GMOs: Facts About Genetically Modified Organisms and Genetic Engineering

GMOs: Facts About Genetically Modified Organisms

It has been my experience that most people never evaluate the actual facts of the GMO landscape.  I can’t really blame them.  The truth is often purposely buried in scientific, legal and political morass. Nevertheless, the facts are well documented and not all that complicated. I boiled them down to a helpful summary I’m calling it GMOs: Facts About Genetically Modified Organisms.

I want to note that I have someone in mind as I write this.  His name is Kenneth and he’s my son.  I’ll tell you why he made me care about GMOs in a moment.  If you’re a skimmer – don’t miss the chart in the middle of the post.  It will give instant clarity on why you should care about GMOs too.

GMOs in less than 2 minutes

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism and the term typically refers to crops that have been genetically engineered to resist herbicides (weed killer) insects, viruses and fungal diseases.

Genetic engineering (GE) is a process of inserting DNA from bacteria into plant cells and then regenerating the plant from the modified cells.  The resulting plant resists herbicides and/or contains a toxin that, when ingested, causes an insects gut to break down, which kills the insect.

This is very different from grafting two similar plants together to create a hybrid.

GMO Patents are owned by a small handful of chemical companies including Monsanto, Du Pont, Dow, Syngenta and Bayer.  The most prevalent is Monsanto, which holds patents for the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) and for the seeds resistant to glyphosate. Monsanto licenses the seeds to farmers on an annual basis.

According to the USDA, around 90% of US crops are now genetically engineered (88-94% depending on the crop).  If your diet contains corn, soy, potato, sugar, or packaged foods, you are eating a great deal of GE food. Also, non-organic animal products are usually a source of GMOs also because most animals in the US are fed GE feed.

GMO proponents claim it is self evident that genetic engineering is safe for humans.  The term they used to gain FDA approval without rigorous testing is GRAS or “Generally Recognized As Safe”.  The EPA leaves it up to the companies that patent and sell GE products to do their own safety testing.  Those in favor of GMOs are fighting against product labelling in the courts.

GMO opponents are concerned about potential toxicity of the bacteria genes themselves and also about toxicity of the herbicides that are sprayed directly on, and absorbed by, the plant.  They cite mounting independently-produced evidence linking GE technology to crop failure, livestock infertility and major diseases in humans. They further assert that the FDA’s current policy is illegal. In light of the potential risks, opponents seek GMO disclosure on food product labels.

According to the May 2016 edition of Consumer reports magazine, over 90% of Americans would like GMO disclosure on product labels.

My own assimilation of data has led me to support banning GMOs altogether.  Here’s the evidence I dug up and some meaningful steps we can take.

If your diet contains corn, soy, potato, sugar, or packaged foods, you're eating GMOs. Click To Tweet

US policy for GE foods violates 2 FDA requirements

We need to begin by clearing up a common misconception about GE foods. I used to believe the government had our back when it came to food safety. I thought national media would sound an alarm if there was truly anything to be concerned about. But once I began to dive into the research, I discovered GE foods have never been proven safe. To the contrary, it turned out to be a story of coverup, misrepresented facts and explicit violations of U.S. law. Without this context, it’s hard to understand why so much harm has already been allowed to happen.

May 29, 1992 is a pivotal date. That’s when the FDA formally announced they would presume GE foods to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. I want to show you how this declaration violated two foundational FDA regulations.

Attorney Steven M. Druker caught the violations. He’s an expert on laws related to GE foods and author of a book called Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public. As part of an attempt to have the law enforced, he formed a non-profit coalition called the Alliance for Bio-Integrity.

FDA law requires that GE foods:

  1. Must be acknowledged as safe by an overwhelming consensus of experts, and…
  2. The consensus must be based on the high testing standards required for any other food additive. GRAS was never meant to bypass careful testing.

Mr. Druker summarizes the two violated requirements: “…the FDA’s regulations state that substances added to food that were not in use prior to 1958 cannot qualify as GRAS unless they meet two requirements. Not only must they be acknowledged as safe by an overwhelming consensus of experts, but this consensus must be based on “scientific procedures” – which ordinarily entails studies published in peer-reviewed journals.” GRAS substances “…require the same quantity and quality of scientific evidence as is required to obtain approval of the substance as a food additive.” (21 CFR Sec. 170.30 (a-b))

A couple side notes. “CFR” means Code of Federal Regulations. It’s where the U.S. officially records laws. There was also a reference to “substances added to food” (or food additives).  By definition, genetic engineering involved implanting (adding) various genetic materials. FDA never disputes the fact that GE foods fall under their authority to regulate as a food additive.

There you have the assertion that federal law was violated. Next, we need to look at evidence. It turns out, there were a boat load of FDA internal memos discussing lack of consensus and inadequate data. When you add them up…

58% of FDA scientists determined there wasn’t enough data to claim safety

This fact wasn’t discovered until years after the original policy was published and only came to light during a 1998 lawsuit. The Alliance for Bio-Integrity brought a suit against the FDA to highlight the fact that GE food had never been proven safe.

The case definitely raised public awareness, but it also resulted in the acquisition of close to 44,000 FDA internal documents. I have pasted in several excerpts along with pdf links to scans of the originals so you can see for yourself. Pay attention to repeated mentions of an inability to assure safety due to lack of adequate testing.

Evidence FDA’s GMO GRAS policy had neither overwhelming consensus or met high testing standards

Note: Shortly after publishing this post, the Alliance for Bio-Integrity began an update to their website and updated the links to the pdf scans. It is my intent to keep the links updated, but if you find one not working, you can still get to the scans from this page.

October 23, 1991 – Letter from Dr. James Maryanski, Biotechnology Coordinator, to Dr. Bill Murray, Chairman of the Food Directorate, Canada.  Subject: the safety assessment of foods and food ingredients developed through new biotechnology. Dr. Maryanski candidly stated, “As I know you are aware, there are a number of specific issues addressed in the document for which a scientific consensus does not exist currently, especially the need for specific toxicology tests. Also, the quantity and quality of data that would be required is not addressed and is difficult to specify at this time. I think the question of the potential for some substances to cause allergenic reactions is particularly difficult to predict.”  View pdf

October 28, 1991 – Memorandum from Dr. Edwin J. Mathews to the Toxicology Section of the Biotechnology Working Group. Subject: “Analysis of the Major Plant Toxicants.” He said, “…genetically modified plants could also contain unexpected high concentrations of plant toxicants. The presence of high levels of toxicants in the bioengineered food plant could occur by two or more mechanisms. For example, normal levels of toxicants could be amplified through enhancement of toxicant gene transcription and translation. This might occur as a result of up-stream or down-stream promotion of gene activities in the modified plant DNA. In addition, plant toxicant genes which were normally inactive could be expressed in the modified plant gene as a result of insertion of the new genetic material (i.e. positional mutagenesis).”  View pdf

November 1, 1991 – Comments from Division of Food Chemistry and Technology and Division of Contaminants Chemistry. Subject: “Points to Consider for Safety Evaluation of Genetically Modified Foods.  Supplemental Information.” The comments note, “All the above marker genes produce proteins that are new with respect to plants ¦ They should be considered to be new proteins in the human diet and be subjected to safety evaluation.”  View pdf

January 8, 1992 – Comments from Dr. Linda Kahl, FDA compliance officer, to Dr. James Maryanski, FDA Biotechnology Coordinator, about the Federal Register document “Statement of Policy: Foods from Genetically Modified Plants.” She notes they had no data on which to base the FDA policy:  “There is no data that addresses the relative magnitude of risk.”  View pdf

January 8, 1992 – Memorandum from Dr. Mitchell Smith, Head, Biological and Organic Chemistry Section, to Dr. James Maryanski, Biotechnology Coordinator.  Subject: “Comments on Draft Federal Register Notice on Food Biotechnology, Dec. 12, 1991 draft.” Dr. Smith was very direct: “My general conclusion is that the issue turns the conventional connotation of Food Additive on its head. It also conveys that the public need not know when it is being exposed to new food additives, for lack of a better descriptor.” (2 pages) View pdf

January 8, 1992 – Comments from Dr. Carl B. Johnson on the “draft statement of policy 12/12/91.” Dr. Johnson noted, “It is my understanding that pleiotropic effects (producing more than one effect) are unpredictable, and may be triggered by gene insertion at a single site, as well as at multiple sites, the plant genome.” View pdf

January 31, 1992 – Memorandum from Dr. Samuel I. Shibko to Dr. James Maryanski, FDA Biotechnology Coordinator.  Subject: “Revision of Toxicology Section of the Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from Genetically Modified Plants.” He stated, “At this time it is unlikely that molecular and compositional analysis can reasonably detect or predict all possible changes in toxicant levels or the development of new toxic metabolites as a result of genetic modifications introduced by the new methods of biotechnology.”  View pdf

February 5, 1992 – Memorandum from Dr. Gerald B. Guest, Director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine, to Dr. James Maryanski, Biotechnology Coordinator.  Subject: “Regulation of Transgenic Plants–FDA Draft Federal Register Notice on Food Biotechnology.”  Among many statements of concern, Dr. Guest wrote, “We believe that animal feeds derived from GM plants present unique animal and food safety concerns.” He also stated, “Residues of plant constituents or toxicants in meat and milk products may pose human food safety problems.” View pdf

March 6, 1992 – Comments from Dr. Louis J. Pribyl re: the “Biotechnology Draft Document, 2/27/92.” Dr. Pribyl says, “Until more of these experimental plants have a wider environmental distribution, it would be premature for the FDA to summarily dismiss pleiotropy (producing more than one effect) as is done here.”  View pdf

Evidence from the first commercially grown GE food to obtain FDA approval

Even as FDA experts were expressing their reservations in 1992, a California company, Calgene, decided to voluntarily submit data for the Flavr Savr tomato to the FDA.

The data was reviewed by FDA scientists, and on May 18, 1994, the FDA ruled the tomato “as safe as tomatoes bred by conventional means” (pg 771). Thus, the Flavr Savr became the first commercially grown, GE food to attain FDA approval.

There’s a note of critical significance in the FDA records. It says, “…the Flavr Savr passed muster so well that the rigor of its testing will not have to be repeated for other bioengineered foods.

Memos in the ’98 lawsuit revealed a different story altogether.

December 17, 1992 – Memorandum from Dr. Murray Lumpkin to Dr. Bruce Burlington.  Subject: “The tomatoes that will eat Akron.” Dr. Lumpkin emphasized in the conclusion, “IT WOULD BE A SERIOUS HEALTH HAZARD TO INTRODUCE A GENE THAT CODES FOR ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE INTO THE NORMAL FLORA OF THE GENERAL POPULATION.”View pdf

June 16, 1993 – Memorandum from Dr. Fred Hines to Dr. Linda Kahl.  Subject: “FLAVR SAVR Tomato:” … “Pathology Branch’s Evaluation of Rats with Stomach Lesions From Three Four-Week Oral (Gavage) Toxicity Studies” … “and an Expert Panel’s Report.”  Dr. Hines concluded, “There is considerable disparity in the reported findings of gastric erosions or necrosis lesions from the three studies reported by Calgene, Inc.  This disparity has not been adequately addressed or explained by the sponsor or the laboratory (IRDC) where the study was conducted.” View pdf

October 27, 1993 – Memorandum from Robert J. Scheuplein, Ph.D. to the FDA Biotechnology Coordinator and others. Subject: “Response to Calgene Amended Petition.” While not declaring the tomatoes harmful, he concluded, “… the data fall short of ‘a demonstration of safety’ or of a ‘demonstration of reasonable certainty of no harm’ which is the standard we typically apply to food additives. To do that we would need, in my opinion, a study that resolves the safety question raised by the current data.” View pdf

December 7, 1993 – Memorandum from Dr. Carl B. Johnson to Dr. Linda Kahl & Others. Subject: “Flavr Savr(TM) tomato; significance of pending DHEE question.” Dr. Johnson: “… unresolved questions still remain.” View pdf

December 10, 1993 – Memorandum from Dr. Fred Hines to Dr. Linda Kahl.  Subject: “FLAVR SAVR Tomato”… “Pathology Branch’s Remarks to Calgene Inc.’s Response to FDA Letter of June 29, 1993.”  Dr. Hines concluded, “In the absence of adequate explanations by Calgene, the issues raised by the Pathology Branch … remain and leave doubts as to the validity of any scientific conclusion(s) which may be drawn from the studies’ findings.” View pdf

As attorney Steven Druker summarizes, “Genetically engineered (GE) foods fail both requirements. There is substantial dispute among experts about their safety; and none has been confirmed safe through adequate testing.

Evidence of administration pressure to suppress safety concerns

On March 21, 1992, a memo was sent from the US Office of Management and Budget to President Bush’s White House counsel. Both the writer and recipient were high level officials. Neither were scientists qualified to assess the safety of GE foods on behalf of U.S. citizens, yet they had a profound impact on the policy.

Take a look at these two excerpts.

The first was aligned with an overall Presidential initiative to deregulate. It emphasized leaving GE safety reviews to the discretion of the biotech industry. That’s a problem, because companies with a financial interest in the outcome tend to only publish the studies that favor their product. The directive: ‘‘…the policy statement needs to stress the role of decentralized safety reviews by producers; with informal FDA consultation only if significant safety or nutritional concerns arise. It should avoid emphasizing obligatory FDA review and oversight.”  

The second excerpt shows that the concerns of FDA scientists were directly overruled. It dictates a spin designed to make the public more receptive: ‘‘…the Notice should state that newer techniques actually may produce safer foods. I suggest the following sentence be added to the bottom of page 13: ‘Since these techniques are more precise, they increase the potential for safe, better characterized, and more predictable foods.’’

All of the suggestions from the US Office of Management and Budget were added, some verbatim.  The new FDA policy was entered into the Federal Register eight days later.

Judge Coleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled for the FDA on a technicality

Not long before the Alliance for Bio-Integrity case started, Judge Coleen Kollar-Kotelly was appointed to the United States District Court in May of 1997.

On Sept. 29, 2000, she ruled that the FDA policy could stand.

Ultimately, her decision was not based on GRAS regulations, evidence of danger or lack of overwhelming consensus among scientists. Instead, all the evidence was set aside as irrelevant because the FDA has labelled their operating procedure as a “policy” and not a “rule“. The issue of safety was entirely sidestepped over a technicality.

From her written opinion:

“…the (FDA Policy) Statement does not declare that transferred genetic material will be considered GRAS; rather, it announces that “such material is presumed to be GRAS.””

“Because the Court finds that the Statement is a policy statement, it does not reach the question of whether the Statement could be viewed alternatively as an interpretive rule.”

Here’s a link to her entire decision, if you would like to read the rest.

Steven Druker pointed out the highly irregular nature of the ruling in his response“…the judge also disregarded the fact (repeatedly pointed out to her) that the FDA’s files demonstrated there was insufficient technical evidence about safety to support a presumption that GE foods are GRAS. Although her opinion initially acknowledged that such technical evidence is legally required, she never returned to the issue – a highly irregular outcome. Thus, the judge did not determine that GE foods are (or ever were) truly GRAS. Nor did she determine that any has been demonstrated safe. She merely held that given the evidence before them in 1992, FDA officials had not acted arbitrarily in presuming that the foods were GRAS. Further, she emphasized that their presumption is, as a matter of law, “rebuttable.””

You’re probably familiar with another ruling from Judge Kollar-Kotelly.  She signed the first wire tap order that the NSA used as a basis for years of secret surveillance activity. A former NSA contractor discovered the classified practice and went public. The classified practice was eventually made public by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.

The FDA policy from 1992 remains in effect

If you visit the FDA website today, you’ll read: “During the (voluntary) FDA consultation process, the food developer conducts a safety assessment.” … “The developer submits a summary of its safety assessment to FDA for FDA’s evaluation. When the (voluntary) safety assessment is received by FDA, our scientists carefully evaluate the data and information.”

Let me give you a simplified version of how the system has come to work.

  • GE products are presumed GRAS, despite the absence of adequate testing or overwhelming scientific consensus.
  • Safety is left to the biotech industry and consultation with the FDA is voluntary. The fact that the FDA is not testing GE foods for safety is deliberately minimized to the public. In place of testing, administration pressure dictated promoting the perception that GE products are safe.
  • When food safety is challenged in court, evidence isn’t legally relevant because is only a policy. As a policy, there’s remains no legal basis to require product labelling.

One more historical hindsight that’ll make you go, “whoaaa.”

In 1994, the investigative arm of Congress, known as the General Accounting Office, looked into a possible conflict of interest involving FDA Deputy Commissioner, Michael Taylor. Mr. Taylor oversaw FDA policies that would regulate GE products.

Prior to establishing GE policy for the FDA, Mr. Taylor was a partner at King & Spalding, Monsanto’s external legal counsel on regulatory matters. During his time at the FDA, references to the potential harmful effects of GE products were systematically removed from drafts of the final policy statement.

The General Accounting Office did not conclude there were improprieties, but the investigation highlighted a Monsanto connection to a primary author of the FDA’s GE policy.

After his time at the FDA, Mr. Taylor went over to the USDA as Administrator of the Food Safety & Inspection Service. After that, he became Vice-President for Public Policy at Monsanto. In 2009, the Obama administration appointed Michael Taylor to a newly created position at the FDA. He became the the Deputy Commissioner of Foods. As of this writing, he oversees all food safety policy for the federal government.

If you care to go more in depth, I have included a two-part interview with Steven Drucker in the Resources section at the end of the post.

The FDA has covered up the warnings of its own scientists about GMOs. Click To Tweet

So if GMO’s have never been proven safe, is there any evidence connecting them to harm? There’s a lot, but I picked out a few that involve grotesque tumors, major diseases and alarming global infertility rates. I wish I was exaggerating.

GMOs and glyphosate dramatically increase the formation of tumors

Here’s what happened when a 90 day study to assert GE food safety, was allowed to run longer than 90 days. The results are alarming.

Monsanto’s own 90 day study showed liver and kidney toxicity

In 2004, twelve years after the FDA presumed GE food as GRAS, Monsanto presented results of a toxicity study they conducted that fed Roundup Ready corn (NK603 maize) to rats. It is important to note that the study lasted the customary 90 days and concluded that NK603 maize was “safe and nutritious“.

Professor Gilles Eric Séralini, an independent researcher, got hold of Monsanto’s raw data and put together a team of scientists to review it. They found that Monsanto’s 2004 study showed clear signs of liver and kidney toxicity in the rats fed GE corn. The team published this finding in 2009.

Séralini re-ran the study, only with more measurements and longer

Because of their discovery, Séralini designed a NEW toxicity experiment. He purposely made it identical to Monsanto’s 2004 study, but with a few key differences. First, he let it run two years instead of just 90 days. Second, he measured more factors. It is now commonly referred to as the the CRIIGEN study.

The CRIIGEN study team measured a larger number of health impacts, took readings more often, and also isolated the effects of the GE corn and the glyphosate herbicide itself. It was the first study to do this.

Séralini’s scientists separated the rats into three groups. One group was fed GE corn and glyphosate. A second group of rats was fed GE corn alone (no glyphosate), and a third  was fed a diet of non-GE corn or glyphosate. The GE and glyphosate exposure was carefully calibrated to be at levels permitted in US drinking water and agriculture.

GE corn and glyphosate doubled or tripled mortality rate

The two-year study conclusion: “all treated groups died 2–3 times more than controls, and more rapidly.” The word “treated” indicates the rats were fed GMO corn – or – corn & glyphosate.

An obvious visible difference emerged.  4-7 months into the study, treated rats developed large tumors.

I have included photos from the study. 50-80% of treated female rats had developed tumors by the 24th month. There were up to 3 per animal.

GES final study

The letters at the bottom of each image indicate GMO (corn) and R(oundup).

Was Séralini’s experiment a badly designed cancer study?

It would be correct to say that this was not a properly designed cancer study. However, the presupposition would be incorrect because the CRIIGEN study was never intended to be a carcinogenicity study. Séralini designed and correctly implemented a chronic toxicity study. It just happened to be the first study connecting GE corn and glyphosate to cancer, but that outcome wasn’t anticipated.

The observations absolutely called for a carcinogenicity study to be conducted and also indicated that 90-day studies on GMO or herbicide exposure are not long enough. And yet, longer term testing is not currently required anywhere in the world.

Was the study invalid because the rats were prone to tumors?

Some CRIIGEN study critics assert that the findings were meaningless because Séralini used a particular strain of rat known as Sprague-Dawley (SD). SD rats are naturally prone to developing tumors. Their theory is that the tumors may have been “spontaneous”, but it doesn’t hold up for a few reasons.

First, the National Toxicology Program in the U.S. uses the same kind of SD rats Séralini used. The standard choice for long-term carcinogenicity and toxicology studies is SD rats. In fact, SD rats are used precicely because they are about as prone to tumors as humans. Also, other researchers have never been challenged over their use of SD rats.

Secondly, Monsanto used SD rats for their 90 day study. Séralini would have been criticized if he had not used the exact same kind of rat as Monsanto.

And finally, Séralini appropriately compared his treated rats to a non-treated control group of SD rats. The treated rats died 2-3 times more than the SD rats in the control group. The predisposition to tumors becomes a moot point since SD rats were used for all three groups.

To argue that the CRIIGEN study doesn’t prove GE foods and glyphosate are harmful, one must accept that Monsanto didn’t prove they are safe.

In case you didn’t get all that, here’s a review

  • Monsanto’s original 90 day study showed liver and kidney toxicity.
  • The CRIIGEN study was designed to be similar to Monsanto’s but ran longer and measured more.
  • Rats fed GE corn and/or glyphosate in the CRIIGEN study began developing tumors 4-7 months into the study and died 2-3 times more than the control rats. The tumors were not evident yet at 90 days.
  • Since the two year CRIIGEN study was set up to be so similar to Monsanto’s study, one cannot object to the method without simultaneously accepting that Monsanto’s 90-day study didn’t prove safety.

For an ocean of additional evidence, see

Rats developed tumors much faster when fed GMO corn. Click To Tweet

The use of glyphosate correlates closely with major diseases

The mantra of the GMO chemical companies is “correlation does not imply causation”.  I can agree with that.  But at some point, common sense should dictate some caution.  So let’s look at some of the correlations.

Glyphosate usage is tracked by the government.  We know, for example, that its use increased 6,504% from 1991 to 2010 according to data from the USDA: National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Instances of disease are also tracked by the Centers for Disease Control ( CDC).

Physicist Nancy Swanson Ph.D. is an MIT researcher. She used the Pearson’s Correlation Coefficient to produce charts overlaying the increased use of glyphosate in the NASS statistics over CDC data for several major diseases.  Take a look at the use of glyphosate on corn and soy plotted against Autism.  I picked autism because my son Kenneth is autistic. This hits close to home for me.

The red line shows the CDC increase in instances of autism. The yellow bars represent NASS increase in glyphosate usage.

autism rise plotted against glyphosate

Autism tracks with a 98.8% correlation to the usage of glyphosate.

Here are the percentages of correlation for some other diseases:

  • Dementia (deaths) 99%
  • Autism 98.8%
  • Thyroid Cancer 98.7%
  • Obesity 96.9%
  • Diabetes 96%
  • Liver Cancer 95.7%
  • Alzheimer’s (deaths) 92.7%
  • Parkinson’s (deaths) 89.5%

Additional diseases with high correlation:

  • ADHD
  • endocrine disruption
  • high blood pressure
  • kidney injury
  • birth defects
  • infertility
  • low birth rate
  • infant mortality
  • pre-term births
  • spontaneous abortions
  • schizophrenia
  • bipolar disorder
  • leaky gut
  • chronic constipation / irritable bowel disorder

You can view all the charts and data [here].

Using the CDC/glyphosate data alone leaves the door for open for a legitimate push-back.  I have heard glyphosate proponents dismiss the disease correlation by saying there are many additional factors that could account for rates of disease going up.  Fair enough and I concede that.  Let’s just consider this exhibit A. There’s much more.

Autism tracks with a 98.8% correlation to the usage of glyphosate. Click To Tweet

Glyphosate is causing crop failure and livestock infertility that can “jeopardize our very existence”

On January 17th, 2011 a confidential and urgent letter was dispatched to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack. The letter implored the Secretary to immediately halt deregulation of Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa. A team of agricultural scientists had found a new microscopic pathogen with the ability to wipe out crops and cause massive infertility in livestock. The situation was described as an “emergency” and the letter requested a delay of RR alfalfa deregulation until further research could be completed.

Concentrations of the pathogen were far higher in soil that had been exposed to glyphosate. The concern was that deregulation of RR alfalfa had the potential to wipe out America’s primary forage crop for livestock and leave the soil incapable of growing anything for decades.

To put this in context, over 90% of farm land in the U.S. had already been sprayed with glyphosate for many years. Plant pathologists were deployed to figure out why GMO corn and soy crops had begun mysteriously failing to disease. At the same time, farmers were noticing spontaneous abortion rates as high as 45% in all livestock. That was on top of a 20% overall reduction in fertility. Farmers found the abortions and infertility would go away completely, as soon as they ceased giving GMO feed to their animals… but the soil wasn’t bouncing back.

The letter was written by one of the world’s foremost experts on plant pathology, with over 40 years (at the time) of experience. 20 of those years were spent conducting extensive research into the effects of glyphosate on crops.

It was sent by retired Army Colonel and Emeritus Professor at Purdue University, Dr. Don M. Huber, PhD. At the time, Dr. Huber was working for the USDA to coordinate efforts between the American Phytopathological Society (APS) and the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS). NPDRS is called for on page 176 of Homeland Security Presidential Directive Number 9. It exists to make sure a reasonable level of crop production is maintained in the U.S.

As it happened, the confidential letter was leaked and quickly spread around the world. I have pasted the letter in it’s entirety, along with another to U.S. and EU officials. He’s writing to senior administrators, so the language is direct and easy to follow. There’s also a related video documentary you should see at the bottom of the page. It’s called: Poisoned Fields – Glyphosate, the underrated risk? 

Ten days after Dr. Huber’s letter was sent to Secretary Vilsack, the USDA announced their decision to fully deregulate RR alfalfa anyway. As of this writing, the formal research requested by Dr. Huber has never been funded or authorized.

In 2016, Dr. Huber was quoted on Bulletproof Radio as saying, “When future historians come to write about our era, they’re not going to write about the tons of chemicals we did or did not apply. When it comes to glyphosate, they’re going to write about our willingness to sacrifice our children and to jeopardize our very existence by risking the sustainability of our agriculture. All based upon failed promises and flawed science.”

When asked if he was concerned about a global population boom over the next 100 years, Dr. Huber replied, “I’m not concerned about a boom. I’m concerned about survival.” Speaking of humans instead of livestock, he added, “If you look at the report last year, we’ve had a 30% drop in fertility, just in the last five years. It’s hard to have a family anymore.”

There is a little good news. Also in 2016, Dr. Huber noted work being done to clean up glyphosate damage (called glyphosate remediation). He said, “The natural half life of glyphosate can be anywhere from a year and a half for as long as 22 years. Now, we do have people that are, that have developed some, what appeared to be in the early stages very effective biological cocktails that you can get out there and get some much more rapid degradation and clean that up, but it’s another expense, but at least not quite as bleak now as it look five or six years ago.”

Here are Dr. Huber’s letters from 2011. Credit to as the source of the letters.

1. Letters from Prof Don Huber to US and EU administrations
Sent to President Jose-Manuel Barroso
EU President
cc to President Herman Van Rompuy, President Jerzy Buzek, Commissioner John Dalli and some MEPs
March 25, 2011

This cover letter is provided to explain the reasoning and concerns that were conveyed in a letter which I sent to Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack on January 17, 2011 (Attachment 1). The letter was not intended for public distribution; however, the letter was ‘leaked’ and subsequently posted on the internet from which it soon became public knowledge world-wide. Once it was widely distributed, I gave permission for subsequent postings in order to keep it consistent.    My busy meeting and travel schedule has delayed getting further information on this matter out publicly to the many individuals who have requested it. The scientific data on this newly recognized organism is being prepared for formal publication.

I wrote the letter to Secretary Vilsack for a very simple reason: we are experiencing a large number of problems in production agriculture in the U.S. that appear to be intensified and sometimes directly related to genetically engineered (GMO) crops, and/or the products they were engineered to tolerate especially those related to glyphosate (the active chemical in Roundup® herbicide and generic versions of this herbicide).  We have witnessed a deterioration in the plant health of corn, soybean, wheat and other crops recently with unexplained epidemics of sudden death syndrome of soybean (SDS), Goss’ wilt of corn, and take-all of small grain crops the last two years.

At the same time, there has been an increasing frequency of previously unexplained animal (cattle, pig, horse, poultry) infertility and spontaneous abortions. These situations are threatening the economic viability of both crop and animal producers.

Incidence of high infertility and spontaneous abortions in the various animal species is becoming more common. Often, all previously known causes of these conditions can be ruled out as factors for these particular farm operations (Attachment 2). Detailed examination for the newly recognized organism has shown its presence in all of the cases examined to date.  Koch’s postulates have been completed for animals to verify the cause/effect relationship with this newly culturable organism. A search for the source of animal infections revealed a high population of this newly discovered electron microscopic sized organism in soybean meal and corn products.  The organism appears compatible, and probably synergistic, with other microorganisms such as Fusarium solani fsp. glycines, the cause of SDS of soybeans and also with gram positive bacteria.  The organism also is in a very high population in Goss’ wilt infected corn caused by the gram positive bacterium Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. nebraskensis.

Although most corn hybrids have been genetically resistant to Goss’ wilt, preliminary research in 2010 demonstrated that the application of glyphosate herbicide, or the surfactant from glyphosate formulations, nullified this resistance and rendered them fully susceptible to this pathogen (Fig. 1).  This disease was commonly observed in many Midwestern U.S. fields planted to RR corn in 2009 and 2010, while adjacent non-GMO corn had very light to no infections in spite of the high inoculum present in no-till crop residues (Figure 2). The increased Goss’ wilt in 2010 was a major contributor to the estimated almost one billion bushels of corn ‘lost’ last year (based on USDA August estimated yields and actually harvested crop reported by USDA in January) in spite of generally good harvest conditions.

Increased severity of plant diseases after glyphosate is applied (Fig. 3) is well documented and, although rarely cited, the increased disease susceptibility is the herbicidal mode of action of glyphosate (Johal andRahe,1988, 1990; Johal and Huber, 2009; Schafer et al, 2009, 2010).  The loss of disease resistance in Roundup Ready® sugar beets when glyphosate was applied prompted researchers at the USDA sugar beet laboratory to include a precautionary statement in their paper, e.g.    “Precautions need to be taken when certain soil-borne diseases are present if weed management for sugar beet is to include post-emergence glyphosate treatments” (Larson et al, 2006).

The loss of genetic resistance in Roundup Ready® corn hybrids to Goss’ wilt (Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. nebraskensis) (Figs. 2, 3), synergistic relationship of the newly recognized electron microscopic organism causing infertility and abortions in animals with gram+ bacteria, and high populations of the new EM organism in RR corn leaves and silage creates a concern for the deregulation of Roundup Ready® alfalfa which is productive in many areas only because of its genetic resistance to bacterial wilt caused by Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. insidiosum.  This disease could make alfalfa unprofitable for production and, if the EM organism is associated with it in alfalfa as it is in corn, also unsafe for animal feed and their products such as milk for human consumption.  The loss of alfalfa, the United State’s most valuable forage crop and fourth most economically important crop, could strike a mortal blow to struggling dairy and beef operations.

Extensive research has shown that this potent tool for weed management, glyphosate, is also a strong immobilizer (chelator) of essential plant nutrients to impair nutrient uptake, translocation, and physiological efficiency at only a fraction of the labeled herbicidal rate (Ekers, Ozturk, Cakmak, Zobiole, Jolly et al., 2004). Glyphosate is a powerful biocide to harm beneficial soil organisms important for nutrient recycling, N-fixation, nutrient availability, and natural disease control (Kremer & Means, Zobiole et al, Dick et al) with a resultant increase in diseases of corn, soybeans (Fig. 3), wheat and other crops. The close relationship between mineral nutrition and disease severity is well documented (Datnoff et al, 2007). These activities can have deleterious effects on plant nutrition, disease susceptibility, and nutritional quality of the crop produced.

Deleterious effects of GM crops also are vividly demonstrated in reports from livestock producers in the U.S. Although some of these reports are anecdotal because of limited analytical techniques to    verify the cause, some producers have been able to resume economical operations by changing feed sources to non-GMO crops.  Replicated independent research is needed in this area, especially in light of the serious toxicological concerns raised recently that show potential human and animal toxicity from very low levels of residual glyphosate in food/feed that are many times lower than permitted in U.S. food and feed products (Seralini et al., 2011).  The recent Indian Supreme Court’s independent analysis and Ruling that GMO egg plant posed a significant health risk to humans needs further evaluation in the U.S. (AgroNews, 2011).

I feel I would be totally irresponsible to ignore my own research and the vast amount of published research now available that support the concerns we are seeing in production agriculture, without bringing it to the attention of the Secretary of Agriculture with a request for him to initiate the much needed independent research. Many producers can’t wait an additional 3-10 years for someone to find the funds and neutral environment to conduct such critical research (Attachment 2. Entomologists letter to EPA).

Based on the scientific evidence currently accumulating, I do not believe it is in the best interests of the agricultural producer or consuming public for regulatory agencies to approve more GMO crops, particularly Roundup Ready® alfalfa and sugar beets, until independent research can establish their productivity when predisposed to potentially severe diseases, the irrelevance of the new EM organism, and their nutritional equivalency.  In my letter, I asked the Secretary to allocate the necessary resources to do this, and requested that he exercise the utmost caution in deregulating these crops until such findings resolve the concerns expressed in the letter, if they do.

Don M. Huber
Professor Emeritus, Purdue University
9322 Big Foot Road
Melba, Idaho 83641  USA

References cited

AgroNews. 2011. India: Signs of food toxicity in GE eggplant. 2011-1-18. [—3369.htm ] Nib, 24 January 111.

Bellaloui, N., reddy, K.N., Zablotowicz, R.M., Abbas, H.K., and Abel, C.A. 2009. Effects of glyphosate application on seed iron and root ferric (III) reductase in soybean cultivars. J. Agric. Food Chem. 57:9569-9574.

Bott, S., Tesfamariam, T., Kania, A., Eman, B., Aslan, N., Roemheld, V., and Neumann, G. 2011, Phytotoxicity of glyphosate soil residues re-mobilise4d by phosphate fertilization. Plant Soil 315:2-11. DOI 10, 1007/s11104-010-06989-3.

Cakmak, I., Yazici, A., Tutus, Y., Ozturk, L.  2009. Glyphosate reduced seed and leaf concentrations of calcium, magnesium, manganese, and iron in non-glyphosate resistant soybean. European J. Agron. 31:114-119.

Datnoff, L.E., elmer, W.H., and Huber, D.M. 2007. Mineral Nutrition and Plant Disease. APS Press, St. Paul, Mn. 278. 278 pages.

Eker, S., Ozturk, L., Yazici, A., Erenoglu, B., Roemheld, V., and Cakmak, I. 2006. Foliar-applied glyphosate substantially reduced uptake and transport of iron and manganese in sunflower (Helianthus    annuus L.) plants. J. Agric. Food Chem. 54:100019-10025.

Fernandez, M.R., Zentner, R.P., Basnyat, P., Gehl, D., Selles, F., and Huber, D.M. 2009. Glyphosate associations with cereal diseases caused by Fusarium spp. in the Canadian Prairies. European J. Agon. 31:133-143.

Johal, G.R. and Rahe, J.E. 1984. Effect of soilborne paltn-pathogenic fungi on the herbicidal action of glyphosate on bean seedlings. Phytopathology 74:950-955.

Johal, G.R. and Rahe, J.E. 1990. Role of  phytoalexins in the suppression of resistance of Phaseolus vulgaris to Colletotrichum lindemuthianum by glyphosate. Canad. J. Plant Pathol. 12:225-235.

Johal, G.R. and Huber, D.M. 2009. Glyphosate effects on diseases of plants. European J. Agron. 31:144-152.

Kremer, R.J. and Means, N.E. 2009. Glyphosate and glyphosate-resistant crop interactions with rhizosphere microorganisms. European J. Agron. 31:153-161.

Larsen, R.L., Hill, A.L., Fenwick, A., Kniss, A.R., Hanson, L.E., and Miller, S.D. 2006. Influence of glyphosate on Rhizoctonia and Fusarium root rot in sugar beet. Pest Manag. Sci. 62:1182-1192.

Ozturk, L., Yazici, A., Eker, S., gokmen, O., roemheld, V., and Cakmak, I. 2008. Glyphosate inhibition of ferric reductase activity in iron deficient sunflower roots. New Phytol. 177:899-906.

Schafer, J.R., Westhoven, A.M., Kruger, G.R., Davis, V.M., Hallett, S.G., and Johnson, W.G. 2009. Effect of growth media on common lambsquarter and giant ragweed biotypes response to glyphosate. Proc. Northcentral Weed Sci. Soc. 64:102.

Schafer, J.R., Hallett, S.G., and jophnson, W.G. 2010. Role of soil-borne fungi in the response of giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida) biotypes to glyphosate. Proc. Northcentral Weed Sci. Soc. 65:.

Seralini, G-E., Mesnage, R., Clair, E., Gress, S., de Vendomois, J.S., Cellier, D. 2011. Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements. Environ. Sci. Europe 23:10-20.

Tesfamariam, T., Bott, S., Cakmak, I., Roemheld, V., and Neumann, G. 2009. Glyphosate in the rhizosphere role of waiting times and different glyphosate binding forms in soils for phytoxicity to non-target plants. European J. Agron. 31:126-132.

Yamada, T., Kremer, R.J., Camargo e Castro, P.R., and Wood, B.W. 2009. Glyphosate interactions with physiology, nutrition, and diseases of plants: Threat to agricultural sustainability? European J. Agron. 31:111-113.

Zobiole, L.H.S., Oliveira, R.S.Jr., Huber, D.M., Constantin, J., Castro, C., Oliveira, F.A., Oliveira, A. Jr. 2010. Glyphosate reduces shoot concentrations of mineral nutrients in glyphosate-resistant soybeans. Plant Soil 328:57-69.

Zobiole, L.H.S., Oliveira, R.S. Jr., Kremer, R.J., Constantin, J., Yamada, T., Castro, C., Oliveiro, F.A., and Oliveira, A. Jr. 2010. Effect of glyposate on symbiotic N2 fixation and nickel concentration in glyphosate-resistant soybeans.  Applied Soil Ecol. 44:176-180.

2. Attachment 1: Letter to Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack
Agriculture Secretary, US Administration

The Honorable Thomas Vilsack
United States Secretary of Agriculture

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

A team of senior plant and animal scientists have recently brought to my attention the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. Based on a review of the data, it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn ”” suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup.    This organism appears NEW to science!

This is highly sensitive information that could result in a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies. On the other hand, this new organism may already be responsible for significant harm (see below). My colleagues and I are therefore moving our investigation forward with speed and discretion, and seek assistance from the USDA and other entities to identify the pathogen’s source, prevalence, implications, and remedies.

We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of RR alfalfa. Naturally, if either the RR gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity. Based on the current evidence, the only reasonable action at this time would be to delay deregulation at least until sufficient data has exonerated the RR system, if it does.

For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks.  Based on this experience, I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an emergency.

A diverse set of researchers working on this problem have contributed various pieces of the puzzle, which together presents the following disturbing scenario:

Unique Physical Properties
This previously unknown organism is only visible under an electron microscope (36,000X), with an approximate size range equal to a medium size virus. It is able to reproduce and appears to be a micro-fungal-like organism. If so, it would be the first such micro-fungus ever identified. There is strong evidence that this infectious agent promotes diseases of both plants and mammals, which is very rare.

Pathogen Location and Concentration
It is found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distillers meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas.

Linked with Outbreaks of Plant Disease
The organism is prolific in plants infected with two pervasive diseases that are driving down yields and farmer income””sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soy, and Goss’ wilt in corn. The pathogen is also found in the fungal causative agent of SDS (Fusarium solani fsp glycines).

Implicated in Animal Reproductive Failure
Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of this organism in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility. Preliminary results from ongoing research have also been able to reproduce abortions in a clinical setting.

The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.

For example, 450 of 1,000 pregnant heifers fed wheatlege experienced spontaneous abortions. Over the same period, another 1,000 heifers from the same herd that were raised on hay had no abortions. High concentrations of the pathogen were confirmed on the wheatlage, which likely had been under weed management using glyphosate.

In summary, because of the high titer of this new animal pathogen in Roundup Ready crops, and its association with plant and animal diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions, we request USDA’s participation in a multi-agency investigation, and an immediate moratorium on the deregulation of RR crops until the causal/predisposing relationship with glyphosate and/or RR plants can be ruled out as a threat to crop and animal production and human health.

It is urgent to examine whether the side-effects of glyphosate use may have facilitated the growth of this pathogen, or allowed it to cause greater harm to weakened plant and animal hosts. It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases; it dismantles plant defenses by chelating vital nutrients; and it reduces the bioavailability of nutrients in feed, which in turn can cause animal disorders. To properly evaluate these factors, we request access to the relevant USDA data.

I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.


COL (Ret.) Don M. Huber
Emeritus Professor, Purdue University
APS Coordinator, USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS)

9322 Big Foot Road, Melba, Idaho 83641
(208) 495-2642

Glyphosate exposure is causing massive crop failures and 45% infertility in livestock. Click To Tweet

Glyphosate is showing up in air, rain and drinking water

According to Dr. Swanson from MIT, “In a 2011 study by the U.S. Geological Survey, glyphosate was frequently detected in water, rain and air in the Mississippi River basin. Also in 2011, Chang et al. reported concentrations of glyphosate in air and rain as high as 2.5 μg/L in agricultural areas in Mississippi and Iowa. The presence of two insecticides and 27 herbicides were detected in reservoir water in the Northern Great Plains in 2007, according to Donald et al. The total concentration of herbicides in drinking water was 2.4 μg/L. Because glysophate is in our air, water and food, we are likely accumulating low doses over time.”


  • Genetically engineered food was presumed safe in the 90’s. It was never proven safe, despite concerns expressed by 58% of the FDA’s own experts.
  • In 2000, the presumption policy survived a legal challenge, based  on a technicality. Piles of evidence revealing safety concern was never acted upon.
  • In 2004, Monsanto published the results of their 90 day toxicity study that fed Roundup Ready corn to rats. The study purported the genetically engineered corn to be “safe and nutritious“.
  • In 2009, Séralini’s CRIIGEN study discovered that rats would develop giant tumors if Monsanto’s study was allowed to run longer than 90 days.
  • In 2011, Don Huber warned the USDA that glyphosate, an antibiotic, was destroying soil bacteria and also robbing plants of minerals needed to fend of disease. As a result, farmers were observing massive GMO crop failures, along with spontaneous abortion rates in all livestock as high as 45%, on top of a 20% overall reduction in fertility. Farmers found that the abortions and infertility would go away completely, as soon as they ceased giving GMO feed to their animals.
  • In 2013, Physicist Nancy Swanson Ph.D. correlated the rising use of glyphosate with CDC data documenting the rising rates of major diseases. I included a chart showing the stunning 98.8% correlation.
  • Numerous countries have total or partial GMO bans, including most of the European Union and Russia.
  • The May 2016 edition of Consumer Reports magazine published the statistic that over 90% of Americans would like GMO disclosure on product labels.
  • To this day, the FDA defers to biotech companies to determine the safety of GE foods. Monsanto maintains that genetic engineering is not a food safety issue.

Meaningful steps you can take

I’m not usually that much of an activist and this is a world-sized problem.  Nevertheless, there are some tangible and effective things we can do.

  1. TOP PRIORITY: Don’t buy products that contain GMOs or order food that contain GMOs at restaurants.  Your most powerful vote, by far, is with your dollars.  The USDA organic label means the product does not contain GMOs.
  2. Request non-GMO / pesticide-free products at restaurants, grocery stores and even farmers markets. Politely speak to both staff and management. In addition, you can put pressure on a large chain by going to their web site and sending a message to the corporate headquarters. This works! I have a post just for restaurant managers that I encourage you to pass along to them.
  3. Contact food manufacturers and request that they remove GE ingredients. In a kind way, make it clear that you won’t be able to purchase their products until they are labeled GMO free.
  4. Share this information with farmers. If they are already producing GMO and pesticide-free food, they will be glad to find you supportive. If not, this post may reveal information they were not previously aware of.
  5. Please help spread the word.  Share this article on social media and email the link to people you care about.
  6. Grow some of your own food.  Be sure the seeds are non-GMO, though.
  7. Buy only pastured, preferably organic, meats or wild-caught fish. Get to know a farmer so you can ask how the animals were fed. Only buy the meat of animals that were never exposed to GMO feed.
  8. Detox from glyphosate with bentonite clay – or activated charcoal with sauerkraut juice. Per Dr. Huber, bentonite clay (for humic acid) binds with glyphosate in the body. You can use it to help get it out of your system and restore fertility. It is common to apply to the skin, but select brands can also be mixed into water for drinking. Don’t let it come into contact with metal, as that reduces effectiveness.  Also effective, is activated charcoal combined with sauerkraut juice. According to Dr. Huber, “It (activated charcoal) doesn’t pull glyphosate unless you have Sauerkraut juice with it. Here’s the activated charcoal I use.

If you found this information helpful and don’t want to miss future updates, please subscribe to my email list. I publish new content regularly to help you enjoy wellness and mobility for decades longer.

Additional Resources

Poisoned Fields – Glyphosate, the underrated risk?

Dr. Mercola Interviews Dr. Huber

Dr. Mercola & Robert Kremer, PhD. Discuss GMOs and Glyphosate

Interview with Steven Druker – Part 1

Interview with Steven Druker – Part 2

A shorter video with accurate content, but doesn’t have the time to cite all the sources.

Robyn O’Brien does a magnificent job laying out the GMO problem from the viewpoint of a mom and investigative reporter.

This animation uses satire to quickly explain GMOs.

A serious documentary with English subtitles.  The rats with tumors are at 6:30.

This is the trailer for a feature length movie called Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives The excerpts contain examples of short term harms of GMOs.

Neurologist,David Perlmutter MD interviewing GMO expert Jeffrey Smith

A two hour debate on genetically modified food was produced by C-SPAN.Consumer advocate Jeffrey Smith and biotechnology entrepreneur Gregory Stock debated the safety of genetically modified food (GMOs). Each gave an illustrated presentation, and then they offered rebuttals. I think Jeffrey Smith nailed it and found numerous errors in the arguments of Gregory Stock. Let me know what you think.  View the debate here

I also found the combined work of MIT researcher Stephanie Seneff extremely helpful.  In this video, she explains the synergistic toxicity of glyphosate with vaccines.

Seeds Of Death GMO’s EXPOSED – This is a full length documentary.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

What didn't I cover that would help you? Please leave a comment to let me know and I'll try to fill in the gap for you.