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More experts raising concerns over Roundup

1.Roundup herbicide research shows plant, soil problems
2.Roundup Blamed for Plant Disease, Super Weeds, Lowered Fertility Rates
3.Delays pile up in investigation of biotech woes

NOTE: The number of mainstream agricultural experts raising serious concerns over Monsanto's Roundup herbicide is growing all the time. These 3 recent articles report on the concerns raised by government scientist Bob Kremer, a microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (item 1); Michael McNeill, a PhD in genetics and botany from Iowa State (item 2); and plant pathologist and former Purdue University professor Don Huber (item 3).

The problems they variously identify around Roundup and Roundup Ready crops include:
*reductions in yields
*rapidly spreading weed resistance
*a rise in fungal root disease
*a rise in sudden death syndrome in soybeans 
*a rise in wilt in corn
*proliferation of a damaging microscopic organism
*a higher incidence of infertility and/or early-term abortion in cattle, hogs and poultry fed on Roundup Ready crops
1.Roundup herbicide research shows plant, soil problems
Carey Gillam
Reuters, August 12 2011

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – The heavy use of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide appears to be causing harmful changes in soil and potentially hindering yields of the genetically modified crops that farmers are cultivating, a government scientist said on Friday.

Repeated use of the chemical glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup herbicide, impacts the root structure of plants, and 15 years of research indicates that the chemical could be causing fungal root disease, said Bob Kremer, a microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

Roundup is the world's best-selling herbicide and its use has increased as Monsanto, the world's biggest seed company, continues to roll out herbicide-tolerant "Roundup Ready" crops.

Roundup Ready corn, soybeans and other crops are beloved by farmers because farmers can spray the herbicide directly onto their crops to kill surrounding weeds, and Roundup Ready corn and soybeans varieties make up the vast majority of those crops grown in the United States.

But as farmers have increased their use of Roundup Ready crops and Roundup herbicide, problems have started to rise. One of the biggest problems currently is spreading weed resistance to Roundup. But Kremer said the less visible problems below the soil should also be noted and researched more extensively.

Though Kremer said research to date has not shown that glyphosate directly causes fungal diseases that limit crop health and production, but the data suggests that could be the case.

"We're suggesting that that potential certainly exists," Kremer said in a presentation to the annual conference of the Organization for Competitive Markets, held Friday in Kansas City.

As well, Kremer said that research shows that these genetically altered crops do not yield more than conventional crops, and nutrient deficiencies tied to the root disease problems is likely a limiting factor.

Kremer said farmers should take heed and consider more crop rotations and tighter monitoring of glyphosate usage.

Kremer is among a group of scientists who have been turning up potential problems with glyphosate. Outside researchers have also raised concerns over the years that glyphosate use may be linked to cancer, miscarriages and other health problems in people and livestock.

Monsanto had no immediate comment on Friday, but has said in the past that glyphosate binds tightly to most types of soil, is not harmful and does not harm the crops.

The company has said that its research shows glyphosate is safe for humans and the environment.

Neither the USDA nor the Environmental Protection Agency, which is reviewing the registration of glyphosate for its safety and effectiveness, have shown interest in further exploring this area of research, Kremer said Friday.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
2.Roundup Blamed for Plant Disease, Super Weeds, Lowered Fertility Rates
Bill McPherson
All Voices,  August 12 2011  [shortened]

Boulder : CO : USA – Genetically modified crops engineered to withstand the action of weed killer Roundup(glyphosate) were the topic of a panel discussion held in Boulder, Colorado this week. 

The county authorities were seeking answers as to what to allow on the county lands. One of the invited speakers was Michael McNeill a PhD in genetics and botany from Iowa State and now runs a consulting business. 

The Cropland Policy advisory Group(CPAG) heard that there is now evidence that the well known herbicide sold originally by Monsanto under the name of Roundup is showing environmental damage.

Roundup has been used widely since the 1970s and proves to be an effective way of killing weeds that pop up amongst crops and lawns. Over the years since glyphosate has been used several food crops have been genetically engineered to withstand the weedkiller they are Roundup Ready. Monsanto’s patent on Roundup herbicide expired more than ten years ago and other companies can make the product now as well.

After nearly 40 years of use, some serious problems are emerging. Superweeds predicted by some naysayers have become a reality. Not every weed in a field is killed by glyphosate and those that survive live long enough to pass their resistance on to their seeds. Each year the winnowing process goes on until plants shrug off the effects of glyphosate resulting in a group of superweeds that are very hard to kill. Millions of acres of N.American cropland are sprayed with this chemical every year. Research done at Purdue University and sponsored by many bio-engineering companies shows that from about 2003 the number of herbicide resistant plants sharply increased.

Perhaps the emergence of super weeds could have been predicted, but Dr. McNeill also linked the use of glyphosates to a sudden death syndrome in soybeans and Goss’s wilt in corn. It has been speculated that the spraying of herbicides on the food crops weakens their immune systems.

A surprising side effect is the deleterious outcomes on male sperm production. Research is reaching conflicting conclusions so the jury is still out on this aspect. McNeill has reported what he and his colleagues have observed.

"He says he and his colleagues are seeing a higher incidence of infertility and early-term abortion in cattle and hogs that are fed on GMO crops. He adds that poultry fed on the suspect crops have been exhibiting reduced fertility rates" – Boulder Weekly
3.Delays pile up in investigation of biotech woes
Capital Press, July 21 2011

*Huber says lab work was contaminated, more time needed

MELBA, Idaho – A former Purdue University professor says it will be a few more months before he can support his claim that Roundup Ready technology is responsible for the proliferation of a previously unknown microscopic organism he says causes plant diseases and livestock abortions.

A sample of the organism was sent to a lab in March for sequencing so the organism could have its characteristics clearly identified, said Don Huber, the retired Purdue professor.
However, a contaminant was found in the sample, "so we had to take more time to get the material that is required," Huber said.
Huber told the Capital Press in April the sequencing data could be ready in May but now says the delay means the results and evidence to support his claims are at least a couple of months away.

"It's just a slow process," he said July 15 from his home here. "We're trying to make sure there is no glitch in the procedure. It's going to take more patience than some of us have."
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Jan. 17, Huber claimed that a team of scientists has discovered a new organism linked to Roundup Ready technology that causes disease in some crops and is linked to spontaneous abortions and infertility in livestock. Huber's letter, which he said was not meant for public distribution, was widely circulated on the Internet.

He said he isn't philosophically opposed to genetically modified crops, but he has asked the USDA to declare a moratorium on the further deregulation of crops genetically modified to resist glyphosate herbicides such as Roundup, which is sold by Monsanto.

Given the alleged dangers surrounding the newly identified organism – his letter said the organism could lead to a "general collapse of our critical agriculture infrastructure" – Huber said he believed it would be prudent to err on the side of caution until further research can exonerate the Roundup Ready system.

Huber, a University of Idaho graduate and professor emeritus of plant pathology at Purdue, said the organism is found naturally in the soil. But it's found in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready corn and soybeans, he claimed, suggesting a link to the Roundup Ready gene.
Huber's claims have come under fire from Monsanto and other scientists, including colleagues at Purdue, who have questioned why he has not released supporting evidence for peer review.

Huber said he understood the criticism but he believed the issue was so serious that he needed to send the letter to Vilsack first. He said the evidence will be released as soon as the sequencing data is ready.

In response to Huber's letter, a top USDA official pointed out that Roundup Ready alfalfa was approved following a "thorough and transparent examination."

In a May 2 letter to Huber, Gregory Parham, administrator of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said APHIS reviewed the necessary and relevant scientific data and "found no plant pest risk association with Roundup Ready alfalfa."

However, Parham also told Huber that if he has any "data, documented research or any evidence otherwise of a newly discovered pathogen, and/or a link between this pathogen to a Roundup Ready gene or Roundup herbicide, I encourage you to provide it for review."

Huber said that during a trip to Washington, D.C., last week, he had "some pretty receptive ears" and he was encouraged to submit grant proposals to study the issue further.
He has declined to release the names of his fellow researchers or people who are supporting the effort because he fears political pressure could torpedo the project before it's completed. He has declined to disclose the lab that is testing his samples.

"There are a fair number of people that are recognizing there's something there," he said. "They're not sure what it is, but at least they feel the need to pursue it."

Paul Vincelli, a plant pathology professor at the University of Kentucky, said he has spoken with the person attempting to characterize the organism and has reviewed some of the research on the topic.

He said he is not surprised by the delay but he also said the scientific community will continue to be rightfully skeptical about Huber's claims until evidence is released.

"Anything controversial like this should be vetted through the scientific process ... so people can evaluate the data for themselves," he said. "Yes, skepticism is appropriate."

Mark Duffin, executive director of the Idaho Sugarbeet Growers Association, said he's skeptical of Huber's claims but is willing to allow the evidence to speak for itself.

Virtually all sugar beets grown in the United States have Roundup Ready genes.

"The industry is watching and will review the science involved in his research; we want to follow sound science," Duffin said. "But there are a lot of questions still."