Long-Term Glyphosate Use Effect on Wheat

Critics of conventional farming often decry the use of herbicides.  Herbicides that are not organic anyway.  That’s all fine and dandy, but the problem I see with the arguments some people present is they contain no substance.  Take a look at this Facebook post on the Kellogg’s Facebook page that I shared to my blog page to get other’s response on.

After seeing this photo posted by someone on the Kellogg's facebook page I had to share myself and point out what's wrong with it.

After seeing this photo posted by someone on the Kellogg’s facebook page I had to share myself and point out what’s wrong with it.

We use glyphosate on our farm.  Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup.  We grow wheat.  I have never seen our wheat germinate as poorly as the right half of that picture shows.  And not over a wide area like a whole field that has a history of Roundup treatments.  There could be any number of factors that contributed to the appearance of that wheat on the right — poor seed-to-soil contact at planting (important to get nutrients, water, etc to the seed), soil compaction (important to alleviate so the cotyledon & root can move through the soil), drought, pests, or a host of other problems.  But I’m positive glyphosate is not the cause.  I am positive based on lots of first-hand experience and education.

Currently there are no glyphosate-tolerant varieties of wheat on the market.  So not only do farmers from all over grow fine wheat crops on soils where Roundup has been applied, the wheat isn’t even resistant to the herbicide in question! Let me explain how wheat and glyphosate both work on my farm.

Let’s say I want to plant a crop that isn’t glyphosate-tolerant, but I want to use it as a burndown treatment (that’s what we do in spring to get rid of weeds and make the field ready for a crop) to knock out weeds that have grown in a field between cash crops.  How long would I have to wait before I plant my crop?  My answer can be found on the Roundup FAQ page.

Annual Weeds: When applying Roundup WeatherMAX® under good growing conditions, seeding may start 4-6 hours later! For all other Roundup brand agricultural herbicides (or under stressful weather conditions), you must wait a minimum of 24 hours before seeding or working the land.

Perennial Weeds: With all Roundup brand agricultural herbicides we recommend that you wait 72 hours under good growing conditions before seeding or tillage. If it’s cool and cloudy wait an extra day before tillage so the herbicide has sufficient time to translocate to the roots of the weed.

There are significant amounts of research and development that goes into these label directions and although those are from an FAQ, they restate what is on the label. A label that is registered with the EPA and the USDA.

Don’t you think wheat farmers all over the United states would be pretty vocal if such a problem existed, or at least quit planting wheat in fields where glyphosate has been used to control weeds in the past?  In certain instances glyphosate is sprayed on a growing wheat crop to ready the crop for harvest while managing weed pressure.  For more this read Nurse Loves Farmer’s post The Truth about Glyphosate and Wheat.

A photo from June 2012 of our wheat and corn in adjacent fields.  The wheat has changed color because it's nearly mature and ready for harvest.

A photo from June 2012 of our wheat and corn in adjacent fields.

We plant wheat and corn side-by-side at times, just like the photo above shows we did in 2012. This soil probably receives a glyphosate treatment at least once a year depending on the crop. The wheat has changed color because it’s nearly mature and ready for harvest.

Now I suppose you have no reason to believe what I say anymore than that Facebook photo.  But I do hope I’ve been able to build a level of trust on this page by being honest and trying to show you why we use certain agronomic practices on our land. We have a lot of things to consider, even worry about, as we grow crops but the long-term effects of glyphosate is one I feel very comfortable with.

It would be easy to mislead people who may not know a lot about farming practices. And these well-meaning people could get worked up enough to share it with other people wanting to help a farmer like me out. I just hope they are also willing to listen to someone with first-hand experience too.

What do you think about the photo I shared?  Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!

The Truth About Toxic Wheat – Prairie Californian

The Truth About Glyphosate and Wheat – Nurse Loves Farmer

A Farmer’s Response to “The Real Reason Wheat is Toxic…” – Nutty Grass

Grain of Truth? – Snopes.com

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Comments

  1. Great post Brian…I have mentioned in the past there are Opinions of Intellect (can be swayed by logical argument) and Opinions of Emotion (no opportunity to change).

    This seems to be quite an emotional topic. Presenting a logical argument is the right path and may be frustrating.

    Thanks for growing my food!

  2. It is my understanding that glyphosate is an emergent herbicide, killing only weeds that have already spouted. Are weeds that sprout after you have planted your crop a problem? If so, what do you do about that? Lou

    1. You are correct. Glyphosate is a contact killer that offers no residuals effects on weeds that appear after application. A standard practice on farms like mine would be to come in with a glyphosate and 2,4-D mix pre-plant to knock out weeds that emerged in early spring. Depending on weed pressure we will make one or two more applications of herbicide during the growing season. Getting your cash crop to the canopy stage greatly reduces weed pressure because the crop is now capturing most of the sunlight. Canopy is when the space between rows is filled by the plants as they grow larger.

      Many weeds will germinate all season long, not just in spring. Weed seeds can lay dormant in soil for years at a time.

      1. If it is a contact Killer and it breaks down so completely. HOW is it destroying your crops?? Also Wheat is NOT ROUNDUP READY via GMO. It has very strict Guidelines when used on wheat. I bet you did not follow those guidelines. They warn USE is at YOUR OWN RISK. Because WHEAT have never been GMO.

        1. We’ve never used Roundup on wheat. I think it some areas it sometimes is used to bring the crop to a harvest state, but not around here.

          You ask how it’s destroying my crops? It’s not. That’s what this post was about.

        1. Everything is toxic given the proper dose. Andrew Kniss has a great write up on the toxicity of homemade herbicide made from vinegar as compared to glypohsate. In real world applications both are very safe, but on a technical level glyphosate is less toxic than the home brew. Food for thought. Take a look at Andrew’s post on Weed Control Freaks.

            1. I see Seralini is a part of this study. I’m not as familiar with this one as I am with his rat study that was recently retracted by the journal that published it. He certainly doesn’t seem to be a fan of glyphosate. One thing I notice about the study you mentioned is that the testing was done in vitro. In the real world with a realistic application of glyphosate it’s hard for me to believe that a toxic amount of herbicide could reach placental cells. No one would be more exposed to the relatively non-toxic weed killer than the applicator in the field or person filling the nurse truck that supplies the sprayer. In this instance the dinner table is a long way from the farm considering the toxicity and quick breakdown of glyphosate.

              1. I’m researching glyphosate and safety for my own concerns and am trying to be as unbiased and open as possible. Because this is such a hot topic, there are a lot of black and white studies out there. I’m having a very difficult time finding one that positively states glyphosate is safe without the researchers having some association with Monsanto (ie Gary M. Williams, Robert Kroes, Ian C. Munro studies). I did find the following, very extensive, review of the subject with regards to the EU and based on a study published by a scientist from Argentina. Please see: http://www.scribd.com/doc/57277946/RoundupandBirthDefectsv5
                I think part of the problem the public has in believing the safety of Roundup and glyphosate can be explained in the following item: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Andres-Carrasco-vs-Monsanto-20141001-0090.html
                It’s nice to be able to have feedback from someone who is out in the field and dealing with this.

                1. @Vivian—I sympathize: how can we know what is true about the things in our environment that may affect our health? For the general public, so much of the scientific literature is hard to find, or only available with library access. Even then, much of it is written in technical jargon that is hard to digest for most people. This creates a vacuum that has been filled by several activist groups and hundreds of Internet sites, who may not have totally pure motivations (or even a good grasp of science to begin with).

                  I appreciate your desire to approach this topic with a high degree of skepticism, and I would also encourage you to apply the same skepticism to the links that you included. (BTW I think it’s a mistake to automatically dismiss industry-sponsored research: a lot of this is required by the regulatory authorities; plus it is a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to do this kind of safety assessment; plus people who work in companies also have families and eat food).

                  I cannot think of a comprehensive, objective, but easily-digestive resource for understanding glyphosate. This is one the most deeply studied man-made substances, which is both good and bad. It’s good because we can make decisions based on a wealth of data. (The E.U. just finished a review of over 1000 studies and articles relating to glyphosate safety). On the other hand, it’s hard for the general public to interpret the studies that suggest there may be reason for concern.

                  As Brian has pointed out, everything is somewhat poisonous, depending on dose. In fact, toxicology studies are usually designed to try to find toxicities: the challenge is then to try to extrapolate and predict whether these effects are relevant to the normal levels human exposure. All studies with test animals or cultured cells are models: there is both skill and subjectivity in deciding how relevant these models are. The problem that I have with articles like the one by Antoniou et al. that you posted, is two-fold. First, they do not objectively discuss the pros and cons of why a particular model may be predictive (they just assume the worst-case). Secondly, they are clearly geared to achieving a political goal (e.g. banning a technology). This undermines their credibility for me.

                  Perhaps glyphosate is a victim of its own success? It has largely displaced earlier herbicides that are more toxic and less effective, which has been good both for the consumer and the farmer. It has also become the scapegoat for the silly debate over modern technology versus “nature”.

                  @Brian—I apologize if I have wandered too far from the original topic of your post.

                  1. Peter, thank you for your response.

                    I have googled you and see that you (and Brian Scott) are listed as Independent Experts on the GMOanswers.com website. This website’s sole purpose appears to be to convince the public on the safety of Roundup and glyphosate, as they state: “The biotech industry stands 100 percent behind the health and safety of the GM crops on the market today, but we acknowledge that we haven’t done the best job communicating about them – what they are, how they are made, what the safety data says.”

                    On their profile of who contributes to this site, they also list 5 pages of people who work directly for Monsanto.

                    In YOUR Linkedin profile, it lists you as “Searle/Monsanto (Pfizer) Research Group Leader”.

                    Brian Scott’s profile on GMOanswers.com states that he (as a farmer) has a contract with Monsanto. As he is a farmer, who uses glyphosate, I’m not surprised that he has a contract with them….I am surprised that he is listed as an Independent Expert on their GMOanswers website and is, therefore, biased…as this blog is.

                    I reiterate….how can the public believe in the safety of Roundup and glyphosate when we are bombarded by Monsanto.

                    I shall be interested to see how long my response remains on this website.

                    1. @Valerie—You seem to have crossed the line between skepticism and cynicism, and I am starting to question whether you are truly interested in learning about this topic.

                      I have to disagree with your implied accusation of dishonesty. Should we distrust Brian because he makes a living farming? Should we distrust a brain surgeon for doing likewise? There are literally hundreds of thousands of highly talented biotech and biomedical scientists around the world, often with many years of education, and a reputation supported by prestigious publications. Does the fact that they get a paycheck disqualify them from offering well-reasoned opinions?

                      I am personally proud of the work that I did in the Monsanto Pharmaceutical division when I worked there 20 years ago, and can vouch for the world-class talent and integrity of my co-workers. If you have any actual evidence that there is corruption in the current Ag organization, then please share it. Incidentally, the regulatory bodies around the world rely on safety information from the many different companies that produce glyphosate, so demonizing a single company makes no sense.

                      As a food safety and nutrition advocate I read literally thousands of research studies, and have become increasingly interested in the many inflammatory Internet posts about pesticides and Genetic Engineering. I take the time to participate in health-related forums in the hope of providing an antidote to some of the activist clamor. It seems to me that there is a strong connection between ignorance and fear—and let’s face it, there is huge public ignorance about health and safety. Where this gets out of hand is where people would rather wallow in fear than do the work to develop an informed opinion. Or worse, engage in fear-mongering to achieve political ends.

                      Valerie, I encourage you to apply your sleuthing talents to learning more about modern Ag technology, and spend less time looking for conspiracies and corruption. A good place to start is by continuing to follow Brian’s website.

                    2. Peter, I am truly interested in learning about this topic. I have no hidden agenda. In 1997 I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. Until my diagnosis, there was no history of cancer in either my mother nor my father’s families. In March of this year, my mother was diagnosed with untreatable stomach cancer and was told she had 5 months to one year to live. On May 13 of this year, my father was diagnosed with lymphoma. He passed away of this disease on July 9, 2014.

                      Cancer is on the rise. Normal, average people, such as myself are trying to understand this terrible disease and it causes. There is a lot of discussion regarding our food sources, illness, GMOs, glyphosates and many other factors in our environment. Because I choose to only be skeptical of research studies by Monsanto, or anyone paid by or associated with Monsanto, does not imply that I am ignorant or trying to spread fear. I’m looking for unbiased research and studies so that I can make informed decisions regarding my health and the health of my children.

                      I have nothing against Brian. I’m sure he’s a very nice man and obviously a very intelligent man. But his blog is not for me.

                    3. Can you elaborate on why my blog isn’t for you? For my two cents it’s people like you I want to have a conversation with. Getting comments like yours is more productive than one that says, “Good job! I agree with you 100%!”

                    4. Vivian, I think there might be a misunderstanding about that contract you mention. Looking at my profile in GMO Answers I can see how this could happen. That mention of the contract is regarding the Technology Use Agreement one signs wage purchasing certain seeds. I have not and do not work for Monsanto not do I recurve any compensation for answering questions on GMO Answers. A blog post I wrote about tech use agreements is one of my most popular posts, and is titled “I Occupy Our Supply Every Day.”

                    5. Hi Brian. There was no misunderstanding on my part of your relationship with Monsanto and, if I inferred otherwise, I apologize. I did not find it unusual for you as a farmer using Monsanto products to have a contract with them. I, didn’t presume that you were being paid by Monsanto. Quite the contrary! I’m assuming you’re paying Monsanto to purchase those products just as you are paying other companies for other products that you need to run your farm. I also had no presumption that you, or anyone else on the GMOanswer.com website, were being paid for your contributions by Monsanto or any other GMO company. Again, if you or any of your readers, took my comment to imply that, I sincerely apologize. That was not my intent. I was just surprised to find you listed on that website as an Independent Expert when their mandate is to convince the public of the safety of GMO food. I hadn’t realized that I was on a website blog that was skewed towards GMO acceptance. That was my fault. I was only looking at the wheat and glyphosate part of the site as that was the search area I was interested in. After taking a more in depth look at your website, I see you are quite upfront with your belief in GMO as a good thing. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. You know where you stand on the subject; I’m still trying to decipher all the pros and cons and wade through all the opinion vs scientific proof before I decide where I stand :o). I also see that you are very measured and reasonable in your responses to other commenters opinions should they disagree with you, which is refreshing.

                    6. Thanks for the response. I read over my bio and had them change it a little because even I thought it read like I worked for Monsanto. Funny part is I think I’m the one who wrote it in the first place!

            2. Thanks for highlighting this paper. I am normally skeptical of the work from the Seralini group, but ironically, this paper is a strong piece of evidence supporting the safety of Roundup.

              Using cultured human cells, toxicity was only observed at MASSIVE levels of Roundup—the kind that would be found if a farmer drank the herbicide form the tank. (The levels of glyphosate in foods are thousands or hundreds of thousands times lower than the levels use in this experiment.)

              When these cells were cultured in the absence of “serum” (which promotes the health of cells, and is similar to what bathes normal human tissues), the cells became more sensitive to Roundup, but not glyphosate. This supports the idea that the surfactants (detergents) present in Roundup may actually be more toxic that glyphosate itself. This is hardly surprising: animal cells are very sensitive to surfactants. A simple analogy would be the irritation when you get shampoo in your eyes—but no-one is suggesting that shampoo should be banned.

              1. I have been curious on this topic for a while now.
                I have family in the pharmaceutical industry , quality control side of things, and I know through them the integrity required to perform their role. My perception is that there may be broad simalarities to the agri chemical industry. The boardroom push them from time to time and it takes a lot of fortitude and grit to hold their ground.
                While turning over stones (online) I came across this review of the industries studies. It appears to be from highly credentialed independent professionals and dosen’t reject out of hand the research papers supporting approval of glyphosates use but raises many questions that as a lay person I would love to see a consensus across the board on.

                Dose is one of the topics questioned.
                The actual formulations and on the ground practices used on the farm are also raised.

                I would dearly like to see the questioned raised be answered thoroughly so that the both the original researchers and the outside panel of scientists could reach a consensus on parameters, method, and hopefully the results.

                We all keep hearing about peer review. If the questions raised are rubbish then surely it is possible to step by step refute them with the consensus of similarly credentialed, industry independent, scientists within the same scecialized field. My understanding of pier review is ‘rince, repeat’ and we should all get the same results. After so many years why does this still not seem to be the case.

                We have all read reports of hugh industry’s shell games ‘ based on years of thorough research’ unrepeatable by independent researchers. I would dearly like to put this to rest in my mind and renew my trust in the integrity of the industries science upon which we all must rely, farmers and consumers.

                Omisconline.org – Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate- Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence.t hand the serious nature of
                On the website Omisconline.org – Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate- Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence.

                1. Hi Greg, This journal does not appear in the PubMed database of 26,000 biomedical journals, and has been described as “predatory” or “pay-to-play”. I personally consider it to be more of a vanity publication than a legitimate scientific article. You might also note that the two primary authors are the key members of a political activist group.

                  Briefly, the authors focus on research done with toad eggs, but they fail to mention that the levels of glyphosate exposure were approximately 10,000 fold higher than a human embryo might be exposed to in a typical diet (my very rough estimate). The effects seen at the high levels tested might have been due to the surfactant (detergent) properties of Glyphosate (aquatic organisms are particularly sensitive to surfactants). This surfactant activity would be irrelevant for the traces of Roundup found in the human diet. They also fail to discuss the scientific literature that would undermine their argument. In my opinion, this research might be most relevant to the health of frog and toad eggs in ponds sprayed with glyphosate.

  3. Good explanation. I wish the normal population would give farmer’s more credit on their decisions. Why would farmers want to produce a crop that isn’t safe? No reason I can think of.
    Same issues with livestock production. Why would a farmer mistreat an animal when you have invested a great deal of time and money to produce a healthy animal? Lots of Emotional Opinions as D. Scott said above.

  4. Not having any information about the two photos of wheat (even if they are from the same season), I would say the photo on the right looks more like cold damage or winter kill, as evidenced by the dessicated appearance of the plants, than emergence or glyphosate damage. The only glyphosate damage I have seen on wheat is stunting and leaf lesions caused by drift when nearby fields were burned down during windy conditions for no-till corn planting in the spring.

  5. Sadly it looks like the Facebook thread is gone. Since it was a re-share on Kellog’s page that is also deleted, it looks like the re-shared post with conversation is deleted too. :( That was a really good conversation too. Some good references in there I wish I could get to.

  6. Brian, This is an awesome post! We grow wheat for rotation behind our cotton every two to three years. We have only seen wheat like the photo on the right when we are in a drought. It is my understanding that Glyphosate actually neutralizes when it hits dust. We have seen this first hand when we try to spray and it has been too long between rains. There will be too much dust on the weeds and they won’t die. Of course, they are already harder to kill during a drought situation anyway. Once the glyphosate has neutralized, I also understand that it literally goes inert. Once something has gone inert, and you go back to 9th grade chemistry, an inert product will never again react with anything. That’s the information we use on our cotton farms and have always had excellent results with glyphosate no matter the situation.

  7. “Don’t you think wheat farmers all over the United states would be pretty vocal if such a problem existed, or at least quit planting wheat in fields where glyphosate has been used to control weeds in the past?” Exacly what I say, thanks Brian,good post.

    1. I think that idea seems to be left out of a lot of conversations. Just the simple fact that a lot of people or doing X doesn’t mean it’s right, but it’s worth taking a deeper look don’t you think? Here’s a post hot off the press where a consumer spent a great deal of time talking to farmers, and one of them was me.

      http://lazyhippiemama.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/what-i-learned-about-gmos-from-9-farmers-a-monsanto-employee-and-a-whole-bunch-of-reading/

  8. Great post Brian and excellent photos. It not only proves the point it is absolutely beautiful. Thanks.

  9. I think the issue is: what are the long term effects, and under what conditions. Surely all fields look like your photos in the early years, or, as you say, the product would not be used. But then, is there a point, varying in some way in the number of years, where the negative effects become visible. I would expect that such negative affects would at first be seen in only a small number of cases. I see that the article includes 23 references from what look to be peer reviewed sources, and you haven’t addressed that. There is also a logic in their arguments that you have not addressed. They say that Glyphosate “doesn’t usually destroy weeds directly,” but rather is “a broad-spectrum chelator” that “binds with nutrients, depriving plants of the minerals needed to help them defend against disease.” This then suggests a logic in which Glyphosate attacks the ability of plants to absorb nutrients. And does that then apply to, for example, soil microbes, fostering leaching? (I’m glad to find this article, as a farmer mentioned some of this to me, but I hadn’t found online sources.) Dan Huber (in several sources) is on YouTube and seems to focus on farm self interests. He raised these issues in a letter to Vilsack or someone a few years ago. Surely to keep buying the same fertilizer (at higher costs) but then get less bang for the buck would be disastrous for farmers (or to buy more and more to get the same results, etc.).

    So, have all of the readers here read the label to RoundUp, as we’re often told to do? Last time I read it, it was 130 pages of tiny print, in an obnoxious red font, and I certainly agree that it’s very well researched in terms of issues that Monsanto knows about (but do farmers), and legally. So if the research proves true, will Monsanto be liable for farmers who’s soil has lost the ability to hold on to fertilizer (if that’s a key issue, as I’ve heard?). Or has that already been thoroughly dealt with (disclaimed) on the label.

    I think my biggest worry is that the technology is a “megatechnics,” (Lewis Mumford) which, by nature, is authoritarian, a system that has made farmers increasingly dependent upon a powerful industrial-complex. Meanwhile, Monsanto seems to be, by far, (ie. 2009) the greatest spender of political influence money of any corp. in the input-complex. (more than 4 x bigger than the second runner up). For me, that issue comes first, leading then to the issues of the cost of production, as in the issues discussed here.

    1. Hopefully I can address some of your points, Brad.

      My photo is not from the early years. That photo of a healthy wheat crop comes from a field that sees an application of glyphosate at least once per year. Glyphosate is a contact killer, meaning is has no residual herbicidal effect in the soil on plants that have yet to emerge. It’s got to hit green tissue to be effective.

      The chelation issue has to do with the possibility that glyphosate, after being processed by a corn plant especially, may have some effect of binding nutrients in the soil. I think the jury is still out on this topic. From a practical farmer perspective US farms continually grow more grain with less inputs year after year. Not only is that environmentally responsible, but it’s also good for the farmer’s pocketbook.

      Dr. Huber has become a controversial figure since writing that letter. I would say his thoughts are worth noting, but after reading responses from his own colleagues at my alma mater Purdue, and many other scientific sources, I would say his claims are questionable. Biofortified has a great post on this called “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence.” I wrote a post with my personal thoughts as well when the letter came out. Purdue’s response can be found here.

      Labels for all pesticides are generally very long. Why is this? Well for one thing there are many uses for the same product and that product won’t be used the same way in all situations. A chemical that can be used on more than one crop will have a set of instructions for each crop. There will be instructions for spraying with a pump up sprayer around your house to covering hundreds of acres on a farm. Tank mixes with another herbicide, insecticide, fungicide, or fertilizer or combination thereof would require yet another set of instructions for proper and safe use. Long story short, the reason there isn’t much new chemistry in recent decades is because it takes a great deal of money and time to put the work in to make that label and cover all your bases. You never know what someone might do, so the explanation of proper use is by nature, exhaustive. For example when I worked at a job in town we kept the store looking good from the outside by killing weeds around the building. My co-worker went out one night with a hand sprayer to treat weeds behind the building. Instead of reading the label and putting in a few ounces per gallon of water he put a whole quart of Roundup in a 2 gallon sprayer and filled the rest with diesel fuel. Let me tell you those weeds died. In fact, they turned black by the next day. But that was an excessively expensive mix of stuff, and you certainly couldn’t find it on any label.

    2. Perhaps read and write less, comprehend more. You’re getting your issues all pretzeled up. The use of glyphosate has nothing to do with fertilizers, for instance.

    3. Our farm adopted no-till practices decades earlier than most, but you have to offset that conservation practice with some burndown method. Glyphosate has a lower half-life in the soil than most, breaking down the acidic salt of the active ingedient in a matter of months. By the time the crop is harvested, our pre-plant application is long gone. Heck, it is gone by the time WINTER comes. It is so much more important to prevent topsoil erosion and increase organic matter in the soil. Practices like this are why the recent years of drought did not result in depleted soil and dustbowl conditions.

  10. If it wasn’t so serious, it would be almost comical. I would have thought a firm like Kellogg’s would know better than to scaremonger in this way.

    1. It’s not a post by Kellogg’s, but rather a something posted by an individual on their page. That page has seen a lot of similar posts since some people thought they were poorly representing the Kashi brand of cereal as natural. Kashi was never organic to my knowledge, but some thought their ads were misleading.

  11. Oh, and regarding soil microbes: I am looking forward to more research in this area. After all, for the plant, it is “all about the exudates.” I have heard some wild claims about microbial population damage, but so far I can only find studies with evidence of null effect or increased benificial (decreased overall) microbial populations. That makes some of the claims seem uninformed at best, spurious at worst.

  12. I just received an email from CREDO action to petition EPA and FDA to ban Roundup because of glyphosate:

    “In case you weren’t sure yet if the massive use of the herbicide glyphosate – also known as Monsanto’s Roundup – was cause for concern, here’s the sobering takeaway from an MIT senior researcher who just conducted a review of the stuff:

    “I’m certain at this point that glyphosate is the most important factor in an alarming number of epidemic diseases.”1

    The introduction of Roundup in 1973 has corresponded with a rise in conditions including celiac disease (gluten intolerance), autism, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, obesity, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s and others.2″

    As a farmer, what do you think about this? I don’t know and I would like the opinion of someone who has worked with it long term and get their take.

    1. Hi, Jeffrey. Thanks for stopping by. You can get a good idea of my opinion on glyphosate from this blog post you just read. We’ve been raising Roundup Ready crops for almost twenty years now, and it’s still a valuable tool on our farm.

      As far as the MIT senior researcher goes, I’d encourage you to look deeper into the “study” performed by Stephanie Seneff and Anthony Samsel. It was published in the journal Entropy which I understand has a very low or even no impact score with impact being a factor in the worth of a journal. Also this wasn’t so much a study as much as a computer program searching through other papers on the topic. I put together a bundle of seven links that you can review for yourself. Here’s the link https://bitly.com/bundles/thefarmerslife/6

      An important phrase to remember is that correlation does not equal causation. Just because glyphosate use has increased since 1973 doesn’t mean it relates to an increase in all those diseases. Someone has even made a sarcastic chart to prove this point by showing the rise in organic food sales trending very closely with a rise in autism. I’ve seen another that relates the decline in the number of people who are pirates to the rise in global temperatures claiming the solution to global warming is for everyone to be a pirate. Be cautious of falling for an “if this, then that” mentality, but so goes the internet.

      1. You can’t just say ‘correlation does not equal causation’ as an excuse to ignore anything you don’t want to believe.

        Correlation does not necessarily equal causation but causes and contributing factors will usually correlate. And given the exponential growth of multiple novel and rare diseases SOMETHING must be causing it.

        And it just so happens the Seneff documents the biological pathways by which Roundup could be contributing this and also how the Autism symptoms could all be fairly described as symptoms of Roundup exposure.

        So it just makes sense the Roundup is implicated.

        Now I completely understand if you don’t want to accept the fact you’re poisoning your friends and neighbors with your farming practices. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

        1. Wow Adam, that’s quite a leap. Correlations and causation can happen together, I’m with you there. That’s where science can start. We can look at simultaneous trends and then make good decisions about realistic associations.

          First, there is absolutely no mechanistic way that glyphosate can cause these diseases. It is a simple molecule with known pharmacology. Furthermore, you’d have to ingest it in biologically relevant amounts, and that just is not possible. Worst case scenario there are parts per million residual on beans, and after processing into oil, tofu, whatever… you’d be hard pressed to find any.

          And if that association was real- it would be easily testable. Nobody has been able to demonstrate any evidence consistent with that interpretation.

          If anyone was poisoning friends and neighbors was true, it would be known in no time.

          And ten years ago you’d be telling us that autism was caused by vaccinations. Sadly, that distraction cost valuable time and money that could have been funneled to a cure.

        2. Adam, I agree with what Kevin said in his reply. Sure two or more things might seem to go together, and that warrants further investigation. But it doesn’t mean the first hunch that A + B = C will always be true once testing is done. As you say “given the exponential growth of multiple novel and rare diseases SOMETHING must be causing it,” but why does it have to be something? Isn’t it possible it could be somethings? Or would it be feasible that the same thing or things are causing these conditions in the same ways they always have, but we only recently have the medical know how to more properly detect than we did say a generation ago? Some people are so fixated on glyphosate being the single cause of all these problems, but as Dr. Folta stated it doesn’t add up.

  13. The main issue I have with glysophate and the widespread use of all herbicides and pesticides on all crops (not just wheat) is that we are daily ingesting toxins from almost everything we eat. The FDA may state that the amount is minuscule and therefore not harmful, but clearly the cumulative effect is. As Jeffrey Mead (above post) says, the introduction of Roundup into the food chain corresponds closely with the meteoric increase of most non-communicable diseases in North America. It’s true that correlation does not mean causation, but since the major change in our society since the early seventies has been how our food has been mass produced and altered, and how the environment has been polluted, it stands to reason that they are NOT unrelated.

    North Americans are currently being overfed and undernourished, have increasingly weak immune systems, cannot clear the toxic overloads from their body, and as a result are falling victim to the numerous diseases of our time in alarming numbers. Meanwhile, most money raised to find cures, goes to trying to develop new drugs instead of looking at what the causes are.

    Is the total cause RoundUp ready, widespread glysophate use in farming? NO. But it is a big part of the overall problem. Glysophate is now showing up in mother’s breast milk! That should tell us something.

    Back in the day, the tobacco industry said there was no PROOF the poisons in cigarettes caused cancer, the makers of DDT touted the benefits of its widespread use and downplayed any negative effects on humans, asbestos manufacturers said their product was safe and would save money for consumers by cutting down on heating costs, PCBs were studied to death and declared safe. The list goes on.

    So, declaring that herbicides are safe for use on human food is shortsighted and dangerous. Just because the ill effects don’t show up immediately doesn’t mean it is safe… see the above list and how long it took before the health disasters created became clearly evident. If the insects and birds won’t eat the seeds and plants treated with Roundup, that should be our first clue that WE should not be eating it!

    1. What about all the Bt toxins and herbicides, fungicides, etc that are used in organic farming? Where did you get the idea that ‘Americans have increasingly weak immune systems’ or that they can’t ‘clear toxins from their body’ ? Neither of these things are true and have no basis in medical research. There is also no credible evidence that women should be concerned about the safety of their breast milk; “Moms Across America” is not making any headlines with their bogus research. And wait, I thought insects DO eat Roundup which has been blamed for the decline in butterflies, bees, etc? I guess someone is confused, especially when declaring PCB’s were declared safe. I mean how much stuff are you going to just make up???? The ‘health disasters created’ are not ‘evident’ at all. In fact where in earth is ANY of your evidence that supports a single thing you claim??? People are living longer, with less disease and better health. Did you know RoundUp replaced even more toxic herbicides? TRUE!

      1. Bt in organic farming:

        The bt bacteria, commercially available for organic farming is a preparation of weakened or most often dead bacteria, which is sprayed only in the case of high insect infestation and only onto the affected area.

        The bacterium inside the spray contains the pro-form of the so called bt toxin. This is not an active component, it needs to be tailored (cut to size) to produce the active bt toxin, which is effective as a pesticide.

        When the insect eats the dead bacterium, the toxin is partially digested in the insect gut by proteolytic (cutting) enzymes and converted to active bt toxin. This is actually a lectin which binds to the gut wall of the insects and this interferes with the digestion/absorption of food, thereby preventing growth, maturation, reproduction.

        The actual bacterium, which is not eaten by any insects, degrades in the light/sun/rain pretty fast (less than a day). The chances of pests developing resistance to it are very low indeed, since all the pests which are exposed to the toxin are affected by it.

        NOTE! The ACTIVE TOXIN can only be found IN THE GUT OF THE INSECT.

        Bt bacteria has no harmful effect on the environment as far as we know.

        As far as human safety is concerned, the bacterium is only ever present on the surface of the plant and, if there were any remaining bacteria on the crop when it is prepared for consumption, it can be easily washed off.

        There are several bt pro toxins produced by the different strains of bt bacteria. These active toxins are sequenced, patented and used by the different companies for their own GM bt-toxin transgenic crops.

        Bt in GM crops:

        The gene of one, or several of the active, trimmed toxin is transferred to the GM plant and will be synthesized in every single cell of the transgenic plant and the active toxin is being expressed by every cell, all the time. Therefore, the ACTIVE TOXIN IS IN EVERY PLANT CELL AND TISSUE, ALL THE TIME and cannot be washed off.

        Pests are exposed to a low dose of the toxin in their environment all the time, which gives the best chances for developing resistance.

        As far as safety is concerned, the active toxins are not easily degraded by gut enzymes and, since they are lectins, they all are very likely to bind to the wall of the mammalian/human gut.

        The bt toxin is in the soil, in the plant, in the pollen, in the nectar — in short, in every part of the plant which is used as human food or animal feed.

        Is there any difference between the two applications? Or are they ‘substantially equivalent’? (information from

        Monarch butterfly population decline is not due to them eating RoundUp or genetic crops, it’s because the pesticide used on these crops kills the milkweed which is their source of nutrition. (Information from Orley Taylor, Monarch Butterfly expert, director of Monarch Watch).
        Also the bee population decline is also due to pesticide use, not them eating the stuff. (Information from Harvard study).
        Have a great day.

      2. Bt in organic farming:

        The bt bacteria, commercially available for organic farming is a preparation of weakened or most often dead bacteria, which is sprayed only in the case of high insect infestation and only onto the affected area.

        The bacterium inside the spray contains the pro-form of the so called bt toxin. This is not an active component, it needs to be tailored (cut to size) to produce the active bt toxin, which is effective as a pesticide.

        When the insect eats the dead bacterium, the toxin is partially digested in the insect gut by proteolytic (cutting) enzymes and converted to active bt toxin. This is actually a lectin which binds to the gut wall of the insects and this interferes with the digestion/absorption of food, thereby preventing growth, maturation, reproduction.

        The actual bacterium, which is not eaten by any insects, degrades in the light/sun/rain pretty fast (less than a day). The chances of pests developing resistance to it are very low indeed, since all the pests which are exposed to the toxin are affected by it.

        NOTE! The ACTIVE TOXIN can only be found IN THE GUT OF THE INSECT.

        Bt bacteria has no harmful effect on the environment as far as we know.

        As far as human safety is concerned, the bacterium is only ever present on the surface of the plant and, if there were any remaining bacteria on the crop when it is prepared for consumption, it can be easily washed off.

        There are several bt pro toxins produced by the different strains of bt bacteria. These active toxins are sequenced, patented and used by the different companies for their own GM bt-toxin transgenic crops.

        Bt in GM crops:

        The gene of one, or several of the active, trimmed toxin is transferred to the GM plant and will be synthesized in every single cell of the transgenic plant and the active toxin is being expressed by every cell, all the time. Therefore, the ACTIVE TOXIN IS IN EVERY PLANT CELL AND TISSUE, ALL THE TIME and cannot be washed off.

        Pests are exposed to a low dose of the toxin in their environment all the time, which gives the best chances for developing resistance.

        As far as safety is concerned, the active toxins are not easily degraded by gut enzymes and, since they are lectins, they all are very likely to bind to the wall of the mammalian/human gut.

        The bt toxin is in the soil, in the plant, in the pollen, in the nectar — in short, in every part of the plant which is used as human food or animal feed.

        Is there any difference between the two applications? Or are they ‘substantially equivalent’? (information from

        Monarch butterfly population decline is not due to them eating RoundUp or genetic crops, it’s because the pesticide used on these crops kills the milkweed which is their source of nutrition. (Information from Orley Taylor, Monarch Butterfly expert, director of Monarch Watch).
        Also the bee population decline is also due to pesticide use, not them eating the stuff. (Information from Harvard study).
        Have a great day.

  14. Hello Brian, I really appreciate your willingness to host this conversation. Could you comment on the trust worthiness of Monsanto? Aren’t they the company that was bankrupting farmers years ago by claiming farmers had to pay Monsanto for seed that was somehow showing up on farmer’s land even though the farmers in question could prove that they had purchased seed elsewhere and hadn’t planted Monsanto crops? I don’t necessarily believe what I see on TV but my sister, a former cattle rancher, sent me some documentary that was absolutely appalling (if true) and very uncomplimentary of Monsanto.
    Additionally, living in Seattle I am surrounded by people who are moving to gluten free diets because of health issues that seem to disappear once they cut out gluten. From what I’ve read, gluten intolerance is something very different and the chances that any of my friends are actually gluten intolerant is almost zero. But there must be something else in play. The health issues are a wide variety across many of my friends so I don’t see anything that is a common issue. Its just so strange.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Cari. I’m not going to pretend to know everything Monsanto has done in the history of the company. What I do know from having a lot of discussions over the last few years is as far as I can tell Monsanto hasn’t sued anyone for accidental pollination or for seed accidentally showing up on a farmer’s land. The ones who have been taken to court have intentionally violated some part of the technology use agreement. I’ve got several posts on the topic if you use the search function of this blog to look up Monsanto, etc. In one post I’ve scanned a copy of my 2011 tech use agreement for anyone to read.

      One you gluten question I tend to wonder one thing. Did they change anything else about their diet or lifestyle? Sometimes I wonder if people are just eating better in general and/or exercising where they were not before, and they come to the conclusion that X was making them feel less healthy in the past. I also think about whether their is really more gluten intolerance, cancer, autism, concussions, and more, or are we just advancing medical technology and knowledge over time so that we are better able to detect these things that may have gone on without diagnoses in that past? I think the trend today among some of the most outspoken people on many issues is to relate all maladies to one source that fits into a narrative of not liking something because that’s the current cool thing not to like. To me that just doesn’t make sense to blame such a range of issues on a single thing like wheat for instance.

    1. Thanks for asking, Mei-Lin. Sarah Schultz at Nurse Loves Farmer just posted a response to that post a few minutes ago. It’s called The Truth about Glyphosate and Wheat. Her post discusses the use of glyphosate on their wheat, and also gets into human health issues. Worth your time to read her whole post. Here’s a excerpt from the health section.

      Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) sets and monitors maximum residue levels (MRLs) using scientific methodology far below the amount that could produce health problems. It is a very safe herbicide to use, even safer than vinegar as a herbicide. Caffeine is ten times more toxic than glyphosate! If accidentally consumed, glyphosate is excreted mostly unchanged in feces and urine, so it doesn’t stay in the body and accumulate. There have been no legitimate studies linking glyphosate to any human health ailments.

    2. Mei-Lin—If you are interested in understanding a complex area of science, consulting a home economist might not be the best place to start! It would take a lot of space to debunk the series of claims on her website, but a simple red flag is her use of non-science websites for her links and quotes. The Internet is a minefield of misinformation, especially in the health and nutrition areas.

      The paper by Samsell and Seneff claiming that glyphosate is the “most important causal factor” for celiac disease is deeply flawed, and would never be published in a mainstream journal. (This is a very obscure journal—more of a vanity journal: 50% of the editor-in-chief’s papers appear in it, and most of the editorial staff work in his institute). As a starting point, check out: http://ultimateglutenfree.com/2014/02/does-glyphosate-cause-celiac-disease-actually-no/

      Another example, Figure 1, is a glaringly bogus claim: the data plotted are for a completely DIFFERENT condition, not even celiac disease! Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of medical coding would have caught this. Actually, the prevalence of celiac disease in the U.S. had already reached a plateau about 10 years BEFORE the widespread application of glyphosate to wheat. (Reverse causation?!) In addition, CD takes several years to develop, so whatever triggered the increased prevalence happened a long time ago.

      Since this is an Ag-related thread, here are a couple more points. As far as I can tell (correct me if I’m wrong), application of glyphosate directly to mature wheat, prior to harvest, is a rare practice in the U.S. In addition, no-one I know has been able to find the glyphosate/wheat data claimed in Figure 1 in the USDA database—and I understand that requests to see the actual data were not answered. My best guess is that the values for missing years were made up, in order to create a more visually pleasing chart, but I’m not certain.

      1. Thanks for the great discussion. I agree that we don’t have conclusive evidence linking glyphosphate use to human gut biome collapse via the disruption of the shikimate pathway, however recent findings do point to a plausible and potentially significant pathway for human disease These findings cause a lot of concern and point to how much we don’t know about long-term effects of glyphosphate and our digestive and auto-immune health.
        The latest science that the EPA is using regarding long-term glyphosphate safety is over 20 years old, only looks at exposure for 2 years or less.
        We simply don’t have enough science and I personally don’t want to be a guinea pig waiting for the EPA to catch up to emerging science that casts doubt on the safety of it’s widespread use.

        1. Hi Daniel—I’d welcome the chance to discuss your ideas about glyphosate affecting human gut microbes. Can you share any evidence or reasoning that might support a connection? (I try to follow this field, and haven’t come across anything credible).

          As far as the toxicology data that the EPA received from the various companies that make glyphosate, it would be unusual to expect data for studies longer than 2 years. The longer the study, the more “random noise” creeps in, making the results much harder to interpret.

          Probably the best long-term evidence is from the 100 billion farm animals that have ingested glyphosate in their feed over the past two decades. A major study recently compared the health of a variety of farm animals before and after the introduction of glyphosate-tolerant plants. While this is not a “controlled” study, there is a wealth of data, with no evidence of a negative health effect.
          http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0111629

          Another massive data-set (again not controlled data) is the literally hundreds of thousands of laboratory rats and mice that have been used in all kinds of biomedical research over the past decades. No-one has noticed any sudden change since the introduction of GMO crops.

          There are thousands of things in our lifestyle and environment that could affect our health: my perspective is that it’s best to focus on the things that are most likely to be problem. Life’s short.

          1. The Shikimate pathway is well known and is explained in many places, but this is easy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shikimic_acid_pathway
            Glyphosphate’s proven method of action in plants is to disrupt this pathway to kill the plant. Unfortunately, bacteria also rely on this pathway. If glyphosphate is gradually seeping into our food supply and into our bodies, it’s doesn’t take much imagination to think that perhaps these small amounts are slowly reducing the virility of our gut bacteria which operate at a population level. In fact drug makers are looking for new ways to create antibiotics and the shikimate pathway is one target for new drugs. The importance of our gut bacteria is just beginning to be understood and there are emerging medical fields to address this new understanding of our bodies. One such fellow is https://gordonlab.wustl.edu/
            This is not something that you would see in a 2 year study and it’s not something you would see in a meta-analysis of animals that is a)not looking for this specific health effect and b) looking at animals that are slaughtered in most cases before they reach the age of two, some before their 1st birthday.
            I understand long-term studies are inherently difficult to conduct and I don’t expect a conclusion on this issue anytime soon or ever. What I can do is avoid conventional agriculture and source foods that aren’t treated with glyphosphate, namely eating organic and/or getting to know the farmers who choose not to use it.
            Bottom line, I believe glyphosphate is much less harmful in many ways than the pesticides and chemicals it replaced, but potentially more dangerous based on this alleged gut flora destructive capacity.

            1. @Danie—Thanks for continuing the dialog.
              Yes, many bacteria and plants rely on the same enzyme to synthesize amino acids. Perhaps the simplest response to your point is that “The dose makes the poison”. The trace amounts of glyphosate in our diet would not be expected to to block this enyzme; but it might be a bad idea for a farmer to drink Roundup straight from the tank. After checking a couple of references about sensitivity of gut and soil bacteria to glyphosate, a VERY rough estimate is that it might takes tens of thousands the normal human exposure to have a negative effect on the growth of our gut bacteria (and probably a lot more). We’d have to take the discussion offline to go into more detail.

              Yes, it’s an intriguing concept that this enzyme pathway might be a possible target for drug discovery: we’re certainly short of safe and effective antibiotics. Most antibiotics rely on inhibiting pathways that are absent in humans, which contributes to their safety. It’s not uncommon for molecules synthesized for one purpose to have other applications, but it’s also a long way from a concept to a viable product. As far as I can tell, there would be a lot of research needed to develop a drug that would be sufficiently potent to be a drug candidate.

              It’s true that our gut microbes are important for our health, but I see no evidence to suggest that glyphosate would have an effect. (Ironically I published a couple of papers with the Dr. Gordon that you mention).

              You also questioned the recent paper by Van Eenennaam & Young on the effect of GM feed on animal health (the feed would typically contain glyphosate residues). This topic would probably deserve a separate thread. I’m no expert in animal husbandry, but I saw no evidence for unexpected animal health consequences of glyphosate-containing feed. A more digestible overview can be found at http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/19-years-of-feeding-animals-gmo-shows-no-harm/

              @Danie, I’m probably just as concerned about the effect of diet on health as you are (I try to follow this area of science very closely), but I think it’s important not to obsess on one hypothetical risk when there are so many others.

          2. btw, that study that you linked did not have any health related information that I could find. Can you point me to the information that qualifies your statement:
            “A major study recently compared the health of a variety of farm animals before and after the introduction of glyphosate-tolerant plants.”

  15. Dear Brian, firstly: thank you for growing my food. And my thanks as well to other American farmers.
    Please be aware that many of us have lived through the effects of Crohns, celiac, and other irritable bowel (IB) disorders since around CY2000. I have no scientific study to present but instead have seen an explosion of IB disease in my family and among friends and coworkers in the past 20 years. In 2002 my son was diagnosed with Crohns and had 26 inches of intestine removed. For three years after he did not improve until he quit eating or drinking food containing wheat. Within two weeks of going gluten-free, he began feeling well again. My wife – same experience. I can’t count the number of people I know personally with similar stories. In my youth in the 70s, I knew no one with IB disease.
    Please also know that the link posted by Mei Lin has gone viral among people affected by IB. It is why I am reading your blogsite. It seems at this point that economics will start driving further research into longterm effects of glyphosate + POEA on human physiology, because I can’t afford the risk that the loaf of bread in my kitchen will do me more harm than good – and of the five people in my family, only two of us can eat it. Bottom line: If I paid you $8 a loaf for non-roundup, einkorn wheat bread, could you produce it and make a profit at that retail price?
    If $8 is too low, at what price do you start making a profit?

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Bill. On our 2,100 acre farm we raise about 100 acres of wheat each year. None of our wheat gets prepped for harvest in the fashion mentioned in the viral article you referred to. I’ve been getting a lot of messages about that article! Keep in mind that our wheat is seeded in the fall and matures in late June or early July. Farms that do spray glyphosate on wheat do so in part because their harvest is up against winter weather conditions. Please take a few minutes to read The Truth about Glyphosate and Wheat by Sarah Schultz. Worth a read as it discusses the human health issues from Sarah’s interesting perspective as a farm wife and a nurse.

      I don’t think I can really answer your question about the loaf of bread only because I’m not in the business of selling loaves of bread. I sell wheat as a grain on the commodity market. So on the topic of making a profit I have to look at how much I can sell my grain for versus what it cost me to plant and manage the crop. I’m not trying to give a non-answer here. Just offering the reality of my situation.

      1. Thank you Brian for taking the time for your reply and for running this blog. I followed the link you supplied to Sarah Schultz’s site. I appreciate her perspective and will give this issue more research, recognizing the importance of getting to the truth (and the science) of it. Understood as well that you’re selling wheat as a commodity and your costs are not the only factors driving the price of a loaf of bread.
        It’s been almost ten years since a pie was baked in this house. I’d like to see the day in my lifetime when the cause(s) of the increase in IB in our population are discovered and my wife and kids can sit down to a kaiser roll or pizza without being gripped with pain afterward. And before CY2000, they were able to do this. But I’d like to find out why and I don’t want to assign cause to a farming method if the farming method isn’t the cause. Thank you again for all you do.

  16. Can’t wait to hear your answer to Bill W. I, too, have found that gluten (as it is found in many non-wheat items) is not the problem, but wheat products that use wheat flour. It is difficult for the average consumer to know what to believe. I don’t think Monsanto is out to kill us (bad for the bottom line), but to believe they have nothing but our best interests at heart is not a wise option, either. I’m not a farmer or a chemist, but just an average person tired of all the hoopla and dissention over something we all need to survive – food. Enough so, that I’ve read this post and conversations. I would just like some assurance that spraying chemicals all over everything is O.K.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Anita. The use of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc are well studied. Even in the local garden center any can peel back the label on Roundup and see how detailed are the label instructions are for various applications. Herbicides come up for safety reviews at regular intervals. Roundup (glyphosate) and 2,4-D have been passing the tests for decades. One post I enjoy about the toxicity of glyhphosate is by Andrew Kniss at Weed Control Freaks. Check out Salt, Vinegar, and Glyphosate.

  17. Brian, I appreciate your willingness to host this conversation, and how diligent you’ve been about responding and answering everyone’s questions. I can tell you’re well educated and intelligent. And of course, thanks for growing my food! I’ve grown annual crops on a micro scale (1/8th acre) and brought in enough cash to get by via direct marketing through CSA and Farmers Market. It’s incredible what you can grow on a tiny amount of land with smart practices, hand tools, and hard work. I used methods similar to what John Jeavons talks about in his book “How to grow more vegetables…” (http://www.amazon.com/Grow-More-Vegetables-Eighth-Edition/dp/160774189X).
    However, I’ve since learned about an entirely different paradigm of agriculture: Restoration Agriculture. Mark Shepard wrote a book about it. There’s also something similar to it in “The Resilient Farm and Homestead” by Ben Falk. Furthermore I’m interested in re-wilding on a continental scale in order to restore the large grazers, carnivores, and other native (or very similar to native) wild animals that used to roam the earth before humans evidently killed them off thousands of years ago (see “Rewilding North America” by Dave Foreman). These animals provided nutrient spreading and ecosystem regulation services that are critical to the sustainability of the planet. There are very few places left on earth that contain enough biodiversity and space to allow for the evolution of most larger species.
    All of this to ask two questions:
    1) If you can grow more vegetables, and earn more money doing it, with practices like bio-intensive and intercropping, without the use of chemical herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides, (I know this is an herbicide discussion but why not throw everything under the bus while I’m at it) would you do it?
    2) If you could re-create a native Oak-Savannah ecosystem that you could harvest/farm from, and again earn more money and produce more food, would you do it?
    Why and why not for both. Thank you so much for your time. It seems like this whole food conversation has been one-sided, and I’m legitimately excited to hear from conventional farmers like yourself.

    Thanks!

    Dan Warren
    http://www.oldsouthhigh.com/2012/09/07/collicello-urban-gardens-micro-farm-mega-ambition/

    1. Dan, thanks for your thoughts. On our farm I’m constantly searching for ways to increase our profits either through more production or less costly inputs. If I can manage to do both at the same time I get pretty excited! I’m not closed off to growing something other than what we currently raise, but I do have a passion for continuing to constantly improve our corn, popcorn, soybean, and wheat farm. Now it’s not the re-wildling you are talking about, but we started adding cover crops to about 25% of the farm beginning in the fall of 2012. So far things seem to be going well growing grasses, legumes, and brassicas between our cash crops. It’s also nice to have some green to look at during the winter.

      I have to admit your second question isn’t really something that’s on my radar. Just being honest.

      Hope you stick around to discuss some of my other posts, Dan!

  18. Following. As a mom of an ASD girl, the removal of gluten has drastically improved her behavior. With the further removal of artificial colors and sweeteners and (as much as possible) preservatives, she has improved enough to be mainstreamed in school- a huge deal! I also have been searching for answers and appreciate the time you have given to respond to all of the comments and concerns posted here. It is hard to find truthful information when there is so much that is made up out there. Mei-Lin, Bill W and Anita has all asked questions I would love the answers to! Thanks!

    1. Hi, Kim. Is ASD atrial septal defect? That’s just what I found with a quick Google search. That’s great news about your daughter getting into school! I just got done answering the other questions you mentioned. I hope this site continues to be a place of well rounded and civil discussions about food and farming. Please comment again with any other thoughts.

      1. Brian,
        ASD is Autism Spectrum Disorder. My daughter is high functioning and extremely intelligent, but lacks the social skills and self control that comes so easily to neuro-typical kids. Gluten is something that is commonly recommended to be removed from an Autism kid’s diet to help improve behaviors. I know this is way out of the scope of this discussion! I like to keep informed so I can make the best decisions possible for my daughter and family, which is how I found your site (after I read that article Mei-Lin referenced). Thank you for taking the time to answer all our questions. I will check out the information you suggested by Sarah Schultz.

  19. Here is a perplexing article telling farmers not to use glyphosate crops sprayed late for seed as it damages the crop.

    http://www.farmandranchguide.com/feature/seed_guide/reasons-not-to-use-glyphosate-on-seed-fields-don-t/article_251fb80a-2046-11e1-b01a-001871e3ce6c.html?mode=image&photo=

    This publication was distributed to possibly 40,000 farmers and ranchers in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana and the farmers are encouraged to use glyphosate-sprayed crops for feed or food but not seed since the crop was damaged by the glyphosate so it no longer should be used as seed but it is OK to go ahead and use the damaged crops as food.

    This does not make sense to me. It is damaged by toxins and won’t grow crops but we can eat it?

      1. Brian,

        Thank you so much for your willingness to research and discuss these issues! You seem to be a very thoughtful and intelligent farmer and I appreciate your honesty.

        I have never studied this issue before but the more I read, the more concerned I become! I guess the internet and almost instant “information” can give us good and bad and it is hard to discern what to believe. I am not sure if you have googled “inert” ingredients in RoundUp but they seem to be more toxic than the name implies. It also looks like the inert ingredients are often less scrutinized than active pest-killing ingredients. Specific herbicide formulations are protected as trade secrets so Monsanto is not required to publicly disclose them. Also most health studies have focused on the safety of glyphosate alone, rather than the mixture of ingredients found in Roundup. I did find several studies where scientists found that Roundup’s inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns. One specific inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA is suspected as increasing toxicity.

        I would like to know the ingredients being sprayed on my food. It not affordable to buy organic much of the time and it is nearly impossible to avoid ingesting non-organic foods. It would be great if these substances would be disclosed or banned from our foods. Unfortunately your unsprayed wheat gets mixed in with wheat which has been sprayed. I have developed immune issues over the years and wonder if it is from things I eat. I had no idea a chemical was being sprayed onto some of the wheat (and probably many other crops) grown in the USA until very recently.

        1. Karol, pesticides both conventional and organic have been around for a long time and sprayed on crops for a long time. And when I say pesticides that technically includes herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and so on. My wheat does get sprayed for weed control. I can tell you this year it was sprayed with Harmony Extra at a rate of less than 1 ounce per acre. This is for weed control only done early in the spring. We also would have had fertilizer mixed in as well in order to control weeds and feed the crop in one pass.

          Crops are sprayed with crop protectants all over the world. It is only recently that some people have decided to attribute just about every ailment to a single chemical like glyphosate.

  20. Thanks, Brian, for hosting this thoughtful discussion. I am one with gluten dysfunction, and our family has also seen improvement once we got off what, rye, barley & most oats… issues ranged from my daughter’s anxiety and “adult acne” (dermatitis herpidiformis , gluten triggered skin condition), mild seizure disorder, etc All relieved after excluding gluten.
    It is puzzling what factors contribute to the rise in issues with gluten.
    It is I

  21. If this application of glyphosate is so good for the wheat and not harmful for human ingestion, then why after 48 years of eating whatever I want I can no longer eat wheat / gluten? Something doesn’t add up.

  22. Brian, I’m happy to read that you believe the issue “warrants more investigation”. I am a baker for several farmers markets and have a high regard for farmers both organic and conventional. My intuition leans me toward organic flours+grains but I am trying to investigate further and penetrate the alarmist thinking etc. Proponents of glysophate generally won’t concede that there is the slightest reason to be concerned (the blog post you pointed to earlier by Sarah Shultz is a good case in point).

    That absolute refusal to see what is painfully obvious to the casual but concerned observer is infuriating. The rise of celiacs disease and gluten intolerances closely matches the introduction and increased use of glyphosphate on wheat. Some farmers are using herbicide on wheat plants to kill them off before harvest and that chemical finds it’s way into our food. There is a reason this story has gained traction, let’s get to the bottom of it.

    1. I’m glad you are willing to investigate further. I think most people know correlation doesn’t equal causation. That doesn’t mean a strong correlation isn’t worth looking at, but in this case I just don’t find evidence that one of the absolute safest herbicides on the market is to blame. Anastasia Bodnar takes a close look in “Is glyhosate toxic to humans?”

      This correlation between wheat and celiac can be linked back to work by Samsel and Seneff. Steve Savage posts him thoughts of their work on Applied Mythology. And finally Peter Olins, PhD of the website Ultimate Gluten Free writes “A recent article by A. Samsel and S. Seneff, claims that exposure to the herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup®), is the cause of several diseases, especially celiac disease (Ref. 1). This has recently been causing quite a stir on the Internet, and is obviously of concern for celiacs. I have reviewed this article, together with a number of previous papers by Dr. Seneff, and I strongly believe that her claims are not supported by the current evidence. I cannot state this more strongly: this article appears to be an exercise in political activism and does not deserve to be in a legitimate scientific journal. In my opinion, this kind of alarmism is unethical and irresponsible.” His full article is at Does Glyphosate Cause Celiac Disease? Actually, No!

  23. Brian this is a very interesting discussion thread which is not as much about science as it is about philosophy. There are two distinct camps here that in many ways are trying to have a conversation using two different languages. Scientific and Natural medicine.

    My problem with many of these scientific studies that claim low toxicity resulting from the use of chemicals on our food, is that they are not holistic in their “scientific” approach. They test for the presence and quantity of the chemical showing up in human cells as a measure of whether something is toxic or not. This in my opinion is a flawed approach from a health perspective and why we are most likely seeing scientific data that says use of Round up is safe and at the same time others are desperately looking for the villain causing cancer and other increasing diseases in our society. These studies don’t measure subtle causal reactions in the human body i.e.: how small and ongoing exposure, to round up through ingestion of a product that kills biological organisms like plants, also affects and kills stomach bacteria and effects other sensitive systems in our body. I stress systems as our bodies are finely balanced organisms that rely on systems to work together. When we affect a system, other systems domino under pressure and resulting disease occurs.

    This brings us to the fundamental difficulty in having a conversation between medical doctors and scientists and natural medicine advocates who look at the human body as a collection of systems that require treatment in unison as opposed to the scientific establishment that separate our organs and cells as parts that can be treated and targeted individually for treatment without concern for cause or system effect. Take for instance the use of chemo therapy to treat cancer cells which destroy cancer cells but also destroy and weaken other parts of the body as opposed to the Natural approach of providing the body with the support it needs to use its tremendously powerful immune system to fight disease. This is not the place to debate who is right or most effective but to illustrate two different philosophies and two different approaches to health and treatment.

    I return to my point of whether we can trust research that assumes low presence of a toxic substance in a cell is enough to declare it safe for consumption. The human body is far more complex in its function and cannot be judged by what goes on only at a cellular level. Until I hear people like Peter Olins quoting comprehensive studies that investigate digestion, immune system integrity, probiotic bacteria levels, stomach lining health etc I for one will not be willing to consume your products or trust data that I believe is fundamentally flawed in its premise. I am also curious why round up is banned from use in our gardens but you can spray it on our food?

    1. Hi Anonymous (alias Brian), You’re in luck: these are areas that I follow closely, and I’d be glad to discuss your ideas about “digestion, immune system integrity, probiotic bacteria levels, stomach lining health”. However, you will need to give some more details about what you are referring to, as it relates to the topic of the article on this website.

      As far as “natural medicine” goes, I’m not sure what this means, since it suggests that some medicine is “unnatural”—but again, please feel free to be more specific about your ideas.

      As a starting point, perhaps we need to define science and medicine. Science is a process (or set of practices) for getting knowledge about the universe that attempts to minimize the effects of personal/subjective bias. Medicine is a set of practices for improving human health. I totally agree that science and medicine are quite distinct. Modern medicine does its best to base its practices on the available scientific information, but these decisions often need to be made in the face of imperfect information. Perhaps you are suggesting that you have some insights into how glyphosate may be affecting the body? If so, let’s discuss. (My sense is that you are really more interested in exploring the larger topic of the role of scientific information in making medical decisions, but that may be a bit beyond the topic of this thread).

  24. Brian this is a very interesting discussion thread which is not as much about science as it is about philosophy. There are two distinct camps here that in many ways are trying to have a conversation using two different languages. Scientific and Natural medicine.

    My problem with many of these scientific studies that claim low toxicity resulting from the use of chemicals on our food, is that they are not holistic in their “scientific” approach. They test for the presence and quantity of the chemical showing up in human cells as a measure of whether something is toxic or not. This in my opinion is a flawed approach from a health perspective and why we are most likely seeing scientific data that says use of Round up is safe and at the same time others are desperately looking for the villain causing cancer and other increasing diseases in our society. These studies don’t measure subtle causal reactions in the human body i.e.: how small and ongoing exposure, to round up through ingestion of a product that kills biological organisms like plants, also affects and kills stomach bacteria and effects other sensitive systems in our body. I stress systems as our bodies are finely balanced organisms that rely on systems to work together. When we affect a system, other systems domino under pressure and resulting disease occurs.

    This brings us to the fundamental difficulty in having a conversation between medical doctors and scientists and natural medicine advocates who look at the human body as a collection of systems that require treatment in unison as opposed to the scientific establishment that separate our organs and cells as parts that can be treated and targeted individually for treatment without concern for cause or system effect. Take for instance the use of chemo therapy to treat cancer cells which destroy cancer cells but also destroy and weaken other parts of the body as opposed to the Natural approach of providing the body with the support it needs to use its tremendously powerful immune system to fight disease. This is not the place to debate who is right or most effective but to illustrate two different philosophies and two different approaches to health and treatment.

    I return to my point of whether we can trust research that assumes low presence of a toxic substance in a cell is enough to declare it safe for consumption. The human body is far more complex in its function and cannot be judged by what goes on only at a cellular level. Until I hear people like Peter Olins quoting comprehensive studies that investigate digestion, immune system integrity, probiotic bacteria levels, stomach lining health etc I for one will not be willing to consume your products or trust data that I believe is fundamentally flawed in its premise. I am also curious as to why Roundup is banned from our gardens but you can spray it on our food?

    1. Who says Roundup is banned from gardens? I spray Roundup on my garden. Anyone can walk into any lawn and garden center and buy a bottle of Roundup or any number of other brands of glypohosate.

    1. The easy answer is you’ll have a bunch of weeds crowding out the crop and robbing it of sunlight, water, and nutrients. Yields will drop. There’s always hand weeding, but that doesn’t scale very over a fair amount of acres. Tillage during the growing season isn’t really feasible in wheat unless you are growing the wheat in wide rows which I’ve never seen done. And the more you till the more destroy soil structure which leads to erosion.

  25. I am impressed by the level of intelligent interaction between both the questioners and answerers. So unlike most blogs on the internet. I have learned a lot here. When one of my daughters first alerted me to the potential effects of Roundup in humans, I intuitively wondered whether it played a part in the rise of Celiac disease. Apparently many others have had the same question. Re: is it gluten, or is it glyphosate; an interesting experiment would be for those who have given up wheat products and experienced relief from their symptoms to re-introduce glyphosate-free wheat products and see what happens. Btw, are there certified glyphosate-free products available?

  26. Gary
    If Monsanto and its apologists are correct and glyphosate is benign and has no harmful effects on health, then why do they contribute so enormously to stopping transparency and keeping the American public from knowing what is in their food, and whether or not their food is genetically modified (GMO)?

    I don’t know your age. Brian, but I remember vividly how doctors who smoked were the apologists for the tobacco industry. Example: ” Most doctors smoke Camels”. The additional argument that “second hand smoke could never be responsible for bad health consequences because of the small amount that a person breathed in” sounds so similar to such a small amount of glyphosate that it could never have deleterious effects.

    The body doesn’t do well when a toxic product is breathed, ingested or absorbed. There are people who smoked for a lifetime without any cancer but the majority did have consequences. I lost two grandparents to emphysema. I can remember studies at that time showing the safety of smoking put out by the tobacco industry.

    ARE WE NEVER GOING TO LEARN FROM THE PAST? We finally learned after millions of deaths that smoking was bad for our health.

    Glyphosate kills weeds. Weeds are living organisms. We are living organisms. To believe that a product that kills weeds will have no effect whatsoever on humans is a real stretch. Of course I have no economic interest either way but like to think I have a little bit of common sense.

    The only advantage of glyphosate to you, Brian, the farmer, is to improve your bottom line. Nothing wrong with a good bottom line but the past would tell us to be very cautious of a person or company who has a direct financial benefit from using and/or defending a product.

    If there is no harmful effects from using glyphosate then why not be transparent? Why lobby for deceptive labeling or lack of labeling to keep the general public from knowing what is in their food?

    Perhaps a better way for a farmer would be to look for ways that nature achieves the same results that the farmer is trying to achieve. When the main crop achieves a canopy I understand this is helpful and achieves somewhat of a weed killing effect. Perhaps steam to kill the weed seeds ahead of planting the major crop. Using something that is not a poison to humans. I don’t know why we don’t look to more natural ways of achieving the results we are looking for.

    If people believe that “a poison to weeds is not in some way a poison to people”, I can only conclude they are under the influence of profit or some other intoxicant.

  27. I posted this further back in the conversation to PreteOlins. (spelling corrected) Maybe it will generate more input here.

    I have been curious on this topic for a while now.
    I have family in the pharmaceutical industry , quality control side of things, and I know through them the integrity required to perform their role. My perception is that there may be broad similarities to the agri chemical/biotech industry. The boardroom push them from time to time and it takes a lot of fortitude and grit to hold their ground.

    While turning over stones (online) I came across this review of the industries studies. It appears to be from highly credentialed independent professionals and doesn’t reject out of hand the research papers supporting approval of glyphosates use but raises many questions that as a lay person I would love to see a consensus across the board on.

    Dose is one of the topics questioned.
    The actual formulations and on the ground practices used on the farm are also raised.

    I would dearly like to see the questions raised be answered thoroughly so that the both the original researchers and the outside panel of scientists could reach a consensus on parameters, method, and hopefully the results. Not combat research with more contradictory research. Keep the goal post where they are set by industry and let the researcher have at it, point for point.

    We all keep hearing about peer review. If the questions raised are rubbish then surely it is possible to step by step refute them with the consensus of similarly credentialed, industry independent, scientists within the same specialized field. My understanding of pier review is ‘rinse, repeat’ and we should all get the same results. After so many years why does this still not seem to be the case.

    We have all read reports of huge industry’s shell games ‘ based on years of thorough research’ unrepeatable by independent researchers. It took over 50 years for the tobacco guys to come clean. This topic affects many more of us.

    I would dearly like to put this to rest in my mind and renew my trust in the integrity of the industries science upon which we all must rely, farmers and consumers. Please let the industry stop with the claims of Proprietary Industry Information to diffuse and disrupt the questions that are still on the table, especially with the rising storm of increased allowable levels and a potential medical issues. We don’t need another tobacco shell game.

    Omisconline.org – Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate- Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence.

  28. Brian
    Sincerest thanks for this conversation and to the participants for how it has continued.

    Please be patient with yourself and the technical language. It is worth reading in full and it is very current (2012). From what I have read the EU (European Union) appear to be more stringent than the USA in general terms where public safety is concerned.

    This opened my eyes, very wide. I understand Paganelli’s study has been discredited but there are ninety six (96) studies referenced not just one. When you get through the ‘science speak’ even the average consumer and farmer can get a very good idea of the criticism being leveled at the industries interpretation of their own research.

    http://omicsonline.org/teratogenic-effects-of-glyphosate-based-herbicides-divergence-of-regulatory-decisions-from-scientific-evidence-2161-0525.S4-006.php?aid=7453

    1. Greg, thanks for your comment. Rather than have the entirety of the study posted as a two very large comments, I’ll leave it to the readers to click on your link if they wish.

      1. Brian
        From Brian,
        “Greg, thanks for your comment. Rather than have the entirety of the study posted as a two very large comments, I’ll leave it to the readers to click on your link if they wish.”

        Fair enough. But to coin the phrase “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. If people cannot see the water, especially in todays world, they may never believe it exists.

        I’m hope after having taken the time to read the entire link your awareness as to the information supplied to us as the end users of these products falls a little short of what we would rather know. Especially for the developing kids and pregnant mothers in all our communities.

        The farmers are front and center on this, the rest of us are several steps behind.

        We should all have the expectation that we get to go home from work safe and sound.

  29. Thank for you patience if you read through it all so far. The cut and paste left off the enumeration of the referenced papers. They run in order 1 through 97.

    Conclusion continued/uninterupted :

    Studies published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature have raised major concerns regarding the potential for glyphosate and its commercial formulations to cause birth defects and other reproductive problems. In addition, a debate has emerged over the reported effects on human health of herbicide application in regions that produce GM glyphosate-tolerant crops and about the safety of food and feed produced from these crops.Regulatory authorities and industry affiliates have defended the use of glyphosate largely by citing the industry-sponsored toxicological tests conducted for regulatory purposes, which they claimed showed no evidence of teratogenicity. However, the German authorities’ draft assessment report revealed that even these industry tests contained clear evidence of glyphosate-mediated teratogenicity and reproductive toxicity. Many of the malformations observed in these studies are of the type associated with the retinoic acid signalling pathway. Paganelli et al. [1] showed that this was the mechanism through which glyphosate and Roundup exercise their teratogenic effects.

    It is noteworthy that these industry tests were commissioned by the same companies that stand to profit from regulatory authorization. Regrettably, this system possesses an inherent risk of bias and makes it especially important that the regulatory assessment is rigorous. Yet in the EU, the evidence suggests that this was not the case. The significance of clear teratogenic effects of glyphosate in rabbits and rats found in tests commissioned by industry were minimized by German regulators. A scientifically rigorous assessment was further impeded by the outdated design of the standard tests, which are not sufficiently sensitive to detect effects from realistic exposures. As a result, the German authorities suggested, and the EU adopted, an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for glyphosate that is unreliable and could potentially result in exposures that cause harm to humans.

    Another relevant factor is that the industry teratogenicity tests were on glyphosate, the presumed active ingredient of the herbicide, and not on the herbicide formulations as sold and used, even though studies indicate that the formulations are more toxic for certain endpoints than glyphosate alone.

    A substantial body of evidence demonstrates that glyphosate and Roundup cause teratogenic effects and other toxic effects on reproduction, as well as genotoxic effects. From an objective scientific standpoint, attempts by industry and government regulatory bodies to dismiss this research are unconvincing and work against the principle that it is the responsibility of industry to prove that its products are safe and not the responsibility of the public to prove that they are unsafe. The precautionary principle would suggest that glyphosate and its commercial formulations should undergo a new risk assessment, taking full account of the entirety of the peer-reviewed scientific literature as well as the industry-sponsored studies. Experience to date suggests that the new risk assessment should be conducted with full public transparency by scientists who are independent of industry.

    Disclaimer

    The opinions expressed are those of the individual authors and do not reflect the policies of organizations with which they are associated.

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  30. Hello Braine. We have a wheat field, unfortunately we treated it with Roundup in the place of narrow leaves herbicide. How we reduce it’s effect and prevent wheats death, thank you to answer.

      1. Yes. We have a wheat field, by wrong way we sprayed Roundup on it instead of 2,4D. As a result the leaves have become yellow. Do you know any solve for this disaster?!

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