Genetic Engineering and Corporate Agribusiness: GMOs and the Impacts of Glyphosate Herbicide

Region:
grain

Seeds evolved for millions of years before humans invented corporate agribusiness.

Genetic selection to improve crops began only when people invented farming.

Early on, there was a vast germ pool from which to select differences in vigor, growth, quality characteristics, yield or disease resistance. Even after years of extensive selection and later blending into hybrids by diligent researchers during the past century, most of this inheritance is unpatentable and therefore useless as a source of power or corporate-style profit.

Genetic engineering to modify crops exists because most of the world’s farmers depend on seeds, and as a novel way to manipulate genes it offered inviolate proprietary control. Two traits account for practically all of the genetically modified crops grown in the world today.

One deploys herbicide-tolerance enabled by a glyphosate-insensitive form of the EPSPS gene coding (key to this GMO is the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens). The other uses insect-resistance due to one or more toxin genes derived from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis.

It is the former that concerns us here, for without glyphosate, the biotech industry would be an orphan, all dressed up with nowhere to go. Glyphosate, often known as Roundup® after the popular Monsanto product but available in many guises since its patent expired in 2000, is the partner GMOs must bring to the dance. It is a broad-spectrum herbicide that ingeniously ties up nutrient access rather than killing unwanted plants directly. It was heralded for many years as a relatively benign replacement for the horrific, dioxin-based herbicides of the past. The figures don’t lie; GMOs drive glyphosate sales.

Enter Don Huber, a plant pathologist of 50 years standing, now Emeritus Professor at Purdue University and enjoying an active post-academic life. Huber is an international authority on nutrient deficiency diseases of plants and is particularly well situated to comment on glyphosate as it functions through nutrient tie-up, not inherent toxicity.

Recently his retirement turned hyperactive when a letter he wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack leaked out. Although much of the mainstream media ignored it, the letter was an immediate sensation. Huber — not coincidentally a speaker at the 2010 Acres U.S.A. Conference — informed Vilsack that a new infectious agent had been discovered. It is “widespread, very serious, and in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn,” he wrote. He appealed to the secretary for help with resources and research capability.

The letter unleashed a storm of alarm and denial, and as Huber tells below, the USDA is looking into the matter despite its recent ill-advised approval of genetically modified alfalfa.

We asked him to comment on his recent letter (see pages 54-55) and share his own thoughts and opinions on this ubiquitous farm chemical.

Read Complete interview with Prof. Huber (pdf)

Articles by: Prof Don Huber

Related Global Research Articles:

  • Monsanto Earnings Fall 34% as Farmers Reject GMO CropsMonsanto Earnings Fall 34% as Farmers Reject GMO Crops

    The biotech giant Monsanto, which is responsible for genetically modifying much of the nation’s and world’s crops, announced that its earnings fell 34% in its first fiscal quarter as South American farmers reject GMO crops. This is even more evidence that the number of individuals and […]
  • Former Pro-GMO Scientist Speaks Out On The Real Dangers of Genetically Engineered FoodFormer Pro-GMO Scientist Speaks Out On The Real Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food

    I retired 10 years ago after a long career as a research scientist for Agriculture Canada. When I was on the payroll, I was the designated scientist of my institute to address public groups and reassure them that genetically engineered crops and foods were safe. There is, […]
  • Mandatory Chickenpox Vaccination Increases Disease Rates, Study ShowsMandatory Chickenpox Vaccination Increases Disease Rates, Study Shows

    Once again, the completely illogical debacle concerning the world of vaccinations has surfaced. By now, you know they've come under fire by those who are adamant that they do more harm than good. Countless people have developed irreversible health problems and even died shortly after […]

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article. The Center of Research on Globalization grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author's copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: [email protected]

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of "fair use" in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than "fair use" you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: [email protected]