Roundup endocrine distuptor

March 2012

Two decades ago, scientists began to report a disturbing drop in human sperm quantity and quality, and a rise in testicular cancers. The blame for this has been pinned firmly on our modern exposure to chemicals pollutants. Indeed, due to the nature of its function which involves a hormone-linked cell-proliferation at a huge scale and speed, reactions in the testis have become recognised as a uniquely sensitive monitor for biologically disruptive materials.

Roundup promotes parasites

March 2012

Photo of crop spraying by tpmartins on Flickr
Glyphosate, the active ingredient of 'Roundup', continues to present fresh causes for concern.

Roundup herbicide, used extensively on GM crops, has long been hyped as environmentally friendly: it is claimed not to linger in the ecosystem and to have low toxicity for animals. The bigger picture, however, seems to be much more complex, and much more damaging than previously assumed.

Bt herbicide is toxic to human cells

March 2012
Spraying crops in the evening dusk
Photo of crop spraying by TaminaMiller on Flickr
If you spray a monoculture crop with a single herbicide year-after-year, what will happen is obvious. If you grow a monoculture crop suffused with a single insecticide year-after-year, what will happen is equally obvious. Biotech industry scientists must, long ago, have warned their bosses that the outcome of glyphosate-tolerant GM plants would be superweeds, and that the end-result of Bt-toxin producing GM plants would be pest-resistance and pest-substitution. Both outcomes are now well underway.

The GM sweet corn no one wants to buy

March 2012

Picture of corn from Wikimedia Commons
The chemical junk routinely applied to 'fresh', 'natural', 'unprocessed' fruit and veg these days is nothing short of scandalous (see for example the information on Californian strawberries, carrots and peaches in INFORMED CHOICE - March 2012).

So far, GM crops with the herbicide they're designed to tolerate and the insecticide they're designed to generate, have largely been fed to animals or processed to oblivion before they reach our dinner-plates.

Less well-known is that the biotech company, Syngenta, has been feeding Americans eight varieties of a Bt-toxin-generating GM sweet corn for a decade. So far, the scale of this has been tiny: corn to be eaten fresh, frozen or canned accounts for less than 1% of US corn acreage and GM forms only some 10% of that. Home gardeners don't buy it because “genetic modification freaks them out”. However, this might be about to change: someone else's getting in on the act.

Informed choice

March 2012

Spraying @ Occold, Norfolk
Crop spraying in Norfolk. Photo by timparkinson on Flickr
The mainstay of GM crops to date has been their ability to tolerate dousing with the weed-killer, glyphosate (active ingredient of 'Roundup').

If you look for information on the safety of glyphosate, you'll certainly find reassuring “Fact Sheets ... intended to promote informed decision-making”. These describe the low risk attached to exposure to the weed-killer during use. The 'exposure' referred to means, for example, splashes on the skin or eyes, contaminated hands transferring the chemical to food or cigarettes, aerosol inhalation etc.

However, glyphosate is routinely and purposefully sprayed directly onto food crops. In America the situation's worse because, now that there's GM glyphosate-tolerant soya, maize, oilseed rape and sugar-beet on the market, all designed to accumulate glyphosate without injury to themselves, the potential for a presence of the herbicide in food has escalated.

Take action on GM wheat

March 2012

Wheat field in England. Photo by James Byrum on Flickr
GM Freeze campaign GM Wheat? No Thanks! was launched on 1st March 2012.

The reason? The date marks the start of DEFRA's consent to plant GM wheat at Rothamstead experimental station. This means that trial crops could be in the ground at any time.

There are lots of different ways you can help the GM Freeze campaign: choose any you feel comfortable with, but please take action. For example
  • Pledge NO! to GM wheat.

Caribbean the next Mecca for GM companies

March 2012

Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico. Photo by Ronny on Flickr
Large agricultural areas in India now find themselves firmly under the biotech yoke (see FARMERS WISE TO GM - March 2012). But they're not alone. The island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean has, it seems, been converted into a huge research laboratory for GM crops.

Eight companies, seven of them multinationals including of course Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, Pioneer and Syngenta, are using the island to develop new GM crops for distribution to the USA and around the world. They are achieving this by ruthlessly manipulating the law in their own favour.

Farmers wise to GM

March 2012

Farmer Spraying Cotton Field
Farmer spraying a cotton field. Photo by IFPRI Images on Flickr
An American professor of anthropology and environmental studies has spent over 60 weeks in the field researching the impact of Bt insecticidal cotton on farmers in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh.

Professor Stone describes Indian farmers as being on a “seed and pesticide treadmill”. The modern high-yielding hybrid seeds they are now planting are prone to pest attack, and have led to increased use of modern chemical pesticides. These two technologies have changed quickly over the years in response to successive problems emerging in one which exacerbate the problems emerging in the other. The more recent Bt-gene technology certainly didn't create the treadmill, but it has made it much worse.