Of all the destructive scams perpetrated by industrial agriculture. none has been more profitable, or more destructive, than the massive Roundup round-robin perpetrated by Monsanto for 40 years. Now the scam appears to be falling apart. This is a story with the global reach of the housing bubble, all the inventive greed of the sub-prime mortgage stampede, and the tender mercies toward fellow humans of a Bernie Madoff, that now appears to be heading toward a Wall-Street-style meltdown. If so, it will be partly because of a new, multi-national scientific study financed by Europeans and conducted by South Americans that has just been nailed to the doors of the Farm Bureau.
To review the scam: (I use the word because the truth about the products, and the consequences of their use, were always different than represented by the company and its wholly owned scientists and organizations. There was the truth, and there was what they said and are saying. Hence, scam.)
In the 1970s, Monsanto brought into a world shocked by the pervasive destruction wrought by such wonder chemicals as 2,4-D, a new herbicide, called Roundup, that they proclaimed to be environmentally friendly — the logical equivalent of calling a poison healthy. We bought the story — that after killing every plant it was sprayed on, Roundup broke down into safe and inert compounds, that it was harmless to all creatures great and small. We bought the spray. Monsanto made a fair amount of money.
In the 1990s, Monsanto brought into a world entranced by the limitless possibilities of technology (which the big technology companies were relentlessly promoting, which is different from delivering) a genetically “engineered” soybean that could not be killed by glyphosate, which is what Roundup is. So if you bought the seed from Monsanto, and sprayed the plants with Roundup bought from Monsanto, you would kill every other growing thing but your crop, you would get higher yields with less expense and effort, and you would be rich and happy forever. Roundup Ready (that’s the company euphemism for genetically mutilated, chemically dependent) corn soon followed. Monsanto made tons of money. Recent estimates by the EPA are that US farmers use 90-million pounds of Roundup a year, dousing nearly half the cultivated cropland in the country, with gardeners and lawners hosing another eight million pounds on their turf.
Over the years, the mammoth public-relations machines of industrial agriculture have trampled to dust the occasional bit of blowback from unreliable sources such as the US Department of Agriculture (2004) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (2008) and various scientists (not at the moment working for Monsanto) who found consistently that Roundup Ready and other GM crops do not have better yields, are not cheaper to grow, and have a large number of very scary side effects.
Such as the unbelievably high rate of suicides among subsistence farmers in India, who were persuaded by Monsanto advertising to abandon their time tested seeds — they kept enough from each harvest for the next planting — and methods, and get ready for Roundup. The seeds from GM plants will not grow. They are the jackasses of the plant world and cannot reproduce. This means that if you grow GM plants you have to buy the seeds from Dr. Frankenfood every year. When the higher yields did not materialize, there was no cash to buy GM seeds and no way to return to the old ways, and the result has been widespread, long-lived tragedy all across India.
Now comes a new report, financed by a German bank along with a sustainable-agriculture group, and conducted by a multi-national group of scientists led by Andres Carasco of the University of Buenos Aires, that surveys and summarizes existing research on the realities of Roundup Ready. Among the findings:
- “Glyphosate herbicides are endocrine disruptors (substances that interfere with hormone functioning) in human cells. These effects are found at levels up to 800 times lower than residue levels allowed in some GM crops used for animal feed in the United States. Glyphosate herbicides damage DNA in human cells at these levels.”
- “Glyphosate and Roundup damage human embryonic cells and placental cells, in concentrations well below those recommended for agricultural use.”
- “Roundup is toxic and lethal to amphibians. Applied at the rate recommended by the manufacturer for agricultural use, Roundup caused a 70 per cent decline in the species richness of tadpoles.12 An experiment using lower concentrations still caused 40 per cent mortality.”
- “Contrary to claims by the GM industry and its supporters, the FDA has never approved any GM food as safe. Instead, it has de-regulated GM foods, ruling that they are “substantially equivalent” to their non-GM counterparts and do not require any special safety testing. The term “substantial equivalence” has never been scientifically or legally defined.”
- “There is a well-documented pattern of GM industry attempts to discredit scientists whose research reveals problems with GM crops.”
- The principal claim for Roundup Ready seeds are that they imrove yields. Why else would anyone pay the premium prices? But the report finds that “At best, GM crops have performed no better than their non-GM counterparts, with GM soy giving consistently lower yields. A review of over 8,200 university-based soybean varietal trials in the US found a yield drag of between 6 and 10 per cent for GM RR soy compared with non-GM soy.”
- “Many studies show that glyphosate has negative effects on soil and crops. Glyphosate reduces nutrient uptake in plants. It binds trace elements, such as iron and manganese, in the soil and prevents their transportation from the roots up into the shoots. The result is reduced plant growth. GM RR soy plants treated with glyphosate have lower levels of manganese and other nutrients and reduced shoot and root growth.Lower nutrient levels in plants have implications for humans, as food derived from these crops have reduced nutritional value.”
- “There is a well-documented link between glyphosate and increased plant diseases. Don Huber, plant pathologist and professor emeritus at Purdue University, said, ‘There are more than 40 diseases reported with use of glyphosate, and that number keeps growing as people recognize the association [between glyphosate and disease].’”
The dismaying thing is that the information in this report is not new. It has been buried by the onslaught of industrial-ag propaganda. Yet, like the Roundup-Resistant weeds emerging in the million-acre fields of Roundup-drenched farmland, resistance to Roundup is beginning to, um, crop up.
Sales are down. Roundup Resistance is growing. Monsanto stock, which sailed at $140 two years ago, is now trading around $60 and was branded by one analyst the “worst stock of 2010.”
Could Monsanto be heading for the Last Roundup?