Objective info on Monsanto and evils of Roundup

I was at a party last night listening to another guest go on and on about her participation in some march against Monsanto in D.C.

My intuition was that she sounded vaguely brainwashed. As soon as the right topic triggered her she recited a litany of complaints and supposed facts as though she had memorized them from an activist pamphlet. She was anti-Monsanto and anti-GMOs. I did not have the impression she had done any original research from objective sources, knew the underlying science, or was familiar with studies other than to be able to say “studies have shown that…”

So what are objective sources for this? Info I’ve seen (I have just scratched the surface) is either from activist organizations with an agenda or from pro-GMO groups with an agenda. (My own agenda is that I am an all-around skeptic and haven’t heard anything about GMOs that bothers me.)

Hmmm I’m interested in this particularly as to Roundup. Poking around on line and sticking to original sources seems to leave you in a no man’s land somewhere between “it’s virtually cyanide” and “it’s totally harmless”.

I had much more on this and then my browser went crash-poo.

Most regulatory agencies around the world have declared Glysophate to be safe in normal quantities. And have seen no evidence of any cancer causing effects. The EPAstates:

That said the WHO’s cancer group declared that Glysophate as “proabably causing cancer in humans” which was heralded by many all natural groups as proof positive, but that classification category also includes Night Shifts, Grapefruit Juice, and Cooked meat & fish.

Large quantities of Glysophate will cause cancer, but so will a huge number of things. Once again the dosage is key. Formaldehyde is cancer-causing, but the formaldehyde in an apple won’t really cause you any trouble.

Many scientists have outright criticized WHO’s classification, one of them calling the evidence ‘thin’.

Some have claimed that Glysophate is as safe as water. which isn’t really true either. But it is much less toxic than a lot of things we consume daily, such as caffeine.

While it would be nice to not have to use Glysophate and 'Round-Up ready crops, most modern agriculture needs some kind of weed killer and running around the crops pulling them out manually isn’t gonna happen. Glysophate is probably one of the more benign herbicides out there - yes that includes that ‘all natural weed killer’ posted constantly on FaceBook that is a mix of soap, salt and vinegar that is actually more toxic than Glysophate.

Don’t know if this is objective enough for you.

I’ll admit to not researching the issues at all. My own suspicion of such things is rather vague, and quite unrelated to things like the toxicity of Roundup, or the nutritional value of GM foods.

I can’t articulate well why it seems insidious that companies design herbicides effective against all but their own genetically engineered crops, but I think you’re gullible if you don’t see it! Loss of biodiversity is already a big problem; why accelerate it?

The standard retort here at SDMB against fears about genetic engineering is that humans have been indulging in genetic engineering since the Neolithic. My answers are:

  • Yes, and that already led to loss of biodiversity, and nutritional problems even before the modern era.
  • The speed of genetic engineering today is millions of times faster than any “Neolithic GM.”

Given the hugely excessive human population, I do understand that GMO, at this point, may be a “least of evils” solution. But it is evil, and overpopulation* is* excessive: two simple truths that the majority at SDMB do not accept.

It’s the other way about. Monsanto invented this very effective generalist herbicide in glyphosphate. It kills damn near everything that’s green and doesn’t have a woody stalk. So when they started genetically engineering crops, they engineered them to be resistant to this herbicide that kills virtually every weed. It’s far and away the most obvious starting point.

Feel free to have concerns about biodiversity, though. That seems a far more legitimate concern than the carcinogenic nature of glyphosphate.

**septimus **is well into GD territory (perhaps the whole OP is) but in addition to your point, while reduction in biodiversity may be a problem, since when has that been a problem caused by either insecticide or GMO crops? Biodiversity loss is pretty much entirely a habitat/monoculture problem.


I think the problem is when that genetic material spreads through natural methods and you get issues like:

  1. Monsanto will sue you if their plants are in your field by accident. There was ONE lawsuit back in 1999. The actual facts are that Monsanto prevents planting their crops as seed crops as a patent violation.

  2. GMO seed can contaminate a crop. That is true but it tends to get ignored because it is felt to be a de minimis contamination and with little effective definition or oversight to non-GMO or organic designations.

Precisely. Mechanisms like Roundup/Ready encourage single crops. Indeed, they might even presage a future where there are zero natural crops, only engineered crops.

@ Derleth: Why did you leave it a mystery whether you wanted a cite for (a) population is excessive, (b) evil, or (c) despite (b), *least *of evils? :confused: In any of the three cases, you’re on your own! Reject my claim, or source it yourself; it’s all the same to me.:smiley:

They seem actually mostly about a political tendency that begins with a reflexive hostility to the private businesses and particularly the large ones.

Indeed. therefore one should support development of a more efficient agriculture that uses less land and less resources, for more production from the same land.

Any other solution in the face of larger populations mechanically means more of the land in more intensive and more constant production. It means mechanically for a level of production efficiency of existing plants under the declining soil fertilities from more intensive usages, the cutting down of forest, expansion of the fields into the fallows areas, etc.

This is a value statement, like your evil statement. For GD.

I do understand that GMO, at this point, may be a “least of evils” solution. But it is evil, and overpopulation* is* excessive: two simple truths that the majority at SDMB do not accept.

How do they do this? please be specific about the difference in the specific practices from what happens otherwise.

In the real world of the agriculture in my continent we already have for these commodity crops - without any of this inputs and done by the small farmers that are so romanticized by the anti-gmos left - monocropping to push for the income. In the maize, in the rice…

the only natural crops are the wild plants gathered in the wild, if the world natural can be understood in any objective fashion.

All the other crops have been in a profound way, engineered.

otherwise, the above is only a kind of scaremongering.

It is the GQ, you are asserting some moral positions that do not fit this forum. Unless you can present the objective science.

You seemed to be making the claim that GMO foods are evil. That’s what I’m asking for a cite for.

Monsanto seems to have become a poster boy as the all-time most hated corporation, especially amongst those that make it their passion to hate corporations. Once this happens it is pretty hard to get any sort of objective argument.

My experience with Glyphosate (I use generic, the Monsanto stuff is a lot more expensive) is that it can cause very clear shifts in the relative abundances of different weeds. I used it intensively for some years, and every year the problem weeds changed, and slowly I got more hard to deal with and more woody varieties. In retrospect, this should hardly have been a surprise. Sage advice I got was to quit the Glyphosate and the slash the weeds hard, and that this would result is a reversion to a more benign and easier to control situation - which it largely did. But I’m not growing crops, so I have a lot more freedom. I just need to keep the grasses down to avoid bushfire risk. I’ll be out with the brush cutter pretty soon.

The principle problem with mono-cultures is that they are brittle. When things are going well, things go really well. But if a pathogen creeps into the system, it can wreak havoc. The loss of genetic diversity across agriculture leaves us more exposed. It is unlikely to cause the zombie apocalypse, but the danger that an entire year’s harvest of a crop could be lost before a resistant seed crop was ready is ever present. The economic damage could be catastrophic, and in the right circumstances could have fairly dire knock-on consequences. The dangers that the Glyphosate resistant gene could cross into wild grasses and weeds is also cited. If it could happen, and did, the commercial eco-system of glyphosate and resistant crops would eventually fail, and glyphosate eventually become useless.

No, the efficiency of monoculture encourages single crops. Single cropping came along before GMO crops resistant to glyphosate existed. This is a key point you aren’t understanding. Glyphosate resistant strains just allow single cropping more efficiently. This leaves more land for other things.

They’re nothing more than anti-science conspiracy theorists. They believe GMOs make people ill, vaccines cause autism, and fluoride added to drinking water is a secret government plot to poison humanity.

It’s all the same crowd.

Regardless of how you feel about glyphosphate and Monsanto, this should be of interest:

The paper’s two years old, but Samsel and Seneff posted another one this year (for which other articles have been written to point out the problems). Samsel and Seneff protest that they’re pointing out the potential connections, but the paper’s title doesn’t reflect that, and a lot of the Marchers the OP mentions are acting under the assumption that the case has been proven, when it hasn’t. There are even news reports and blog postings saying that a “Top MIT Scientist” has shown glyphosphate to be responsible for these ills.

Seneff is an MIT scientist in Electrical Engineering, not in this area (although her debunkers generally don’t point out that she has a bachelor’s degree in biophysics). These papers seem to stem from a personal interest rather than a professional one. To quote the linked article:

I wouldn’t worry too much about who has an “agenda”. Everybody’s got one, but it’s not that hard to winnow out who has evidence on their side.

As CalMeacham indicates, there’s a small amount of heavily publicized (and deeply flawed) research pointing to GMO harms, and a vastly greater body of research validating its safety and efficacy.

There are certainly concerns about pesticide resistance and crop diversity, none of which are exclusive to GM agriculture (but which in some cases biotechnology may be accelerating). Farmers more than ever have to practice sound agricultural techniques, rotating crops and pesticides and otherwise acting responsibly.

Personally, I don’t care all that much about corn and soybeans. But if scaremongering about genetic modification prevents development of pest-resistant varieties so that I lose out on morning coffee and orange juice, I’m going to be heavily pissed off (and people who don’t have access to life-saving drugs because Greenpeace thinks genetically modifying bacteria to produce them is satanic, are going to be way more hugely pissed off).
I’m not going to get into how pissed off starving Third World people will be when the GM food production that could’ve saved them gets derailed, because some think that biotechnology encourages overpopulation.

If I were at MIT I would want to ask serious questions about Seneff claiming any academic connection for this paper. Once it is being quoted as “Top MIT scientist” the university itself should wake up and take an interest. It get pretty close to the line of ethical impropriety leaving impression that you are implicitly endorsed as an MIT expert in the field, when you are very clearly not.

While I’ve drifted into GD territory, to serve OP’s purpose we must not overlook real dangers. Ignoring them (because one is not prepared to defend them immediately) is NOT “objective.”

And please note that at least two of the accusations made here against anti-GMO folk do NOT apply to me.

I’ll cheerfully stipulate that governments often make the biggest environmental mistakes. Destruction of the Aral Sea is an obvious mistake, or even, closer to home, federal engineering of the lower Mississippi.

No, it is long-term systemic risks that concern me. Nor am I prepared to enumerate all such risks; loss of biodiversity is just one example.

There are quantitative effects to consider. I mention that present-day GM is millions of times faster than Neolithic GM and a Poster dismisses this with "[del]Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter[/del] “Neolithic man proved that GM isn’t a problem.” :smiley: [slight exaggeration but do let us not quibble.]

Or this:

The dismissive “No, the efficiency of monoculture encourages single crops” ignores that effects can have more than one cause. I’ll assert that Roundup/Ready schemes obviously make monoculture more efficient and prevalant (and only chortle if you need a cite for that.)

There is some validity in this. (Though it ignores risks like air-borne spores.) But will there really be more land? For the discussion in this post, let’s all stipulate that human population already exceeds any optimum. Haven’t improvements to agriculture been a big part of that problem? Why encourage more of it?

And, do be aware that I’ve conceded GM may be the least-bad approach for the immediate future. Call it wishful thinking, but I think both humanity and Gaia herself would be better off with, say, only a billion humans, and that any GM experiments be small-scale and avoid any risk to overall biosphere.

Uh, correct me if I am wrong but ‘not encouraging’ it would lead to famine.

Frankly I like the world where we have the abilty (albeit not the political moxie) to feed everyone on it. That world is actually quite a recent development vs. the old days of hoping nothing went wrong this year with the crops that results in mass starvatio.

And the result of that recent development is decreased birthrates and leveling population.