A round up on Monsanto’s Roundup

08.03.2015 - Tony Henderson

A round up on Monsanto’s Roundup
Human and natural diversity and habitats as future (Image by Weng Ae)

Poverty almost always forms the root cause of society’s ills, no less so in the world of foodstuff production and its distribution besides the hot topic of terrorism and why young people are coaxed into its violent ways and means. Concerning the former problem, the promise of genetically modified (GM) seeds in India has not stemmed the near endemic phenomenon of farmer suicide, and on some counts has exasperated the problem.

According to activist Vandana Shiva, Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize (2012) winner and academic: “Soaring seed prices in India have resulted in many farmers being mired in debt and turning to suicide”. Blame lies on the creation of seed monopolies, the destruction of alternatives, the collection of super-profits in the form of royalties, and the increasing vulnerability of monocultures that has created a context for debt, thus suicides, and agrarian distress.

According to data from the Indian government, nearly 75 percent of rural debt is due to purchased inputs. Farmers’ debt grows as corporation dealing in genetically modified organisms profits grow. It is in this systemic sense that GM seeds are linked to farmer suicides.

An internal advisory by the agricultural ministry of India in January 2012 had this to say of the cotton growing states in India: “Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.”

However, farmer suicides had begun to grow before the introduction of the GM seeds, and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) concluded that there was no evidence on any “resurgence” of farmer suicides, the organisation insists that GM cotton technology has been very effective in India and there have been many other reasons for the suicides.

Vandana Shiva rejected these assertions however, claiming that her critics had reduced the issue to GM cottons and ignored the issue of seed monopolies, and that the suicide figures she used were from government statistics of the National Bureau of crime records.

There we have it again, claim and counter claim, but with the addition of suspicion over Government-Corporation tie-ups.

Many unpopular positions have been taken by concerned people on about every topic, from climate change to vaccinations – and relying on ‘experts’ resolves around the conundrum of just who is an ‘expert’. Frankly, the entirety of the issue of trustworthy references is bewildering, at least for the general public if not for those squarely set in their positions, as ‘experts’, for whatever reason, either siding with the money or for an endeavour circling around objective science!

In the case of ‘Roundup’ – a Monsanto product – the problem initially lay, for me, on the side of the impact of the company’s seeds monopolisation. On looking into their genetically modified (GM) seeds, and the result of the firm’s marketing and the way their seeds are promoted and used, the result disadvantaged small farmers-gardeners, even to the extent of nuisance accidental straying of Roundup into standard non-GM crops ending in court action by Monsanto against small growers where high-cost lawyers would always outdo the little guy.

Also, the substantiated accounts of indigenous peoples losing their undocumented rights to their own traditional seeds on their once-upon-a-time territories because of like litigation. Plus, Roundup appeared as the worst of anything I have read about when it comes to maintaining biodiversity.

An article that first appeared on Pressenza drew criticism of ‘unscience’ see: https://www.pressenza.com/2014/12/monsantos-roundup-herding-us-kids-edge/

The article involved the quite frighteningly titiled previous writing: Half of All Children Will Be Autistic by 2025, by Senior Research Scientist at MIT, Stephanie Seneff, PhD, who let loose at the controversial company Monsanto that is heavily invested into genetically modified food products.

See: http://www.anh-usa.org/half-of-all-children-will-be-autistic-by-2025-warns-senior-research-scientist-at-mit/print/

Stephanie Seneff has researched biology and technology over decades and has had published over 170 scholarly peer-reviewed articles on various topics. In recent years she has concentrated on the relationship between nutrition and health, tackling Alzheimer’s, autism, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as the impact of nutritional deficiencies and environmental toxins on human health.

Quoting the article, she says: “Monsanto claims that Roundup is harmless to humans. Bacteria, fungi, algae, parasites, and plants use a seven-step metabolic route known as the shikimate pathway for the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids; glyphosate inhibits this pathway, causing the plant to die, which is why it’s so effective as a herbicide. Monsanto says humans don’t have this shikimate pathway, so it’s perfectly safe!”

Continuing: “Dr. Seneff points out, however, that our gut bacteria do have this pathway, and that’s crucial because these bacteria supply our body with crucial amino acids. Roundup thus kills beneficial gut bacteria, allowing pathogens to grow; interferes with the synthesis of amino acids including methionine, which leads to shortages in critical neurotransmitters and folate; chelates (removes) important minerals like iron, cobalt and manganese; and much more.”

Critics complain that Stephanie Seneff is commented out of her field of expertise

Queried by Pressenza and requesting a less technical quote on the matter Stephanie Seneff says, “Hard to make it less technical, but the truth is that glyphosate disrupts all biological systems in multiple ways, and the complex comorbidities of autism are all explained by what glyphosate does. It’s a perfect match in terms of the biology as well as in terms of the time trends.

“And the formulations are much more toxic than the active ingredient by itself. The companies are, for some bizarre reason, not required to test the formulations for toxicity, only the active ingredient (glyphosate).”

The ‘formulations’ meaning that when the glyphosate is used in combination with other ingredients the result is uncertain and can be detrimental to the extent of causing autism. Therefore, a mix needs to be tested as to its effects in a complete way, not just doing tests on glyphosate in limbo.

“Exactly. Other ingredients may be toxic in and of themselves, and they often increase the toxicity of glyphosate by making it easier for it to get into cells.”

Surely GM as a science will bring benefits, when it’s done properly. What I have got to know about Roundup and its effects I don’t like at all. Yes, it is a possibly overwhelming problem, feeding cities and huge populations, and science and technology have a huge role to play to that end, but transparency and openness are essential. Monsanto as a monolithic corporation has a bad track record in light of these two safeguarding essentials.

Systems of food production involved such as Roundup are ideal for factory farming and mass production but the long term effects are unknown and computer modelling is no use to determine real futures – see climate change. The immediate negative effects are well known by those directly affected by the product. Meanwhile, huge amounts of money flows into corporations that are centralising their power over an ever widening circle of agriculture with an end result of sure total domination and the depletion of the all-essential biodiversity, the very lifeblood of the Little Man and Woman, of you and me.

For further reading-viewing see:

http://www.countercurrents.org/shiva080315.htm

 

Categories: Asia, Opinions, Science and Technology
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