Roundup, Part II: “Act Now to Stop Genetically Modified Alfalfa”
While much of the nation is blissfully unaware that one of the most important environmental decisions in history is due as soon as this week, observers in the organic community are flat-out panicking. The issue is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is on the verge of approving Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa seed in time for the spring planting season. If approved — and it appears to be a fait accompli — alfalfa will be the first perennial crop allowed to contain the inserted gene for resistance to the weed-killing chemical pesticide known as Roundup.
As a crop open-pollinated by the wind, the genetically modified alfalfa will cross-pollinate with non-GM alfalfa; the result, with no hyperbole, will be a landscape forever dominated by experimental genetics. And to go with a few descriptors, it will be scarier than the most freakish sci-fi film you can imagine.
“The real issue here is that Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa seeds threaten to destroy the livelihoods of organic farmers and disrupt the organic food industry,” wrote the web site Change.org. “The USDA admitted as much, but due to industry pressure, the agency still seems hell-bent on giving GE alfalfa the green light.”
The truth is, however, that the loss of organic alfalfa is the least of our worries. The real problems with farming and gardening dominated by the pesticide known as Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate run far, far deeper.
“Glyphosate is the single most important agronomic factor predisposing some plants to both disease and toxins,” said Don Huber, a retired researcher from Purdue University. His original work two decades ago was conducted in support of Roundup; his findings, however, have led him to speak out vociferously against the world’s most popular weed killer. “These toxins (in Roundup) can produce a serious impact on the health of animals and humans. Toxins produced can infect the roots and head of the plant and be transferred to the rest of the plant. The toxin levels in straw can be high enough to make cattle and pigs infertile.”
And it’s not a stretch, according to Huber and others, to say those toxins that make cattle and pigs infertile are also having a profound effect on humans.
THE POISON GETS INSIDE US
Thetis Sammons, among so many others, is desperately hoping that concerned citizens will contact President Obama and his controversial choice to run the Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, to express concern. Long a champion of genetically modified crops, Vilsack is the former Iowa governor and founder and former chair of the Governor’s Biotechnology Partnership. He was named Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, an industry lobbying group.
Sammons, who comes from a farming region, has seen numerous family members and others in her community harmed by the outcomes of large-scale chemical agriculture. A producer of the film Food Fight
, she has been searching for connections between Roundup and human health for years. The emerging answers, though complicated, are becoming clear.
“Glyphosate bio-accumulation in your bones and kidneys makes you sick on a downward sliding scale permanently,” she said during a phone conversation urging SafeLawns to get involved in spreading this message. “If Vilsack and the USDA approve GMO alfalfa this week, expect a whole lot more glyphosate residue in our feed animals, and from our feed animals into our pets and humans, and out into our waterways from now on.”
For years, Sammons noted, Monsanto and Scotts Miracle Gro told us that Roundup wasn’t persistent in the soil — that it broke down and essentially vanished within seven days. That has turned out to be a flat-out lie; Monsanto’s own test data shows that only 2 percent of Roundup breaks down after a month. And what does “break down,” doesn’t go away. Roundup binds with many other elements in the soil to create new compounds known as metabolites. These often toxic compounds are taken up by plants, which are then consumed by animals and humans. When these compounds make their way into our bloodstream, our bodies can develop liver and kidney issues and bone disease, among numerous other health issues.
“Glyphosate, for example, breaks down into various persistent phosphorous components,” she said. “The industry says we have an overabundance of phosphorous in our diets, our blood streams, our kidneys, causing bone weakness and other ailments to our animals and water systems — but it’s really glyphosate that is the causal agent.”
Glyphosate also binds with other elements including manganese, zinc, iron, copper, boron, magnesium and calcium among others. That keeps those elements out of our food supply, which can interrupt enzyme function and cause myriad diseases including Alzheimer’s. One of Don Huber’s reports notes that the incidence of Alzheimer’s has increased 9,000 percent in the past two decades; genetically modified foods such as corn and soy came on the market in 1996.
“Roundup is a systemic poison we’ve been ingesting and using in our gardens and school environments for almost 40 years without proper warning or education,” said Sammons. “In our fields, gardens and landscapes across the country it’s literally a chemical ‘free for all’ approach because people have been told Roundup is so safe for so many years.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The urgent need is for concerned citizens to speak out about the potential Roundup-Ready alfalfa travesty. Longer term, folks need to understand just how nasty Roundup (glyphosate) is; it simply must be banned ultimately.
Here is some helpful information for anyone who wants to get involved:
1) President Barack Obama:
Phone: (202) 456-1111
Fax: (202) 456-2461
2) USDA/APHIS; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or call 1-301-851-2300 and record your comments
MESSAGE: “I am ___________ from __________. I am calling to comment on USDA’s proposal to approve the commercial release of GE alfalfa and their failure to adequately address the public health, environmental, and economic consequences of that release. I strongly urge you to reject the planting of GE alfalfa.”