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It’s the toxic herbicide Roundup and glyphosates, stupid!

William Engdahl is an award-winning geopolitical analyst and strategic risk consultant whose internationally best-selling books have been translated into thirteen foreign languages.

Published time: April 22, 2014 12:46
Monsanto's wheat industry affairs director, looks at
growth in a wheat field in an undisclosed location in North Dakota (Reuters / Carey Gillam)

Remember Bill Clinton’s famous line in his 1992 presidential debate with then-President G.W. Bush when Clinton said, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

The Medvedev government in Russia recently announced it would ban import and commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the Russian Federation. That is commendable to be sure, but new evidence suggests that the health and safety dangers of the GMO assault on our food quality involve the paired agrichemicals that are used in almost all GMO seeds today, namely Monsanto Roundup and other glysophate-based weed killers.

Growing Russian opposition

In December 2013, Professor Irina Ermakova, vice president of Russia’s National Association for Genetic Safety, together with a group of Russian scientists, called on the government to impose a 10-year ban or moratorium in order that the influence of GMOs and their chemical herbicides can be thoroughly studied for their influence on human health. Ermakova some years before conducted GMO rat-feeding tests that showed alarming results, including extreme mortality rates. "It is necessary to ban GMO, to impose a moratorium for 10 years. While GMO will be prohibited, we can plan experiments, tests, or maybe even new methods of research could be developed,” Ermakova said. “It has been proved that not only in Russia, but also in many other countries in the world, GMO is dangerous. Methods of obtaining the GMO are not perfect, therefore, at this stage, all GMOs are dangerous," Ermakova added.

At a congress of United Russia deputies from Russian rural villages in Volgograd on April 5, 2014, Medvedev expressed his clearest opposition to GMOs to date. He stated that Russia will not import GMO products. “If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food,” he said.

At the end of February, the Russian parliament asked the government to impose a temporary ban on all genetically altered products in Russia. The Russian State Duma’s Agriculture Committee backed a ban on the registration and trade of genetically modified organisms. Indicating support for Ermakova’s call, they suggested that until specialists develop a working system of control over the effects of GMOs on humans and the natural environment, the government should impose a moratorium on the breeding and growth of genetically modified plants, animals and microorganisms.

Long-term rat study

Research indicates strongly that the chemical toxins in the herbicide Roundup sold in combination with every Monsanto GMO plant, as well as most every other, is in fact more toxic to humans than reported. And that, in concentrations far lower than in doses used in the family garden spraying. The evidence points clearly to the fact that the agrichemical industry has engaged in a criminal cover-up of these dangers.

Published scientific research results suggest horrifying corroboration of just that. Yet the EU’s designated food health and safety oversight body, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and EU governments, to say nothing of the US Food and Drug Authority (FDA), insist on not looking into what could be one of the major sources of ghastly new rises in diseases, illnesses and even death in both the EU and the US and other places where Roundup is widely used.

In September 2012, Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini and his research team at France’s Caen University published a peer-reviewed, first-ever, two-year study of effects of feeding rats not only GMO Monsanto NK603 Roundup-tolerant maize, but also of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. The results were so alarming that the corrupt EU Commission and the even-more corrupt scientists of the EFSA scrambled to come up with a way to discredit that study.

A spokesman for the EFSA announced just a few weeks after the publication of Seralini’s bombshell study and without proof, “EFSA’s analysis has shown that deficiencies in the Séralini et al. paper mean it is of insufficient scientific quality for risk assessment. We believe the completion of this evaluation process has brought clarity to the issue.” The EFSA spokesman went on to make the following startling statement: “Serious defects in the design and methodology of a paper by Séralini et al mean it does not meet acceptable scientific standards and there is no need to re-examine previous safety evaluations of genetically modified maize NK603.”

An examiner demonstrates the process of analyzing a genetically modified wheat sample, during a photo call at the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in Seoul (Reuters / Lee Jae-Won)

No mention of what the “serious defects” nor of why that would not call for repeating the two-year tests with other independent scientific groups around the EU to determine whether or not Seralini’s results were accurate. Shockingly, EFSA declared that no further tests of Monsanto maize were warranted. “Case closed, ladies and gentlemen and don’t ask us for more on this…”

The mainstream media in Germany and across the EU dutifully swallowed that nonsense as the end of the discussion. Monsanto maize and Monsanto Roundup herbicide were “safe.”

Monsanto even managed to get one of its own people into the editorial board of the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology which printed the initial Seralini study. Richard E. Goodman, a former Monsanto employee who was later with the Monsanto-backed pro-GMO lobby organization, International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), was named to an entirely new post at the magazine six months after the Seralini study release, as “Associate Editor for Biotechnology.”

One of Goodman’s first acts was to withdraw the Seralini article. He did so in violation of the guidelines for retractions in scientific publishing set out by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). For any peer-reviewed scientific article to be withdrawn there must be clear evidence that the findings are unreliable due to misconduct (e.g. data fabrication) or honest error; plagiarism or redundant publication; or unethical research. None of those were proven in the Seralini case.

Other Roundup studies show high toxicity

In another review of published studies on the toxicity of the chemical herbicide used with almost all GMO plants, Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff in the US, have found more confirmations the Seralini warnings about the toxic dangers of Monsanto Roundup.

Their review concluded, in regard to glyphosate, the main active component of Roundup herbicide, that, “Residues (of glyphosate-w.e.) are found in the main foods of the Western diet, comprised primarily of sugar, corn, soy and wheat. Glyphosate's inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology, one of which is to detoxify xenobiotics. Thus, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.”

The conclusions, in short, are that Roundup, the most widely used weed killer in the world, is found in the main foods we eat—sugar, corn, soy and wheat. Its main component, glyphosate, inhibits the enzyme of the human body that plays a crucial biological role detoxifying xenobiotics, and thereby exaggerates the toxic effects of other chemical residues in our chemically-saturated industrial foods or other environmental toxins. Its damaging effects accumulate slowly so we do not realize until it is too late. Xenobiotics is the generic term referring to any foreign chemical substance found within an organism that is not normally naturally produced, such as antibiotics or other foreign chemicals.

Today some 80 percent of genetically modified crops, especially maize, soy, canola, cotton, sugar beets and most recently alfalfa, are specifically genetically modified to accept introduction of genes resistant to glyphosate, the so-called “Roundup Ready® feature.”

Monsanto and the agribusiness industry falsely claim Roundup and glyphosate is less toxic than aspirin. That has conveniently insured that the US government makes no special study of the toxicity dangers of Roundup or glyphosate herbicides, despite their massive increased usage in US agriculture since the mid-1990s, when GMO commercial seeds began to spread across North American corn and soybean fields to where today they account for almost 100 percent of all soybeans and near 90 percent of all corn planted in the US.

In EU countries, owing to a convenient labeling loophole, that GMO corn and soybean cocktail is imported as “power feed” for animals from the US or Argentina and Brazil and fed to most beef, dairy, pigs and chickens consumed in the EU. And all of it is saturated with Roundup or other glyphosate chemical toxins. Few people are aware because of absence of labeling requirements.

Link to rise in health disorders?

Samsel and Seneff report: “[M]any of the health problems that appear to be associated with a Western diet could be explained by biological disruptions that have already been attributed to glyphosate. These include digestive issues, obesity, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, Parkinson’s disease, liver diseases and cancer, among others. While many other environmental toxins obviously also contribute to these diseases and conditions, we believe that glyphosate may be the most significant environmental toxin, mainly because it is pervasive and it is often handled carelessly due to its perceived nontoxicity.” (added emphasis-w.e.)

Finally, they state, “glyphosate may be a significant factor in the observed increased risk to Clostridium botulinum infection in cattle in Germany over the past 10 to 15 years. Glyphosate's demonstrated toxicity to Enterococcus spp. leads to an imbalance in the gut favoring overgrowth of the toxic Clostridium species. Glyphosate has been shown to have remarkable adverse effects on the gut biota in poultry, by reducing the number of beneficial bacteria and increasing the number of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. Highly pathogenic strains of Salmonella and Clostridium were found to be highly resistant to glyphosate…”

The final decision in Russia’s parliament is under intense discussion but the move to an outright ban on GMO food crops in Russia and imports of GMO corn, soya and other products appears to have strong backing. The timing of Medvedev’s remarks in Volgograd may well be a sly Russian slap in Washington’s face for the US-backed coup in Ukraine. Regardless, it is clearly a good move.

Russia by no means stands alone in its action against GMO. On April 12, the US National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) reported that China’s ban on US corn containing traces of unapproved GMO maize caused a significant drop in US exports that has cost US grain traders $427 million in sales. Last November, the Chinese government banned imports of corn containing GMO or residues of GMO after their discovery of the MIR162 genetically modified corn strain in US shipments. The strain was developed by the Swiss-British Syngenta, and has not been approved for import by Chinese authorities since the company filed an application for approval in March 2010. Before the ban on the Syngenta strain, China was the US’s third largest importer of US corn.

It’s not just Ermakova and leading Russian scientists who are calling for far more independent research on the possible toxic effects of Roundup and glyphosate on animals. Next month there will again be a worldwide grassroots “March against Monsanto” to heighten public awareness about the dangers of GMO. As citizens and human beings we have an inalienable right to know how our food is produced, engineered, and if it is poisoned or not. Until such time, all farmers should voluntarily cease using glyphosate herbicides and concerned citizens should call on the government to ban its sale until conclusively proven safe or not.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.