This has not been a good week for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and other herbicides. On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it had classified glyphosate, the United States’ most widely-used pesticide, as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Now, the chemical has another strike against it. A study published today by the American Society of Microbiology’s journal mBio has linked glyphosate and two other widely-used herbicides–2,4-D and dicamba–to one of the most pressing public health crises of our time: antibiotic resistance.
This study found that exposure to these herbicides in their commercial forms changed the way bacteria responded to a number of antibiotics, including ampicillin,ciprofloxacin, and tetracycline–drugs widely used to treat a range of deadly diseases.
Dicamba, 2,4-D, and glyphosate have been in use for decades, so why have their antibacterial-resistance effects not been documented before? As the study’s lead author, Jack Heinemann, professor of genetics at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, explains, when pesticides are tested for adverse effects, “it’s the lethal toxicity that people focus on.” In other words, how much of the chemical will kill an organism.
“What makes our study different, is that it is looking at a sub-lethal effect,” says Heinemann. “The effect we see requires that the bacteria stay alive.”
In the absence of a federal requirement tolabel GMOs, food activists have taken matters into their own hands, passing labeling laws in Vermont, Maine and Connecticut and putting the issue on the ballot in California, Washington, Colorado and Oregon. Big Food and its friends in the biotechnology industry haven’t liked this one bit, and have spent over $80 million over the past several years to defeat GMO labeling ballot initiatives.
If you’ve been following the debate recently, you also know that companies like Monsanto have launched an aggressive PR campaign to sell the public on this questionable technology. Even beloved scientist Bill Nye has joined the fray, flipping his previously critical position on GMOs after a recent visit to Monsanto’s headquarters.
As we’ve said before, the debate over GMOs isn’t just about their possible environmental and public health effects. It’s also about who controls the food system.
Today, Big Food’s play for control became ever more clear when Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which might as well be called the “Denying Americans the Right to Know” Act (DARK Act), or Monsanto’s Dream Bill. This is not Pompeo’s first ride in the GMO rodeo. He first introduced this bill in the last Congress. Apparently the wave of state-level progress towards labeling GMOs rankled the giant companies that sell GMOs or make processed food out of them, so their trade association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, decided to cut them off from the get-go by orchestrating federal legislation to block the states from getting in the labeling game.
The World Health Organisation’s cancer agency has declared the world’s most widely used weedkiller – glyphosate – a “probable human carcinogen” in a move that will alarm the agrochemical industry and amateur gardeners.
The assessment by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of glyphosate, which is used in herbicides with estimated annual sales of USD 6 Billion, will be of special concern to Monsanto, the company that brought glyphosate to market under the trade name Roundup in the 1970s.
Over 80% of GM crops worldwide are engineered to be grown with the herbicide.
The IARC has no regulatory role and its decisions do not automatically lead to bans or restrictions, but campaigners are expected to use them to put pressure on regulators.
The IARC reached its decision based on the view of 17 experts from 11 countries, who met in Lyon, France, to assess the carcinogenicity of 5 organophosphate pesticides.
The IARC’s assessment of the 5 pesticides is published in the latest issue of The Lancet Oncology.
Perhaps no group of science deniers has been more ridiculed than those who deny the science of evolution. What you may not know is that Monsanto and our United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are among them. That’s right: for decades, Monsanto and its enablers inside the USDA have denied the central tenets of evolutionary biology, namely natural selection and adaptation. And this denial of basic science by the company and our government threatens the future viability of American agriculture.
Third Grade Science
Let’s start with interrelated concepts of natural selection and adaptation. This is elementary school science. In fact, in Washington D.C. it is part of the basic third grade science curriculum.
As we all remember from biology class, when an environment changes, trait variation in a species could allow some in that species to adapt to that new environment and survive. Others will die out. The survivors are then able to reproduce and even thrive under the new environmental conditions. For example, if a drought were to occur, some plants might have traits that allow them to survive while other plants in the same species would perish. The drought-resistant plants then become the “evolved” species, and they are able to reproduce in the drought environment.
Obvious, you are thinking. But let’s explore how Monsanto’s top scientists and government regulators would have failed a third grade science class in D.C. and the dire consequences that it is bringing to us all.
Biotech’s Dirty Little Secret