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Monsanto continues to insist that glyphosate, the active ingredient in their best-selling RoundUp pesticide, poses no risk to human health. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to believe their claims, however, and many experts believe it’s only a matter of time before glyphosate goes the way of Monsanto’s past creations (saccharine, PCBs, and Zyklon-B, just to name a few).

If you’ve been reading our articles for long, you’re probably no stranger to the case against glyphosate. This globally prevalent pesticide stands at the center of a sprawling and complex debate. The ethics of genetic modification, the disadvantages of monocrop agriculture, the politics of patenting and owning seeds (and the debt slavery that ensues for farmers in developing nations), the worldwide collapse of bee colonies, the precipitous rise in chronic and degenerative disease—all of these talking points lead inevitably back to Monsanto and their beloved glyphosate.

And yet even if we leave aside all of these hotly debated questions, there are two simple ones that still remain—questions that should be easy enough to answer. First question…

Does glyphosate pose risks to human health?

Unsurprisingly, Monsanto’s answer is no. Representatives from the company claim that the safety profile of glyphosate is assured by “decades of comprehensive safety reviews by the leading regulatory authorities around the world.”

This statement was issued, by the way, in response to the World Health Organization’s classification of glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen.” Needless to say, when the WHO issues a proclamation about the toxicity of a substance, you can bet that it’s substantiated—and yet Monsanto has continued to fight, calling the classification a mere “allegation.”

Their case became even harder to trust in February of 2017, when a United States District Court judge ordered Monsanto to unseal a cache of incriminating documents. And incriminating is an understatement. Remember those “comprehensive safety reviews”? The unsealed documents revealed that Monsanto wrote its own research papers, then forged credentials to make it look like independent research. They also prevented a health review by the EPA, thanks to a mole within the agency, and even were tipped off about the WHO’s reclassification of glyphosate months before the official announcement (which gave them time to launch a smear campaign against the data).

You can read more about these unsealed documents here, but suffice it to say that Monsanto has nothing legitimate to offer that proves the safety of glyphosate.

Real research demonstrates worrying connections between glyphosate contamination and developmental disorders like autism[1] and ADHD, birth defects,[2] accelerated cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease,[3] celiac disease and other gastrointestinal issues,[4] chronic kidney disease, diabetes, depression, heart disease, liver disease, and cancer.

And the coup de grace: Monsanto’s own unsealed documents reveal evidence of acute toxicity. The company knew the risks that RoundUp poses, and therefore did whatever was necessary to bury the data and prevent further safety reviews.

A quick perusal of mainstream media will reveal that despite this mountain of data demonstrating the toxicity of glyphosate, the battle is far from over. Many sources simply deny that any research has ever linked glyphosate with disease etiology.

More commonly, pundits rely on the argument that glyphosate could be toxic, but we just don’t know. They claim that even the WHO’s classification means that the pesticide could cause cancer, but we just don’t know. Regardless, isn’t this a good enough reason to exercise more restraint? 1.6 billion kilograms of RoundUp pesticide have been applied since 1974 in the United States, and a staggering two thirds of this total have been applied in the last ten years alone.[5]

Advocates claim that no restraint is required, because glyphosate levels never exceed the point of toxicity in the human body. Which leads us to our second question…

Does glyphosate accumulate in the human body?

Once again, Monsanto and its supporters answer with a resounding no. They claim that glyphosate residues would never be able to build to toxic levels, because it’s designed to be biocompatible and biodegradable.

Yes, Monsanto actually says that their poison is biodegradable—in the glyphosate FAQ on their website, they claim that the pesticide “breaks down into naturally occurring compounds” as soon as it’s done killing weeds.[6]

Never mind the fact the environmental assays contradict this claim—let’s stay focused on human biology. Many studies over the years have conclusively demonstrated that glyphosate does bioaccumulate within the human body; it is not easily excreted or metabolized, and it most certainly does not break down into harmless compounds.

Researchers from the University of California San Diego recently released data from a long, comprehensive analysis of glyphosate levels in the human body. They collected urine samples from a large group of people between 1993 and 1996, and then again between 2014 and 2016.

What they found was rather shocking: glyphosate levels had increased an average of 500% over the twenty-year period, with some individuals exhibiting a 1,208% increase.[7] The glyphosate levels found during this study are 100 times higher than those linked with liver disease and other health problems.

So what’s your verdict?

Isn’t this data enough to give us pause? If you’re ready to act with caution when it comes to glyphosate, all you need to do is eat exclusively organic, get serious about detoxification practices, and join the movement to ban the use of glyphosate-containing pesticides.


References

[1] http://www.autismone.org/content/autism-explained-synergistic-poisoning-aluminum-and-glyphosate-stephanie-seneff

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241196/

[3] http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.med.nyu.edu/science/article/pii/S0300483X14000493

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945755/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5044953/

[6] https://monsanto.com/company/media/statements/glyphosate-herbicide/

[7] https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2017-10-24-exposure-to-glyphosate-chemical-found-in-weed-killer-increased-over-23-years.aspx

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The safety of pesticides and other agrochemicals is still the subject of heated debate. Despite nearly indisputable evidence of their health risks, the use of these chemicals is more widespread than ever. An incredible 9.4 million tons of RoundUp pesticide have been sprayed onto fields since the product’s inception in 1974, making it the most-used agricultural chemical in history.[1]

Unsurprisingly, Bayer has adopted Monsanto’s long-held stance that their products pose no human health risks. Meanwhile, an entire class of pesticides (those which contain the chemical chlorpyrifos) was recently banned, demonstrating that regulatory agencies are beginning to understand the dangers of these chemicals. A California court even acknowledged the dangerous association between pesticide exposure and cancer development by ordering Bayer-Monsanto to pay $289 million to a man who alleged his cancer was caused by frequent use of RoundUp.

These events are landmarks in the fight against toxic agrochemicals, but we have a long way to go. Progress is being made far more slowly in places like Argentina, an early supporter of GE agriculture that now is struggling to break free of its devastating effects on human health and the environment.

How companies exploit Argentinian farmers

The Argentinian agricultural industry has long been dominated by genetically engineered crops and heavy agrochemical usage. These practices were first approved in 1996, at which time the Argentinian government took Monsanto’s safety studies at face value.

It has now come to light that Monsanto ghostwrote its own safety studies on glyphosate, the main ingredient in RoundUp pesticide. Subsequent, independent studies, as well as voluminous anecdotal reports, have called the safety of glyphosate into question. The World Health Organization now classifies glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.

Back in 1996, though, the GMO-agrochemical model simply seemed like a safe and prosperous one for Argentina to adopt. Monsanto’s commercials suggested that producing hardy, aesthetically pleasing crops and high yields would allow farmers to prosper, and that GE seeds and agrochemicals were the perfect tools for the job.

The commercials worked. Today, nearly 61.9 million acres of Argentinian land are planted with GE crops. Each and every year, farmers apply an astounding 300 million liters of RoundUp pesticide on their genetically modified soy, maize, cotton, corn, and tobacco (the most common crops in this region).

Such mass-scale farming has indeed brought more prosperity into the region, including up to 35% taxes on crop exports. But farming families have also seen a dramatic increase in the number of children born with severe defects and deformities, and they’re realizing they were lied to about glyphosate’s risks.

“Genetically modified children”

A new documentary film called Genetically Modified Children takes the viewer on a tour of Argentinian farming regions, where decades of agrochemical usage have led to shocking physical deformities and rare, life-threatening health conditions in children.

The story highlights the plight of tobacco farmers, who have become ensnared in a vicious cycle of industrial agriculture. Philip Morris, an American multinational tobacco company, exerts an enormous amount of control over the agriculture of Argentina’s Misiones Province. The company places unreasonable production standards on Argentinian farmers, who therefore must use more than 100 different agrochemicals (including glyphosate) to ensure a final product of pristine appearance. Otherwise, Philip Morris will simply pass over their crop yield and purchase from other farmers who present a more aesthetic product.

Because none of these farmers were told that glyphosate poses risks to human health, they’ve spent decades treating their crops without protecting themselves or their families from exposure. The results are heart-wrenching: the film shows children with severe deformities, epilepsy, hampered development of mental function and motor skills, multiple muscular atrophy, congenital microcephaly, and many other ailments stemming from genetic mutation. One child is even shown whose skin has no pores, and thus no ability to perspire—the results of a genetic incurable skin condition.

Many experts believe this disproportionate rate of birth defects demonstrates glyphosate’s genotoxicity, as both in vivo and in vitro animal studies have demonstrated.[2] Fearful of escalating health effects, farmers are doing their best to move their families away from chemical-laden farmland.

Many would like to detach from glyphosate use altogether, but this choice is not tenable for most of them, as the region lacks other avenues for generating income reliably. Tragically, the families most deeply affected by glyphosate are the ones least able to stop using it—they rely heavily on the income and social security provided by Philip Morris in order to tend to their children’s medical needs.

Help change this deplorable situation

The tide is beginning to turn, as evidenced by the victories discussed at this article’s outset. U.S. lawyers have begun to work on behalf of affected Argentinian families, but progress is slow, as agrobusinesses exert far-reaching political and economic power throughout the country.

In the meantime, you can do your part by boycotting companies who manufacture or encourage the use of genotoxic pesticides. This means avoiding the vast majority of conventionally grown produce and tobacco, as well as processed foods.

Watch Genetically Modified Children to learn more about Argentina’s agrochemical crisis, and to find out more about how you can help.

 


References

[1] https://enveurope.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s12302-016-0070-0

[2] https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf9606518

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Consumers trust that the food choices being offered to them are safe. They might be aware that choosing donuts over kale is not the healthiest decision, but they can rest assured that nothing available for purchase is directly toxic and dangerous. After all, our country’s food system operates according to strict and well-monitored safety standards…right?

Sadly, this isn’t the case.

The United States is notorious in many other parts of the world for having low standards around food toxicity

In truth, the United States is notorious in many other parts of the world for having low standards around food toxicity. The American food system’s overzealousness around sanitation, pasteurization, and similar practices might suggest otherwise, but don’t let that fool you. It’s precisely this perceived “order and cleanliness” about our food system that is most dangerous, as it lulls the public into a false sense of security.

We’d all like to believe that the people pulling the strings are ultimately good-intentioned, so many are quick to believe the propaganda put out by various branches of the industry.

If Monsanto says that RoundUp and genetic modification isn’t dangerous, then they must be right. If dairy mega-farmers say their animals are healthy, happy, and unmedicated, then they must be telling the truth.

Wrong!

Nothing is further from the truth. We simply can’t always rely on regulators and external organizations (and certainly not food producers themselves) to govern the safety of our food.

American food monstrosities (banned in other Countries)

To illustrate the point, let’s take a look at some common American foods that are so toxic as to be banned in other countries. Needless to say, you should do your best to avoid these foods and substances at all costs.

Farm-raised salmon. You’ve probably heard about the benefits of salmon (as long as it’s tested for mercury before distribution). Wild-caught, high-grade salmon is hard to come by, though, so the fish industry has created salmon mega-farms to meet market demands.

These “frankenfish” bear little to no nutritional resemblance to their wild cousins: they’re fed a terrible diet of grains and pharmaceuticals, and pumped full of synthetic astaxanthin and other petrochemical-derived poisons (all in order to compensate for the unappealing grey pallor their flesh takes on due to their deplorable diet and living conditions). Farm-raised salmon are banned in Australia and Russia, but their prevalence continues to grow in the United States.

Genetically modified fruit. The safety of GMOs is still up for debate in America, even though nearly the entire rest of the world does not support the use of toxic pesticides, has banned GMOs outright, or at least is proceeding into the industry with caution. Following research suggesting that ingestion of GMO corn and soy by animals is correlated with multiple-organ damage, gastrointestinal distress and damage, tumors, birth defects and more,[1]

The European Union banned many genetically modified fruits (a class of food that also easily absorbs toxic pesticides, which carry even more potential side effects), including a papaya genetically modified to be resistance against specific viruses and pathogens.

Milk and dairy products with growth hormone. We’ve written before about the perils of including milk as a prominent part of your diet (hint: it doesn’t end well for your body). While even organic milk has its downsides, conventionally produced milk is the worst of all, in part because it often contains recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH).

Big business farmers love it because injecting it into cows can dramatically increase milk production, but the yield comes at a cost: it’s correlated (in humans) with an increased risk of at least three types of cancer.[2] For this reason, over thirty countries around the world have banned its use, but the United States continues its march of profits over health.  

Preservatives are so ever-present in conventionally packaged foods that we’ve come to accept them as inevitable. Yet as an increasing number of countries begin to ban these “normal” substances, it’s becoming clear that their convenience just isn’t worth the associated health risks. BHA and BHT are two very common preservatives; reports have found that they act as a “probable carcinogen” for both animals and humans[3]

For this reason they are banned in parts of the European Union and Japan, but American hasn’t budged on its acceptance of them.

Ractopamine is so toxic that it’s banned in more than 160 countries around the world

Meat contaminated with ractopamine. Some of the examples cited above are controversial (i.e. there are proponents on both sides of the fence), but this last example isn’t up for debate—ractopamine is so toxic that it’s banned in more than 160 countries around the world, including all of Europe, Russia, China, and the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Nevertheless, this drug is routinely fed to pigs conventionally raised in the United States, and producers are not even required to test for the chemical in finished meat products. Ractopamine is linked with reproductive dysfunction, cardiovascular issues, hyperactivity, chromosome damage, and behavioral changes.[4]

                                

 


References 

[1] https://www.organic-systems.org/journal/81/8106.pdf

[2] http://escholarship.org/uc/item/5wh0g46z#page-1

[3] https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/pubhealth/roc/index-1.html

[4] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2903/j.efsa.2009.1041/pdf

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You may remember the National GMO Labeling Bill that the Senate passed in July 2016. Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb and other high-profile supporters hyped it as a long-earned success for GMO labeling advocates; meanwhile, the actual GMO labeling community felt that it was duped.

To many, the bill felt like a huge concession to the GMO industry—an attempt to demand only the bare minimum from these manufacturers, while undermining progress toward any real GMO labeling legislation.

The bill nullified Vermont’s much more comprehensive labeling laws, and replaced them with vague and weak nationwide laws that make actual labeling very easy for manufacturers to avoid.

For example, companies are permitted to use only QR codes in lieu of any easily visible labeling—and this trick is already being put into practice.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF), a GM food developer based in Canada, is beginning its US rollout of non-browning Arctic apples, and they will only be identified as genetically modified through a QR code.

The company knows exactly what it’s doing; founder and president Neal Carter even admitted that he doesn’t want their new product to be “demonized” because of a “big GM sticker.”

To make matters worse, the apples will be phased into undisclosed stores across the American Midwest (only ten stores at first, and then more if the product proves its popularity). Luckily, you’ll be able to pick them out easily—they’ll be sold pre-cut, and they won’t display any browning even after sitting on produce shelves for extended periods of time.

Useless “innovation” and needless risk

The non-browning apple perfectly showcases how inane the GMO industry really is. Okanagan Specialty Fruits has dedicated extensive resources toward suppressing a natural chemical reaction, namely the enzyme polyphenol oxidase, which causes apples to turn brown once they’ve been cut. They’ve simply sought out the gene that controls the expression of this enzyme and blocked it.

The company obviously claims that their product is perfectly safe, and it was approved for sale and consumption by both the US Department of Agriculture and Health Canada. But we can’t possibly know the long-term risks of suppressing natural chemical reactions—and suppression usually doesn’t lead to good things (e.g. closing off pores and suppressing sweat with deodorants can lead to cancer, and suppressing symptoms of illness with OTC medications can actually prolong its overall duration).

“Genetically Modified foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, new diseases, and nutritional problems.

Even if Okanagan Specialty Fruits has found nothing especially dangerous about their product, why take the risk that comes from messing with natural processes, all for the silly convenience of apples that don’t turn brown?

According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, FDA scientists have repeatedly warned that “GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored.”[1]

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine also continues to publicize the evident dangers of GMO’s, arguing that “several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GM) food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM has asked physicians to advise all patients to avoid GM foods.”[2]

Despite such credible evidence, companies like Okanagan Specialty Fruits are blundering on; Neal Carter even dismisses anti-GMO research as “pseudoscience” and “paranoia.”

But the public recognizes something isn’t right with GM foods

All the whitewashing and sneaky labeling in the world can’t change one fact, though: GMO opposition is still strong and widespread.

Despite attempts to avoid being “demonized” (i.e. by hiding the truth from consumers), OSF is facing massive disapproval in their own backyard. A poll commissioned by the British Columbia Fruit Grower’s Association revealed that 69% opposed the approval of the non-browning apple (and that’s just counting the people who participated in the poll).

A poll commissioned by the British Columbia Fruit Grower’s Association revealed that 69% opposed the approval of the non-browning apple

Seventeen different Canadian advocacy groups have joined forces to form the Canadian Bio-Technology Action Network, and the organization is touring communities across the country to speak out against the Arctic apple.

This kind of public backlash is exactly what’s needed, because governments are not going to protect us from the dangers of GM foods.

It seems that GM food companies are going to press on with their risky science experiments for the foreseeable future, but this doesn’t mean that you have to be part of their experiments. It’s important to stem the tide of GM food development while we still can, because some experts worry that crop cross-pollination could eventually lead to a world full of nothing but GM foods.

As the Arctic apple’s trial run shows us, the most powerful tool available to us is our buying power as consumers. If enough people simply refuse to purchase GM foods, manufacturers will have little incentive to keep making them.

They might try to hide them beneath QR codes and sneaky marketing at first, but eventually they’ll have to own up to the truth: foods are best in their natural, unmodified form—and that’s the way the public wants them.

 


References

[1] http://responsibletechnology.org/gmo-education/health-risks/

[2] http://www.aaemonline.org/gmo.php

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