Scientist raises concerns about GM crops and glyphosate

Cause of diseases?


Future historians may well look back and write about our time …. about how willing we are to sacrifice our children and jeopardize future generations with this massive experiment that is based on false promises and flawed science just to benefit the “bottom line of a commercial enterprise,” said Don Huber, referring to the North American “experiment” with glyphosate and genetically modified crops.

He was speaking at November’s Organic Connections conference in Regina.

He is an emeritus professor in plant pathology at Purdue University, a retired colonel who worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to reduce the impact of plant disease outbreaks in the United States and a member of the emerging diseases and pathogens committee of the American Phytopathological Society.

He has the usual markers of academic success: journal articles, books, awards and honours. In other words, he is a real scientist with the ability to read the scientific literature and weigh its impact, especially in the area of his expertise: plant diseases.

Huber began his presentation by describing glyphosate as a chelator, something that binds with a number of nutrients such as manganese, zinc, copper, and iron. Once a nutrient is chelated, it is unavailable to the plant, or for that matter, to most soil microbes.

He said it is through a change in the soil ecology, and by disabling the plant’s ability to resist disease, that the glyphosate has its effect.

“In agriculture, we’re farming an ecology,” he explained.

Glyphosate changes the soil ecology, killing many bacteria, and giving other bacteria a competitive advantage. It also makes plants highly susceptible to soil borne diseases. With increasing use of glyphosate, Huber said a number of plant pathogens are “emerging” or “re-emerging,” in-cluding a number of fusarium and root rot diseases.

At the same time that diseases are increasing, glyphosate has a negative effect on a number of beneficial soil organisms, including those that fix nitrogen, mycorrhizae, plant growth promoting organisms and earthworms.

Huber’s allegations of the impact of glyphosate in soil sterility echo those of Elaine Ingham, a soil ecologist with the Rodale Institute.

In insect and microbial communities, ecologists generally suggest that epidemics can be avoided by a balanced ecology. Beneficial organisms tend to overwhelm pathogenic organisms in a healthy system. This is why some suggest it is useful to eat yogurt after a round of antibiotics, and that antibiotic body products are probably not a good idea.

Local evidence is supportive of this idea. Myriam Fernandez, a plant disease specialist with Agriculture Canada, found that fusarium in organic systems tended to be dominated by saprophytic species (not disease causing) whereas pathogenic fusarium (causing disease) were more abundant in other systems where GM crops and glyphosate were commonly used.

“There is nothing substantially equivalent to gene insertion in nature,” Huber said.

He said he worries about the possibility of epigenetic effects that disrupt the normal control systems of the genes in the plant.

He said the GM crops had lower water use efficiency and less tolerance to lodging, tend to be nutrient deficient, have increased bud and fruit abortion and be predisposed to infectious diseases and insect damage. These he characterized as epigenetic effects.

Huber feels the application of phosphorus fertilizers could release the glyphosate in the soil so that it becomes active once again, damaging crop yields.

If all these problems are in fact linked to glyphosate and Roundup Ready crops, why are we not hearing of widespread crop failure? Introduction of GM crops into India is said by some to have delivered these effects.

Perhaps in North America these effects are overwhelmed by increased fungicide and insecticide use?

In many places on the Prairies, it would be hard to separate that from the effect of too much rain at the wrong time. As in any ecological disturbance, many factors are bound to be involved.

Huber suggested that Roundup Ready crops, treated with glyphosate, had higher levels of mycotoxins and lower nutrient levels than conventional crops. When consumed, the GM crops were more likely to cause disease, infertility, birth defects, cancer and allergic reactions than conventional crops.

Huber claimed that consumption of food or feed that was genetically modified could bring the altered genes in contact with the microbes in the guts of the livestock or people who ate them.

He felt this increased diseases such as celiac disease, allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, gluten intolerance, irritable bowel disease, miscarriage, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome.

Much of the data Huber showed here seemed correlational: the diseases and the use of glyphosate increased in a similar pattern over time.

This isn’t proof that the diseases are caused by the glyphosate, but it suggests a pattern to be investigated.

He feels safety evaluations have been inadequate, suggesting that research was “substandard and extremely misleading interpretation of results” or worse.

Because of difficulties for independent researchers to examine the licensing agreements for GM products, third party opinions are hard to come by.

The allegations that Huber has compiled are incredibly damning of GM products and the inherent increase in glyphosate that goes with the Roundup Ready products. Those people who have confidence in the wisdom of our governing and regulating bodies will find these stories hard to believe. Some will suggest that science has shown these technologies to be safe. That would be misinterpreting the science.

Unfortunately, science cannot prove a technology is safe. It can only fail to observe a problem under the conditions of the test. Perhaps scientists fail to observe a problem because none exists.

If even a small part of what he suggests is true, we would be well advised to reconsider the policy of treating GMOs as “substantially equivalent” to non-GM products and instead, investigate the technology further.

In the meantime, some of us may wish to avoid products using this technology. Some may claim this is fear mongering. If this is, in the end, a subject upon which we must agree to disagree, labelling of GM products would at least give us the ability to disagree in a meaningful way.

Brenda Frick, Ph.D., P.Ag. is an extension agrologist and researcher in organic agriculture. She welcomes your comments at 306-260-0663 or email organic@usask.ca.

  • Valentine Dyall

    “If even a small part of what he suggests is true…..” wrote Brenda Frick. But suppose, as seems likely on the basis of evidence, not hearsay, that NONE of it is true. What then? A bit of scaremongering, perhaps, by the “Western Producer”? In whose interest, do you suppose?

    • Becca

      I heard Dr. Don Huber, an expert in soil pathology, speak via various videos in Dr. Mercola’s emails and on youtube. He has a long history of being sought after and being truthful in what he’s uncovered.

      Why would this honorable scientist spew disinformation? He has nothing to gain by not telling the truth. If the government takes action, we all have our health and quality of life to gain.

      Now, I can understand the reason Big Brother (Monsanto) does not tell the truth. They have a history of disinformation even before the company reorganized and became a biotech-pesticide company from previously being a deceitful chemical company. Disinformation is what Monsanto does best.

    • Marshall Hinsley

      If the evidence were only correlative, then the naysayers in this comment thread would have some ground to support their contention. But the evidence is more than correlative because it looks at the mechanism of how glyphosate works and then poses a connection to how that mechanism may cause reactions in crops and in the human body. In other words, if we know that a bullet tears into flesh, and we find a dead body with a round wound in it and a handgun nearby, we can correlate that the person dies of a bullet wound.

  • Lyricalpursuit

    In response to Valentine’s comment- “…as seems likely on the basis of evidence…” I would say that when you mess with mother nature by spraying pesticides, herbicides, chemicals, growth hormones in/on our soil/plants/animals, there will be negative consequenses. When looking for evidence, you might start with the increase in cancers and autism.

  • Bill

    I could draw parallels and create supposed trends with any information I get my hands on. Home ownership has went up just like cancer cases or autism cases, does that mean that’s the cause of autism? Likely not! You can’t just draw parallels without SCIENTIFIC evidence that is accepted by the majority of scientists. The fight against GMOs isn’t based on facts, but rather on emotions of what a farm should be, how it was in the past. Agriculture is allowed to use technology to advance as well, so why are we inhibiting it?

    • Susan

      The Congress and the White House is not inhibiting technology for agriculture. Lobbyists make a lot of money for their industries by poisoning us so they can profit.

      The only healthy way of growing food is without using agrichemicals including chemical fertilizers. That is, if you want to reduce the neurological and carcinogenic poisons in your body and that of your family’s.

      GMOs enable the pesticide corporation to sell more of their highly toxic agri- chemical, that’s why they were created in the first place. They do NOT grow more food, will not feed the world anything other than poisons, but will feed the biotech-chemical company more money for the seeds and pesticides. They will poison the soil and the life in the soil that brings nutrients to our bodies –our food if NOT grown organically will be “GRIT” and nothing but grit!

      Organically grown foods taste better in part because petrochemicals do not inhibit their natural flavors with industrial economic poisons.

    • Susan

      This is a good summary about the scientific findings of Don Huber. Dr. Huber has been repeatedly interviewed by the Dr. Joseph Mercola and is in the archives at his web site. One article is at:
      http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/07/30/glyphosate-toxicity.aspx
      Mercola’s site is repeatedly knocked out by those who want the public kept controlled and ignorant about the CHRONIC TOXICITY of the Glyphosate labeled ingredient in Roundup, and the GMOs created to sell this herbicide and benefit the bottom line of this corporation.

      I’m opposed to biotechnology and the pesticides it was created to increase the sales and use of because THERE WERE NO PEER REVIEW and there are zero regulations on the amount of Glyphosate or 2,4-D used in genetically engineered crops. Biotechnology was created to increase the sales and therefore the profits to the pesticide corporation. It does not increase safety, reduce pesticides (why would a pesticide company want to put themselves out of business?) Most antibiotics that were initially meant to fight infections in people and animals are now used to gain weight in livestock and used in GMO seeds. Many no longer work in people because of over use in agriculture.

      Scientists who were geneticists are speaking out AGAINST biotechnology and the pesticides whose market it increases. These include:
      Thomas Bøhn and Marek Cuhra, of Norway who uncovered that “..high levels of Roundup residues in GM soya, limits were raised 200-fold – with no scientific justification and ignoring growing evidence of toxicity. What Monsanto calls ‘extreme levels’ are now the norm – but only in GM crops..”

      ['Extreme levels' of Roundup are the norm in GMO soya, Thomas Bøhn and Marek Cuhra. The Ecologist, 1 April 2014]
      and their published study in Food Chemistry, “Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans.” Plus more recently, How “Extreme Levels” of Roundup in Food Became the Industry Norm [Independent Scientific News, 3-24-2014]

      Dr. Thierry Vrain, Former Pro-GMO Scientist, Speaks Up
      May 8, 2014 [Food Integrity Now] Excellent and highly recommended!

      Press release posted in July of 2013, “U.S. plans to hike allowed glyphosate levels in food supply”
      http://saccsivdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/u-s-plans-to-hike-allowed-glyphosate-levels-in-food-supply/

      “GM pesticide linked to breast cancer as residues found in people across Europe”
      http://saccsivdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/gm-pesticide-linked-to-breast-cancer-as-residues-found-in-people-across-europe/

      In Europe, where GMO crops GENERALLY ARE NOT GROWN, the major source if from GMO corn and soy in animal feed imported from Brazil. Europeans will NOT import from the USA, but did not realize that Brazil and Argentina were also toxic sources of animal feed! There science still prevails and is not blocked from being published by Monsanto.

      Numerous studies are cited at http://www.gmoevidence.com/ and can be located googling the study title.

      There is peer reviewed science showing that this technology and the pesticides used with gmos are not safe and are significantly different from crops and animals grown with conventional or even more with organic agriculture. The only thing that biotechnology and pesticides feed is damaged health and death of people, animals, the soil, and our ambient environment, as well as the monetary gains to the biotech industry from disinformation.

      Unfortunately they have bought American influence from the university systems where millions of dollars have boosted graduate programs in biotechnology, to the U.S. government from Congress to the White House and this has grown every year since Monsanto’s lobbyist wrote the policy at the FDA that this technology was not significantly different.

      But biotechnology, the use of GMOs are significantly different, they cause severe harm to our environment and public health destruction. This will not feed the world health giving food, only feed the pockets of the biotech-pesticide and biotech pharmaceutical industries.

  • Jayson

    I don’t know what it is about agriculture but it is the only industry I can think of where the sellers are the ones trying to tell the buyers what they should want and buy. No other industry does that. You don’t walk into a clothing store and get handed a purple shirt and are expected to be happy with it because the science says it’s safe to wear. You don’t go into a Chevy dealer looking for a new Silverado and leave with an F150 because the science says it’s “substantially equivalent”.

    But for some reason in agriculture, we have our customers saying we don’t want GMO crops and instead of supplying what our customers want. We keep fighting them tooth and nail to force them into taking something they don’t want. And for what? So the big agri-businesses can make billions off of farmers? So we can spend more tax dollars on trade missions to sell something to people who don’t want it? So we can repeat what happened with Triffid flax and ruin our reputation and existing markets? Never mind the real or perceived health effects, it just doesn’t make a drop of business sense.

  • Linda

    I am in the medical field (for 34 yrs.) and live in a rural area where there are a lot of GMO crops raised and also a lot of pesticide spraying. There is no doubt in my mind that GMOs have caused my gluten intolerance, caused my gut inflammation, and affected the people around me as well. I have seen cancer, bowel disorders, childrens’ “behavior issues”, obesity, and dementia, as well as many other neuro disorders, rise right along with the introduction of GMO crops and increased use of pesticides. I have a combination of medical knowledge, personal experience, and nutritional study that makes this a no-brainer to me. Follow the money. Monsanto will do anything to make money, control what farmers are using and what we’re eating, and not give a second thought to how it harms us. I look at things logically and try to make sense of evidence I find. Believe me, there is reason for GREAT concern. Think about this too; why is Monsanto so protective that they want laws passed to keep truths from the public? Why not label GMOs stating what they are? Message for Monsanto: Americans, the world, and farmers are getting wise to what’s going on. Just be honest and care about people instead of profits. Thank God some scientists have the courage to say what is happening based on solid, and not “bought” research. Thank you Dr. Huber.

  • http://denisetrafford@shaw.ca Denise

    The evidence of the harm, GM pesticide-tolerant crops and pesticide spraying is having, is all around us. How many people in your community have died prematurely from autoimmune diseases ( various forms of cancer etc.) or are suffering from gastrointestinal diseases? Allergies and autism spectrum disorders are skyrocking in children.
    Why are our bees and butterflies disappearing? They are the canaries in the corn and canola fields. We DO know why.
    It’s scary for our farmers to change their ways, with so much invested in the chemical crop ideology and methods. But change must happen very soon.
    With Roundup resistant weeds taking hold and the soil losing its nutrient value and beneficial microorganisms, from heavy chemical use, this conventional GM grain is a poor cousin to its organic relative.
    Increasingly, other countries don’t want it either. Even poor countries. They know the danger of this dependency on agrochemical companies and GMOs.
    Hopefully we will catch up with the rest of the world real soon.
    But please don’t get sucked into the DDT solution which is being considered by the big agrochem corps, again. Been there, done that. That didn’t work out so well either.
    Everybody wants change, except the agrochemical and biotech corps who want to maintain the status quo. If the farmers think these guys are on their side, think again. Follow the money and power trail. They want your money and absolute power over you.
    Weeds do need to be controlled. We used to very careful and selective in spraying, not blanket spraying the whole crop over and over again with pesticides and using poisoned (Bt) seeds to grow crops which kills everything else. If it kills everything else, but the crop, no wonder it ‘s not good for us either..
    With all the amazing machinery farmers have nowdays, why are they still relying so heavily on chemicals?
    Personally, I would rather eat weed seeds in my grains, anyday, over pesticide -treated grain. Weed seeds won’t make you sick.

  • Susan

    There are numerous scientists and scientific findings coming to light in Europe and other countries from the consumption of genetically engineered crops by livestock and the people who have eaten them. Yet, this is blocked in the USA because of the powers that be in graduate schools, State legislatures, in Congress, and the White House and it’s getting worse.

    On July 30, 2013, a well researched piece was entitled “Roundup and Glyphosate Toxicity Have Been Grossly Underestimated”. This spoke of miscarriages, fertility problems and abnormal fetal development are all problems that are skyrocketing in Argentina where massive amounts of people neighboring fields were exposed to Roundup from aerial spraying. The rate of miscarriage (technical term is spontaneous abortion) is 100 times the national average, courtesy of glyphosate. New-born infants, many of whom are malformed. But even if you don’t live near the fields, you can be exposed through your food if you are not eating organic!

    A report given to MomsAcrossAmerica13 by an employee of De Dell Seed Company (Canada’s only non-GM corn seed company) shows that GM corn contains as much as 13 ppm of glyphosate, compared to zero in non-GM corn.

    The US EPA standard for glyphosate in American water supplies is 0.7 ppm. In Europe, the maximum allowable level in water is 0.2 ppm.

    There are major compositional differences between soy grown conventionally, organically, and with GMO as uncovered in the scientific study by T. Bohn et al., Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate
    accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans, published in Food Chemistry.

    The USA is the largest producer of genetically engineered herbicide resistant soy in the world with 33%, compared with 29% in Brazil, and 19% in Argentina. Globally, Roundup Ready GM soybeans contributed to 75% of the total soy production in 2011.

    GMO soy is in over 80 percent of processed foods in U.S. supermarkets, and non-certified organic food products in stores carrying health food. Not everything in health food stores in healthy. GMOs are also in vitamins for animals and humans. GMO soy is used in vitamin E, GMO corn is for vitamin C, B-2 and B-12 are also genetically engineered in the USA. And, the USDA Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack wants the U.S. farmers to grow genetically engineered food to “feed” the world’s population (not to mention feed Monsanto’s profits).

    The Organic and Non-GMO Report has an article entitled Vitamins present GMO challenges for organic industry – See more at:
    http://tinyurl.com/6slpewm

    Scientists who are trained as geneticists are increasingly worried after reading scientific literature coming out of Europe where published science still prevails. And they are speaking out AGAINST biotechnology and the pesticides whose market this increases. These include: Thomas Bøhn and Marek Cuhra, of Norway who uncovered that “..high levels of Roundup residues in GM soya, limits were raised 200-fold – with no scientific justification and ignoring growing evidence of toxicity. What Monsanto calls ‘extreme levels’ are now the norm – but only in GM crops..”

    ‘Extreme levels’ of Roundup are the norm in GMO soya, Thomas Bøhn and Marek Cuhra. The Ecologist, 1 April 2014]. See also their study in Food Chemistry; “Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans.”

    Dr. Thierry Vrain, Former Pro-GMO Scientist, Speaks Up
    May 8, 2014 [Food Integrity Now] Dr. Vrain was trained in France, received his Ph.D. in North Carolina, Dr. Vrain, former genetic engineer and soil biologist with Agriculture Canada. He was not only a trained genetic engineer, but was hired to calm the fears of the public over this technology. However, after he retired 20 years ago, he began a little organic farm in Canada and noticed a major difference in the soil. With more reading he uncovered information that he never learned in school. That along with the published studies of what GMO crops are doing to people around the world that were coming out of Europe opened the eyes and mind of Dr. Vrain further. Listen to this important interview at:
    http://foodintegritynow.org/2014/05/08/dr-thierry-vrain-former-gmo-scientist-speaks/

    “GM pesticide linked to breast cancer as residues found in people across Europe” http://tinyurl.com/ksyyx2m

    Most people in Europe receive GMO’s from eating livestock. The feed comes from Brazil and Argentina and they have mandatory labeling and the right to know if GMOs are in there food, except for meat.

    But scientific study still prevails in Europe, where it is blocked by the corporate entities that be in the USA.

    Learn more about what is happening to animals, wildlilfe, and people at: gmoevidence.com This includes the studies done in the USA but published in Europe.