Five studies published in the October 2009 issue of The European Journal of Agronomy reveal the negative impacts of using Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, a formula developed specifically for the company's line of genetically modified (GM) “Roundup Ready” crops. The papers, which were not released in the United States, offer a solid indictment against GM crops and the plight of using the Roundup herbicide.
Robert Kremer, a microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, co-authored one of the five papers and offered insight into their premise during an interview with The Organic & Non-GMO Report, a monthly newsletter that offers recourse in addressing the challenges of fighting GM foods.
Kremer and his colleagues began studying the effects of Roundup on soil back in 1997. They found that the herbicide was causing an increase in parasitic colonization at the roots of Roundup Ready soybeans and corn. They also observed an increase in fungal growth that leads to sudden death syndrome (SDS) in the plants.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is systemically changing the soil composition in the fields where it is used, leeching from plant roots into the ground. It is also disrupting the normal microorganism balance on plants and in soil, spurring the growth of harmful bacterial colonies that are destroying the beneficial ones.
According to Kremer, the most apparent disruption by glyphosate is observed in rhizobia, a type of bacterium that fixes nitrogen in the soil. Glyphosate's toxicity inhibits rhizobia from enriching soil with nitrogen, preventing plants from receiving this necessary element.
Despite claims to the contrary, Roundup can deeply penetrate soil and threaten groundwater supplies with contamination. Depending on a particular soil's composition, glyphosate can leech rather quickly into soil and potentially run off into nearby streams and rivers.
The Roundup system has also caused a significant increase in aggressive “super” weeds that are resistant to glyphosate. These weeds have been popping up in fields all over the country where GM Roundup Ready crops are grown, growing increasingly more virulent every year. Genetic engineers continue to develop stronger herbicides to combat them but the weeds keep getting stronger and more resistant.
Genetic modification of food crops is not only unsustainable but it threatens to unhinge the entire agricultural system. Roundup and other herbicides are altering and destroying soil nutrients, beneficial microbes, and other delicate components necessary to grow food.
While many farmers are interested in moving away from using GM crops in favor of more organic methods, it is often difficult for many of them to make the conversion.