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.
GE Crops are Breaking the Agricultural System…
Agriculture is a complete 'system' based on inter-related factors, and in order to maintain ecological balance and health, you must understand how that system works as a whole.
Any time you change one part of that system, you change the interaction of all the other components, because they work together. It is simply impossible to change just one minor aspect without altering the entire system…
Dr. Huber's research, which spans over 55 years, has been devoted to looking at how the agricultural system can be managed for more effective crop production, better disease control, improved nutrition, and safety. The introduction of genetically engineered crops has dramatically affected and changed all agricultural components:
- The plants
- The physical environment
- The dynamics of the biological environment, and
- Pests and diseases (plant-, animal-, and human diseases)
In this interview, Dr. Huber reveals a number of shocking facts that need to become common knowledge in order to stop this catastrophic alteration and destruction of our environment, our food supply, and ultimately, our own biology. I urge you to listen to the interview in its entirety, or read through the transcript to understand fully appreciate the importance of this development.
Herbicides and Pesticides Immobilize Specific Nutrients
One of the major modifications done to genetically engineered food crops is the introduction of herbicide resistance. Monsanto is the leader in this field, with their patented Roundup Ready corn, cotton, soybean and sugar beets, which can survive otherwise lethal doses of glyphosate—the active ingredient in Roundup.
The working premise is that by making the plants resistant to the herbicide, farmers can increase yield by cutting down on weed growth. This premise has been found to be severely flawed however, as farmers around the world are now losing acreage to glyphosate-resistant super-weeds at an alarming rate. According to the British Institute of Science in Society, the US has fared the worst, now combating 13 different glyphosate-resistant weed species in 73 different locations.
But the introduction of glyphosate-resistance has also had a direct impact on soil microbes.
While the link between an herbicide (which is directed toward plants) and soil microbes may not be immediately apparent, this ripple effect occurs because, again, it's an inter-related system. In a nutshell, herbicides are chelators that form a barrier around specific nutrients, preventing whatever life form is seeking to utilize that element from utilizing it properly. That applies both to plants and soil microbes—as well as animals and humans.
This may actually be one of the primary reasons why genetically engineered foods appear to be able to cause such profound health problems in those who consume them. Any organism that has the same physiological pathways for these nutrients will be impacted in the same manner.
Dr. Huber explains:
"You have to realize what an herbicide, or a pesticide, is. They are metal chelators. In other words, they immobilize specific nutrients… [I]t's a compound that can grab onto another element and change either its solubility or its availability for the critical function it has physiologically. We have herbicides and pesticides that are quite specific just for a particular essential micronutrient like copper, zinc, iron, or manganese.
Glyphosate is very unique and was first patented as a chelator by Stauffer Chemical Co. in 1964, because it could bind with any positively charged ion. If you look at the essential minerals for plants, you see calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, manganese, zinc, and all of those other critical transition elements, as well as structural components for some of them… They all have an ion associated with them. It's the micronutrient that is an ion—that is a transition element, or that element that is really critical for a particular enzyme function.
If you can chelate and, in that chelation process, essentially immobilize that essential nutrient, you have provided an opportunity to either kill a weed or damage and kill an organism—any organism… that have that particular requirement for that physiologic pathway with glyphosate or the shikimate pathway…
You have to realize that this mode of action immobilizes a critical essential nutrient. Those nutrients aren't just required by the weed, but they're required by microorganisms. They're required by us for our own physiologic functions. So if it's immobilized, it may be present if we do a regular test. But it's not necessarily physiologically available in the same efficiency that it would have been if it wasn't chelated with glyphosate…"
The Dangers of Glyphosate that Most People Have NO Idea Of
Glyphosate, even in plants genetically engineered to withstand it, affects about 25 different enzymes in the process of chelating, or immobilizing, critical micronutrients, because those ions (the micronutrients) are required in order to "drive" the physiological engines that make the plant or organism function properly.
"It is well documented that… having that foreign gene inserted reduces the capability of that plant to take up nutrients and to translocate nutrients," Dr. Huber says. "Then, when you apply the chemical [glyphosate], you have a further compounding effect in reducing the efficiency of the plants at rates as low as 12 grams per acre."
According to Dr. Huber, 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!
Many staunch defenders of genetically engineered foods are under the misconception that GE foods are "better" or have improved nutrition when the exact opposite is true. They also don't understand that the glyphosate residue cannot be removed or washed off—it actually becomes part of the plant. It cannot be washed off because it's systemic within the plant itself.
"It's going to be in your root tips, your shoot tips, your legume nodules, and in the food that you eat," Dr. Huber warns.
Furthermore, about 20 percent of the glyphosate migrates out of the plant's roots and into the surrounding soil. Once in the soil, the glyphosate affects beneficial soil microorganisms in the same way that it affects weeds, because they have the same critical metabolic pathway. With each new Roundup Ready crop approved, the glyphosate residues in the soil increases, and the tolerance levels in the crop increases as well.
This is explosive information that should make warning bells go off in most people's heads! Personally, I firmly believe we must all become activists to eliminate this threat to our food supply as soon as possible.
Food Quality is Related to Soil Quality
The quality of the food is almost always related to the quality of the soil. The most foundational and critical components of the soil are the microorganisms that thrive there—more so than the necessary nutrients, because it's the microorganisms that allow the plants to utilize those nutrients.
According to Dr. Huber:
"The plant can only utilize certain [reduced] forms of all the nutrients… The way that it becomes reduced in the soil is through those beneficial microorganisms. We also have microorganisms for legumes like soybeans, alfalfa, peas, or any of the other legumes that can fix up to 75 percent of their actual nitrogen for protein in amino acid synthesis that actually comes from the air through the microorganisms in the soil.
Glyphosate is extremely toxic to all of those organisms.
What we see with our continued use and abuse of this powerful weed killer is that it is also totally eliminating many of those organisms from the soil. We no longer have the same balance that we used to have. Consequently, we see an increase of over 40 new plant diseases, and diseases we used to have under fairly effective control, which now all of a sudden is another serious problem."
GE Foods Fueling Deadly Botulism in Cattle
The normal biological control organisms—the beneficial gut bacteria—in animals and humans are also very sensitive to residual glyphosate levels.
For example, toxic botulism is now becoming a more common cause of death in dairy cows whereas such deaths used to be extremely rare. The reason it didn't occur before was because beneficial organisms served as natural controls to keep the Clostridium botulinum in check. Without them, the Clostridium botulinum is allowed to proliferate in the animal's intestines and produce lethal amounts of toxins.
"Again, the agricultural system, as well as our own ecology, is really a balance," Dr. Huber says. "It's a system, not just a bunch of silver bullets that are stacked in a chamber of a revolver. It's how that ecological system is modified and changed that brings us a new level of diseases and problems with sustainability of our agriculture, our own health, and well-being."
MOST Major US Food Crops are Now Genetically Engineered!
Many still don't realize just how much of our food supply has been genetically engineered (GE). As of this year, 93 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically engineered, as are:
- 86 percent of all corn
- 93 percent of canola
- 93 percent of cottonseed oil
Between 2008 and 2009, a full 95 percent of all sugarbeets planted were also Roundup Ready.
This means that virtually every processed food you encounter at your local supermarket that does not bear the "100% USDA Organic" label is likely to contain at least one GE component! Earlier this year, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) also deregulated genetically engineered alfalfa, which is a perennial crop commonly used in cattle feed.
According to Dr. Huber:
"Alfalfa is our fourth most important economic crop, by far the most nutritional feed for our herbivores. They, all of a sudden, can definitely be threatened—not only because of the direct effect of glyphosate on microorganisms, but also because it predisposes and can make that plant very susceptible to some common diseases…
We see this on corn… where we have the sister organism with the Goss's wilt, a bacterial disease. In that situation, we find that when we put glyphosate on, it nullifies all the genetic resistance that, in the past, made that disease of almost no consequence…Now we find it from coast to coast, East to West, from Mexico to Canada. For four years now, we have a major epidemic in a major food production area in the Midwest, just from that disease.
That is a direct result of our genetic engineering process, which reduces the genetic resistance, and the application of the herbicide that it was designed to tolerate."
Important Questions Still Unanswered…
According to Dr. Huber, there's currently enough residual glyphosate in animal feed and food to make an otherwise benign organism lethal…
Unfortunately, research is still lacking to ascertain exactly how great the risk to human health is. It's possible that those who do not consume an all-organic diet, which is the majority of Americans, to some extent or another, are destroying their gut flora with every bite of food they eat. According to Dr. Huber, the reduction in mineral content through chelation by glyphosate residues in GE plants would certainly make you far more susceptible to potentially dangerous pathogens.
Studies have already confirmed that glyphosate alters and destroys beneficial gut flora in animals, as evidenced by the increasing instances of lethal botulism in cattle.
I've written extensively about the importance of your gut flora on your health. You NEED beneficial bacteria in your gut, or health problems are virtually guaranteed. Optimizing your gut flora may be one of the single most important things you can do to maintain good physical and mental health, so the fact that GE foods may be adversely impacting your intestinal balance is of extreme importance and needs to be understood.
Another important question that does not at present have an answer is whether or not glyphosate accumulates in animal- and human tissues once consumed. We don't even know if glyphosate is fat-soluble, which would definitely make it accumulate in fat tissues.
GE Foods Brings Brand New Threat
Earlier this year, Dr. Huber wrote a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, informing him of the issues discussed above, as well as another groundbreaking new finding that could spell absolute disaster for our entire food supply. It's a brand new micro-fungal organism associated with something called Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) in soy. It's also found in a large variety of livestock given GE feed who experience both spontaneous abortions and infertility.
Dr. Huber urged the USDA to investigate the matter and suspend approval of GE alfalfa until proper studies have been completed. His warnings have so far been largely ignored, and GE alfalfa was deregulated earlier this year…
"When you look at the tremendous increase in human diseases that can have a potential tie directly back to either the chemical or the engineering process, it's critical for that research to be done as quickly as possible. We need resources to do it. The private funds, again, aren't going to do everything because there's just too much to be done."
The organism was initially identified by veterinarians around 1998—about two years after the introduction of Roundup Ready soybeans, which is one of the staple feeds. The vets were puzzled by sudden high reproductive failure in animals. While sporadic at first, the phenomenon has continued to increase in severity.
"We [recently] received a call from a county extension educator, indicating that he has a dairy that has a 70 percent abortion rate. You put that on top of 10 to 15 percent of infertility to start with, and you're not going to have a dairy very long. In fact, a lot of our veterinarians are now becoming very concerned about the prospects for being able to have replacement animals," Dr. Huber says.
The cause-effect relationship between high reproductive failure and this new microbial entity has been established, but the research has not yet been published. The reason for the delay is because they really do not know what the organism is…
"It's not a fungus. It's not bacteria. It's not a mycoplasma or a virus – it's about the same size of a small virus; you have to magnify it from 38 to 40,000 times. They have pictures of it… You can see the interactions with it. They can now culture it. It's self-replicating and cultured. It doesn't grow very well by itself.
Like most of our very fastidious organisms, it tends to die out after three or four sub-culturing, but grows very well with other organisms. If you have yeast, bacteria, or a fungus in the culture, this entity grows very well.
We're waiting on getting enough material, pure material, for DNA analysis, but also looking at some other possibilities… Until you can put a name on it, all it does is create a great deal of speculations."
What is known is that it's an entirely new entity, previously unknown to science, and it's definitely found in genetically engineered corn and soybeans. It's also been established that it causes infertility and miscarriage in cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, and poultry.
"We can anticipate with that broad spectrum of animal species, which is extremely unusual, that it will also be with humans," Dr. Huber says. "We've seen an increasing frequency of miscarriage and a dramatic increase in infertility in human populations in just the last eight to 10 years."
Why is the USDA Ignoring Such Urgent Warnings?
Dr. Huber received a response from Dr. Parham, head of the USDA-APHIS, assuring him that "all of the decisions that the USDA makes are based on peer-reviewed science." Dr. Huber responded with another letter, pointing out 130 published peer-reviewed articles documenting all of his concerns.
"I asked if they could provide me a peer-reviewed scientific study that would justify the regulation of those products," he says. "I'm still waiting for that. I haven't found anyone that can produce that type of document.
… I did receive a call from Risk Management about two weeks after writing the letter, asking if I could provide details, because there wasn't anything in the letter. The letter was written to a politician. I didn't want to disclose names of scientists or details because of the retaliatory effect that we see with anyone researching this area – they can be either fired from their job or their program shut down. That's a real fact."
The Red-Tape Nightmare of GE Safety Research
Crazy as it sounds, researchers cannot perform whatever safety studies on GE foods they see fit because the way the red tape has been put in place, they could easily be found guilty of breaking the law by performing research on a patented product.
"If you read the technology agreement that the farmer has to sign, he can't even do research on his own farm to compare whether this crop or this product is better than another one without violating the terms of that technology agreement," Dr. Huber explains. "It's essentially a closed system to guarantee success."
… A group of us that are working together on the new entity causing reproductive failure… have obtained private funding, and have taken it to experts in the areas of specific diseases and tried to encourage them to work on it. In the past year, they have been prohibited from working on it by their universities or department heads…
That's one of the reasons why we needed that contact with the USDA officials, in hopes that we could share the problems that concern them, that they would recognize the serious nature of this, and that we could obtain their support and use their resources for funding of individuals and specialists, so that we could overcome that barrier that seems to be there for anyone working on genetically engineered crops that might indicate that they're not quite everything they were cut out to be.
It's almost as though you have to belong to that religion, if you're going to do any research or publish your research."
Obviously, such as setup will produce highly biased and prejudiced results, and can easily obfuscate the truth…
GE Food and Premature Aging
Another astonishing effect of this brand new mystery organism associated with GE crops is profound premature aging. Research done in Iowa three years ago showed that prime beef from a two-year old cow had to be downgraded to that from a 10-year old cow!
So what effect will eating this GE-fed beef have on you? No one knows. But I would bet it won't make you any healthier… And if animals are any indication, it could spell disaster for your overall health and fertility.
"When the veterinarians wanted to find the source for this [brand new] entity, they went to the feed. The first place where they found high concentrations was in the soybean mill. Since then we've found it in the corn. We find it in silage. Primarily in high concentrations only where we have a genetically engineered crop that has glyphosate applied to it. Those are the crops that we also see high Goss's wilt, high SDS. They are all correlated together in that relationship.
The other place you see it, though, is where they have used the manure that has a high glyphosate residue level in it. The manure also has very high concentrations, if the chickens or the animals that have been fed these feeds with high concentrations. When that manure is applied to pastures and cattle graze on it, we also see high infertility rates there.
It occurs in the placenta, in the fetus, in the sperm and inseminators.
Stating that it takes twice as much semen now to get a conception and as many as four to eight inseminations rather than the typical 1.2 to 1.5 for a dairy because of that reduced fertility… I was on a plane with a bull breeder who commented that 40 percent of his bulls had to be pulled out of service, because they can't get conception anymore."
But that's not all. Glyphosate can also disrupt a number of other biological systems aside from your reproductive system.
" … When you have a very potent chelator, it disrupts all kinds of systems, not just the EPSPs system that we find in certain microorganisms and plants, but also all of the other systems involved in liver function, blood function, and hormonal function. They all go right back to that basic nutrient process that keeps all systems functional," Dr. Huber explains.
Glyphosate is actually a very potent endocrine disruptor that can affect your:
- Endocrine system
- Thyroid function
- Pituitary function
As Dr. Huber said
"When future historians come to write about our era they are not going to write about the tons of chemicals we did or didn't apply. When it comes to glyphosate they are going to write about our willingness to sacrifice our children and to jeopardize our very existence by risking the sustainability of our agriculture; all based upon failed promises and flawed science.
The only benefit is that it affects the bottom-line of a few companies. There's no nutritional value."
What You Can Do To Get Involved
There's no doubt in my mind that genetically engineered foods are one of the absolute gravest dangers we fact today as a species. I urge you to educate yourself on this issue and become an active participant in getting GE foods OUT of our food supply.
If you don't already have a copy of the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, please print one out and refer to it often. It can help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. You can also download the free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
Also don't let Secretary Vilsack ignore this new problem of a micro-fungal pathogen that may be responsible for killing plants, animals and possibly humans!
To quote Dr. Huber's letter to Secretary Vilsack:
"Based on a review of the data, [this dangerous new pathogen] is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn—suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup. This organism appears NEW to science! ... I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high-risk status. In layman's terms, it should be treated as an emergency."
Do your part to protect your health and the health of your family by avoiding processed foods loaded with GM components and eating whole, live foods that contain the nutrients your body needs to thrive.
Always buy USDA Organic products when possible, or buy your fresh produce and meat from local farmers, and especially avoid food products containing anything related to corn or soy that are not organic, as any foods containing these two non-organic ingredients now are virtually guaranteed to be genetically engineered.
If you live in California, volunteer to gather petition signatures to help support the California GMO Labeling Ballot Initiative. If you live outside of California, please donate to help support this Initiative.