity for nature to rebalance and to reestablish that beneficial and functional relationship. We haven't done that with glyphosate. We just continually hammered for 30 years in one direction on those beneficial organisms… They no longer exist in the environment! We see that we have to start adding them now in order to increase crop productivity and nutritional value.
Dr. Huber has spent about 20 years researching how to remediate the damage caused by glyphosate. Fortunately, Dr. Huber believes we can turn it all around, but we MUST make changes. We cannot keep going the way we are.
"We have to start looking now at mineral supplementations and seed treatments," Dr. Huber says, "because our soil biology isn't going to provide it. The whole system has changed. If we want to change it for the better, we have to recognize what that change is and be willing to change again to compensate or to rectify."
If we continue in the same direction, dousing our crops with ever increasing amounts of glyphosate, we will soon start seeing the same effect on human health as Dr. Huber is seeing in plants and animals. In fact, we may already be seeing the effects of the genetically engineered diet.
"… [W]e're just starting to see the impact on reproductive fertility," he says. "Also the disease potential… You can hardly pick up the paper anymore without seeing that a human disease is involved… We had to recall 20 percent of our total egg production here last year or early this year because of salmonella.
You have to say, "What's changed?"
The newspaper said that when they looked at the egg-producing facilities "they had chicken manure and they had rodent droppings." … I have never seen a chicken coup that didn't have chicken drop. They have manure. Any time you have feed, even with three or four cats around and whatnot, you're going to have some rodents. That's NOT the reason."
Glyphosate May Play a Key Role in Deteriorating Food Safety
Dr. Huber goes on to discuss a German paper that shows certain pathogens such as E. coli and some others have a high tolerance for glyphosate compared to their natural biological controls. What this means is that it may not be the presence or absence of pathogens per se that determines the safety of our food supply, but rather the presence or absence of the natural control organisms, which are effectively destroyed by glyphosate.
"Salmonella, Clostridium, and a lot of these disease organisms are ubiquitous. They're everywhere. Our health is dependent on keeping them in check," Dr. Huber warns.
This is truly important in light of the ongoing war against organically-grown foods, which are often targeted first, when there's an outbreak of foodborne illness. If we can educate those in charge about this, then they would perhaps begin to understand why organic foods are FAR LESS inclined to be the culprit, because the beneficial soil bacteria present in organically farmed lands—as they do not use glyphosate or other chemicals on their fields—actually hinders pathogens in and on the food from multiplying out of control.
"If we're eliminating that check, either through residues in our food or through direct impact in our environment, we're going to continue to see what we're seeing today. Look at Alzheimer's, thyroid problems, autism, Parkinson's – any of those diseases that have a tie with either the endocrine system or the nutrient availability—we're going to see those increase."
Are Genetically Engineered Foods Affecting Your Mood and Behavior?
Dr. Huber recently spent some time in Australia, where he had the opportunity to review an ongoing study into genetically engineered foods.
"It's a continuation of a study that was conducted in Iowa with pigs and cattle. The [Australians] are doing it with mice so that they can define what the toxins are… They're using these one or two-pound, big, white rats that some people call pet rats… You can reach in to the non-GMO-fed rat cage and pull one out. Put it on your lap and it can be patted just like a cat.
But try and reach in to the cage where the rats are being fed the genetically engineered feed. Here they have limited it to one [rat per cage]. The rats are irritated. They don't get along together. They always go off into their own little world. They do backflips. They crawl up and run around the cage. They can't get any peace; can't settle down. That is very typical of what you'd see with autism. Then you start looking and say, "Well, are there any other similarities?"
Dr. Huber also recently met with a doctor in Germany who specializes in working with autistic children. Interestingly, there appear to be many correlations between the rats fed genetically modified feed and autistic children.
"[When] you look at the stomachs of the GMO-fed [animals], they have all of the severe allergy responses, the inflammation and the reddening… When they looked at the intestine, they said that the intestinal lining is deteriorating… The smell of the intestinal contents is very rank. The biology has been drastically changed.
This [German] doctor said, "That's exactly what we're seeing with our children with autism.
We need more research, but certainly, the indicators are there. The research up until very recently hasn't been done, and those who wanted to do it have been prohibited from publishing, or from doing that research. We see those that have dared to come out and raised some concerns have been very severely impacted professionally, as well as in their own personal lives, in that persecution that they've had to endure.
We've got to change.
We've got to recognize that what we have now isn't normal. We got to get back to safe, sufficient, and sustainable production and health for our agriculture community, if we're going to be healthy in that process also."
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
"Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn't required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn't have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn't it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers."
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn't have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let's not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.