By Dr. Mercola
The promise that transgenic crops would lead to "greener" agriculture and less chemicals has not come to pass. Instead, more and more chemicals are being used on our food and the feed we raise our livestock on.
Since the introduction of transgenic crops two decades ago, herbicide-resistant weeds have become a serious problem. At least 35 weed species are now resistant to glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto's broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup.1
Studies2 have also linked glyphosate to increases in Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), a deadly plant disease that causes plants to turn yellow and die — including crops that have never been sprayed with the herbicide but were planted in a field that received an application the previous season.
To stay on top of the resistant weed problem, farmers not only apply more pesticides, they also mix different pesticides together to prevent the weeds from adapting to a single formula. Newer genetically engineered (GE) seeds are also designed to resist even more toxic combinations.
Alarming Levels of Glyphosate Found in Popular Foods
According to independent testing by The Detox Project, glyphosate is present at "alarming levels" in many popular processed foods.3,4 Scientists have found glyphosate can alter gene function in the livers and kidneys of rats at levels as low as 0.05 parts per billion (ppb).
Meanwhile, Cheerios was found to contain more than 1,125 ppb of glyphosate, Doritos more than 481 ppb and Ritz crackers more than 270 ppb. As noted by Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now!:
"It's time for regulators at the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and the White House to stop playing politics with our food and start putting the wellbeing of the American public above the profits of chemical companies like Monsanto."
FDA Suspends Glyphosate Testing
Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has suspended testing for glyphosate residues in food, citing "disagreement and difficulties with establishing a standard methodology to use," along with "equipment issues."5 The agency is "unsure" when testing will resume.
According to FDA spokeswoman Megan McSeveney, preliminary results indicated there were "no violations of legal tolerance levels allowed for glyphosate" in the foods tested.
However, it's important to remember that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) significantly raised allowable levels of glyphosate in foods back in 2013, and evidence suggests the legal tolerance levels are likely far too high for safety.
Allowable levels in flax, soybean and canola were doubled, from 20 parts per million (ppm) to 40 ppm — just 10 ppm below the level at which Roundup may cause cell death, according to research published in 2011.
Permissible glyphosate levels in many other foods were raised to 15 to 25 times previous levels. Root and tuber vegetables, with the exception of sugar, got one of the largest boosts, with allowable residue limits being raised from 0.2 ppm to 6.0 ppm. The level for sweet potatoes was raised to 3 ppm.
Current Glyphosate Limits Are Probably Unsafe
As noted in The Detox Project's report on glyphosate, animal research shows that at 0.1 ppb, roundup altered genes in livers and kidneys and caused severe organ damage.
At 10 ppb, toxic effects were found in fish livers. At 700 ppb, which is the permitted level for glyphosate in U.S. tap water, kidney and liver alterations in rats occurred.
Compare that to the level of glyphosate found in General Mills' Cheerios: 1,125 ppb (which equates to 1.125 ppm). Also remember that that's just ONE food, and people eat a wide array of glyphosate-containing foods each day. As noted in the report:6
"[A]s a result of the combination of exposures through drinking water and a regular diet of processed food, total exposure is much greater than industry scientists and U.S. regulators ever anticipated.
With this new information, it's time for the EPA to dramatically reduce the acceptable daily intake level of glyphosate and ban the practice of pre-harvest spraying of all food crops, especially wheat, oats and barley, immediately."
Monsanto Dicamba Herbicide Gets the Green Light
The EPA recently approved Monsanto's latest weed killer, XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology,7,8 which goes along with its Roundup Ready Xtend cotton and soybeans — GE plants designed to tolerate both glyphosate and dicamba.
With this approval, use of dicamba on cotton and soy fields is expected to jump from less than 1 million pounds to more than 25 million pounds annually!9 Previously, dicamba could only be used to kill weeds prior to planting. It was not permitted on growing crops.
The "VaporGrip" refers to chemical technology said to make the dicamba less prone to vaporization and drift — problems associated with older dicamba herbicides (and a reason why they are not permitted during growing season).
Monsanto has been sharply criticized for releasing dicamba-resistant seeds before receiving approval for the less drift-prone herbicide, as many farmers felt they had no choice but to illegally use older dicamba herbicides on the new seeds — a decision that turned out to have devastating consequences for their neighbors.10 As reported by Eco Watch:11
"Over the summer, such activities caused 10 states to report widespread damage on thousands of acres of non-target crops such as peaches, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, rice, cotton, peas, peanuts, alfalfa and soybeans.
And last month, a dicamba drift dispute between Arkansas farmers resulted in one farmer being shot to death."
Concerns Abound Over Monsanto's Dicamba Herbicide
The question is, will this Vapogrip Technology actually be enough to prevent a repeat of these kinds of crop disasters? As noted by weed scientist Aaron Hager, Ph.D., reduced-volatility does not eliminate the potential for drift.
Dicamba is so toxic, it doesn't take much to damage sensitive crops growing down-wind, and XtendiMax comes with very specific instructions for application that must be followed to a T in order to prevent problems.
Questions about its impact on biodiversity also abound. As noted by Nathan Donley, Ph.D., a Center for Biological Diversity scientist:12
"Once again the EPA is allowing for staggering increases in pesticide use that will undoubtedly harm our nation's most imperiled plants and animals. Iconic species like endangered whooping cranes are known to visit soybean fields, and now they'd be exposed to this toxic herbicide at levels they've never seen before …
Pesticide-resistant superweeds are a serious threat to our farmers, and piling on more pesticides will just result in superweeds resistant to more pesticides. We can't fight evolution — it's a losing strategy … We can't spray our way out of this problem. We need to get off the pesticide treadmill."
Did Monsanto Engineer Dependency on Illegal Pesticide?
Why DID Monsanto release its dicamba-resistant seeds before receiving approval for XtendiMax? As mentioned, dicamba has so far been illegal for use during growing season (due to its high volatility and drift potential).
Some critics have suggested Monsanto may have released the dicamba-resistant seeds early in order to create an indisputable and urgent need for a dicamba herbicide to go with them, thereby increasing the chances of gaining approval of the controversial weed killer. As noted by The Depauw:13
"Since the release of Xtend [cotton and soybean seeds], thousands of acres of soybeans have been destroyed across Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri. Though Monsanto warns against the use of dicamba on its website, it does so directly below its description of its newly available dicamba-resistant soybeans.
Further proof that such a dependency was orchestrated is the fact that Monsanto has invested over $1 billion in the production of dicamba, though its use on genetically modified crops is still illegal.
If Monsanto truly did intend to create a dependency on a product that required an illegal pesticide, it arguably holds some moral responsibility for the death of Mike Wallace [Ed. Note: Arkansas farmer shot to death during a dispute over dicamba crop damage] and the economic hardship that other farmers have faced as a result of crop damage from dicamba drift."
Part of the blame must also fall on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) however, since the dicamba-resistant seeds gained USDA approval even though dicamba was still illegal for use during growing season.
Update: Feds and States Probe Monsanto-Bayer Merger
A couple of months ago Monsanto accepted Bayer AG's $56 billion takeover offer.14,15,16 The merger would result in the largest seed and pesticide company in the world. With the merger of these two giants, 59 percent of the global seeds and 64 percent of the world's pesticides would be provided by four companies in total.17,18
Many called on anti-competition regulators to investigate the merger,19 and a federal antitrust probe is now in fact underway. Several U.S. state attorney generals are also expected to join. The planned merger of DuPont and Dow Chemical Co. is also being investigated. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:20
"The involvement of the state attorneys general increases scrutiny of the mega-deals and will complicate what are already expected to be tough and lengthy reviews by U.S. antitrust enforcers … The states are concerned that the companies may raise pesticide and herbicide prices for farmers following a merger, and have less incentive to compete to introduce better and cheaper products …
While it is up to the Justice Department to decide whether to file a lawsuit to stop a merger, states provide information on how the mergers would affect their jurisdictions and conduct joint calls to gather data from the companies, as well as critics and supporters of the deals."
Monsanto Ramps Up Assault on Researchers
In other related news, Monsanto is ramping up its assault on the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) team of scientists that, last year, declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen.21 Glyphosate, of course, is the active ingredient in Monsanto's flagship product, Roundup.
Believe it or not, Monsanto and CropLife America are now lobbying to strip the IARC of its U.S. funding. The IARC is a respected research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), and the agency's research has been a deciding factor in the banning of many toxic substances that would otherwise continue to threaten human life and well-being.
Monsanto and its allies are also demanding the EPA "fully repudiate the IARC classification and green-light continued use of glyphosate herbicides," the Huffington Post reports.22 They already derailed public EPA meetings scheduled to take place in October, 2016, to examine the available science on glyphosate, by challenging the EPA's choice of scientists for the advisory panel. According to the Huffington Post:
"[I]ndustry ally U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith is taking EPA officials to task for engaging with IARC on glyphosate concerns, demanding that EPA instead rely on the 'sound science' that the industry promotes. Smith, Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, accuses IARC of playing an 'activist role' and EPA officials, of aiding that effort …
Monsanto, which is fending off lawsuits by people who claim Roundup gave them cancer, has also been demanding IARC members turn over documents related to their work. The company has labeled the IARC findings as 'junk science,' and claims the IARC members are part of an 'unelected, undemocratic [and] foreign body.'
The industry message to EPA is loud and clear: Independent research and international scientific findings should not take precedence over protection of a multi-billion-dollar agent like glyphosate. The public can only watch, wait and hope that the EPA doesn't listen."
IARC Scientists 'Stunned' but Not Backing Down
According to an IARC statement, while some of the working group members23 do feel "intimidated" by the threats, they reaffirm the integrity of their work. It's well worth noting that the IARC's scientists are considered elite independent experts, culled from well-respected institutions all over the world. Said Francesco Forastiere, head of occupational epidemiology at the Lazio Regional Health Service in Italy and IARC working group member:
"We were not expecting this strong reaction and what happened. We were doing our job. We understood there were other issues ... economic consequences. But none of us had a political agenda. We simply acted as scientists, evaluating the body of evidence, according to the IARC criteria."
EU Authorities Accused of Scientific Fraud
Meanwhile, in Germany another fight is brewing over glyphosate-related science. Peter Clausing, Ph.D., a former industry toxicologist who is now in the employ of Pesticide Action Network Germany, claims the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) committed scientific fraud when they contradicted the IARC, concluding that glyphosate is non-carcinogenic. According to GM Watch:24
"Clausing made this accusation in front of five judges at the Monsanto Tribunal, held in The Hague from 14 [to] 16 October. The background to this latest allegation of foul play by the EU authorities over glyphosate is the high-level dispute over whether or not the pesticide causes cancer.
In March 2015 the World Health Organization's cancer agency IARC concluded that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen. BfR did not agree, stating that a classification for carcinogenicity is not 'warranted' for glyphosate. EFSA sided with BfR, saying that 'glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential.'
But Clausing told the Monsanto Tribunal that BfR's and EFSA's statements are contradicted by evidence contained in BfR's own reports on glyphosate and the draft report submitted to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) by the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health."
Scientific Integrity and Credibility Is on the Line
According to Clausing, BfR and EFSA included five mouse studies in their evaluation — all of which actually showed that male mice experienced a statistically significant increase in one or more types of cancer. Three of the studies showed a significant increase in malignant lymphoma. Two showed a clear dose-dependence.
Clausing also noted that these findings alone exceed the EU's criterion for the classification of glyphosate as a 1B carcinogen (substances presumed to have carcinogenic potential for humans), which would result in an automatic ban.
The only way to avoid a ban for a 1B carcinogen would be to prove that exposure is "negligible." But, as noted in the article, "The law does not allow industry and regulators to argue that the doses we are exposed to are below permitted levels and therefore safe." Clausing also showed that Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidelines for industry testing of chemicals had been violated.
"Interestingly, the IARC reviewed the available animal studies and concluded, like Clausing, that they showed that glyphosate caused an increase in cancer. Why the difference of opinion between IARC and the German authorities?
The answer is given in BfR's own report on IARC's findings. Unlike the German authorities, IARC applied the superior statistical analysis — the trend test. Also unlike the German authorities, IARC did not violate OECD guidelines by claiming that a second type of statistical analysis cancelled out the findings of the first," GM Watch writes.
On the whole, it appears BfR and EFSA are simply dancing to Monsanto's tune. It's become quite clear that Monsanto and its allies are ready to go to great lengths to save glyphosate — including trying to cut U.S. funding to a premier independent cancer research organization under WHO. But are BfR, EFSA and the EPA really going to undermine their own scientific credibility just to protect the profits of a chemical company? That's a serious question these agencies will ultimately have to make a decision on.
To Build a Safer Food System, Start Close to Home
The fact of the matter is that chemical cocktails are not a necessity for ample food production. Granted, many areas would now need serious intervention to improve and rebuild soil quality, which has been destroyed by decades of mechanized farming and chemicals, but it can be done.
Monsanto lauds its new dicamba herbicide as "the answer" to glyphosate-resistant weeds, completely ignoring the clear fact that this formulation will simply create weeds resistant to more than one chemical, thereby putting farmers at an even greater disadvantage! Not to mention the fact that more foods will now be contaminated with even more toxic pesticides.
The EU recently approved imports of Monsanto's Roundup Ready Xtend soybeans, so Europeans also need to beware of the potential for dicamba exposure through food. We simply must get off the pesticide treadmill. The health and well-being of our children and the environment depend on it.
As an individual, you can help steer the agricultural industry toward safer, more sustainable systems by growing your own foods and buying what you cannot grow from local farmers you trust. By far, processed foods are the most likely to contain GE ingredients, so avoiding processed foods of all kinds, including condiments, is one of the best ways to avoid them — and the toxic chemicals sprayed on these crops.
If everyone were to refuse to buy products containing GMOs, insisting on feeding their families pesticide-free, GMO-free foods, the food industry would have no choice but to respond. It's really just a matter of creating a massive trickle-down effect.
This is where your true power lies. Indeed, there's a way out of this mess, and it starts with each person making different purchasing choices for themselves and their families. If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods:
EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.
Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass-fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass-fed meats across the U.S.
This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
A national listing of farmers markets.
The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products, and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.
If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund25 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.26 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.