The World According to Monsanto, Part 1

So my blog return last week got a little sideswiped by Hurricane Irene.  I lost Comcast (cable, internet, landline) at about 10:30 AM on Sunday, power went around noon.  I live in a small town that is heavily wooded, and a lot of trees were unable to withstand the ravages of Irene, despite the fact that she was “merely” a tropical storm by the time she hit Massachusetts.  Downed trees meant downed power lines and many, many closed roads.  Monday was a waste of a day as I tried to figure out who had power and what I could do until mine returned.  Which, happily for me, turned out to be Monday afternoon.  Internet made it’s most welcome comeback Tuesday afternoon.  So I am once again “connected.” 

Life has been further complicated by a knee injury sustained by my son last week during pre-season football practice.  He has gone from a likely starting position to the sidelines…for how long we don’t yet know.  His MCL is definitely torn to some degree and while we were originally hoping for a two-week recovery, as of yesterday the doctor said that isn’t happening.  MRI is on Saturday, revisit the doctor next week, at which point we will know more about the severity of the MCL and whether the ACL suffered any damage.  Aside from taking my son to the various doctor appointments I am now his chauffeur once again, as he is unable to drive.  That means piloting him to football practice (yes, he still has to be there) and starting today, to school.  So life is a little hectic right now.

However, I have been finding time to read a book I have wanted to tackle for quite some time…when it arrived last week I opened it and immediately started reading.  If you know my concerns surrounding genetically modified foods (such as soy and corn) & Roundup (see Why You Should Be Concerned About Roundup, Genetically Modified Food Should Be Labeled! ,  Soy: Health Food or Health Hazard? and King Corn) you won’t be surprised by my preoccupation with “The World According to Monsanto: Pollution, Corruption and the Control of Our Food Supply,” by Marie-Monique Robin.  I am not yet finished, but already there is so much from this book that I want to share with you.  For those of you interested in reading all the details (and if you have any amount of passion for this topic, I highly recommend reading this book) note that the paperback version is due out in January, in case you are interested in saving a few dollars.  I will try to share some of the “big stuff” but to really get an understanding of the deceitful practices that have gone on, the power of huge multinational companies like Monsanto and the total lack of regard by our government for our health and safety (truly frightening) you should read the book. 

So, as mentioned above, I did a blog post on Roundup awhile back, which is the most widely sold herbicide in the world (and remember, it is used widely in farming…especially on GM corn, soy and other crops…so it’s in your food).  Guess who has Roundup in her garage….ME!  Yes, I bought some earlier this spring to try to get rid of the nasty weeds growing between the cracks in my patio.  Now I think we all know that any chemical, whether it is Roundup, spray for wasps and hornets (also currently in my garage), ant traps, etc are toxic, to some degree.  Any chemical should be used with caution.  But I think in the past I thought “if I can buy this in Home Depot, it must be safe, right…I mean we have entire government departments whose job is to ensure the safety of such things.”  So, in the case of pesticides & herbicides, we have the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) whose job it is to regulate and ensure the safety of said products.  According to Wikipedia (don’t you love Wikipedia?) the EPA employs over 17,000 people.  So, if they say Roundup is safe for us to use, I mean really, me vs. the knowledge of 17,000 people…

So…here are a few excerpts for your reading pleasure regarding Roundup (and no, I will never use it again, although now I cannot dispose of it until there is a hazardous waste collection day in my town).

When Roundup was first introduced in the early 70’s, wording on the packaging included:  “Respects the environment.” “100% biodegradable.”  “Leaves no residue in the soil.”  The product description read “Used according to directions, Roundup poses no risk to people, animals or the environment.”  Ads placed by Monsanto in newspapers and on TV stated:

“Glyphosate [the active ingredient in Roundup] is less toxic to rats than table salt following acute oral ingestion” and “Roundup can  be used where kids and pets’ll play and breaks down into natural material.”

On the bottle of Roundup Ultra in my garage it says “Did you know?  Glyphosate targets an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets.”  Sounds safe to me…and yet

In the early 2000’s, Belle [Professor Robert Belle, a French researcher] proposed to the regional council of Brittany that he conduct a study to assess the impact of herbicides on cell division.  “The irony of the story…is that we had decided to take Roundup as a control in the experiments, because we were persuaded that the product was completely harmless, as the advertisements…suggested.  And obviously, the huge surprise was that that herbicide produced much more significant effects than the other products we were testing.  That’s why we changed the focus of our research to concentrate entirely on the effects of Roundup.”

And what did the research show (this gets a bit technical, but bear with me)?

When a cell divides into two daughter cells, the making of two copies of the genetic inheritance, in the form of DNA, gives rise to many errors, as many as fifty thousand per cell.  Normally, a process of repair or the natural death of the defective cell, known as “apoptosis,” is automatically initiated.  But a cell sometimes avoids the alternative [death or repair], because the point that controls the damage to the DNA is affected.  It is precisely this checkpoint that is damaged by Roundup.  And that’s why we say that Roundup induces the early stages leading to cancer.  In fact, by avoiding the repair mechanisms, the affected cell will be able to perpetuate itself in a genetically unstable form, and we now know that it can be the origin of a cancer that will develop thirty or forty years later.

This is just more evidence that is coming to light regarding the side effects of Roundup.  My blog post about Roundup (see link above) has more.  Understand that when a company like Monsanto is applying for approval of a new product such as Roundup, the government agencies generally do none of their own testing, and instead rely completely on tests conducted by the producer of the product…and as I will share with you later, such studies are often fraught with errors and outright falsifications…

So what can you do?  Buy organic or from local sources where you know their growing methods (many small farms are not “certified organic” as that is a somewhat complicated process…but they use organic farming methods).  And sign the “Millions Against Monsanto” petition (whose goal is to get food containing GMOs labeled, as they are in Europe) and “like” Millions Against Monsanto on Facebook.  More later…

About Lisa Van Dore

I have lived in Sherborn, Dover and most recently North Walpole, for a total of 15 years (and counting). Having recently been through the process of selling a home and buying (and renovating) a new one, I understand the conflicting emotions of excitement and anxiety inherent in the process, whether you are a seller or buyer, whether this is your first home purchase or your tenth. I have a BA from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Indiana University. My early career found me working as a CPA, and later as the controller of Crate & Barrel. More recently I spent seven years running my own personal training business. I understand the hard work and dedication necessary to build a business and a reputation...most of my personal training clients came to me by referral and my first client was still with me when I decided to leave personal training. This speaks to the level of effort I put forth for my clients, week after week. On a more personal note, I raced triathlon for seven years and more recently completed my first half marathon. In my free time I enjoy cooking, reading, Maine, hiking and, in the fall, following college teams are the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and Texas Christian University (Go Frogs!).
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