GE Crops and Unsustainable Agricultural Practices are Destroying our Planet’s Soil and Food Supply
By Dr. Mercola
Genetically engineered crops and food products pose a threat to your health, resistance to disease, soil, and the global food supply. The biotech industry is riddled with corruption as companies clamor to sink their claws into the marketplace first, to get their seeds into farmers’ fields ahead of the rest.
This pervasive corporate rush to profit at any cost places all of humanity at risk, as the industry barrels ahead without even questioning the consequences of their technology. Industry leaders have failed to slow down long enough to even ponder the long-term consequences of irreversibly manipulating the DNA of your food. And what independent researchers are finding in this regard is truly disturbing and is probably just the tip of the iceberg in this genetics experiment of unprecedented scale.
When you see the term “biotech industry,” you might automatically think of Monsanto, the world’s Big Dog when it comes to GE seed. Monsanto has shown it will stop at nothing to bully its way across the globe, leaving a trail of planetary devastation in its wake.
Monsanto’s unsavory behavior even resulted in Forbes Magazine’s retraction of naming Monsanto “Company of the Year” in 2009, admitting they were “wrong on Monsanto… really wrong,” citing not only the problems with resistant superweeds but also investigations of antitrust issues and a potential flop in an expensive new variety of GE corn seed. But these high-tech seed wars have now gone global, extending well beyond our Western borders, and there is no better illustration than the latest scandal in India.
GE Scientists in India Found Guilty of Fraud and Cover Up
A group of scientists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) have been found guilty of infecting and subsequently hiding the fact that indigenously created Bt cotton contained a Monsanto gene1. The variety, called BNBt, was supposed to be a cheaper alternative to the other Indian Bt cotton hybrids. Shortly after its release in 2009, its sales were suspended, and then hearings commenced.
It’s now been determined that the Indian scientists intentionally contaminated the GE cotton seed, because “accidental contamination cannot explain what happened.” ICAR condemned the scientists’ actions as “unethical, unscientific, and irresponsible.” It appears these shenanigans occurred in order to somehow speed up the seed’s release into India’s Bt cotton marketplace.2
The hearing’s outcome falls on the heels of a major decision in October 2012 by a committee, appointed by India’s Supreme Court, to end all GE field trials until certain conditions have been met. The Committee also recommended a 10-year moratorium on field trials of all Bt food crops and a moratorium on field trials of herbicide-tolerant crops until an independent assessment has performed.
Perhaps India has finally had enough. Over the past 16 years, more than a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide after being convinced to plant Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds (especially Bt cotton), then having their crops fail, leaving them in financial ruin. Could this be a harbinger of times to come in the United States?
Latest Study Shows Roundup Creates Botulism Breeding Ground in Poultry
A new German study3 by the Institute of Bacteriology and Mycology examined the effects of glyphosate, the active agent in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, on the gut microbes of poultry. Some birds are heavily exposed to glyphosate when fed genetically engineered feed. The study’s findings are quite alarming. Researchers found that highly pathogenic bacteria resisted glyphosate, whereas beneficial bacteria likely succumbed to it.
What does this mean for you and me?
The essential implication is that poultry fed GE corn or soy would fall victim to dysbiosis, meaning unhealthy changes in their gut flora that threaten the health of the birds, as well as anyone consuming them. The good bacteria in the poultry gut, such as Enterococcus, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, are killed off, allowing the pathogenic or disease causing bacteria to flourish. Varieties such as Salmonella and Clostridium are very dangerous pathogens for humans. Clostridia bacteria are some of the deadliest, with strains including C. tetani (tetanus) and C. botulinum (botulism).
Chickens bred in CAFOs are already routinely fed antibiotics, arsenic, and even antidepressants, all of which have serious adverse health consequences. But this new study suggests CAFO chickens exposed to glyphosate may become breeding grounds for Botulism, Salmonella and other major pathogenic organisms.4
The implications of this become even clearer when you consider the recently released findings of a decade-long feeding study that showed GE feed can cause significant changes in the digestive systems, immune systems, and major organs (including liver, kidneys, pancreas, genitals and others) of rats, mice, pigs and salmon. If it’s doing all of that to animals and fish, what’s it doing to you? Clearly, the conventional agribusiness food system has emerged as a major threat to your health. But it may also be contributing to an even greater problem: the destruction of the world’s topsoil.
The World is Running Out of Topsoil
The world may be running out of usable topsoil, the layer that allows plants to grow. According to an article in Time World5, soil erosion and degradation rates suggest we have only about 60 remaining years of topsoil. Forty percent of the world’s agricultural soil is now classified as either degraded or seriously degraded; the latter means that 70 percent of the topsoil is gone. Our soil is being lost at 10 to 40 times the rate it can be replenished, and our food production systems are to blame, which epitomizes the term “unsustainable.” It takes decades or even centuries to regenerate significant levels of soil.
Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of our fresh water use. When the soil is unfit, water is wasted—it washes right through the soil and past the plant’s root system. We already have a global water shortage that’s projected to worsen over the next 20 to 30 years, so this is the last thing we need to compound it. Soil degradation is projected to cause 30 percent loss in food production over the next 20 to 50 years—while our global food demands are expected to increase by 50 percent over this span of time.
Many don’t realize that soil is alive and has an incredible diversity of microorganisms. One handful of soil contains more microbes than the number of people who have ever lived on our planet.
These organisms create a powerful synergy with the plants and recycle organic material, making the soil more resilient and better at holding water and nutrients, and better at nurturing plants. Microbes need carbon for food, and we’re depleting our soil of this element by using chemical fertilizers, overgrazing, over-ploughing, and burning stubble in fields to accelerate crop turnover. Add to this genetically engineered crops, and our soil is dealt another deathblow.
GE Crops Help Destroy Soil Fertility—Possibly Irreversibly
The latest science seems to suggest genetically engineered plant cultivation may seriously disrupt soil ecology by reducing microbial diversity, which decreases soil fertility over time—possibly irreversibly.6
As GE plants increasingly take over the major food-producing areas of the world, including the U.S., China, India, Argentina and Brazil, reduced soil fertility could lead to famine on a scale never previously seen. The mechanisms for this are just beginning to be understood, and what was recently only theory has inched closer to reality as science shines more light on the consequences of introducing genetically engineered organisms into the soil.
The mechanism goes something like this…
Special genetic elements (vector DNA) are present in all GE plants. This vector DNA enables unrelated microorganism species to mate, but can also be transferred to soil microorganisms. Soil fertility depends on the presence of a diverse blend of microorganisms, all serving different roles in balancing and optimizing the soil. But when unrelated species mate, the soil ecosystem loses diversity, which is proven to damage fertility.
Until recently, the transfer of genes between GE plants and soil bacteria was only theoretical. However, this mechanism has now been demonstrated by science, and it’s our soil’s worst nightmare. It should be noted that this same process of gene transfer has been shown to occur in your gastrointestinal tract when you eat GE foods—turning your intestines into a virtual pesticide factory.
Horizontal Gene Transfer Is Now Proven By Science
The following complications underscore the seriousness of the dangers introduced by cultivation of GE crops:
- DNA from GE plants is not readily broken down in the soil and can be taken up by soil particles and microbes. The accumulation of foreign DNA may lead to a cumulative loss of soil diversity over repeated harvests.
- Unlike the claims of Monsanto when it first approved GM crops, Bt genes (Bacillus thuringiensis) are not broken down, for the reasons already stated, so can accumulate in soil and potentially produce Bt toxins. These toxins may build up in the soil, further damaging the organisms crucial for soil fertility. Research from the New York University7 confirms that Bt toxins are not broken down by soil microbes and do indeed accumulate in soil; the toxins maintain their ability to kill insects, potentially creating superbugs that further endanger the ecosystem.
- GE DNA is able to merge with the DNA of other organisms to create new varieties of soil microorganisms that disrupt the ecological balance. These new organisms, if virulent enough, could spread widely via wind erosion and ground water to compromise soil fertility on a broader scale.
- A Swiss study8 showed that adult earthworms feeding on transgenic Bt corn lost 18 percent of their initial weight, suggesting GE DNA may have long-term toxic effects on earthworms. Earthworms are major decomposers of dead and organic matter in the soil and are major contributors to the recycling of nutrients. An earlier study9 showed that both earthworms and collembolans (another small soil-dwelling invertebrate) can be adversely affected by Bt crops.
- Its also been shown that glyphosate can be toxic to rhizobia, a nitrogen-fixing bacterium10. Nitrogen fixing bacteria are important because nitrogen is the nutrient most commonly deficient in soil.
GE crops are adversely affecting our soil biology in numerous ways. There are differences observed in the bacteria occupying plant roots and changes in nutrient availability. Many studies show glyphosate can have toxic effects on microorganisms and can stimulate them to germinate spores and colonize root systems. Glyphosate has also been shown to immobilize manganese, an essential plant nutrient. Overall, glyphosate diminishes the health and nutritional value of the plants it’s sprayed on, as well as the soil.
The two main types of GE foods—herbicide-tolerant crops and pesticide-producing crops—are both imprecise technologies riddled with unintended consequences, including hundreds to thousands of genetic mutations that have unknown effects on human health. Glyphosate and GE crops may be leading the human race over a cliff, as Dr. Don Huber explains in the following interview.
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people’s initiative 522, “The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
“Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn’t required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn’t have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn’t it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers.”
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn’t have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let’s not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.