The information provided by Don Huber on glyphosate interactions with soil-borne micro-organisms is one of the first reports I have seen that provides legitimate concerns when it comes to the use of this chemical (Organic Matters, WP Dec. 20).
Until now, I have generally regarded this chemical as one of the most innocuous of all the agricultural chemicals in use today. My basic understanding of its chemical interactions is that it has virtually no impact on the environment. There is virtually no residual effect because contact with sunlight and the soil breaks down its chemistry into simpler elements including carbon dioxide and water. There is also little or no residual component carried forward in the soil.
I do believe Huber may be onto something in suggesting that glyphosate’s biochemistry changes the interaction between a plant and soil micro-organisms. It is conceivable that glyphosate may have a genetic interaction with soil micro-organisms over the long term to the same extent that glyphosate creates a genetic selection process for the survival of resistant weeds.
However, the genetically modified debate is all about trying to prove in absolute terms negative impact on humans and our environment. This simply cannot be done or tolerated if we are to move forward with feeding the world in the future. There will be massive starvation and human suffering if we are prevented from advancing food science.
Huber’s linkage of GM products to increased diseases such as allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes and gluten intolerance is truly scare-mongering.
It is true that there is an apparent increased incidence for the health issues mentioned in the column, but there is no evidence or link to GM food. In fact, some of my experience in GM potatoes was conducted at the Agriculture Canada’s research centre in Vancouver, along with a number of other researchers, before it was closed in 1996. These researchers were at the frontier of GM production techniques, many of which were later adopted by Monsanto after the closure of the centre.
All the lines of potato and wheat that were developed in the late 1980s and 1990s never hit the market. Why? Livestock and humans would actually ingest the modified proteins in the products consumed. This is not true for oilseed crops.
I find it to be completely disingenuous for columnist Brenda Frick and Huber to make such outrageous claims. In fact, to carry this debate to the next level, I find it most disconcerting that governments in the developed world have not put more research dollars into finding out more about the root causes of health issues that are becoming more prevalent.
While researchers for pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals are spending millions of dollars to make profits and justify their activities and claims, governments must counterbalance this activity with research to bring a better balance into new developments for the benefits of mankind.
From my own perspective, I believe many human health issues that are on the rise will be the result of exposure to such things as household cleaning agents, artificial fabrics made from petrochemicals and fire retardants used on fabrics to which we are exposed daily. Other major issues are the adhesives used in many of today’s wood products and ozone pollutants from automobiles. Little research has been done on these products and their health effects on humans. Add to that evidence that humans are being super-sanitized by disinfectants today, that young children do not have any ability to develop their fragile immune systems. These are far more likely causes for the high health incidence listed in the article, and not the food concerns outlined by Don Huber.
Denis Kirkham (1968 ag grad, University of Saskatchewan) is a retired specialist and consultant in seed potato production and certification and worked for Agriculture Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for 36 years.