GE Alfalfa, Spontaneous Abortion, Infertiltiy, Glyphosate, Fusarium, Cancer…What went through my little mind today.

What began with an article that I saw posted on Facebook by a group, Occupy Food, has escalated into a quagmire of information that sent my mind spiraling.  The article, The Organic Elite Surrenders to Monsanto: What Now? by Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumer’s Association, was news to me, even though the article is almost a year old.  The information inspired me to do a little more research on Monsanto products.

[In interest of time; if you are unfamiliar with GMO or GE foods, seeds, and crops, a quick internet search will quickly lead you, dear reader, to a plethora of information. You can also read Heirloom vs. Hybrid and GMO…What’s the difference? And why should I care?]

Eight years ago, Monsanto petitioned the USDA to deregulate their genetically engineered alfalfa, a key food source for livestock and dairy cattle.  A year ago, after conducting a court-ordered environmental impact review,  USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack approved the planting of genetically modified alfalfa. Blog posts, like the one linked above, hit the internet before the decision was made in an attempt to motivate folks to contact the USDA in protest.

To the organic farming industry, the fear is one of possible contamination, in the form of seeds or pollen from genetically engineered crops being picked up by the wind, bees or birds and falling onto nearby organic fields. Such contamination can be devastating to organic farmers, cheese makers and dairy producers, who say even the smallest presence of genetically engineered seed can result in domestic retailers and overseas buyers refusing to buy their products.

Yes, cross contamination is a problem, but I got to thinking about the contaminates that we don’t even know are in food.  Food companies are not mandated to include GMO or GE information on their packaging.  Representative Dennis Kucinich introduced three bills; H.R. 3553: Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know ActH.R. 3554: Genetically Engineered Safety Act, and H.R. 3555: Genetically Engineered Technology Farmer Protection Act, all of which would make life a lot easier for folks who are trying to stay GMO and GE free.  Natural News wrote an easy to understand article last year on the issue and the bills.  My thought train hit a slippery slope as I peered out over my backyard into the woods, suddenly like turning on a light, I thought, “Spontaneous abortion…oh *$#*!  Could it be?  Could there be a link?”

I quickly found GM food toxins found in the blood of 93% of unborn babies, which is a disturbing article in and of itself that published on 12 January 2012.

Another quick internet search led me to a series of articles and many linked to Don M. Huber, who a year ago wrote a personal letter to Vilseck about his concerns with a microscopic pathogen found in RoundUp Ready soybeans and corn that could possibly to be linked to severe reproductive problems in livestock as well as widespread crop failure.

He was quickly dismissed and discredited even though Huber been a scientist studying plant diseases in the U.S. and around the world for 50 years and spent 35 years at Purdue University as Professor Emeritus of plant pathology.  Any presented research on the subject of glyphosate was quickly labeled as fraudulent: Conventional Product – GLYPHOSATE HERBICIDE ( Roundup ) – Weir – Huber – West Coast Environmental Law – Health Canada.  Even Monsanto jumped in on the tar and feathering: Monsanto Begins Smear Campaign on Huber…and a comment at the end of this article caught my attention.

The comment from Paul Tukey stated:

This link was provided today by a retired scientist…If you skip to the conclusion of this peer-reviewed paper — which Monsanto claims does not exist — you’ll see a very clear result that Roundup has a highly negative impact on plant health and crop yield. 

It took some time to find the article, which didn’t pop up so quickly: Glyphosate affects micro-organisms in rhizospheres of glyphosate-resistant soybeans it ran in the Journal of Applied Microbiology in September 2010.

The objective of the research:

was to evaluate the microbiological interactions in the rhizospheres of GR2 and GR1 soybean and the performance of the cultivars with different rates of glyphosate applied at different growth stages…

The conclusion:

Glyphosate applied to GR soybean, regardless of cultivar, negatively impacts the complex interactions of microbial groups, biochemical activity and root growth that can have subsequent detrimental effects on plant growth and productivity.

But it wasn’t the conclusion as much as some as the results on page 3 that caught my attention:

The response of all microbial groups and plant measurements to increasing concentrations of glyphosate was consistent for both GR soybean varieties. Root colonization by Fusarium spp. increased in response to glyphosate applications and was further enhanced as soybean growth progressed.

I blinked and reread the statement and questioned, “Fusarium?  As in Fusarium wilt that I can get in my garden and kills my tomatoes…and not plant anything in that part of the garden for years and solar bake the soil under heavy plastic?”  Yes.  Fusarium wilt is caused by one type of fusarium, but I have now found out that there are many types of fusarium.

Fusarium is a fungus that is found mainly in the soil and mostly associated with plants.  Fusarium wilt mainly affects tomatoes, peas, peppers, melons, dahlias, and mimosa trees according to Rodale’s organic gardener’s handbook.  Fusarium is also the fungus that causes those nasty finger and toe nail infections.  Most species are harmless, but some species produce mycotoxins in cereal crops that can affect human and animal health is they enter the food chain.

The type of fusarium fungus that affects the plants …is Fusarium oxysporum. This very fungus, along with Fusarium verticillioides, Fusarium solani, and Fusarium proliferatum, can cause serious illnesses in humans and animals. In many cases, the fusarium fungus causes death…Most are harmless to man, but when some of the fungi – like the ones mentioned above – become part of the food chain or attack a host with a compromised immune system, they can be devastating to both animals and people…Another way that humans can get fusarium fungal infection is by consuming foods that have been infected with the fusarium fungus. Some seventy years ago, wheat infected with fusarium fungus was used in the Soviet Union to make bread. As a result, thousands of people were infected with a fusarium fungal infection called alimentary toxic aleukia. The initial symptoms of the infection included fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Within days, the victims suffered from bloody diarrhea, bloody urine, vaginal bleeding, tarry stools, and ulcers of the larynx and stomach. Six out of every ten victims died.

My next series of thoughts went something like this, “In regards to plants, can fusarium spread?  And if it can, how?”  Guess what the answer is?  That’s right, the answer is, in fact, yes.  Spores can be spread through wind, running water, on gardening implements, and on farm machinery.

spores have also been proven to live on non-host plants in the absence of a susceptible host. This provides a means of survival for the fungus, which remains virulent until a host plant appears. When non-host plants become infected they show few, if any symptoms, and become a carrier of the pathogen. A study by Waite and Dunlap (1953) showed that, on a farm devastated by Fusarium wilt, there were traces of F. oxysporum in three common types of grass, a low growing herb and the roots of common weeds…Underground rhizomes are often another means of spreading the disease.

And that’s right.  Glyphosate, the main herbicide in RoundUp Ready plants, is linked to fusarium growth.

Why is fusarium got me so intrigued over the possible link to spontaneous abortions in livestock?  It doesn’t.  It’s just another piece of the pie, because there is a little bit more information that I found out in regards to fusarium.  I stumbled across many scientific articles that discuss fusarium and cancer.  All of the articles are scientific papers and only parts of the papers can be read online without paying for them…”Your current credentials do not allow retrieval of the full text,” but there seems to be a lot of research on this topic.  Many of the articles listed below have been used to cite many articles, which are listed below the abstract and can be read online for free.

Here are some of the more interesting articles, but it is only the tip of the iceberg:

July 1988: Fumonisins–novel mycotoxins with cancer-promoting activity produced by Fusarium moniliforme.

April 1988: Cancer promoting potential of different strains of Fusarium moniliforme in a short-term cancer initiation/promotion assay

March 1988: The emerging role of Fusarium infections in patients with cancer.

1990: Natural occurrence of some Fusarium mycotoxins in corn from low and high esophageal cancer prevalence areas of the Transkei, Southern Africa

What I found is not that fusarium causes cancer, but people with compromised immune systems, like people fighting cancer, are less likely able to fight fusarium infections, which can lead to more dangerous problems like skin lesions and pneumonia.

Not all fusariums are created equally.  It’s possible that the increased root colonization by fusarium spp. that occurred with glyphosate applications isn’t really all that dangerous, but tell me then, why are the cases of spontaneous abortion and infertility in livestock and sudden death in plants (a topic not discussed here) are increasing in areas where glyphosate is used.  Huber states that what scientists found is a new “unknown organism” and “microscopic pathogen.”  My guess is that this pathogen has always existed in small unnoticeable amounts, but with the increased use of glyphosate is accelerating its growth rate.  It’s growing and possibly mutating into something that is making our plants and livestock sick…and since approximately 75% of the processed food on grocery store shelves contains engineered ingredients, that could be making us sick, too.  15 years ago, were the instances of cancers, food allergies, gut problems, infertility, behavioral problems, etc exist like they do today?

The use of GMO and GE seeds and RoundUp Ready products has increased.  In 1996, the first genetically modified seeds were planted in the United States for commercial use. Between 1996 and 2009, the use of GMO crops has increased dramatically, along with our health problems.  GMO crops are found to be so awful by some that in 2003, Southern African governments found themselves in a dilemma: let their citizens starve to death or give them genetically modified food aid that they believed may be harmful to health.  Yet, Americans eat this crap everyday…and look at us…fat, sick, depressed, angry, hyper…

And now, Vilseck gave the thumbs up for planting genetically engineered alfalfa.

Here is a little more on Huber…in his words in an interview conducted with Food Democracy Now:

and an interview from May 2011 (PDF): GMOs, Glyphosate & Tomorrow
Distinguished Professor, Scientist Reveals Growing, Multi-Faceted Problems in Glyphosate & Crops Created to Survive It
with Acres USA

Digression: This article (PDF), Are We Shooting Ourselves in the Foot with a Silver Bullet? that appeared in No Till Farmer seemed to really piss-off Perdue.

Eat well.  Grow your own food.  #occupyfood #occupygardens

About Tracie L. Hellwinckel

Hi! I'm Tracie L. Hellwinckel creator of The Agrarian Urbanite. My experience in gardening education began 2000 as a Peace Corps volunteer. Since then, I've served as an AmeriCorps volunteer with Beardsley Community Farm and Habitat Urban Gardens. I sold plants at the local farmer's markets but discovered that when customers asked me questions about gardening, it was the teaching techniques and sharing of information that inspired me. Gardening Education combines my formal education (Masters Degree from the University of Tennessee in Elementary Education) and my passions, which are growing food and design. I can be reached at
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2 Responses to GE Alfalfa, Spontaneous Abortion, Infertiltiy, Glyphosate, Fusarium, Cancer…What went through my little mind today.

  1. Pingback: Fusarium, Fusarium…Everywhere! | The Agrarian Urbanites

  2. Pingback: Fusarium, Fusarium…Everywhere! | The Agrarian Urbanite

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