Roundup, GMO & Terminator Seeds, Oh My!


My wife has gone through some medical issues, the worst being that she contracted thyroid cancer four years ago. I am happy to report that she beat the crap out of it and is now cancer free.

During this journey, she took it upon herself to seek ways on how to take better care of her body by watching what she eats and looking at alternative ways to lead a healthier lifestyle. Recently, she had to go on a gluten free diet due to inflammation in her system.

She does a copious amount of research when faced with changes. She wants to know what the ramifications are of the changes being made.

For me, being a typical guy, I have not given much thought about what I eat. Quite often, when she won’t be home for dinner, I will take the easy way out and grab a McDonald’s double-quarter pounder with cheese with a large order of fries. And while it may taste so good ingesting it, I find myself not feeling so good in the next few hours and often quite sluggish the next day.

Which brings me to the reason why I am writing this piece, the true first piece under the “Thoughts From a Common Man” section. I have something to say about the shortcuts the agriculture industries are taking; in the name of profits over the health of American citizens. Our government needs to be held accountable, too.

Did you know that the standard harvesting practice for some wheat farmers in the United States is to drench their wheat fields with Roundup? That’s right, the stuff that’s in your garage you use to get rid of weeds. Using Roundup allows combines, the piece of farm equipment used for harvesting, to work through withered, dead plants more easily. It reduces maintenance costs and wear and tear on the combine.

How do you feel knowing your health is being sacrificed to ease maintenance costs or replacement costs on farm equipment?

But I need to say here, according to an article from the Huffington Post (The Truth About Toxic Wheat), the use of Roundup is not common practice. The practice is most often used with farms that pre-harvest their wheat, mainly in North Dakota, small parts of South Dakota and parts of Canada.

Other states, such as Kansas and Oklahoma and the majority of wheat producing regions, don’t have a need to pre-harvest mainly due to their dry and warm climates as well as the variety of wheat they grow.

The practice of using Roundup eliminates the need of swathing the wheat; which means farmers cut the wheat down, lay it rows and let it dry. It lies there until the moisture content of the wheat kernels reach a desired moisture content. The ideal percentage would be 13.5% but anything less than 18% is good.

So imagine a farmer swaths his wheat crop and it rains for the next week. That’s income laying on the ground that he needs to support his family. By using Roundup, farmers would not have to swath their crops as the Roundup weakens the wheat so it is easier on the equipment.

Apparently, another “benefit” from using Roundup is it allows the wheat to ripen more evenly. Again, I have to ask the question, are these practices, mainly looking at the bottom line of the farmers’ livelihood, OK to use at the sacrifice of even one person’s health?

I have the utmost respect for farmers. The service they provide by feeding this country is critical to the nation’s security. They have a very tough job and I can’t believe how tough the government made it for them when hundreds of families lost their farms. Some of those farms have been generational…some up to six or seven generations of existence!

It wouldn’t, and it isn’t, fair to call all farmers out on the use of Roundup Ready crops. They take great pride and care of the crops they produce. But the farmers who use Monsanto’s genetically modified terminator seeds, often called Roundup Ready crops, are the ones that need to take a good long look in the mirror.

What are Roundup Ready Crops? The best definition I found is from MIT (Roundup Ready Crops) In nutshell, these crops are modified to be resistant to Roundup. Monsanto altered the DNA of these seeds to be resistant to their own product. These seeds are called terminator seeds, seeds that are sterile in the second generation. The theory is that since these crops are resistant, Roundup can be used to eliminate unwanted foliage during harvest.

Since these seeds are sterile farmers, if they want to use Roundup, must purchase seeds from Monsanto since other seeds would not be resistant. Monsanto claims to be addressing the needs of the world when it comes to food supply. However, there isn’t a lot of evidence to support that Roundup Ready crops increases the yield or profit of farmers who use their seeds.

In an article from May of 2014, the Inquisitr website stated there were much higher levels found in genetically modified soy in the US food supply. (May 4, 2014 Post Regarding Roundup Levels in Soy of US Food Supply.) The research was conducted by researchers in Norway. The USDA and the EPA both say Roundup used on foods is safe but a report from the June 2014 Elsevier publication, Food Chemistry, contradicts that statement. That report can be found here Roundup Ready GM Soybeans from the ScienceDirect website.

Glyphosate, the main chemical in Roundup, does not wash out from the plant. It is absorbed and translocated within the entire plant. That means when we eat genetically modified foods, we are also eating this chemical.

Soy is usually the base protein in baby formula and genetically modified organisms can be found in almost all packaged and processed foods in the United States.

Think about that for a second. Soy is in baby formula which uses GMOs. And these GMOs can be found in most packaged food in the United States.

There are currently 26 countries in the world that have a ban or partial bans on GMOs. This includes Switzerland, China, France, Greece, Mexico and Russia. Sixty other countries have significant restrictions on GMOs. (Source: The Nation Blog – Twenty Six Countries Ban GMO’s)

What processes do these countries use that does not necessitate the use of Roundup in order to ensure their citizens are eating healthy products? What do they know that the United States doesn’t? To be honest, I think the U.S. knows the same thing those countries do but is more focused on near term profit gain over the health implication later.

I am not going to claim that I have an answer for any of this. But during the creation of this article, I had to pause due to an insightful conversation with one of the smartest people I know, my wife Nancy.

She posited that perhaps our industry and government is focusing on the wrong thing. Instead of using Roundup on farm crops to make them easier for the farm equipment to harvest, why aren’t the better minds focusing on making the equipment stronger?

We went through several trains of thought around this and we came to several conclusions:

  • European countries, who have been around a lot longer than the United States, are taking a long view approach and putting the health of their citizens above profits. We both agreed that the United States is much like a teenager that wants the instant gratification now and not seeing the ramifications of what may occur later.
  • Special interest groups and big corporations, like Monsanto who make Roundup, are using their influence to positively affect their bottom line rather than the health of American citizens.
  • We are approaching this issue from the wrong direction. Instead of messing with Mother Nature by changing the plants chemically, we need to come up with a mechanical solution that would benefit the farmers and still give these companies the profits they seek. All the while, giving the American consumers a better shot at living longer and healthier for generations to come.
  • We don’t know the long term implications of what this does to the land, the water, the neighboring areas and the animals who are also affected.

There has to be a better solution to this issue. The United States has always prided itself on having some of the best and most creative minds in the world. Yet, other countries are passing us by because we, from a creative standpoint, have gotten lazy. Using this chemical solution as opposed to a mechanical solution is based on it being cheaper, not the right thing to do.

We have become a nation focused on finding ways to build things cheaper and faster. Some of you may want to add the word “better” to that phrase but you’d be wrong. Items made now have a planned obsolescence built into them because companies want you to replace rather than repair.

I think it’s time to take control of what we want to ingest. I don’t feel we should sacrifice our health to make it easier on farm equipment that harvest the crops. Above all, our industries and our government need to start asking “Is this the right thing to do?” Not to hold the notion that it’s better for a bottom line profit or to take or keep control of a government office.

Removing greed and the lust for power will never be out of an equation. But at least we can strive for these instances to be an anomaly rather than the norm.

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