Monsanto’s PR team must be up nights…since the good news just keeps coming up around GM technology and their popular herbicide product…Round-Up. We have discussed several resistance issues recently (see both earlier “Show Me the Research” posts), but the concerns and problems are expanding.
First, Round-Up’s affects on plant health.
Microbiologist Robert Kremer USDA-ARS (US Department of Agriculture- Agricultural Research Service) was interviewed recently in the online “The Organic & Non-GM Report,” where he explained his concerns with glyphosate’s (Round-Up) impact on plant health. He was quoted as saying the compound “This system is altering the whole soil biology.” He expanded the observations, noting that “glyphosate can have toxic effects on microorganisms and can stimulate them to germinate spores and colonize root systems. Other researchers are showing that glyphosate can immobilize manganese, an essential plant micronutrient.”
In this month’s issue, the editors interviewed retired Purdue University Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology, Dr. Don Huber. He said that glyphosate can “significantly increase the severity of various plant diseases, impair plant defense to pathogens and diseases, and immobilize soil and plant nutrients rendering them unavailable for plant use.” And that glyphosate stimulates the growth of fungi and enhances the virulence of pathogens such as Fusarium and “can have serious consequences for sustainable production of a wide range of susceptible crops.”
This all builds on an important work I have written about before…”Healthy Crops, A New Agricultural Revolution” by Francis Chaboussou. In it, he looks at 75 years of similar research on not just glyphosate, but many pesticides, herbicides and nitrogen-heavy fertilizers, and their negative impacts on disease and pest problems. I felt he showed clearly that while the compounds might solve a problem, they usually created others. Others that then required spraying of toxic compounds, which have the same affect. And the circle goes ‘round and the grower pays. Less toxic approaches might actually reduce other input costs…it at least deserves a closer, open-minded look.
GM Bt Cotton Causes Pest Explosion
And then, from China comes a report about a recent disaster that resulted from planting Bt cotton. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is one of best know “natural” insecticides, with the organism successfully controlling several pest outbreaks (various caterpillars). Then, it was inserted genetically into crops, including cotton, where it offered bollworm control. And that part of the equation worked, so growers could stop spraying toxic chemicals. Looked like a win-win.
But then, the fields became infested with another pest, the Mirid Bug, causing serious damage. Scientists determined that the June spraying for bollworms had also knocked back the entire insect community, including other pest species and their natural predators. With no controls, in this case, the Mirid Bug won the race, finding a vast, rich food source, and quickly expanding its populations. It has even moved into other crops such as apples, strawberries, pears, peaches and vegetables, where it had never been a problem. All this started following the switch to Bt crops in 1997, showing up first in cotton in 2000, and moving to other crops by 2005. It seems their only short-term answer is go back to spraying, after paying more the Bt-cotton.
So, again unintended consequences. The GM technology still holds promise to help with world nutrition. The idea and reality of foods that create extra vitamins (improved rice variety) with the help of added genetic information could save lives. But, first it is caution with this new “tool.” It needs more study, more testing in the complexity of an environmental system, to understand those consequences. From these latest reports, it seems to solve single problems only to create others. Not a sustainable system.
• “Scientist warns of dire consequences with widespread use of glyphosate”, The Organic & Non-GMO Report, May 2010, @ http://www.non-gmoreport.com/articles/may10/consequenceso_widespread_glyphosate_use.php
• “Scientist finding many negative impacts of Roundup Ready GM crops, USDA doesn’t want to publicize studies showing negative impact2, The Organic & Non-GMO Report, January 2010, @ http://www.non-gmoreport.com/articles/jan10/scientists_find_negative_impacts_of_GM_crops.php
Tags:garden trends, genetic modification, glyphosate, green practices, healthy landscapes, Herbicide damage, herbicides, local food movement, Monsanto, Organic agriculture, organic fertilizers, organic gardening, Plant fungus diseases, Plant pest susceptibility, Round-Up, soil amendment, soil biology, soil health, Urban agriculture