(Beyond Pesticides, June 27, 2011) A study published in the May 2011 edition of the journal Reproductive Toxicology finds pregnant women and their fetuses contaminated with pesticides and metabolites of the herbicide gluphosinate and the Cry1Ab protein of the insecticide based on the bacterium bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), both affiliated with genetically engineered (GE) food. The study, “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada,” also identified the same chemicals, as well as glyphosate metabolites in the bodies of non-pregnant women.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, Canada, is intended to pave the way for a new field in reproductive toxicology including nutrition and utero-placental toxicities.
Herbicide resistance is the most common genetically modified trait in commercial agriculture. Crops are modified to be able to withstand extremely high doses of glyphosate (Roundup Ready) and gluphosinate (LibertyLink). Current herbicide resistant crops include soy, maize (corn), canola, sugar beet, cotton, with and alfalfa. As of 2005, 87% of U.S. soybean fields were planted with glyphosate resistant varieties.
The recently released 2010 Agricultural Chemical Use Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports that the use of glyphosate has dramatically increased over the last several years, while the use of other even more toxic chemicals such as atrazine has not declined. Contrary to common claims from chemical manufacturers and proponents of GE technology that the proliferation of herbicide tolerant genetically (GE) crops would result in lower pesticide use rates, the data show that overall use of pesticides has remained relatively steady, while glyphosate use has skyrocketed to more than double the amount used just five years ago.
Beyond Pesticides is a plaintiff in a lawsuit that seeks to halt the planting of GE Roundup Ready alfalfa. Just last week attorneys from the Center for Food Safety filed a motion in court to seek partial judgment in the case against Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack regarding his department’s recent deregulation of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa. The plaintiffs, including the Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, and several seed and farming organizations, filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the claim in the lawsuit regarding the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The suit claims that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is required by the ESA to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in decisions regarding regulation of GE products in order to determine any potential impact on endangered species or their habitats. Since APHIS did not consult with FWS prior to its decision to deregulate GE alfalfa, the plaintiffs hold that the decision is invalid until an evaluation is conducted by FWS.
Another common type of genetically engineering involves modifying crops to produce a protein of the insecticide Bt. Bt is a naturally occurring soil bacterium. GE crops threaten the long-term efficacy of Bt, which is an approved insecticide in organic farming.
Beyond Pesticides believes that whether it is the incorporation into food crops of genes from a natural bacterium (Bt) or the development of a herbicide-resistant crop, the GE approach to pest management is short sighted and dangerous. There are serious public health and pest resistance problems associated with GE crops. Beyond Pesticides’ goal is to push for labeling as a means of identifying products that contain GE ingredients, seek to educate on the public health and environmental consequences of this technology and generate support for sound ecological-based management systems.
For more information on GE crops, please see Beyond Pesticides page on Genetic Engineering.