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Forum Post: How ''Extreme Levels'' of Monsanto's Herbicide Roundup in Food Became the Industry Norm

Posted 6 years ago on March 26, 2014, 4:04 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

How ''Extreme Levels'' of Monsanto's Herbicide Roundup in Food Became the Industry Norm

Wednesday, 26 March 2014 14:00
By Thomas Bøhn and Marek Cuhra, Independent Science News | News


Food and feed quality are crucial to human and animal health. Quality can be defined as sufficiency of appropriate minerals, vitamins and fats, etc. but it also includes the absence of toxins, whether man-made or from other sources. Surprisingly, almost no data exist in the scientific literature on herbicide residues in herbicide tolerant genetically modified (GM) plants, even after nearly 20 years on the market.

In research recently published by our laboratory (Bøhn et al. 2014) we collected soybean samples grown under three typical agricultural conditions: organic, GM, and conventional (but non-GM). The GM soybeans were resistant to the herbicide Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate.

We tested these samples for nutrients and other compounds as well as relevant pesticides, including glyphosate and its principal breakdown product, Aminomethylphosponic acid (AMPA). All of the individual samples of GM-soy contained residues of both glyphosate and AMPA, on average 9.0 mg/kg. This amount is greater than is typical for many vitamins. In contrast, no sample from the conventional or the organic soybeans showed residues of these chemicals (Fig. 1).

bohn herbicide Crop spraying, South Africa (Photo: Thomas Bøhn) This demonstrates that Roundup Ready GM-soybeans sprayed during the growing season take up and accumulate glyphosate and AMPA. Further, what has been considered a working hypothesis for herbicide tolerant crops, i.e. that, as resistant weeds have spread:

"there is a theoretical possibility that also the level of residues of the herbicide and its metabolites may have increased" (Kleter et al. 2011)1

is now shown to be actually happening.

Monsanto (manufacturer of glyphosate) has claimed that residues of glyphosate in GM soy are lower than in conventional soybeans, where glyphosate residues have been measured up to 16-17 mg/kg (Monsanto 1999). These residues, found in non-GM plants, likely must have been due to the practice of spraying before harvest (for desiccation). Another claim of Monsanto's has been that residue levels of up to 5.6 mg/kg in GM-soy represent

"...extreme levels, and far higher than those typically found" (Monsanto 1999).2

Residues of glyphosate and AMPA in Soybeans

Roundup-levels-in-soybeans-300x258 Figure 1. Residues of glyphosate and AMPA in individual soybean samples (n=31). For organic and conventional soybeans, glyphosate residues were below the detection limit. Seven out of the 10 GM-soy samples we tested, however, surpassed this "extreme level" (of glyphosate + AMPA), indicating a trend towards higher residue levels. The increasing use of glyphosate on US Roundup Ready soybeans has been documented (Benbrook 2012). The explanation for this increase is the appearance of glyphosate-tolerant weeds (Shaner et al. 2012) to which farmers are responding with increased doses and more applications.

Maximum residue levels (MRLs) of glyphosate in food and feed Globally, glyphosate-tolerant GM soy is the number one GM crop plant and glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide, with a global production of 620 000 tons in 2008 (Pollak 2011).3 The world soybean production in 2011 was 251.5 million metric tons, with the United States (33%), Brazil (29%), Argentina (19%), China (5%) and India (4%) as the main producing countries (American Soybean Association 2013).

In 2011-2012, soybeans were planted on about 30 million hectares in the USA, with Roundup Ready GM soy contributing 93-94 % of the production (USDA 2013). Globally, Roundup Ready GM soybeans contributed to 75 % of the production in 2011 (James 2012).4

The legally acceptable level of glyphosate contamination in food and feed, i.e. the maximum residue level (MRL) has been increased by authorities in countries where Roundup-Ready GM crops are produced, or where such commodities are imported. In Brazil, the MRL in soybean was increased from 0.2 mg/kg to 10 mg/kg in 2004: a 50-fold increase, but only for GM-soy. The MRL for glyphosate in soybeans has been increased also in the US and Europe. In Europe, it was raised from 0.1 mg/kg to 20 mg/kg (a 200-fold increase) in 1999, and the same MRL of 20 mg/kg was adopted by the US. In all of these cases, MRL values appear to have been adjusted, not based on new scientific evidence, but pragmatically in response to actual observed increases in the content of residues in glyphosate-tolerant GM soybeans.



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[-] 5 points by elf3 (4181) 6 years ago

a war on children and unborn fetuses ...can this explain the recent drastic increase in Autism rates (1 out of 42 boys)

strange that glyphosate impacts fertility and can actually cause abortion why aren't the Evangelicals on this like Jesus on Toast?


[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

Has the toxicity of Roundup been greatly underestimated? When regulatory agencies assess pesticides for safety they invariably test only the claimed active ingredient.

Nevertheless, these do not necessarily represent realistic conditions since in practice it is the full, formulated herbicide (there are many Roundup formulations) that is used in the field. Thus, it is relevant to consider, not only the active ingredient, in this case glyphosate and its breakdown product AMPA, but also the other compounds present in the herbicide formulation since these enhance toxicity. For example, formulations of glyphosate commonly contain adjuvants and surfactants to stabilize and facilitate penetration into the plant tissue. Polyoxyethylene amine (POEA) and polyethoxylated tallowamine (POE-15) are common ingredients in Roundup formulations and have been shown to contribute significantly to toxicity (Moore et al. 2012).5

Our own recent study in the model organism Daphnia magna demonstrated that chronic exposure to glyphosate and a commercial formulation of Roundup resulted in negative effects on several life-history traits, in particular reproductive aberrations like reduced fecundity and increased abortion rate, at environmental concentrations of 0.45-1.35 mg/liter (active ingredient), i.e. below accepted environmental tolerance limits set in the US (0.7 mg/liter) (Cuhra et al. 2013). A reduced body size of juveniles was even observed at an exposure to Roundup at 0.05 mg/liter.

This is in sharp contrast to world-wide regulatory assumptions in general, which we have found to be strongly influenced by early industry studies and in the case of aquatic ecotoxicity assessment, to be based on 1978 and 1981 studies presented by Monsanto claiming that glyphosate is virtually non-toxic in D. magna (McAllister & Forbis, 1978; Forbis & Boudreau, 1981).6

Thus a worrisome outlook for health and the environment can be found in the combination of i) the vast increase in use of glyphosate-based herbicides, in particular due to glyphosate-tolerant GM plants, and ii) new findings of higher toxicity of both glyphosate as an active ingredient (Cuhra et al., 2013) and increased toxicity due to contributions from chemical adjuvants in commercial formulations (Annett et al. 2014).7

A similar situation can be found for other pesticides. Mesnage et al. (2014) found that 8 out of 9 tested pesticides were more toxic than their declared active principles.

This means that the Accepted Daily Intake (ADI) for humans, i.e. what society finds "admissible" regarding pesticide residues may have been set too high, even before potential combinatorial effects of different chemical exposures are taken into account.

For glyphosate formulations (Roundup), realistic exposure scenarios in the aquatic environment may harm non-target biodiversity from microorganisms, invertebrates, amphibians and fish, (reviewed in Annett et al. 2014) indicating that the environmental consequences of these agrochemicals need to be re-assessed.

Other compositional differences between GM, non-GM, and organic Our research also demonstrated that different agricultural practices lead to markedly different end products. Data on other measured compositional characteristics could be used to discriminate statistically all individual soy samples (without exception) into their respective agricultural practice background (Fig. 2).

Organic soybeans showed the healthiest nutritional profile with more glucose, fructose, sucrose and maltose, significantly more total protein, zinc and less fiber, compared with both conventional and GM-soy. Organic soybeans contained less total saturated fat and total omega-6 fatty acids than both conventional and GM-soy.

Conclusion Roundup Ready GM-soy accumulates residues of glyphosate and AMPA, and also differs markedly in nutritional composition compared to soybeans from other agricultural practices. Organic soybean samples also showed a more healthy nutritional profile (e.g. higher in protein and lower in saturated fatty acids) than both industrial conventional and GM soybeans.

Lack of data on pesticide residues in major crop plants is a serious gap of knowledge with potential consequences for human and animal health. How is the public to trust a risk assessment system that has overlooked the most obvious risk factor for herbicide tolerant GM crops, i.e. high residue levels of herbicides, for nearly 20 years? If it has been due to lack of understanding, it would be bad. If it is the result of the producer's power to influence the risk assessment system, it would be worse.

References American Soy Association, Soystats. 2013. 16-5-2013. Annett, R., Habibi, H. R. and Hontela, A. 2014. Impact of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides on the freshwater environment. – Journal of Applied Toxicology DOI 10.1002/jat.2997. Aumaitre, L. A. 2002. New feeds from genetically modified plants: substantial equivalence, nutritional equivalence and safety for animals and animal products. – Productions Animales 15: 97-108. Benbrook, C. M. 2012. Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years. – Environmental Science Europe 24:24. Binimelis, R., Pengue, W. and Monterroso, I. 2009. "Transgenic treadmill": Responses to the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant johnsongrass in Argentina. – Geoforum 40: 623-633. Bøhn, T., Cuhra, M., Traavik, T., Sanden, M., Fagan, J. and Primicerio, R. 2014. Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans. – Food Chemistry 153: 207-215. Cuhra, M., Traavik, T. and Bøhn, T. 2013. Clone- and age-dependent toxicity of a glyphosate commercial formulation and its active ingredient in Daphnia magna. – Ecotoxicology 22: 251-262 (open access). DOI 10.1007/s10646-012-1021-1. Duke, S. O., Rimando, A. M., Pace, P. F., Reddy, K. N. and Smeda, R. J. 2003. Isoflavone, glyphosate, and aminomethylphosphonic acid levels in seeds of glyphosate-treated, glyphosate-resistant soybean. – Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 51: 340-344. EC . Review report for the active substance glyphosate. 6511/VI/99-final, 1-56. 2002. European Commission. Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General. Forbis, A.D., Boudreau, P. 1981. Acute toxicity of MON0139 (Lot LURT 12011)(AB-81-074) To Daphnia magna: Static acute bio- assay report no. 27203. Unpublished study document from US EPA library Harrigan, G. G., Ridley, G., Riordan, S. G., Nemeth, M. A., Sorbet, R., Trujillo, W. A., Breeze, M. L. and Schneider, R. W. 2007. Chemical composition of glyphosate-tolerant soybean 40–3-2 grown in Europe remains equivalent with that of conventional soybean (Glycine max L.). – Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 55: 6160-6168. James, C. Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2012. ISAAA Brief No. 44. 2012. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY. Kleter, G. A., Unsworth, J. B. and Harris, C. A. 2011. The impact of altered herbicide residues in transgenic herbicide-resistant crops on standard setting for herbicide residues. – Pest Management Science 67: 1193-1210. McAllister, W., Forbis A. 1978. Acute toxicity of technical glyphosate (AB–78–201) to Daphnia magna. Study reviewed and approved 8–30–85 by EEB/HED Mesnage, R., Defarge, N., Vendômois, J. S. and Seralini, G. E. 2014. Major pesticides are more toxic to human cells than their declared active principles. – BioMed Research International http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/179691. Monsanto . Residues in Roundup Ready soya lower than conventional soy. http://www.monsanto.co.uk/news/99/june99/220699_residue.html . 1999. Moore, L. J., Fuentes, L., Rodgers, J. H., Bowerman, W. W., Yarrow, G. K., Chao, W. Y. and Bridges, W. C. 2012. Relative toxicity of the components of the original formulation of Roundup (R) to five North American anurans. – Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 78: 128-133. Pollak, P. 2011. Fine chemicals: the industry and the business. – Wiley. Shaner, D. L., Lindenmeyer, R. B. and Ostlie, M. H. 2012. What have the mechanisms of resistance to glyphosate taught us? – Pest Management Science 68: 3-9. USDA . National Agricultural Statistics Service. 2013. 16-5-2013.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

The Human Being as Unwitting Research Object for Industrial Chemistry

Thursday, 27 March 2014 00:00
By Fred Guerin, Truthout | Op-Ed

It is time to stop allowing the chemical industry to use us all as uninformed and non-consenting research objects in its 75-year-old experiment.

The popular science-fiction film The Matrix has its origin in a provocative philosophical thought-experiment called the "brain in a vat." This thought experiment has a rich history dating back to philosopher René Descartes' notion of an evil genius who is "supremely powerful and intelligent and does his utmost to deceive us."1 Descartes imagines that such an evil genius would be able to seduce us into thinking that our senses are profoundly deceiving us and that, in reality, there is no external world that exists outside of our imagining mind. In the modern retelling, we are nothing more than a "brain suspended in a vat of nourishing liquid" connected to a computer. Presumably, the scientist at the computer's keyboard can stimulate our brain in such a way as to create elaborate realities that would dupe us into thinking we were sensing and experiencing the real thing. However, we would be nothing more than experimental brains whose ultimate fate would be in the hands of an evil, all-powerful mind.

Imagine now that the evil genius is not an identifiable scientist at a computer but an anonymous and powerful group of chemical companies that are legally exposing our human bodies to an endless mixture of toxic chemicals without our knowledge or consent. Our bodies would be very much like the unwitting experimental subjects of The Matrix. We would not be aware of what was happening to us because we would have been propagandized into falsely thinking that it was all for the good - or as the old Dupont advertising slogan assured us, we would be part of that fortunate new generation who would have access to "Better Things for Better Living ... Through Chemistry." However, we would no longer have knowledge or control of what goes into our bodies, because our present reality and our future possibilities would be in the hands of people who evade transparency and are not interested in public good or human health. They would be defined and driven by one thing and only one thing: profit - the enrichment of the chemical industry itself. We would be their unwitting experimental subjects. In the heart of this toxic darkness many will hear Joseph Conrad's fictional character Kurtz's dying whisper echoing in our ears: "the horror, the horror." Indeed, this is a horror. It is not based on a fictional book, an imaginary film or a skeptics' dream. It is grounded in reality, a reality with which we have lived for more than 75 years.

The disquieting statistics tell us that a significant increase in breast cancer, infertility (ovarian syndrome), childhood cancer, autism, asthma, ADHD, birth defects, etc. is correlated to the explosion of industrial chemicals beginning in the 1950s. It is no accident that we have built a world of consumers who are mostly ignorant of the approximately 80,000 industrial chemicals (many of which are incautiously deemed safe until proven otherwise) now flooding the human world of consumer products - more than 200 of which have been shown to pass through the placenta from an exposed mother to her fetus. We are not talking about a simple lapse or oversight. The explanation for what appears to be an unconscionable lack of moral and legal consideration for the health and wellness of a population lies directly at the doorstep of an increasingly unregulated global capitalist system that allows profit to trump human health and safety. Under this global capitalist rubric, chemical industries treat our health and well-being not as an intrinsic good or right worth defending and preserving, but as an externality - an annoying hindrance that interferes with the bottom line.

Perhaps there are those who would question whether the causal connection between escalating toxic chemicals used in consumer products and the upsurge in cancer, autism, asthma, diabetes, etc. is an empirically or logically legitimate one. However, there is an existing track record of the chemical industry's efforts to deceive consumers intentionally regarding the risks to human health of which they themselves were, and continue to be, fully aware. Big tobacco companies provided the perfect propaganda model: flood the market with positive messaging to deceive and distract consumers; strategically market the product in a way that targets those who would be most susceptible to the message; capture the health and safety regulatory bodies that might interfere with profits by lobbying politicians with big money; hijack the science by manufacturing doubt and ensuring there are competing results and interpretations by well-paid insiders; and, if necessary, wage an all-out propaganda war against any scientist or advocacy group that pushes for health-oriented regulations.2

This model of deception and distraction (aided and abetted by massive financial lobbying) was used to great advantage by the tobacco industry and subsequently was taken up and deftly employed by other chemical industries - to promote the egregious production of what are now very recognizable and apparently indispensable everyday products: polyvinyl chloride, or PVC (vinyl), made from the polymerization of deadly vinyl chloride monomer, which causes cancer, severe and painful neurological damage, birth defects and immune system damage; formaldehyde used in the building industry, pressure-treated wood, household products and by the textile industry and indisputably known to be a human carcinogen affecting workers and consumers who are exposed to it; and bisphenol A, or BPA - an endocrine disruptor that mimics the hormone estrogen and essentially interferes with the hormone system. Estrogen is a key hormone in the development of the brain and other body organs, especially in early childhood - too much or too little of it can really screw things up for us in later life.


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

Chile Derails "Monsanto Law" That Would Privatize Seeds

Sunday, 30 March 2014 14:10
By Asha DuMonthier, New America Media | Report


Santiago, Chile - This month, rural women, indigenous communities, and farmers in Chile found themselves on the winning end of a long-fought battle against a bill that had come to be known by many in this country as simply, the “Monsanto Law.”

The bill, which would have given multinational agribusiness corporations the right to patent seeds they discover, develop or modify, was withdrawn by the Chilean government now controlled by newly elected members of the center-left coalition known as the New Majority, amid concerns that the law would bring harm to the country’s small and mid-sized farmers.

In making the announcement on March 17, new Secretary General Ximena Rincón pledged that the Chilean government will “analyze all that is known in our country and internationally about this issue in order to protect the rights of agricultural communities, small and medium-sized farmers, and the heritage of seeds in our country.”

Rincón has been a leading voice of opposition to the bill in the Chilean government, and part of a larger alliance of approximately fifteen organizations and elected officials across the country who have been lobbying and protesting its passage since the introduction of the bill four years ago.

“We reject this law because it is a threat to family farms and to biodiversity,” said Lucía Sepúlveda from the Alliance for a Better Quality of Life/Pesticide Action Network of Chile (RAP-AL Chile). Last August, her organization and thousands of other Chileans took to the streets of cities across the country in mass protests against the law.

Sepúlveda explained that the Monsanto Law – derived from the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) 1991 Act -- would allow companies to register patents for the vast majority of seeds in Chile, and require small and medium producers to pay those companies for the right to use similar seeds. This, said Sepúlveda, would create a barrier for small and medium producers to use strains of seeds that have been developed and used by farmers and indigenous communities in Chile for generations. Producers would be faced with renewing their seed rights every year for a high price, or leaving agriculture all together.

“We’re left without farmers and without production,” said Sepúlveda.

The steady decline of small and medium–scale agriculture is a growing problem for Chile. While the country is one of the world’s most prolific fruit exporters, many Chileans complain that the main importers of their agricultural goods such as Japan and the United States, have more access to quality produce than Chileans do. Large multinational companies generally produce solely for export, whereas small and medium producers produce for the domestic market, selling their goods at local markets or ferias.

Alicia Muñoz, co-director of the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (Anamuri), visited parliament five times during the last year to convince senators to reject the law. Anamuri mobilized women across the country to take a stand for the sake of preserving “food sovereignty.” She described the withdrawal of the bill as a great achievement: “All of the resistance that rural organizations, principally indigenous communities, led during these past years was a success. We were able to convey to the parliament how harmful the law would be for the indigenous communities and farmers who feed us all. Big agriculture, or agro-business is just that, a business. It doesn’t feed our country.”

Muñoz said that further privatization of seeds in Chile would harm the autonomy of small and medium producers. She said that, currently, “they (small farmers) don’t have to depend on a Monsanto, Bayer or a Syngenta to get seeds,” referring to other agri-business giants. The inability of smaller growers to use family-developed and shared strains of seeds, she said, would not only be a financial blow, but would erode what the non-profit organization GRAIN calls Chile’s “genetic heritage.”

“It would erase the history of our grandparents, our ancestors who taught us how to care for and grow our seeds,” explained Muñoz.

Environmental groups joined the fight with organizations like Anamuri because of the bill’s impact on biodiversity. Agri-business companies insisted that the bill would not allow for genetically modified organisms (GMO), or foods, to be produced for the domestic market in Chile, but activists disagreed. “If the vast majority of seeds in Chile are registered, the traditional species of seeds will fall into disuse,” said Sepúlveda.

GMO’s are controversial around the world as environmental and consumer protection groups say they harm biodiversity and violate consumer rights because of their potential health effects. And the long controversy over the Monsanto Law in Chile is just one example of the struggle across Latin America between campesinos, small farmers, and the corporate leaders of the global food industry. In Colombia, a national agricultural strike rocked the countryside in 2013 as farmers protested the effects of their own Monsanto Law that was included in a free trade agreement with the United States in 2010. In Argentina, Venezuela and Mexico, seed patenting bills have similarly generated public uproar.

The rejection of the law in Chile is being viewed as a triumph for rural and indigenous communities, yet for Chilean social and environmental activists, the struggle is not over.

“There are three possible scenarios that could occur now,” explains Francisca Rodriguez of Anamuri and the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations (CLOC-Via Campesina). “The best would be that the president (Michelle Bachelet) agrees to permanently withdraw the bill.” However, the government could also choose to set up a mixed commission to investigate its impact, which would mean consulting social and environmental organizations as well as corporate organizations. The third and worst option in the eyes of peasant and indigenous rights groups is that the bill could be rewritten and reintroduced by the Agricultural Commission.

“The corporate lobby is large and powerful and they will try to reintroduce the bill,” Rodriguez warns. Corporate stakeholders who seek to privatize seeds and facilitate the spread of GMO crops around the world face widespread resistance in Chile but continue to have the upper hand in terms of political power and wealth.

If the seed patenting law does resurface in Chile, organized groups of women, peasants, and indigenous communities appear ready to continue to defend their rights to seeds and small-scale agriculture.

“We need to keep insisting publically that the president withdraw it for good. We have to continue organizing,” concluded Rodriguez.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by Nevada1 (5843) 6 years ago

Nice to see another government standing up against Monsanto. Associations of farmers should patent all crop seeds termed "discovered", before Monsanto does.

[-] 1 points by 4truthbetold (15) from New York, NY 6 years ago

My interview thread has been censored. It's kind of crazy no.

[-] 2 points by Nevada1 (5843) 6 years ago


[-] 1 points by 4truthbetold (15) from New York, NY 6 years ago

Reading your comments and postings, and judging from your obsession with this forum, I'm quite certain everyone here agrees you are insane. Too much acid during your dirty hippy years. And, you're more narcissistic than Narcist himself. Always trying to get attention - not unlike a small motherless child.


[-] 2 points by 4truthbetold (15) from New York, NY 6 years ago

Yes, you certainly are the hippest and most centered hipster around. Sure. I jotted down - adopted motherless child - in my notes. People who grew up with the tender loving care of a mother don't feel the need to scream for attention at every second of the day.


[-] 1 points by 4truthbetold (15) from New York, NY 6 years ago

Is that what you do now? You make fun of mentally challenged children? Wow, really strong. You're a great ambassador for Occupy.


[-] 1 points by 4truthbetold (15) from New York, NY 6 years ago

You shouldn't use mentally handicapped children as an insult for other people. Those children didn't ask to be handicapped. You should respect them as much as you would respect any other individual in society. Grow up. You are an embarrassment to Occupy.


[-] 2 points by 4truthbetold (15) from New York, NY 6 years ago

You are a sad individual. Raised a motherless child, and now a lonely old man. You take out your anger at the world by bullying the users on this site. I'm not a religious man, but here, but now, for you, I offer a prayer for your happiness and well being. May it blast through the heavens like a fire alarm and spring forth all the angels to your rescue.

[+] -6 points by chilidip (-34) 6 years ago

More shrieking from the left. The cause du jur to get enraged about. It Used to to be the "homeless", Then "save the rain forest".then it was "aids"... Then global warming...now it's GMO's.

Soon to be forgotten like every other liberal cause....boredom sets in...then they need something NEW...and TRENDY.