How GMOs destroy life, soil and your gut probiotics

by Catherine Haug, December 11, 2011

I’ve written many articles about GMO/GE crops and foods, hinting at the harm they cause, despite big-Ag’s insistence that GMO foods are no different from non-GMO (see October is GMO Month for list of prior articles on this site). But now, more information is coming out about just how this harm comes about.

Affected crops

Did you know that most major US food crops are genetically engineered? This includes (1):

  • 86% of all corn,
  • 93% of all canola,
  • 93% of all cottonseed oil
  • 95% of all sugar beets planted in 2008-2009

Virtually every processed food you encounter at your local supermarket that does not bear the “100% USDA Organic” label is likely to contain at least one GE component. If it does not say “100% USDA Organic” on the label, for example if it says just “organic” or “made with Organic,” it is highly likely it contains GMO product.

Once the recently approved GMO-alfalfa becomes widely grown, it is my belief we are doomed. Even 100% Organics will be affected because alfalfa is used as livestock feed; their manure then poisons the soil/compost used by Organic growers.

GMO Review

Let’s review what GMO/GE is. GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) and GE (Genetic Engineering) are terms to describe the method of altering the genetics – the DNA – primarily of plants and food-crops, to produce something that is not normal or natural for the species. From my article: Health Hazards of GMO Foods & Crops):

“While genetic breeding combines the DNA of two varieties of the same species, or of two related species by normal sexual breeding, genetic engineering removes part of the DNA of one species, then combines it with the DNA of a totally different species [that would never breed together naturally]. This is done by manipulating the biochemistry of the DNA during cell division (splitting of one cell into two new cells) and DNA replication (producing two identical copies of the cell’s genetic material). …For example, … part of the DNA from Bt bacteria, [is] inserted into the DNA of corn, to produce a totally new species of corn [Bt-corn] that produces the Bt toxin as a built-in pesticide.”

Roundup-Ready Crops

This is probably the most abundant and well-known of the GMO genre. Roundup is an herbicide (weed control) made primarily of glyphosate. When sprayed on plants, it is a matter of minutes before the plant dies.

It is important to note that nearly all herbicides and pesticides work by a similar mechanism as that described here for glyphosate.

With repeated exposure to glyphosate, some plants – so-called ‘super weeds’ – have mutated to become resistant to this deadly chemical. This inspired genetic engineers to incorporate the mutant DNA of a super-weed into the DNA of traditional crops like corn and soy, so that those crops would also be resistant to glyphosate.

Enzymes & glyphosate

Glyphosate works by disabling critical enzymes in the plant (1). Enzymes are protein workhorses that assist vital chemical reactions for all living species, including (but not limited to): digesting food; production of energy within the cell/mitochondria; synthesizing molecules essential for life; and detoxifying toxic substances.

Enzymes are activated by incorporation of a mineral such as zinc, copper, magnesium or iron into the protein structure. This causes a change in the shape of the enzyme molecule that allows it to do the work for which it is designed.

Glyphosate is a chelator (1) – like the claws of a crab, it grabs onto minerals and holds onto them so they are no longer available to activate enzymes. By removing the minerals from the field, the enzymes cannot be activated and critical functions in the organism are lost, leading eventually to death of the organism.

The harm of glyphosate

Note that glycphosate is indiscriminate as to which organisms it affects: bacteria, fungi, plants and animals are all affected by exposure to this killer. And there’s the rub. It’s damage is systemic – systemic to the organism and systemic to the natural system as a whole.

Farmers around the world are now losing acreage to the harm of superweeds and excessive use of glyphosate.

  • Soil microbes: There is significant evidence that vital soil microbes and fungi are being destroyed by the glyphosate produced by heavily spraying Roundup-ready crops with Roundup (1). This poison travels through the plants’ roots to leach into the soil, where it poisons microbes in the soil. Why is this important: because all plants and some animals (like pigs) are dependent upon soil microbes and fungi for survival. And once the soil’s microbes have been destroyed, the soil will no longer support life.
  • Edible crops: Crops grown in soil affected by glyphosate can take up this poison through their roots, and their health and quality are affected. Farmers are already reporting huge losses to their corn and soy crops from this problem.
  • Livestock: Animals that eat the Roundup-Ready crops as corn/soy feed also take up the glyphosate that was sprayed on the crops. This poison then goes on to affect life functions in these animals, making them vulnerable to disease and also, in many cases, infertile. One primary way this GMO feed affects their health is that their gut flora (the good bacteria that protect against disease) take up the GMO genetic material.
  • Humans: When we eat produce grown on glyphosate-poisoned soil, we take up this poison. When we eat meat and animal products from livestock poisoned by glyphosate, we also ingest this poison. It then interferes with the enzymes in our bodies, leading to illness and infertility (6). And just as with livestock who have been fed a GMO diet, our gut flora take up the GMO genetic material, making us more vulnerable to disease. As Michael Pollan says: “You are what you eat eats.” (3)
  • Gut bacteria (probiotics): Glyphosate is deadly to vital gut bacteria, in livestock and in humans. In addition, as mentioned above, our gut flora can take up the GMO genetic material when we eat GMO crops or meat from animals fed a GMO diet. Gut bacteria are our first defense against infectious microbes such as Clostridium botulinium which causes botulism. Indeed, it is now known that a significant increase in cases of botulism in dairy cattle is due to this problem.

NOTE: Milk from dairy cows & goats fed on corn/soy feed is affected by the glyphosate used on the feed crops. Unless they have changed their feeding practices, milk from most of our local dairy farms are affected. Speak up to our local dairy producers about this problem, including but not limited to Kalispell Kreamery and MeadowGold.

Other GMO Disasters-in-the-making

While roundup-ready crops are probably the most abundant GMOs, there are many other types of GMO organisms as well, including salmon, sugar beets, zucchini, papaya, potatoes, Bt-corn, and most recently, alfalfa. Research is ongoing as to the harm these organisms can cause. When I learn more, you can be sure I’ll write about it here.

References, & for more information

  1. Dr. Mercola’s interview of Dr. Don Huber
  2. Wikipedia on Roundup
  3. Michael Pollan, from his books: The Omnivore’s Dilemma and  In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifest
  4. Friends of the Earth (UK): Health and environmental impacts of glyphosate (excellent!)
  5. Holistic Med: Monsanto’s Toxic Roundup
  6. Organic Consumers Association: Health and Environmental Impacts of Monsanto’s Roundup Pesticide
  7. Environmental Health Perspectives (Journal): Differential Effects of Glyphosate and Roundup on Human Placental Cells and Aromatase

One Response to “How GMOs destroy life, soil and your gut probiotics”

  1. The theory that glyphosate residues in feed caused the increase in C. botulinum-related diseases in German cattle is a perfectly reasonable theory. It has not been determined, however, that glyphosate caused the increase.

    Here’s the abstract of the relevant article:

    Krüger M, et al. Glyphosate suppresses the antagonistic effect of Enterococcus spp. on Clostridium botulinum. Anaerobe. 2013 Feb 6. pii: S1075-9964(13)00018-8. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2013.01.005. [Epub ahead of print]