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GMOs, glyphosate and the deterioration of health in the US

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roundup toxicGenetically engineered crops, glyphosate and the deterioration of health in the United States of America

Journal of Organic Systems, 9(2), 2014  ORIGINAL PAPER   ISSN 1177-42586
Authors:  Nancy L. Swanson,  Andre Leu, Jon Abrahamson,and Bradley Wallet


Within the last 20 years there has been an alarming increase in serious illnesses in the US, along with a marked decrease in life expectancy (Bezruchka, 2012). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the cost of diabetes and diabetes-related treatment was approximately $116 billion dollars in 2007. Estimated costs related to obesity were $147 billion in 2008 and cardiovascular diseases and stroke were $475.3 billion in 2009. Health care expenditures in the US totaled 2.2 trillion dollars in 2007 (CDC, 2013a). The onset of serious illness is appearing in increasingly younger cohorts. The US leads the world in the increase in deaths due to neurological diseases between 1979-81 and 2004-06 for the 55-65 age group (Pritchard et al., 2013). These mental disorder deaths are more typical of the over 65 age group. There have been similar findings for obesity, asthma, behavior and learning problems, an d chronic disease in children and young adults (Van Cleave et al., 2010). Type II diabetes in youth is being called an epidemic (Rosenbloom et al., 1999). The rate of chronic disease in the entire US population has been dramatically increasing with an estimated 25% of the US population suffering from multiple chronic diseases (Autoimmunity Research Foundation, 2012). These findings suggest environmental triggers rather than genetic or age-related causes.

During this same time period, there has been an exponential increase in the amount of glyphosate applied to food crops and in the percentage of GE food crops planted (Benbrook, 2012). We undertook a study to see if correlations existed between the rise of GE crops, the associated glyphosate use and the rise in chronic disease in the US.

Genetic engineering

To genetically modify a plant for herbicide tolerance, genes are identified which convey tolerance of the active chemical in the herbicide to the organism. In the case of glyphosate, glyphosate-tolerant genes were isolated from a strain of Agrobacterium. These were inserted into the genome of the plant via a multi-step process resulting in a plant that can withstand the direct application of the herbicide. Genetic modification is also utilised for developing insect resistant plants by using insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt toxin. The promoter used to drive the expression of the foreign genes is generally the 35S promoter from the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV). Not only are the virus and bacteria genes themselves potentially harmful (Ho, 2013; Ewen & Pusztai, 1999), but the plants are sprayed directly with herbicides. The herbicide-tolerant plants absorb the poisons and humans and domestic animals eat them. ….

Deterioration of Public Health Parallels Increase in GM Crops and Glyphosate Use

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Marked Deterioration of Public Health Parallels Increase in GM Crops and Glyphosate Use, US Government Data Show

The steep rise in incidence of 22 chronic diseases in the US correlates strongly with the increase in GM crops and the application of glyphosate-based herbicides

Institute of Science in Society      Prof Peter Saunders   Dec. 10, 2014

Ample evidence of glyphosate toxicity already exists

Despite what the manufacturers say, there is ample evidence to show that glyphosate, the active ingredient of Monsanto’s Roundup, Syngenta’s Touchdown, Dow’s Durango and many other herbicides, is highly toxic and a serious hazard to human and animal health. There is documentation of miscarriages, birth defects, carcinogenesis, endocrine disruption, DNA damage, neurotoxicity, and toxicity to liver and kidney at levels well below recommended agricultural use (See, for example, first Chapter of [1] Ban GMOS Now , ISIS special report, [2]  Glyphosate and Cancer, SiS 62). Several countries, among them Denmark, The Netherlands, France, El Salvador and Sri Lanka have recognised the dangers imposed total or partial bans on the use of glyphosate, though the ban in Sri Lanka was lifted under pressure from the manufacturers (Sri Lanka Partially Bans Glyphosate for Deadly Kidney Disease Epidemic  [3]) .

Other countries, especially those with large chemical and biotech industries and/or a major commitment to industrial farming, take a totally different view. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently increased the permitted tolerance levels for glyphosate residues in food. The European Food Safe Agency (EFSA) has recommended the re-approval of glyphosate for use in Europe with an increase in acceptable daily intake (ADI) from 0.3 to 0.5 mg per kg body weight. It is not surprising that EFSA reached this decision; the review was in fact carried out by a ‘Glyphosate Task Force’ (GTF) made up of a consortium of chemical companies including Monsanto, and based its conclusions largely on reports submitted by the manufacturers (Scandal of Glyphosate Re-assessment in Europe [4]).

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Comprehensive Analysis of Organic vs Non-Organic Foods

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The Sparc- open access to science   July 15, 2014

This week sees the publication of the most comprehensive analysis to date of the nutritional composition of organic versus non-organic foods, and the accompanying levels of pesticide contamination. Published in the British Journal of Nutrition by UK scientists (Barański et al., 2014), the meta-analysis involved 343 peer-reviewed studies and found increased antioxidant levels in organic produce, many of which have been linked to reduced risk of chronic diseases. Pesticide levels were four times higher in non-organic produce and toxic metal levels were also significantly higher in non-organic foods.

The EU is set to increase the daily acceptable intake [of Glyphosate i.e. Round-Up] by 67 %, going against the independent science showing multiple pathways by which glyphosate causes serious harm to human health. The re-assessment, submitted to the European Safety Authority in January is fatally flawed by conflict of interest (Swanson and Ho, 2014). See Swanson (2014) for details on toxicology.

The US is on the verge of approving a new type of genetically modified crop, tolerant to the herbicide 2,4-D (as well as glyphosate). 2,4-D has already been associated with many illnesses including cancers, as summarised by Cummins (2012). A report by Centre for Food Safety has also summarised the issues surrounding this technology in Going Backwards: Dow’s 2,4-D-Resistant Crops and a More Toxic Future Exposure to 2,4-D.

Find all the above mentioned reports here