Tag Archives: Glyphosate

Biocide in me

“Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and share our heads.  How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?”

– Jane Goodall

Results are in.

And they’re not great.

I’ve ridden a few medical roller coasters to know too well the sinking feeling of just *waiting* to take the test. Then waiting for the results. And then, finally, the surreal moment where it’s confirmed you have “it.” (It being the worst possible outcome.)

In many cases, “it” is a defined problem requiring surgery or unpleasant treatment. In other cases, it is not clear what is going on. In this case my “it” is 3.1 parts per billion glyphosate in my body.

Glyphosate in my body! 3.1 parts per billion! Huh? Say what? How? Why?

Although I have more questions than answers, I wanted to share this news with you. I’ve been slowly ruminating on the results, trying to learn more about its implications. Let me backtrack for a second…. In the summer, through the detox project www.detoxproject.org I sent off samples of my urine and kitchen tap water. They were part of the first ever batch of Canadian samples from a small group of Canadians including Tony Mitra, worried about toxic exposure to glyphosate. When the results came in a few weeks ago, I found that the tap water was blessedly clean. But the urine… Well… Here are my results from The Detox Project (previously known as Feed the World):

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If you’re not familiar with this ‘herbicide’ which I prefer to call a biocide, here’s a summary in the next paragraph. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in round-up, a best selling herbicide, a patented antibiotic and one of the worst things to ever be used in agriculture. Up there with DDT and Agent Orange perhaps? For a video summary about glyphosate in our food, check out Thierry Vrain’s talk:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiU3Ndi6itk

A quick summary- skip if you know about glyphosate. Glyphosate started off as a patented industrial descaler invented to bind to heavy metals. It was discovered to kill plants and then used widely as a herbicide. Resistance was spliced into most GMOs that are available for human consumption. This is in order to control weeds (I won’t talk about superweeds and resistance to glyphosate in this post). It kills plants and bacteria by disrupting the shikimate pathway. So farmers spray glyphosate on GMO crops such that everything in the field dies except the GMO plant. Some folks call GMOs: Glyphosate Modified Organisms. Glyphosate is also widely used as a dessicant, killing and drying out a field of non-organic wheat, for example, to allow the farmer to harvest the field in one go. (The wheat isn’t washed before it’s ground into flour.) Other crops are also subject to this dessicant treatment. This is not a GMO application, which makes it perhaps even more insidious. Glyphosate was originally considered ‘safe’ because it doesn’t attack human cells. Well, there’s a more sinister application of glyphosate; Monsanto patented it a few years ago as an antibiotic because they determined that it kills bacteria. Guess what? We humans walk around with 10 bacteria cells for every human cell.  So it attacks our micro-biome (the magical mysterious universe of gut bacteria).

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Glyphosate is not allowed in organic farming and this is one reason I try to feed my body and my growing familys’ bodies certified organic food as much as possible. When I sent in the samples I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Maybe a low level of ‘environmental’ glyphosate in my body? Not purposely ingested of course, but emanating from the air (public parks and train tracks are sprayed with the stuff). OCD gardeners spray it on weeds like dandilions.  It can come from the water (polluted from industrial farming run-off).  Or perhaps from the non-organic food I ingest. I have read studies where unborn babies have glyphosate in their blood, and others that show glyphosate in wild animals. I have also read that in some studies, the chronically ill have higher levels of glyphosate in their bodies.*

I certainly didn’t expect such a level of 3.1 ppb.  What does it mean to have 3.1 ppb in my body of glyphosate? To be honest, nobody really knows for sure exactly what it means in humans.  But it’s certainly not *good* – how could any levels of this toxin, chelator, biocide, and antibiotic IN MY BODY be good? Without my permission. Without my volition.

Here are some links for you to peruse:

5 things you need to know about glyphosate testing:

http://detoxproject.org/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-glyphosate-testing/

10 things you need to know about glyphosate:

http://detoxproject.org/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-glyphosate/

And for those of you who want to geek out:

Glyphosate in Numbers with links to peer-reviewed studies.

http://detoxproject.org/glyphosate-in-numbers/

So, you may ask, if I suspected that I might have glyphosate in my body due to environmental contamination, why did I spend money to test myself?

Simply put: I want to know.

I ought to know.

I have the right to know and empower myself.

Knowledge is the first step towards change.

Let me tell you what I want. I want my fellow citizens to be aware of this probable carcinogen and toxin insidiously entering our bodies.  I want our governments to change laws, to protect us and to focus on sustainable agriculture than replenishes the soil.

I want all toxic biocides removed from our food production. I want chemical company shills to stop claiming that glyphosate is safe to drink! But what I really really want is the growing of food to return to being an act of love.

Ah.. just take a second and envision that.  Smile. It’s a happy place.

See the shiny happy children of a clean world?  It’s summer and they are playing geocache in ancient forests, whispering secrets to butterflies in restored meadows, canon-balling into clean waters teeming with life, growing vegetables with their grandparents…

And thanking you.

 

[I dedicate this post to the brave and beautiful Australian women from Byron Shire Chemical Free Landcare Volunteers.]

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*Studies not funded by the companies that manufacture Glyphosate, tend to show that it is harmful.  In fact, the WHO declared Glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.  The US regulatory bodies, however, have relied on research provided by the companies who will profit from its sale.

It’s different in Europe.  A few weeks ago in Rome, I was speaking with a forestry biologist from the FAO (sort of like the UN’s FDA).  Nicolas Picard said that the FAO has a whole department who researches the *sources* and *funding* of research.  They ensure that the research used in studies or to make important policy decision are independent.  Thus they discount the corporate research and University research primarily funded by industry. When I mentioned how Robyn O’Brien says that researches should wear lab coat or tee shirts with the logos of the companies that sponsor them, Nicolas gleefully agreed!

 

feedtheworld.info

“The more we pour the big machines, the fuel, the pesticides, the herbicides, the fertilizer and chemicals into farming, the more we knock out the mechanism that made it all work in the first place.”
– David Brower, environmentalist

A few weeks ago, the World Health Organization named glyphosate a ‘probable carcinogen”. In fact, it was originally classified as such in the 1980s (but mysteriously that was overturned). The makers of glyphosate claim that it is safe for humans since it doesn’t kill human cells. But it does kill our symbiotic gut bacteria and we humanoids have 10 bacteria cells for each human cell. Various studies have shown glyphosate to be in our bodies, in our breast milk, in our placentas and even the blood of our unborn babies. This begs the question:

“Do I have glyphosate in my body too?”

If so, how can I find out?

Henry Rowlands and Ed Brown have just launched an amazing initiative –http://feedtheworld.info/ – to bring the glyphosate conversation into the homes of America.  This is the first of its kind, an attempt for the people of America to send in urine, breast milk and home tap water samples to see how exposed they are to glyphosate.

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For more information on how to get tested and to see a hard-hitting short film, please check out http://feedtheworld.info/

Most of us here in North America only have a vague idea about how ‘conventional’ food is grown. Some people do realize that perhaps their food is sprayed with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. But don’t really think about it. Who wants to focus on the negative? Most people think that the government wouldn’t allow anything ‘really bad’ to be in and on our food. In some countries, people are given the power to choose. For example, in France, there’s a law that food sprayed with toxins needs to be labelled “produit traite”.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

In North America we are facing the opposite situation.  Unless you either grow your own food, or know your local farmer – or unless your food is “certified organic”, there is no guarantee that you aren’t being subjected to a vast variety of known toxins. In 2014, the government allowed 2,4-D (the active ingredient in the notorious herbicide agent orange) to be sprayed on crops in North America. Since the 1990s, glyphosate (commonly known as Round Up) has been sprayed to the tune of millions of pounds a year. Glyphosate was first used as an industrial cleaner since it binds to heavy metals. Then it was used as weed killer, killing plants and bacteria via the shikimate pathway. It is sprayed on lawns, on playgrounds and even in national parks. Most recently in 2010, glyphosate was patented as an antibiotic.

Resistance to glyphosate has been spliced into most of the GMOs grown in North America. And up until recently, most people have considered it safe. This ‘safe’ designation has permitted ‘conventional’ farmers to put even more of this toxin on our crops, where it ends up contaminating the soil, air and water. It kills habitat for wildlife such as milkweed necessary for the monarch butterflies. It kills bacteria in the soil. It disrupts earthworms. Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide in the world. Resistance to glyphosate is genetically spliced into corn, soy, canola, cotton and sugar. That means ‘conventional’ farmers can indiscriminately spray glyphosate on fields to destroy weeds. For more information on glypohsate and to order your test kit, please check out http://feedtheworld.info/

I look forward to testing myself – will keep you posted.

Information can lead to Knowledge.

Knowledge is power.

Power will lead the change.

Let’s empower ourselves and make the world a safer, healthier, more beautiful place!

 

 

GMOs summarized

Before we can change behaviours, we need to change thoughts.  In order to change thoughts and subsequently actions, we need to separate hard, uncomfortable truths from rosy lies.

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Dear readers of the Deeper Side Blog.

As I was finishing my first book “Wood Storms, Wild Canvas” in the summer of 2014, I started to write a very different book called “This Earth Is Ours”. (Yes – 2014 was a busy year!)  This title of “This Earth Is Ours” is based on a song by my song-writing, organic farming grandfather Rupert who said, “He who knowingly steps on an earthworm, is not a man”. Here he is in the 30s (or 40s?) at the Stephens’ Mountain Valley Farm in Glenora, Vancouver Island:

Mtn Valley Farm & Dad

When I think of all the pesticides and herbicides that go into growing GMOs, I cannot help but think of all the insects including myriad pollinators that are being decimated.  I would think that the word ‘ecocide’ applies. Sad little earthworm below – I think he wants to be in red rich earth, not on gravel:Worm unedited

I was compelled to summarize the real tangible problems with GMOs in the forth-coming book. Several experts read it and provided feedback. I skirted the elephant issue of whether it is ethical to make new species. I will just sum up that conundrum with Vandana Shiva’s quote, “You cannot insert a gene you took from a bacteria and call it life. You haven’t created life, instead you have polluted it.”  Below is a favourite 3 arm-holed “GMO” t-shirt which says, “GMO SHIRTS ARE EASY TO SPOT. GMO FOODS AREN’T”:

Diya GMO 3 hole shirt

If you still are confused about GMOs, or know people who think that GMOs currently grown are doing good for people or planet…. Or if you don’t know why everyone is seeking out non-GMO foods…. Or, if you believe in the promise of GMOs, but are still unaware of the sobering realities, I hope this extract from “This Earth Is Ours” will scatter some seeds that will sprout a new understanding.

To put you in the mood of nature and food, here is a photo I took at the restored prairie at the Morton Arboretum near Chicago:

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Extract from “This Earth Is Ours”, forthcoming March 4, 2015

Appendix

GMOs

I would like to thank Dr. John Fagan, Dr. Thierry Vrain, Ken Roseboro, Lucy Sharatt and Dag Falck for their valued input into this section.

When I was getting my honors bachelor’s degree in biology and my masters degree in biopsychology at the University of Chicago from 1991 to 1996, the field of biology was buzzing about genetic engineering. Biologists were promising to eliminate pesticide use and create superfoods with this new technology. They would solve world hunger through their cleverness and technology.

I thought it fascinating that under the guise of improving food, scientists were basically unleashing brand new species onto the planet. Many people, including my father, were dead opposed. Initially, I was trying to figure out why. Biologists and shills for the biotech industry made it all sound so rosy. Over the years, I’ve tried hard to understand the pros and cons of this technology. I’ve discovered that, despite the hype and initial promise, there are very few pros. Below, I discuss the major cons — six big problems with the use of genetically modified organisms in our food supply.

Organic farming is a way of incorporating the entire ecology, the ecosystem of a “farm,” promoting pollinators, enriching the soil and looking at the whole system. The premise behind GMOs is to grow unicrops, taking one factor, the gene, and altering the genome, without considering the whole. Biologists were attempting to fix something when nothing was broken to begin with. There is no shortage of food, but rather of distribution.

The first major problem is that GMOs cannot be grown side by side with organic crops. They are not only the furthest thing from natural (think fish DNA in a tomato) but, because they are living and capable of reproducing, they cannot be contained. Pollen from engineered crops is carried everywhere by the wind and by pollinators, including into organic fields, which are then contaminated with genetically engineered genes. My father Arran said in 1996 “there are no walls high enough to keep out GMOs.” You cannot have a field of organic crops right next to a field of GMO crops because the wind and pollinators will spread the GMO pollen to the non-GMO organic plants. Most people have heard about the huge number of lawsuits launched by the big biotech companies against farmers. According to one account, over the last 15 years an average of one lawsuit a week has been launched against a farmer for patent infringement. How can we patent nature?

Farmers affected by GMO crop contamination did not want the GMOs, did not grow them on purpose and didn’t even know of the contamination until they were sued. If someone sprayed toxic paint that disrupted my farm, the sprayer would have to desist and provide restitution. However, in this twisted world of big biotech business, it is the persecuted who lose out.

Secondly, GMOs use a lot of pesticides, which are incompatible with the organic system of agriculture. Most people are shocked to learn that GMOs have not decreased pesticide use despite biotech claims that they do so. In fact, 1.5 million tons of pesticides and herbicides were sprayed on US crops in the mid-1990s. The amount is increasing exponentially. A study by Charles Benbrook, PhD, research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, found that pesticide use has increased by 404million pounds since GM crops were first planted in 1996.

The sad fact is that over 90 percent of North American GMO crops are designed to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (which is also patented as an antibiotic and kills the bacteria that are so important to soil fertility). In private correspondence with me, Dr. Thierry Vrain explained that glyphosate was originally patented as an industrial pipe cleaner. This chemical was discovered to kill bacteria, plants and fungi, and in 1974 it was purchased and patented into the widely used, best-selling herbicide which will not be named. At this time, explains Dr. Vrain, “it was assumed to be completely safe to humans because of its mode of action to kill plants.” But, as Dr. Vrain said in a recent lecture, “imagine a chemical contaminant that would destroy all vitamins in the food. Vitamins are all co-factors of enzyme proteins. Glyphosate does not affect vitamins at all, but it does deplete the food of minerals. Minerals in our food are also cofactors of enzyme proteins.” Glyphosate is now also patented as an antibiotic, which apparently doesn’t attack our “human cells,” but certainly attacks our gut bacteria via the shikimate pathway. We walk about with over 10 times more symbiotic bacterial cells than human cells. The first glyphosate-resistant crops were released in 1996 and, because these crops are sprayed, the resulting foods we consume contain “much higher residues,” says Dr. Vrain. Most GMOs are genetically modified to resist glyphosate or to express a pesticide, such as Bt corn. Genetic engineers from the world’s largest chemical companies have developed strategies in the laboratory to “stack” several traits in one seed so that a single crop will be herbicide resistant in addition to expressing a pesticide. This is extreme agriculture, as far removed from organic or traditional breeding methods as one could conceive.

In recent years, with overuse of pesticides and herbicides (across 395 million acres of GMO production), superweeds and superpests have proliferated to such an alarming extent that, in 2014, the US and Canada permitted resistance to 2,4-D to be genetically engineered into seeds. 2,4-D is a highly toxic component of the infamous herbicide Agent Orange, used as a biowarfare agent during the Vietnam War. According to US Department of Agriculture estimates, the use of 2,4-D could triple by 2020. GMOs have exacerbated the problems of pesticide use, not diminished them.

The third major problem with GMOs is that safety testing is inadequate to protect the health of those who might eat them. The GMO crops grown today were all approved for commercial production without any independent or long-term animal, human or environmental toxicity studies. In Canada and the US, GMO versions of crops are considered to be “substantially equivalent to conventional crops.” If this is true, then why is herbicide-resistant GMO Bt corn registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide? And, if they are considered equivalent, why are they patented? By its very definition, a patent is awarded when something is “substantially” different. Every short-term study used to “prove” their safety to regulators has been done by the very same companies selling the GMO seeds and chemicals. Every scientific study that questions or sheds doubt upon the safety of GMOs is immediately subjected to discrediting by scientists who have direct or indirect financial ties to the biotech industry. There is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.

Related to this third issue is North America’s failure to question biotech’s data and ban GMOs, while other countries have called the same data into question and rejected GMOs. As John Fagan, PhD, writes, “shockingly, no country has done its own research to date. All buy in to the biotech companies’ own data.” In North America, legislators have not questioned the data nor done independent studies on GMOs. As a consequence, we are being force-fed GMOs, without knowledge or consent, based upon studies done by the very companies that are profiting from patenting this technology, selling the seeds and countless tons of pesticides and herbicides. Consistently, over 90 percent of North Americans polled want GMOs labeled. However, lawmakers are not listening. Sixty-four countries around the world either have mandatory labeling of GMOs or ban them altogether.

When I was in my twenties and living in Europe, I was invited to the UK houses of parliament in the 1990s for backroom debates on GMOs. I wasn’t at all impressed with the biotech research they presented. At the time, I had a particularly keen eye for data, having conducted laboratory research myself. Fortunately for the Europeans, they were not impressed with pro-GMO research either. They limited GMO crop trials and instituted mandatory labelling of GMOs. To date in Europe, Spain is the only country where GMO seeds are used to any significant extent, and at least six EU countries forbid any cultivation of GMOs. Other countries have taken a strong stand against GMOs, even when in the midst of a national emergency. Following the Haitian earthquake, a large biotech company provided “aid” in the form of seeds, and instead of planting them, the Haitian people wisely burned those seeds, saying they were “poison.”

Recently, influential countries have taken a critical position regarding GMOs. Russia has banned them, and high-level military officers in the Chinese army have pointed to imported GMO grains as a threat to national security, saying they weaken the local agricultural production capacity. In 2014, China rejected corn exports from the US worth more than $1 billion due to the presence of a GM corn variety that has not been approved in China. With the rest of the world already alerted to the failing GMO crop experiment, only now are North Americans becoming aware of this issue and taking action to implement labeling laws. Today, Canada and the United States are the only two developed nations that do not give their citizens transparency regarding what they are eating, but with the newly enlivened attention to the GMO issue, this blind spot will soon be eliminated.

The fourth major problem is that people are under the misguided impression that GMOs increase yields and consequently are “feeding the world.” In fact, of the major commercially grown GMO crops (corn, soy, canola, sugar, cotton), there have been no intentional genetic modifications for increased yields. In other words, no yield-increasing traits have been inserted through genetic engineering.

A fifth major problem is that of the ethical question of patenting “life,” coupled with the problem of whether gene-splicing technology is inherently safe. I’m going to avoid this discussion for this book. It is such a vast and technical discussion and can be easily researched for those who are interested. What is more concerning on a practical level is that most of the millions of acres of GMOs grown are made by only a small handful of extremely large chemical and seed corporations. These huge multinationals own the GMO seeds, the patents, the technology and the herbicides and pesticides that have to be grown concurrently with the GMOs. These corporations are able to buy and sway public opinion, directly or indirectly fund much of the science driving GMO research and actively lobby the government. In addition, the amount of subsidies given to “conventional” food production is staggering in size compared to organics, where farmers have to pay to be certified. It boils down to a few companies patenting life and nature . . . and it’s all for profit. GMOs were allowed because of the promises of “feeding the world,” reducing pesticide/herbicide use, increasing yield and making “superfoods,” none of which have come to pass.

This brings us to the last major problem with GMOs: they didn’t do what they set out to do. GMOs haven’t alleviated world hunger, they haven’t decreased toxic herbicide and pesticide use, they haven’t improved crop yield and they haven’t produced super-nutritious foods. Owning patents on life is not the same as providing food for the hungry. The problem of hunger is not a question of quantity but of distribution. As United Nations studies consistently report, small scale, sustainable farming is capable of solving the ‘food shortage’ and promoting biodiversity at the same time. In the long run, GMOs are out-performed by organics, especially for smaller farms and during drought conditions.

Let us collectively take the knowledge we have gained over the millennia of crop-breeding. Let’s wisely incorporate modern technologies, like marker-assisted selection, that protect the integrity of nature. By keeping seed biodiversity and trusting in Nature, we can heal the Earth, feed the hungry and breed wonderful new varieties of foods, at the pace of the seasons.

I’ll sign off with xo’s and another photo I took at the restored prairie at the Morton Arboretum:DSC_0346

 

Dr OZ and Pesticides

First LivingMaxell on Fox news http://livingmaxwell.com/fox-news-carol-alt-gmos

Now Dr Oz on Pesticides http://www.doctoroz.com/episode/what-food-industry-doesnt-want-you-know

1.5 million pounds of pesticides were sprayed on crops in 1999 – mostly GMOs.  In my opinion that’s 1.5 million pounds too many.  Sit down and hang onto your hat, cuz in 2011 we were at 90+ million pounds of pesticides per year. 90+ million pounds of pesticides in our soils, in our waters and in the air.  And that data is conservative.

And that number is growing because of the superweeds and superpests.  These GMOs were supposed to reduce chemical applications.  Instead they have increased.  Exponentially.  For those people who believe that pesticide use decreased with GMOs, it didn’t.  It hasn’t.  Dr. Oz showed that very well.  This is based on USDA data.  Now there currently is an application with the FDA to spray 2,4 D, the active ingredient of agent orange.

Over time, yields of GMOs are equalled or outperformed by Organic.

For those who believe that GMOs hold promises…. In theory.  To you I say: How about this approach –  How about we just ban toxins?  How about banning/labelling food with known carcinogens and neurotoxins, and endocrine disruptors?

Let’s stop poisoning people and planet whilst we debate the morals and ethics of GMO technology.

For more information on pesticides please see http://farmwars.info/?p=11515

I’ve copied this graph on Glyphosate use and explanation from the Farm Wars website.  This is just one pesticide being sprayed on our crops…..

Contrary to claims made by the chemical industries, glyphosate use increased 6,504% from 1991 to 2010 according to data from the USDA: National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). States participating in the USDA surveys reported applying a whopping 91,200 tons (1 rail car holds approximately 100 tons) of glyphosate on corn, cotton and soy crops alone in 2010 (see graph). Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup™, the herbicide used on Roundup Ready™ crops genetically engineered (GE) to withstand glyphosate. Glyphosate residues of up to 4.4 mg/kg have been detected in stems, leaves and beans of glyphosate-resistant soy, indicating metabolism of the herbicide. This means that the Roundup Ready™ plants are absorbing the herbicide and you cannot simply wash it off.

glyphosate graph 1