Scientists reveal negative impact of Roundup Ready GM crops
Thursday, March 11, 2010 by: E. Huff, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Five studies published in the October 2009 issue of The European Journal of Agronomy reveal the negative impacts of using Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, a formula developed specifically for the company's line of genetically modified (GM) "Roundup Ready" crops. The papers, which were not released in the United States, offer a solid indictment against GM crops and the plight of using the Roundup herbicide.
Robert Kremer, a microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, co-authored one of the five papers and offered insight into their premise during an interview with The Organic & Non-GMO Report, a monthly newsletter that offers recourse in addressing the challenges of fighting GM foods.
Kremer and his colleagues began studying the effects of Roundup on soil back in 1997. They found that the herbicide was causing an increase in parasitic colonization at the roots of Roundup Ready soybeans and corn. They also observed an increase in fungal growth that leads to sudden death syndrome (SDS) in the plants.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is systemically changing the soil composition in the fields where it is used, leeching from plant roots into the ground. It is also disrupting the normal microorganism balance on plants and in soil, spurring the growth of harmful bacterial colonies that are destroying the beneficial ones.
According to Kremer, the most apparent disruption by glyphosate is observed in rhizobia, a type of bacterium that fixes nitrogen in the soil. Glyphosate's toxicity inhibits rhizobia from enriching soil with nitrogen, preventing plants from receiving this necessary element.
Despite claims to the contrary, Roundup can deeply penetrate soil and threaten groundwater supplies with contamination. Depending on a particular soil's composition, glyphosate can leech rather quickly into soil and potentially run off into nearby streams and rivers.
The Roundup system has also caused a significant increase in aggressive "super" weeds that are resistant to glyphosate. These weeds have been popping up in fields all over the country where GM Roundup Ready crops are grown, growing increasingly more virulent every year. Genetic engineers continue to develop stronger herbicides to combat them but the weeds keep getting stronger and more resistant.
Genetic modification of food crops is not only unsustainable but it threatens to unhinge the entire agricultural system. Roundup and other herbicides are altering and destroying soil nutrients, beneficial microbes, and other delicate components necessary to grow food.
While many farmers are interested in moving away from using GM crops in favor of more organic methods, it is often difficult for many of them to make the conversion.
Scientist finding many negative impacts of Roundup Ready GM crops
USDA doesn’t want to publicize studies showing negative impacts
Robert Kremer is a microbiologist with the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and an adjunct professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri.He is co-author of one of five papers published in the October 2009 issue of The European Journal of Agronomy that found negative impacts of Roundup herbicide, which is used extensively with Roundup Ready genetically modified crops. Kremer has been studying the impacts of glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, since 1997.
The Organic & Non-GMO Report interviewed Mr. Kremer about his research and the reluctance of the USDA to publicize the findings of the five papers.
Please give me an overview of your researchRK: We started in 1997 wanting to see if this new system, Roundup Ready, would change the production of nematodes in soybean. We started looking at organisms in soybean roots and saw microorganisms colonizing the roots. We suspected that glyphosate was having an impact. There was a root fungi problem that seemed to be encouraging sudden death syndrome (SDS).
We saw the increase of these fungi in the Roundup Ready (genetically modified) system, both soybeans and corn.
What types of things are you seeing in the Roundup Ready system? RK: This system is altering the whole soil biology. We are seeing differences in bacteria in plant roots and changes in nutrient availability. Glyphosate is very systemic in the plant and is being released through the roots into the soil. Many studies show that glyphosate can have toxic effects on microorganisms and can stimulate them to germinate spores and colonize root systems. Other researchers are showing that glyphosate can immobilize manganese, an essential plant micronutrient.
What are glyphosate’s impacts on beneficial soil bacteria? RK: The most obvious impact is on rhizobia, a bacterium that fixes nitrogen. It has been shown that glyphosate can be toxic to rhizobia. (Nitrogen fixing bacteria are important to soils because nitrogen is the most commonly deficient nutrient in many soils.)
What about research showing increased incidence of Fusarium in Roundup Ready GM crops?RK: We’ve taken field surveys and seen an increase in Fusarium with the use of glyphosate. Some Roundup Ready varieties even without using glyphosate tend to be more susceptible to being impacted by Fusarium. It could be an unintended consequence of genetic manipulation that could make it more susceptible.
Your paper also mentioned the potential of glyphosate to contaminate groundwater. RK: Yes, under certain circumstances. The big assumption for claims that glyphosate is benign is that it isn’t immediately absorbed by the soil. But research is showing that isn’t necessarily true; that it is still available in the soil.
If soil is full of phosphorous, glyphosate could leach into ground water. For example, farmers may use manure from confined animal feeding operations as a fertilizer. The soil will then contain high amounts of phosphorus, which overwhelms the soil. Any glyphosate that hits the soil will be a potential contaminant. It can stay in the soil or it might run off into streams or waterways.
What about glyphosate resistant weeds? RK: We have eight different species of glyphosate resistant weeds in Missouri. Some species of Johnson Grass are found in fields where Roundup is used year after year. It is a very aggressive weed.
To solve the problem of weed resistance, genetic engineers are developing soybeans that tolerate Roundup and Dicamba, another herbicide. They are incorporating another gene resistant to another herbicide. When resistance happens again, will they then develop a plant resistant to five or six herbicides? It’s an illogical circle.
With so much glyphosate being used, what types of long-term impacts do you think could occur? RK: We are already seeing glyphosate-resistant weeds. If we continue to use glyphosate in the same fields year after year, it’s a matter of time until microbial communities in the soil will shift to more detrimental species.
The use of glyphosate stimulates detrimental pathogens in the growing season but they go back down after the growing season. Eventually, they may build up in the soil and not go back down.
Are many researchers looking at the possibly negative impacts of glyphosate or Roundup Ready crops? RK: There are a handful of researchers. There is more research looking at the production of these crops.
The papers published in the European Journal of Agronomy received no publicity in the United States. Why is that? RK: I was working with USDA-ARS to publish a news release about these studies. I’ve gone all the way to the administrators, but they are reluctant to put something out. Their thinking is that if farmers are using this (Roundup Ready) technology, USDA doesn’t want negative information being released about it. This is how it is. I think the news release is still sitting on someone’s desk.
What about your future research? RK: We’re looking at some methods that could be used to overcome negative effects if we continue to use Roundup Ready crops, such as supplementation of nutrients by foliar application.
I’m more interested in sustainable agriculture. More farmers are interested in using cover cropping to maintain soil quality and other organic amendments. But it’s a steep learning curve for them.
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Milk or soy protein is the basis of most infant formulas. The secret ingredients in these products are often soy or milk from cows injected with rbGH. Many brands also add GMO-derived corn syrup, corn syrup solids, or soy lecithin.
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Last edited by cruizerfish; 03-16-2010 at 08:48 PM..
Just let us know what side the Republicans/Democrats are supposed to be on and this thread will get jumping...
It is a conspiracy between both parties with a dumb-down FDA. Protecting the food chain is not as sexy as protecting Wall Street.
con·spir·a·cy /kənˈspɪrəsi/ [kuhn-spir-uh-see]
1. the act of conspiring.
2. an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot.
3. a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose: He joined the conspiracy to overthrow the government.
4. Law. an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act.
5. any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.
Regulated or Not, Nano-Foods Coming to a Store Near You
Updated: 1 day ago
Senior Public Health Correspondent
Second in a Three-Part Series
(March 24) -- For centuries, it was the cook and the heat of the fire that cajoled taste, texture, flavor and aroma from the pot. Today, that culinary voodoo is being crafted by white-coated scientists toiling in pristine labs, rearranging atoms into chemical particles never before seen.
At last year's Institute of Food Technologists international conference, nanotechnology was the topic that generated the most buzz among the 14,000 food-scientists, chefs and manufacturers crammed into an Anaheim, Calif., hall. Though it's a word that has probably never been printed on any menu, and probably never will, there was so much interest in the potential uses of nanotechnology for food that a separate daylong session focused just on that subject was packed to overflowing.
In one corner of the convention center, a chemist, a flavorist and two food-marketing specialists clustered around a large chart of the Periodic Table of Elements (think back to high school science class). The food chemist, from China, ran her hands over the chart, pausing at different chemicals just long enough to say how a nano-ized version of each would improve existing flavors or create new ones.
One of the marketing guys questioned what would happen if the consumer found out.
The flavorist asked whether the Food and Drug Administration would even allow nanoingredients.
Posed a variation of the latter question, Dr. Jesse Goodman, the agency's chief scientist and deputy commissioner for science and public health, gave a revealing answer. He said he wasn't involved enough with how the FDA was handling nanomaterials in food to discuss that issue. And the agency wouldn't provide anyone else to talk about it.
This despite the fact that hundreds of peer-reviewed studies have shown that nanoparticles pose potential risks to human health [aolnews.com]-- and, more specifically, that when ingested can cause DNA damage that can prefigure cancer and heart and brain disease.
Despite Denials, Nano-Food Is Here
Officially, the FDA says there aren't any nano-containing food products currently sold in the U.S.
Not true, say some of the agency's own safety experts, pointing to scientific studies published in food science journals, reports from foreign safety agencies and discussions in gatherings like the Institute of Food Technologists conference.
In fact, the arrival of nanomaterial onto the food scene is already causing some big-chain safety managers to demand greater scrutiny of what they're being offered, especially with imported food and beverages. At a conference in Seattle last year hosted by leading food safety attorney Bill Marler[marlerblog.com], presenters raised the issue of how hard it is for large supermarket companies to know precisely what they are purchasing, especially with nanomaterials, because of the volume and variety they deal in
According to a USDA scientist, some Latin American packers spray U.S.-bound produce with a wax-like nanocoating to extend shelf-life. "We found no indication that the nanocoating ... has ever been tested for health effects," the researcher says
Craig Wilson, assistant vice president for safety for Costco, says his chain does not test for nanomaterial in the food products it is offered by manufacturers. But, he adds, Costco is looking "far more carefully at everything we buy. ... We have to rely on the accuracy of the labels and the integrity of our vendors. Our buyers know that if they find nanomaterial or anything else they might consider unsafe, the vendors either remove it, or we don't buy it."
Another government scientist says nanoparticles can be found today in produce sections in some large grocery chains and vegetable wholesalers. This scientist, a researcher with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, was part of a group that examined Central and South American farms and packers that ship fruits and vegetables into the U.S. and Canada. According to the USDA researcher -- who asked that his name not be used because he's not authorized to speak for the agency -- apples, pears, peppers, cucumbers and other fruit and vegetables are being coated with a thin, wax-like nanocoating to extend shelf-life. The edible nanomaterial skin will also protect the color and flavor of the fruit longer.
"We found no indication that the nanocoating, which is manufactured in Asia, has ever been tested for health effects," said the researcher.
A science committee of the British House of Lords has found that nanomaterials are already appearing in numerous products, among them salad dressings and sauces. Jaydee Hanson, policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety, says that they're also being added to ice cream to make it "look richer and better textured."
Some foreign governments, apparently more worried about the influx of nano-related products to their grocery shelves, are gathering their own research. In January, a science committee of the British House of Lords issued a lengthy study on nanotechnology and food. Scores of scientific groups and consumer activists and even several international food manufactures told the committee investigators that engineered particles were already being sold in salad dressings; sauces; diet beverages; and boxed cake, muffin and pancakes mixes, to which they're added to ensure easy pouring.
Other researchers responding to the committee's request for information talked about hundreds more items that could be in stores by year's end.
For example, a team in Munich has used nano-nonstick coatings to end the worldwide frustration of having to endlessly shake an upturned mustard or ketchup bottle to get at the last bit clinging to the bottom. Another person told the investigators that Nestlé and Unilever have about completed developing a nano-emulsion-based ice cream that has a lower fat content but retains its texture and flavor.
The Ultimate Secret Ingredient
Nearly 20 of the world's largest food manufacturers -- among them Nestlé, as well as Hershey, Cargill, Campbell Soup, Sara Lee, and H.J. Heinz -- have their own in-house nano-labs, or have contracted with major universities to do nano-related food product development. But they are not eager to broadcast those efforts.
A team in Munich, the House of Lords investigators also learned, is using nano-nonstick coatings to make it easier to get the last drops of ketchup out of the bottle.
Regulated or Not, Nano-Foods Coming to a Store Near You
Kraft was the first major food company to hoist the banner of nanotechnology. Spokesman Richard Buino, however, now says that while "we have sponsored nanotech research at various universities and research institutions in the past," Kraft has no labs focusing on it today.
The stance is in stark contrast to the one Kraft struck in late 2000, when it loudly and repeatedly proclaimed that it had formed the Nanotek Consortium with engineers, molecular chemists and physicists from 15 universities in the U.S. and abroad. The mission of the team was to show how nanotechnology would completely revolutionize the food manufacturing industry, or so said its then-director, Kraft research chemist Manuel Marquez.
But by the end of 2004, the much-touted operation seemed to vanish. All mentions of Nanotek Consortium disappeared from Kraft's news releases and corporate reports.
"We have not nor are we currently using nanotechnology in our products or packaging," Buino added in another e-mail.
Industry Tactics Thwart Risk Awareness
The British government investigation into nanofood strongly criticized the U.K.'s food industry for "failing to be transparent about its research into the uses of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials." On this side of the Atlantic, corporate secrecy isn't a problem, as some FDA officials tell it.
Investigators on Capitol Hill say the FDA's congressional liaisons have repeatedly assured them -- from George W. Bush's administration through President Barack Obama's first year -- that the big U.S. food companies have been upfront and open about their plans and progress in using nanomaterial in food.
But FDA and USDA food safety specialists interviewed over the past three months stressed that based on past performance, industry cannot be relied on to voluntarily advance safety efforts.
These government scientists, who are actively attempting to evaluate the risk of introducing nanotechnology to food, say that only a handful of corporations are candid about what they're doing and collaborating with the FDA and USDA to help develop regulations that will both protect the public and permit their products to reach market. Most companies, the government scientists add, submit little or no information unless forced. Even then, much of the information crucial to evaluating hazards -- such as the chemicals used and results of company health studies -- is withheld, with corporate lawyers claiming it constitutes confidential business information.
Both regulators and some industry consultants say the evasiveness from food manufacturers could blow up in their faces[aolnews.com]. As precedent, they point to what happened in the mid-'90s with genetically modified food, the last major scientific innovation that was, in many cases, force-fed to consumers. "There was a lack of transparency on what companies were doing. So promoting genetically modified foods was perceived by some of the public as being just profit-driven," says Professor Rickey Yada of the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
"In retrospect, food manufacturers should have highlighted the benefits that the technology could bring as well as discussing the potential concerns."
Eating Nanomaterials Could Increase Underlying Risks
The House of Lords' study identified "severe shortfalls" in research into the dangers of nanotechnology in food. Its authors called for funding studies that address the behavior of nanomaterials within the digestive system. Similar recommendations are being made in the U.S., where the majority of research on nanomaterial focuses on it entering the body via inhalation and absorption.
The food industry is very competitive, with thin profit margins. And safety evaluations are very expensive, notes Bernadene Magnuson, senior scientific and regulatory consultant with risk-assessment firm Cantox Health Sciences International. "You need to be pretty sure you've got something that's likely to benefit you and your product in some way before you're going to start launching into safety evaluations," she explains. Magnuson believes that additional studies must be done on chronic exposure to and ingestion of nanomaterials.
One of the few ingestion studies recently completed was a two-year-long examination of nano-titanium dioxide at UCLA, which showed that the compound caused DNA and chromosome damage after lab animals drank large quantities of the particles in their water.
Sono-Tek, a company based in Milton, N.Y., employs nanotechnology in its industrial sprayers. "One new application for us is spraying nanomaterial suspensions onto biodegradable plastic food wrapping materials to preserve the freshness of food products," says its chairman and CEO.
It is widely known that nano-titanium dioxide is used as filler in hundreds of medicines and cosmetics and as a blocking agent in sunscreens. But Jaydee Hanson, policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety, worries that the danger is greater "when the nano-titanium dioxide is used in food."
Ice cream companies, Hanson says, are using nanomaterials to make their products "look richer and better textured." Bread makers are spraying nanomaterials on their loaves "to make them shinier and help them keep microbe-free longer."
While AOL News was unable to identify a company pursuing the latter practice, it did find Sono-Tek[sono-tek.com] of Milton, N.Y., which uses nanotechnology in its industrial sprayers. "One new application for us is spraying nanomaterial suspensions onto biodegradable plastic food wrapping materials to preserve the freshness of food products," says Christopher Coccio, chairman and CEO. He said the development of this nano-wrap was partially funded by New York State's Energy Research and Development Authority.
"This is happening," Hanson says. He calls on the FDA to "immediately seek a ban on any products that contain these nanoparticles, especially those in products that are likely to be ingested by children."
"The UCLA study means we need to research the health effects of these products before people get sick, not after," Hanson says.
There is nothing to mandate that such safety research take place.
The FDA's Blind Spot
The FDA includes titanium dioxide among the food additives it classifies under the designation "generally recognized as safe," or GRAS. New additives with that label can bypass extensive and costly health testing that is otherwise required of items bound for grocery shelves.
A report issued last month by the Government Accountability Office denounced the enormous loophole[aolnews.com] that the FDA has permitted through the GRAS classification. And the GAO investigators also echoed the concerns of consumer and food safety activists who argue that giving nanomaterials the GRAS free pass is perilous.
Food safety agencies in Canada and the European Union require all ingredients that incorporate engineered nanomaterials to be submitted to regulators before they can be put on the market, the GAO noted. No so with the FDA.
"Because GRAS notification is voluntary and companies are not required to identify nanomaterials in their GRAS substances, FDA has no way of knowing the full extent to which engineered nanomaterials have entered the U.S. food supply," the GAO told Congress.
Amid that uncertainty, calls for safety analysis are growing.
"Testing must always be done," says food regulatory consultant George Burdock, a toxicologist and the head of the Burdock Group[burdockgroup.com]. "Because if it's nanosized, its chemical properties will most assuredly be different and so might the biological impact."
Will Consumers Swallow What Science Serves Up Next?
Interviews with more than a dozen food scientists revealed strikingly similar predictions on how the food industry will employ nanoscale technology. They say firms are creating nanostructures to enhance flavor, shelf life and appearance. They even foresee using encapsulated or engineered nanoscale particles to create foods from scratch.
Experts agreed that the first widespread use of nanotechnology to hit the U.S. food market would be nanoscale packing materials and nanosensors for food safety, bacteria detection and traceability.
While acknowledging that many more nano-related food products are on the way, Magnuson, the industry risk consultant, says the greatest degree of research right now is directed at food safety and quality. "Using nanotechnology to improve the sensitivity and speed of detection of food-borne pathogens in the food itself or in the supply chain or in the processing equipment could be lifesaving," she says.
For example, researchers at Clemson University, according to USDA, have used nanoparticles to identify campylobacter, a sometimes-lethal food-borne pathogen, in poultry intestinal tracts prior to processing.
At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, food scientist Julian McClements and his colleagues have developed time-release nanolaminated coatings to add bioactive components to food to enhance delivery of ingredients to help prevent diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease and hypertension.
But if the medical benefits of such an application are something to cheer, the prospect of eating them in the first place isn't viewed as enthusiastically.
Advertising and marketing consultants for food and beverage makers are still apprehensive about a study done two years ago by the German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment, which commissioned pollsters to measure public acceptance of nanomaterials in food. The study showed that only 20 percent of respondents would buy nanotechnology-enhanced food products.
Science is much more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking. This is central to its success. Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they donâ€™t conform to our preconceptions.
~ Carl Sagan
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