I was asked to write a letter to explain my position to a politician last week.
I thought I would share my letter with you.
Dear Mr Speaker
I am forever writing to express my concern about the safety of engineered foods. There are many promising developments in genetic engineering in agriculture, but none of them comes close to the RoundUp Ready technology. Starting with the first two engineered crops, corn and soybean, engineered to survive being doused with the herbicide RoundUp, the spread of the technology since 1996 has been nothing but revolutionary. This is seen as high-tech agriculture – a gene revolution after the green revolution. In 2013, there were about 500-million acres of engineered crops and 90% of them were doused liberally with close to two billion pounds of glyphosate. Much of it finds its way into the food system as the engineered foods have made their way into our daily diet. It turns out that the concern with the technology is not so much about genetic pollution as it is about chemical pollution. Yes there is genetic pollution in the form of gene flow to neighbouring crops and gardens. There is definitely a risk of lateral gene flow into your microbiome. Not everybody wants to become a pesticide factory making allergenic bacterial toxins I take it.
The technology is essentially about spraying a weed killer on the crops and the herbicide RoundUp is an integral part of the technology – the engineered crops are called RoundUp Ready. Since almost all engineered foods come from crops sprayed with RoundUp, they all contain residues of RoundUp. Some crops contain very high residues because they are sprayed at harvest time as a dessicant to kill the crops and make harvesting more economical. This is commonly done with sugar cane, beans, grains, potatoes, canola and pulse and other crops. Glyphosate, the active ingredient of the RoundUp herbicide is actually a biocide. It kills most everything. Let me explain. It was first discovered and patented in 1964 as a strong and broad spectrum descaling agent – a chemical to remove mineral scales in industrial pipes and boilers. A descaling agent is a chelator in biology lingo. A chelator grabs and holds minerals – that makes them bio-unavailable.
Glyphosate kills bacteria and plants. It was patented in 1969 as a strong and broad spectrum herbicide and in 2010 as a strong and broad spectrum antibiotic. This is a powerful chelator that binds to a wide range of minerals, many of them essential to basic biochemical pathways. Both bacteria and plants are killed by the chelating function of glyphosate. The molecule binds to many metals and impairs many enzymes but mostly it binds to manganese ions a lot more strongly than proteins can and a crucial enzyme is impaired in a biochemical pathway that manufactures amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Protein enzymes require a metal atom in the centre of the protein to function – like hemoglobin requires iron. Logic dictates that one molecule of glyphosate will at least immobilize one atom of metal and impair the function of at least one protein enzyme molecule. This is an amazing molecule that can be toxic in so many ways. Basically any protein enzyme of any living organism can be affected by this chelator. By stealing minerals from their environment this chemical deprives all life forms of essential minerals. If the metal ions are not available, the protein molecules cannot function, the cells malfunction, the organs slow down and show disease symptoms like celiac and other chronic conditions.
Glyphosate kills most bacteria like it kills most plants. It is patented as an antibiotic, and I am sure you can imagine that a daily diet of antibiotic in your food is not a good idea – the comparison to cattle and chickens in CAFOs is too obvious. We have considerable anecdotal evidence that our gut flora is chronically damaged by such a diet. Scientific studies show that glyphosate has become a major pollutant in our water, in our food, and in our bodies. The list of scientific studies published in the last few years demonstrating toxicity to lab animals or human cells is growing sharply as the rest of the world (64 countries at least) now ban or regulate engineered food – because most of their scientists have not been bought and done experiment with seeds provided by Monsanto -not necessarily sprayed with glyphosate.
Any food ingredient containing even a small residue of this chemical is by definition depleted of mineral nutrients. You can quote me on that.
Dr. Thierry Vrain