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Herbicide effects extend beyond plants

In fact one of the most  potent promises made around genetically engineered crops was that pesticide use would decrease. This is a seductive goal since pesticides are dangerous for human beings and the environment. However, the opposite has happened.

Instead of controlling insect pests and weeds, genetically engineered crops have led to the emergence of insects and weeds resistant to the usual insecticides and herbicides …. A few weeks ago we examined the problem of increased insecticide use; this week we will examine the picture emerging around increasing herbicide use.

The purpose of inserting the gene to make a crop herbicide resistant is so that the crops can then be weeded by using that particular herbicide (in order to decrease the involvement  of human labor). The crops themselves become resistant because of the gene that was inserted into them. So even when the herbicide is killing all around it, the crop with the inserted gene will still live.

Monsanto, the company who is believed to own 90% of genetically engineered seeds, has made most of them dependent on the herbicide Roundup, which they also sell. These crops are called Roundup ready. Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the history of the planet. The name of the herbicide used in Roundup is glyphosate. Let’s look at glyphosate for a moment.

It is described as a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide. It is a non-selective herbicide that  ills grasses, broad-leafed, and woody plants. Nonselective is a warning word here; non-selective means it can kill everything around it. Just by hearing that type of  description, we can be alerted that this kind of chemical is working at a very fundamental level.

According to Iowa State University Agronomy Department, glyphosate inhibits a pathway (through the Shikimate pathway enzyme) that is responsible for many things including biosynthesis of amino acids and biosynthesis of many different plant compounds. The chemical is readily absorbed through the foliage of a plant and accumulates in areas of active growth.

Plants cannot metabolize or detoxify the chemical. Glyphosate inhibits protein synthesis. The plants stop growing and slowly degrade due to lack of proteins. The plant ultimately dies from dehydration and desiccation.

According to Dr Robert Kremer, microbiologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, who conducted a 15-year study on glyphosate’s effects on plants and root microbiology, it also removes important trace minerals, “Glyphosate is a chelator, which will bind with elements such as manganese and calcium, and those sorts of nutrients, and immobilize them… In other words, it will make them unavailable for plant uptake.”

A review of the toxilogical data on Roundup (Giesy, Solomon, Dombson, 2000) concluded that glyphosate produces functional  abnormalities in fetuses and pregnant rats. As well it interferes with testosterone production in mouse cultures, and estrogen biosynthesis in cultures of human placental cells.

There are great dangers to aquatic organisms especially amphibians. A study in 2010 (Paganell, Gnazzo, Acosta, Lpez, and Carrasco) incubated the embryos of African clawed frogs (a species often used in research) with a 1:5000 dilution of a commercial glyphosate solution. They discovered found that glyphosate caused neural defects, and craniofacilal  malformations;

in addition, the frogs also suffered diminution of body size, alterations in brain morphology, reduction of the eyes, and many neural system abnormalities.

These same horrifying basic abnormalities also occurred in experiments with chicken embryos. There is no reason to think these types of things would not happen to human embryos – that is, babies in the womb. It is ethically difficult to conduct research on such poisons directly on human beings. But in Great Britain and the United States glyphosate incidents are the highest reported of all pesticides. People experience skin irritation and gastrointestinal corrosive effects – mouth, throat.

Kidney and liver impairment are frequent. In human beings Roundup – and its most active ingredient glyphosate - leads to rashes, nausea, headaches, and also to seizures, convulsions, and death. Ingestion of 85 milliliters leads to “significant toxicity” even death in a human being. The United States and China are the leading producers of this broad-spectrum, nonspecific poison.

Imagine… putting something like that out on the market. Imagine again…engineering basic crops so that more of it will be used… It is almost beyond imagining, but there it is.

LAST week, following the inauguration of the newlyelected ...


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