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Study Shows Glyphosate (RoundUp) May Encourage Toxic Fungi Growth
(Beyond Pesticides, August 29, 2003) According to CropChoice News, new laboratory studies by scientists working for the Canadian government suggest that the widely-used herbicide glyphosate encourages the growth of fusarium, a toxic fungus that devastates wheat fields. The Canadian government may advise farmers against using glyphosate, which is the active ingredient of the herbicide RoundUp and has increased in popularity with the introduction of Monsanto's genetically engineered RoundUp-Ready crops, if field studies yield similar results.

Because of the glyphosate-fusarium link, Canada's National Farmers Union is already opposing Monsanto's application to introduce GE Roundup Ready wheat into the country. The Canadian government is expected to make its decision within months.

CropChoice News reports that the glyphosate-fuarium problem was spotted a few years ago by Myriam Fernandez of the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre, run by the Canadian government. She noticed that in some fields where glyphosate had been applied the previous year, wheat appeared to be worse affected by fusarium head blight - a devastating fungal disease that damages grain and turns it pink.

In a follow-up study, Dr. Fernandez measured levels of the blight in wheat fields. "We found higher levels of blight within each tillage category when glyphosate had been used in the previous year," says her colleague Keith Hanson. And his lab study showed that Fusarium graminearum and Fusarium avenaceum, the fungi that cause head blight, grow faster when glyphosate-based weedkillers are added to the nutrient medium.

The fusarium fungus can produce a range of toxins that are not destroyed in the cooking process, such as vomitoxin, which as its name suggests, usually produces vomiting but not death. More lethal compounds include fumonisin, which can cause cancer and birth defects, and the very lethal chemical warfare agent fusariotoxin, more often referred to as T2 toxin.

CropChoice describes itself as "an alternative news and information source for American farmers and consumers about genetically modified crops, corporate agribusiness concentration, farm and trade policy, sustainable agriculture, wind farming and alternative energy, and rural economic and social issues." The Washington, DC-based institution prides itself on printing the news that big companies may not want farmers to hear.