Dr. Andreas Carrasco remained in the locked car and watched with fear as the crowd beat the vehicle and shouted at him — for two hours. His friends who didn’t make it into the vehicle were not so lucky. One ended up paralyzed. Another unconscious. The angry crowd of about 100 were likely organized by a local rice grower who was furious at Carrasco for what he was trying to do that day. Carrasco’s crime? Telling people that Roundup herbicide from Monsanto causes birth defects in animals, and probably humans.
Carrasco is a leading embryologist at the University of Buenos Aires Medical School and the Argentinean national research council. He had heard the horrific stories of peasant farmers working near the vast fields of Roundup Ready soybeans — plants genetically engineered to withstand generous doses of Monsanto’s poisonous weed killer. The short-term impact of getting sprayed was obvious: skin rashes, headaches, loss of appetite, and for one 11 year old Paraguayan boy named Silvino Talavera, who biked through a fog of herbicides in 2003, death. But Carrasco also heard about the rise of birth defects, cancer, and other disorders that now plagued the peasants who were sprayed by plane. He decided to conduct a study.
Exposing Roundup’s 30 year cover-up of birth defects
Carrasco injected minute amounts of Roundup into chicken and frog embryos, and sure enough, the offspring exhibited the same type of birth deformities that the peasant communities were seeing in their newborns. A report by the provincial government of Chaco soon followed, confirming that those living near soy and rice fields sprayed with Roundup and other chemicals did in fact have higher rates of birth defects — nearly a fourfold increase between 2000-2009. (Child cancer rates tripled during the same period.)
Regulatory agencies had given Roundup a green light years before, claiming that it was free of such problems. However after Carrasco’s findings were published, European authorities quietly pushed their official re-assessment of Roundup, due in 2012, back to 2015. And the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, charged with responding to Carrasco’s findings, issued a statement claiming that the Argentine scientist must be mistaken; earlier studies conducted by manufacturers of Roundup (including Monsanto) had already demonstrated that Roundup does not cause birth defects.
But in June 2011, a group of international scientists released a report detailing a massive cover-up that went back to the 1980s. The very industry studies cited by the German Consumer Protection office in fact showed just the opposite. Roundup did increase birth defects. Using scientific sleight of hand, Europe’s regulators had ignored statistically significant increases in birth defects, and so did every other regulatory agency worldwide. Monsanto has relied on these misleading statements of safety by regulators ever since, using them to deny that Roundup causes birth defects.
Monsanto secretly poisoning the population, again and again
Covering up toxic effects of their products was not new for Monsanto. They’re experts at it. In 2003 the company paid $700 million in settlements for secretly poisoning the population living next to their PCB factory in Anniston, Alabama. Court documents showed the arrogance of Monsanto executives made aware of the product’s effects: “We can’t afford to lose $1 of business,” was the written response in a secret company memo.
Leaked documents also revealed that EPA scientists had charged Monsanto with fraudulently hiding the toxic effects of Agent Orange — effectively preventing Vietnam veterans from collecting compensation for cancer, birth defects, and other symptoms of exposure.
When Carrasco first reported his findings, he got the usual treatment. His results were vehemently denied, and he was attacked in the press by biotech advocates. Four highly aggressive men showed up at his office and tried to interrogate him, but he wasn’t physically attacked. Not until he tried to give a speech on his results in the small Argentine farm town of La Leonesa on August 7, 2010. That was unusual.
Punishing messengers worldwide
When Dr. Irina Ermakova came to her office, the meaning of the charred remains of papers on her desk was unambiguous — it was yet another attempt to intimidate or punish her. So was the theft of samples from her laboratory, and the continuous verbal attacks by biotech advocates. Her crime? She fed rats genetically modified Roundup Ready soy, and reported the results.
Those results were clearly not what the sellers of GM soy wanted us to hear. After female rats were fed GM soy, more than half their babies died within three weeks. The rat pups were also considerably smaller, and in a later experiment, were unable to reproduce. Offspring from mothers fed non-GM soybeans, on the other hand, died at only a 10% rate, and were able to mate successfully.
Journal ambushes scientist
After Ermakova presented the results as “preliminary” at an October 2005 conference, the biotech industry’s damage control teams kicked into high gear. At the center of the coordinated attack was the editor of the journalNature Biotechnologyand four biotech advocates. According to Ermakova, the editor contacted her and told her he was going to include a description of her study as a sort of essay in the journal. She was then asked to summarize her research over the phone, or if she preferred, in writing. Ermakova, a senior scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, was surprised by the request and asked instead to properly submit the findings for peer review and publication. Oh no, the editor insisted, he just wanted a summary. She sent it in, and the journal sent Ermakova back a proof of the article, with her named as the author.
But that was just a “dummy proof.” What was actually published was quite different. Instead of an essay, the journal had inserted scathing criticisms from the four biotech advocates after nearly every paragraph. Many of Ermakova’s citations were also stripped off and replaced with those chosen by the biotech detractors — to weaken her case. It was an academic lynch mob, conducted by four biotech apologists: Bruce Chassy, Vivian Moses, Val Giddings, and Alan McHughen. All acknowledged that they had no personal experience in the type of research they were condemning, but that didn’t stop them from throwing every type of challenge they could think of at Ermakova.
The purpose of the attack was transparent. It allowed the biotech industry to claim from that point forward that the study showing high death rates was officially refuted and discredited. It also served as a warning: if anyone wanted to defend Ermakova (or do similar research) they too would be mercilessly attacked.
The problem was that nearly all their criticisms were utterly baseless. About 75 % of their arguments, for example, were simply complaints that she didn’t provide sufficient detail. Now remember — she was told toonly provide a summary. Her request to the editor to submit complete details was denied. It was quite a setup. When the details of this ambush were made public, independent scientists chargedNature Biotechnologywith an unethical “premeditated attack.” At least one letter called on the editor to resign.
It didn’t happen. Instead, international pressure against Ermakova got so intense, her boss told her not to do any more studies on GMOs. One of her colleagues even tried to comfort her by suggesting that perhaps the GM soy could solve the human overpopulation problem. (She wasn’t comforted.)
Real life confirms research: GM soy = high infant mortality for rats
The main valid criticism against Ermakova’s research was that she failed to conduct a biochemical analysis of the feed. Without that, we don’t know if some rogue toxin present in the bag of soy flour might have been responsible for the astonishing death rate and stunted growth in her experiment. But subsequent events at her laboratory suggest otherwise.
After Ermakova repeated the test three times with similar results, the supplier of rat food used at the facility began using GM soy in the formulation. With all the rats now eating GM soy, Ermakova couldn’t conduct any more experiments (she had no controls). After two months, however, she asked her colleagues at the lab about the mortality rate in their rat experiments. It turned out that 99 of 179 (55.3%) rat pups whose parents were fed GM soy-based rat chow had died within the first 20 days. Thus, whatever caused the high death rate does not appear to be confined to the one batch of GM flour used in her experiment. Both the study, and the subsequent laboratory-wide mortality rate, are published in the Russian peer-reviewed journal Ecosinform.
Horrific reproductive disorders
Other studies on Roundup Ready soy also show scary reproductive problems. Ermakova showed that the testicles of rats fed GM soy changed from the normal pink to blue (not published). Peer-reviewed research from Italy also showed changes in mice testicles, including alterations in young sperm cells. A Brazilian team found changes in the uterus and ovaries of female rats. The DNA of mice embryos functioned differently, compared to those whose parents were fed non-GM soy. And when hamsters were fed GM soy for two years, by the third generation, most lost the ability to have babies. The offspring grew at a slower rate and the infant mortality rate was 4-5 times that of the non-GM soy group. Many also had hair growing in their mouths.
When the Austrian government tested Roundup Ready corn (which was also engineered to produce an insecticide), mice had fewer – and smaller – babies.
It’s not possible to know if the reproductive damage was due to the genetic changes in the GM crops, the high residues of Roundup in the GM soybeans and corn, or some other reason. But the American Academy of Environmental Science is among the medical organizations that don’t need more animal studies before issuing a warning. They urge all doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets to everyone.
Omnipresent Roundup literally falls from the sky
Although eliminating Roundup Ready soy and corn from our diet will certainly reduce our intake of Roundup, a recent study suggests that getting our exposure down to zero is not possible. In the Midwest during the growing season, Roundup is found in 60–100% of air and rain samples, as well as in streams.
The omnipresence of Roundup in the US is due in large part to the more than 100 million acres of Roundup Ready crops. As farmers pour on Monsanto’s weed killer, weeds are learning to adapt and withstand the poison — so farmers pour on more. In the first 13 years since GM crops were introduced, the use of herbicide-tolerant crops resulted in an additional 383 million pounds more herbicide. And due to the emergence of superweeds (now found in 11 million acres), the increased use of Roundup is accelerating dramatically.
USDA solution? Even more Roundup
The USDA has a unique response to this mounting threat:Add more Roundup. In January 2011 they deregulated yet another Roundup Ready crop, alfalfa — which is widely used for animal feed. Only 7% of the more than 20 million acres of this crop typically gets any herbicide applied to it. But that’s about to change, since Roundup Ready alfalfa will soon be drinking Roundup in a hay field near you.
Not content with just the alfalfa, on July 1 the USDA told Scotts Miracle-Gro that it could introduce Roundup Ready Kentucky Bluegrass to lawns, golf courses, and soccer fields around the nation, without any government oversight.
So now we have Roundup in our food, animal feed, air, rain, and streams, and soon it will be sprayed in high doses where our children play on the grass. It’s not just birth defects that may soon plague America as a result. Roundup is also linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, lower sperm counts, abnormal sperm, human cell death, miscarriages, and other disorders. But it’s also linked to billions in profits for Monsanto. No wonder they are working overtime to silence the scientists and cover-up the findings. What if people knew the truth?
Tuesday, October 04, 2011 by: Jeffrey M. Smith
Filed Under: GMO News