By Dr. Mercola
Genetic selection to improve crops began when people invented farming, but most of this inheritance cannot be patented, and is therefore useless as a source of profit. Using genetic engineering (GE) to modify crops is radically different than time tested traditional hybridization techniques and offers inviolate proprietary control.
One of the two traits that accounts for practically all of the genetically modified (GM) crops grown in the world today gives plants resistance to glyphosate (a chemical used in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, among others).
Dr. Don Huber, a plant pathologist of 50 years standing has determined that extensive use of these toxic herbicides has caused a novel organism to appear.
Last year he wrote a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, in which he explained that this new infectious agent had been discovered -- one that is "widespread, very serious, and in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn." He made an appeal for funds to continue the research, and asked that the approval of genetically engineered alfalfa be delayed until more research could be completed.
His appeal fell on deaf ears and GE alfalfa was subsequently approved, despite vigorous opposition by the organic community.
After Dr. Huber's letter was leaked, Acres Magazine interviewed him about the contents of his letter and the dangers of glyphosate1. It's the best interview I have seen on this topic and I strongly recommend reading in its entirety.
It highlights the connection between genetically engineered foods and glyphosate, which blocks nutrient access rather than killing the plant more directly like the pesticides of the past. Genetically engineered crops drive the sale and use of glyphosate, and glyphosate is now wreaking absolute havoc on our environment, and, possibly, on us...
You Can Make a MAJOR Difference In Making Choice Possible and Labeling GMOs.
Before I continue, I want to bring your attention to an issue of great importance, and that is the California ballot initiative to mandate labeling of genetically engineered foods. We only have a few short months left to shift the tide of genetically engineered foods and out-of-control glyphosate use in the US, and we need your help.
This concerns all Americans, not just Californians, because a win for the California Initiative would most likely have the same impact as a national law, due to the size of their market. The initiative has already collected the 800,000 signatures needed to get the Act on this year's ballot.
Now it's time to campaign, and the Initiative needs both volunteers and funds to stand a chance against the deep pockets of the biotech industry that does NOT want a labeling requirement for their wares.
I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can:
- If you live in California and want to get involved, please contact LabelGMOs.org. Pamm Larry will go through all volunteer requests to put you into a position that is suitable for you, based on your stated interests and location.
- No matter where you live, please help spread the word in your personal networks, on Facebook, and Twitter. For help with the messaging, please see LabelGMOs.org's "Spread the Word!" page.
- Whether you live in California or not, please donate money to this historic effort, either through the LabelGMOs.org, or the Organic Consumers Fund.
How Does Glyphosate Work?
According to Dr. Huber, glyphosate differs from other herbicides in a number of ways. While most herbicides act as mineral chelators, meaning they immobilize certain nutrients, thereby killing the plant, glyphosate differs from other chelators in that it chelates several different mineral nutrients required for proper plant health. This is what is meant by it being "non-specific, broad-based" herbicide. It can limit uptake of a variety of nutrients by as much as 70 percent. As a result, the nutritional content of genetically engineered (GE) plants is also profoundly compromised.
Another difference is that it does not affect the primary mechanism that causes death; rather it just turns off the plant's self-defense mechanism, allowing soil-borne fungi to kill the weed. While soil-borne fungi are always present, the destruction of the plant's "immune system" allows the fungi to kill it in mere days.
"When they use the glyphosate-tolerant technology, they insert another gene that keeps that plant's defense mechanism going somewhat so you can put the glyphosate directly on the crop plant without having it killed.
But the technology doesn't do anything to the glyphosate, which is still tying up mineral nutrients," Dr. Huber explains in the featured article2."Anytime you put the gene in, you reduce the nutrient efficiency of the plant, though not to the point that it destroys the ability of the plant to survive. [But] it does leave it physiologically impaired... It's not quite analogous, but you could say that what you're doing with glyphosate is you're giving the plant a bad case of AIDS. You've shut down the immune system, or the defense system."
Glyphosate is Also a Potent Biocide that Alters Soil Conditions
Another factor that sets glyphosate apart is its biocide activity. It stimulates some soil organisms while being quite toxic to others. Overall, its presence disturbs the natural balance of soil microbe and alters the soil biology, creating "super-pathogens" that can be very harmful. This also translates to greater danger for animals and humans who consume affected crops. 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.
According to Dr. Huber, there's currently enough residual glyphosate in animal feed and food to make an otherwise benign organism lethal… and it may already be rearing its ugly head.
The new-to-science organism Dr. Huber warned Secretary Vilsack about is primarily found in genetically engineered corn and soybeans, and it's been clearly established that it causes not only sudden death in plants, but also infertility and miscarriage in cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, and poultry. Could it be affecting humans as well? After all, we have seen an increase in infertility in the past 10 years, since genetically engineered foods were first introduced.
Dr. Huber believes this harmful organism is the result of a change in plant and soil conditions that has granted a pre-existing pathogen the ability to cause harm in ways it was never before capable of. According to Huber:
"Any time you have a single gene in so many different crops, especially a gene that impacts the normal resistance and defense mechanism in the plant, and you spread that same vulnerability across so many plants, you should anticipate a high level of vulnerability. I think that's what we're seeing."
Statistics Indicate Increased Plant Stress...
While some critics refuse to accept that sudden plant death and animal miscarriages are occurring, Dr. Huber points out that the statistics should speak for themselves. In the featured article he states:
"It isn't a universal phenomenon, just as most disease outbreaks can be limited. I think the criticism goes against the statistics though. If you look at the USDA's anticipated yield on corn that they put out in August, and then subtract the actual yields reported in January, you come up with almost a billion bushels less, even though we had near ideal conditions for harvest. Where did those billion bushels go? All you have to do to document that there was a short crop last year is look at the price.
We're no longer talking about $3 per bushel of corn; we're talking about $6 per bushel. That's not from increased ethanol use, that's from a major shortage in the crop produced. How do you get soybeans from $5 to $12? You have a short crop, because you have an inelastic supply/demand relationship in agriculture."
Why Genetically Engineering Perennial Alfalfa May Be a Disaster
As mentioned earlier, genetically engineered alfalfa was approved late last year. There's reason to believe that this decision could be particularly devastating not just for the environment in general, but for organic farming in particular, including organic animal products as dried alfalfa is a common addition to the feed during winter months. In the featured article, Dr. Huber explains why allowing for the genetic alteration of alfalfa might be so devastating:
"A perennial crop like alfalfa can be very susceptible to a closely related common soilborne bacterium to Goss' wilt. If the technology nullifies resistance to this bacterial disease like it can for corn, and it is compatible with the new organism, then you have a situation where you can compromise the crop totally because you don't have any way to get it out.
With an annual crop like corn or soybean... it [is] a matter of just going back to our old genetics and eliminating those with the gene from the breeding program. [But] once you have it implanted in the plant though, there's no way to get it out. With a perennial, insect-pollinated plant, I don't know of any way to eliminate it once it's distributed throughout an area..."
Genetic engineering of plants—the act of altering plant traits by inserting foreign genes—makes it very difficult to revert back to the way things were... It's a lot easier to put DNA in than it is to get it back out once it's growing in our fields. Furthermore, each genetic alteration stresses the plant. This is referred to as the "yield-drag aspect." Dr. Huber believes there may be ways to genetically improve crops, but inserting genetic material in multiple species of plants to impart the same resistance (in this case, resistance to glyphosate, or so-called Roundup Ready crops), significantly increases the vulnerability of the plants.
Are Genetically Engineered Foods Safe for Human Consumption?
Independent research has repeatedly found significant problems with both genetically engineered foods. Dr. Huber gives another telling example in the featured interview3, in which he states:
"The Indian Supreme Court recently actually insisted on an outside laboratory to do the toxicology analysis for Bt eggplant. The independent laboratory—I believe the one they selected was in New Zealand—stated essentially that the data presented for deregulation of that crop didn't meet international standards for toxicological studies, and that their independent toxicological research found that it wasn't safe for human consumption."
Bt crops are genetically engineered not to withstand glyphosate, like the Roundup Ready crops are, but rather they're designed to create their own internal pesticide—Bt toxin—which ruptures the bellies of the bugs that eat it... Bt toxin has now been detected in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn babies, indicating that this genetic feature is transferred into the system of those who eat such crops.
As if that's not enough, research data also shows that even low levels of glyphosate are very toxic to liver, kidney, and testicular cells, and to your endocrine system. Still, despite mounting evidence, agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refuses to act to protect the health of Americans by revealing which foods contain genetically engineered ingredients.
FDA Eliminates 1 Million Signatures for GMO Labeling on 'Technical' Reasons
Mandatory labeling may be the only way to stop the proliferation of genetically engineered foods in the U.S., but simple petitions will likely fail. We strongly support state initiatives, such as California's ballot initiative to get mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods sold in their state. A recent story highlights why state initiatives in particular are so vitally important.
It's a brazen example of how the FDA completely ignores the people it's supposed to listen to and protect... The agency actually decided to eliminate and disregard over a million U.S. citizens' signatures and comments collected by the Just Label It campaign4. Organizers of the campaign said they gathered more than one million signatures of people who want to know what's in the foods they're eating. But the whole effort ended up being for naught as the FDA declared that signatures on form letters don't count.
According to the Chicago Tribune5:
"The agency says that if 35,000 people, for instance, sign their name to the same form letter it only counts as one person or "comment." And if tens of thousands sign a petition, they are only counted as one "comment," too."
Therefore, under the FDA counting method, the one million signatures whittled down to a measly 394 people asking for labeling... The FDA says it's still considering the issue, and that they would let the Just Label It group know if, and when, they make a decision on whether they would mandate labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Proof Positive that GMO Labeling WILL Change the Food Industry
Many don't fully appreciate the strategy of seeking to have genetically engineered foods labeled in California. The belief is that large companies would refuse to have dual labeling; one for California and another for the rest of the country. It would be very expensive and a logistical nightmare. So rather than have two labels, they would simply not carry the product, especially if the new label would be the equivalent of a skull and crossbones. This is why we are so committed to this initiative as victory here will likely eliminate genetically engineered foods in the US.
Powerful confirmation of this belief occurred in early 2012 when both Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo Inc. chose to alter one of their soda ingredients as a result of California's labeling requirements for carcinogens6:
"Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. are changing the way they make the caramel coloring used in their sodas as a result of a California law that mandates drinks containing a certain level of carcinogens bear a cancer warning label. The companies said the changes will be expanded nationally to streamline their manufacturing processes. They've already been made for drinks sold in California."
This is a PERFECT example of the national impact a California labeling mandate can, and no doubt WILL, have. While California is the only state requiring the label to state that the product contains the offending ingredient, these companies are switching their formula for the entire US market, rather than have two different labels. According to USA Today:
"A representative for Coca-Cola, Diana Garza Ciarlante, said the company directed its caramel suppliers to modify their manufacturing processes to reduce the levels of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, which can be formed during the cooking process and as a result may be found in trace amounts in many foods. "While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning," Garza-Giarlante said in an email."
Learn More about Genetically Engineered Foods
Due to lack of labeling, many Americans are still unfamiliar with what genetically engineered foods are. We have a plan to change that, and I urge you to participate and to continue learning more about genetically engineered foods and helping your friends and family do the same.
To start, please print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. You can also download a free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
Your BEST strategy, however, is to simply buy USDA 100% Organic products whenever possible, (as these do not permit genetically engineered ingredients) or buy whole fresh produce and meat from local farmers. The majority of the genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) you're exposed to are via processed foods, so by cooking from scratch with whole foods, you can be sure you're not inadvertently consuming something laced with altered ingredients. When you do purchase processed food, avoid products containing anything related to corn or soy that are not 100 percent organic, as any foods containing these two non-organic ingredients are virtually guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, as well as toxic herbicide residues.
To learn more about genetically engineered foods, I highly recommend the following films and lectures: