Is It Time to Round Up Roundup?

On 8/12/11, Carey Gillam (Reuters) quoted Bob Kremer, a microbiologist with the US Dept. of Agriculture. Kremer said that repeated use of the chemical glyphosate, which is the key ingredient of Roundup herbicide, effects plant roots and may be causing fungal root disease. He further noted that weed resistance is also evident and the genetically modified plants (GMOs) don’t yield more than conventional crops, likely due to root disease problems.

 Other researchers raise possible links between glyphosate and cancer, miscarriages, and other health problems in people and livestock. However, neither the USDA  nor the Environmental Protection Agency appear interested in researching areas of safety and health relative to Roundup use.

 It behooves us to pay attention to the cracks in the GMO approach for global food security.

 First, a little history of the use of our land-grant college system: Originally, state colleges were federally funded for  scientific research to aid farmers and feed millions of Americans. Researchers constructively criticized each other and shared ideas openly. What they learned remained in the public domain; it made the news.

 Then, federal funds were cut drastically to land-grant colleges. Here was an opening for corporations to step in and fund research, and they did. But their funds have strings attached. Corporations decide what topics scientists may research, when they can do it, and by whom the results are approved before publication.

 In 1980, the Supreme court decided that Terminator genes could be patented just as if they were a new machine or toy. This gave public universities the incentive to create marketable products. It also put an end to open sharing of ideas and keeping the public informed in the competition to come up with new gene patents.

 Corporations began donating buildings and faculty positions to universities. At Texas A&M, there is a DOW Chemical Prof. of Biological and Agricultural Engineering position. At Iowa State, Monsanto funded an auditorium that bears its name, as well as the Monsanto Graduate Fellowships. The fellowships focus special emphasis on seed policy for the protection of intellectual property rights. Hello private profit, goodbye public domain.

 In other words, there won’t be money to study non-GMOs. There won’t be money to study adverse health effects of GMO foods. Such results would never be approved by scientists paid by corporations to discredit negative findings. There won’t be money to compare crop yields and cost comparisons over time.

 The university funding list is long and alarming when you consider that Senators Lugar and Casey tried to promote a Global Food Security Act (S. 384) through congress that would provide billions of federal research funds ONLY for GMO research.

 Over 100 scientific organizations petitioned to oppose S. 384 until the bill is made technology-neutral. The bill was not passed but we all need to be on the alert for future strategies. Funding for agricultural research remains compromised.

 With Farmers Markets in full swing, now is a great time to check out how much GMO food we consume. Is it time to round up the Roundup before more problems are created?  The more we question, the sooner we’ll have more reliable choices to keep each other well.

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