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Monsanto's Roundup Spreading Deadly Fusarium Fungus

>From <gaia@gaianet.org>

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Canadian research just released confirms the suspicions raised by other
studies and farmers that Monsanto¹s glyphosate herbicide ³Roundup² leads to
increased presence of the Fusarium fungus on crops. The Fusarium pathogen
can lead to Fusarium Head Blight in wheat and other cereals, as well as
Sudden Death Syndrome in soybeans.

This is bad news for growers of GM Roundup Ready crops, as well as for
Monsanto. It means that Roundup Ready crops sprayed with Roundup
(glyphosate) are at higher risk from disease. Furthermore, crops grown in
the fields the year after Roundup Ready crops are at higher risk of disease.

This new research which links glyphosate applications to Fusarium Head
Blight in wheat comes at a controversial time in Canada and America, as
Monsanto¹s application to commercialise Roundup Ready wheat is being
considered. Fusarium Head Blight devastates huge proportions of North
America¹s and Europe¹s wheat crops, and farmers, activists and NGOs are
pleading with the Canadian government to reject or delay RR wheat approval
while there is a risk of increasing fusarium.

Best wishes,

Teresa

***********************************
1. Canadian Government Research Links Roundup Herbicide to Wheat Disease
Press Release from Greenpeace Canada. Date: 3 December 2003
http://www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?recid=2253
2. Recent Research Not a Factor in Fight Over GM Wheat
Article from the Leader-Post, Canada. Date: 4 December 2003
Angela Hall

http://www.canada.com/search/story.aspx?id=6e37c9a7-4f8a-4ff7-a45d-dc05d716e
080
3. Round-up Ready Sudden Death Syndrome
Article from the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS). Date: 30
November 2003
Prof. Joe Cummins
http://www.i-sis.org.uk
4. Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide May Be Spreading Deadly Fungus
Article from Counterpunch.org. Date: 23 August 2003
Jeremy Bigwood
http://www.counterpunch.org/bigwood08232003.html
/old_articles/ge/monsanto_fungus.cfm
5. Weedkiller May Boost Toxic Fungi
Article from the New Scientist. Date: 14 August 2003
Andy Coughlan
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994051
6. Multiplying Microbes - Glyphosate Boosts Fusarium Levels in Missouri
Study

Article from Farm Industry News, USA. Date: 24 April 2001
Gil Gullickson
http://farmindustrynews.com/ar/farming_multiplying_microbes_glyphosate/
*******************************

1. Canadian Government Research Links Roundup Herbicide to Wheat Disease

Press Release from Greenpeace Canada. Date: 3 December 2003
http://www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?recid=2253

Contact: Pat Venditti, Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Campaign,
416.597.8408, ext. 3017 or Cell 416.450.2439

Toronto, ON- Agriculture and Agri-food Canada researchers will release
information next week that reveals a demonstrable link between the use of
glyphosate herbicide formulations and increases incidence of fusarium head
blight, a scourge of Western Canadian farmers. Fusarium head blight
produces a toxin that makes infected wheat unsuitable for human or animal
consumption.

"These results indicate that the herbicides most widely used with
genetically engineered crops are partly to blame for increases in the
development of fusarium head blight," said Pat Venditti, Genetic
Engineering Campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. "This is one more reason
why the government should deny approval for Monsanto¹s genetically
engineered wheat."

A decision on whether or not the government will approve Monsanto¹s
genetically engineered Roundup Ready wheat is pending. Roundup Ready
wheat has been developed to withstand applications of glyphosate
herbicides. Glyphosate herbicide formulations such as Monsanto's Roundup
herbicide are widely used on cropland that has been planted with
genetically engineered seeds such as Roundup Ready canola, or Roundup
Ready soya.

Last week, the CBC revealed that Agriculture and Agri-food Canada stands
to gain financial benefits from Monsanto if Roundup Ready wheat is sold
commercially.

"The research being done by researchers at AAFC Swift Current is the type
of research that is needed prior to any GE crop release," said Mr.
Venditti. "The Minister should take this into account and clearly reject
Monsanto's application for the environmental release of GE wheat.
Farmers, not Monsanto, should benefit from the farm policy of the
government."

An abstract of the study "Identification of crop production factors
associated with the development of Fusarium head blight in spring wheat in
southeast Saskatchewan² is available on the web at
http://www.umanitoba.ca/afs/agronomists_conf/program.html The study results
will be released Wednesday, December 10th, in Winnipeg.


*********************************


2. Recent Research Not a Factor in Fight Over GM Wheat

Article from the Leader-Post, Canada. Date: 4 December 2003
Angela Hall
http://www.canada.com/search/story.aspx?id=6e37c9a7-4f8a-4ff7-a45d-dc05d716e
080

The National Farmers Union wants to use research linking the crop blight
fusarium with a popular herbicide in their fight against genetically
modified wheat.

But a federal government scientist said that particular research isn't a
factor his committee would consider in the registration of Roundup Ready
wheat.

The research, conducted by the federal government's Semiarid Prairie
Agricultural Research Centre in Swift Current, will be presented next
week at an agronomists conference in Manitoba. Researchers studied 648
wheat fields in southeastern Saskatchewan between 1999 and 2002 to
determine the association between farming practices and fusarium, a
disease that can reduce yields and create a toxin that makes wheat
unsuitable for consumption.

Plant pathologist Myriam Fernandez said environment -- such as moisture
levels -- was found to be the most important factor in the development of
fusarium head blight.

But she also found they was a greater incidence of fusarium in fields
where glyphosate, or the herbicide Roundup, had been applied the previous
year.

"Because of the significant and consistent effect of glyphosate
throughout the four years of the study, we are suggesting that there
should be more research done," said Fernandez, who will speak about the
results at the University of Manitoba Dec. 10.

Stewart Wells, president of the National Farmers Union, is using the
upcoming presentation to call on Ottawa to ban genetically modified
wheat. Roundup's manufacturer, Monsanto, is seeking the Canadian
government's approval to sell a GM variety of wheat that could be sprayed
with Roundup during the growing season.

"The major concern is if glyphosate herbicides are making disease
problems worse, we probably shouldn't be approving any more bio-tech
products that are going to mandate the use of more glyphosate," said
Wells, who is also a Saskatchewan farmer.

However, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada wheat breeder Stephen Fox, who
chairs one of the bodies involved in the registration process, said the
Swift Current research isn't something that comes into play in deciding
whether GM wheat should be introduced.

"We don't really look into any of the pesticides, whether they're
herbicides or insecticides, that the farmers may use to control whatever
pests there is in whatever crop you're dealing with, in this case wheat,"
said Fox. "We consider only the merits of the plant species itself."

Fernandez, who has fielded countless calls about her research since the
first reports were in the media in August, said she couldn't comment on
the connection some people are making between her work and GM wheat, and
noted they didn't even use any Roundup Ready wheat in their studies.

"All we can say is that our research has shown that fields where
glyphosate has been applied in the past influences the development of
fusarium." She said she just wants the research community to undertake
more research on what effects fusarium, since it is a devastating disease
for crops.

Trish Jordan, spokeswoman for Monsanto Canada, said they are aware of the
research and look forward to finding out more detail, but said the bigger
picture needs to be considered as well.

*********************************

3. Round-up Ready Sudden Death Syndrome

Article from the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS). Date: 30 November
2003
Prof. Joe Cummins
http://www.i-sis.org.uk

Prof. Joe Cummins finds evidence that Roundup Ready causes sudden death and
other diseases by boosting fusarium in the soil.

For several years, scientists have investigated the impact of herbicides,
particularly glyphosate (Round-up) on soil microbial communities. These
investigations revealed increased colonization of the roots of Round-up
Ready (RR) soya with the fungus Fusarium in midwestern fields during 1997 to
2000. At the same time, large scale cropping with herbicide-tolerant
cultivars was found to increase soil-borne plant pathogens; Brazilian soils
showed increased microbial activity for several seasons. There is clear
evidence that repeated glyphosate applications over several seasons
increases soil-borne pathogens.

During the first year of glyphosate application on RR soya, a severe sudden
death syndrome epidemic occurred in several RR cultivars. The RR cultivars
were susceptible to sudden death from infection by the fungus Fusarium
solani. Sudden death syndrome of soya is a disease of economic importance in
North America. Follow-up studies showed that different cultivars of soya
showed different levels of resistance to the sudden death fungus and suggest
that glyphosate tolerant and non-tolerant cultivars responded similarly to
infection by Fusarium solani.

According to Jeremy Bigwood (www.mycoherbicide.net), a scientist from
Agriculture Canada, Myriam Fernadez, had reported as yet unpublished studies
showing that wheat fields that had been treated with glyphosate had elevated
levels fusarium head blight, a serious disease of wheat.

Andy Coghlan of the New Scientist further reported:

"The potential problem was spotted a few years ago by Myriam Fernandez of
the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre run by Agriculture and
Agri-Food Canada in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. She noticed that in some
fields where glyphosate had been applied the previous year, wheat appeared
to be worse affected by fusarium head blight - a devastating fungal disease
that damages grain and turns it pink. In Europe alone, fusarium head blight
destroys a fifth of wheat harvests. The fungi that cause the disease also
produce toxins that can kill humans and animals. In a follow-up study,
Fernandez measured levels of the blight in wheat fields. "We found higher
levels of blight within each tillage category when glyphosate had been used
in the previous year," says her colleague Keith Hanson. And his lab study
showed that Fusarium graminearum and F. avenaceum, the fungi that cause head
blight, grow faster when glyphosate-based weedkillers are added to the
nutrient medium."

Unfortunately, Agriculture Canada has not fast tracked publication of such
important results when they are advocating registration of RR wheat.

In conclusion, there seems to be a clear link between the use of herbicide
and accumulation of pathogenic fungi in the soil. The RR soya cultivars
fared poorly under the impact of the sudden death fungus. Wheat fields
treated with Round-up appear to be sensitive to the head blight disease.
Such findings should have triggered prompt and extensive reviews on the use
of Roundup and Roundup tolerant GM crops by our North American regulators.
Instead of which, the two governments of North America appear to be
advocating registration of RR wheat.

*********************************

4. Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide May Be Spreading Deadly Fungus

Article from Counterpunch.org. Date: 23 August 2003
Jeremy Bigwood
http://www.counterpunch.org/bigwood08232003.html
/old_articles/ge/monsanto_fungus.cfm

GM Crop Weed Killer Linked to Powerful Fungus

Scientists are expressing alarm about the relationship between the
application of a common weed killer to food crops and the resultant
proliferation of potentially toxic fungal moulds in the harvest. Monsanto's
popular product Roundup, which contains a chemical called glyphosate is
alleged to increase the size of colonies of the fungus Fusarium, a genus of
often very toxic moulds that occurs naturally in soils and occasionally
invades crops, but usually held in check by other microbes. If true, these
allegations not only call into question the world's number one weed killer,
but they also jeopardize the world's acceptance of Monsanto's flagship line
of genetically-engineered "Roundup Ready" crops.

"Glyphosate-treated wheat appeared to have higher levels of Fusarium head
blight (a toxic fungal disease) than wheat fields where no glyphosate had
been applied." said Scientist Myriam Fernandez of the Semiarid Prairie
Agricultural Research Centre in Swift Current, Saskatchewan in a recent
interview. Fernandez added "We have not finished analysing the four years of
data yet or written up the study." While Fernandez's research recently made
headlines throughout Canada, it was not the first to discuss the
relationship between glyphosate-containing weed killer formulations and the
enhancement of potentially toxic fungi, but it was the first to report on
the possibility of potentially toxic crop damage caused by the link in wheat
and barley, two of Canada's most important crops.

According to Dr. Harvey Glick, head of Monsanto's Scientific Affairs, who
remains critical: "It appears to be that Dr. Fernandez did a field survey
looking at levels of Fusarium and then the factors that might be related.
So, from what I can gather, that was not a cause and effect. It's just that
they saw in the study area some fields that had higher levels of Fusarium,
for whatever reason, and then they looked at a list of factors that might be
related and one of them was there was Roundup used in those fields the
previous year."

Maybe, but, over the last two decades, several scientists from New Zealand
to Africa have noticed and investigated the glyphosate-fusarium relationship
through small-scale experiments in the relative obscurity of their labs and
reporting the results of their work through the hidden world of academic
journals. The result of all of this work, is "just under 50 scientific
papers," says Robert Kremer PhD., a soil scientist at the University of
Missouri. This body work shows an increase in Fusarium or other microbes
after the application of glyphosate.

Monsanto's Dr. Harvey Glick disagrees: "Roundup is almost 30 years old and
scientists have been looking at all aspects of its use for at least that
long. So there is a tremendous amount of information available. And that is
why there is such a high level of confidence that the use of Roundup, based
on all of this earlier work, does not have any negative impacts on soil
microbes... And a lot of it has been published."

Dr. Kremer's ongoing research deals with the effect of glyphosate-fusarium
relationship on soybeans, not just regular soybeans, but "Roundup Ready"
soybeans also. Monsanto has been producing a series of
genetically-engineered "Roundup Ready" seed stock for various crops
including, cotton, soybean, wheat and corn to be used exclusively with their
successful glyphosate weedkiller Roundup. "Roundup Ready" crops are
themselves unaffected by the Roundup weedkiller, which will kill all any
competing plants such as weeds in the same area. Because they are
genetically-engineered, they have not found easy acceptance in many
countries outside the US, and they are still banned in Canada and Europe.

Dr. Kremer found that in his "Roundup Ready" soybean experiments that
"Glyphosate seems to stimulate Fusarium in the roots area of the plants," to
such a degree that he considers the elevation of Fusarium levels to be
glyphosate's "secondary mode of action." While he found enhanced Fusarium
colonies in the roots of his plants, which could potentially reduce the
harvest, he did not find it in the harvested soybeans themselves. Even so,
he expressed concern about what this accumulation of Fusarium in the soil
could lead to.

Dr. Kremer also noted: "We didn't see enhancement of Fusarium when other
herbicides were used." However, in the case of "Roundup Ready" crops,
Roundup is to be used exclusively or in combination with other chemicals as
a weed killer. To use other weed killers alone would be a violation of
contract.

Thus, if Roundup increases Fusarium levels, then "Roundup Ready" crops that
use Roundup as a weed killer could become potential disasters, increasing
Fusarium levels in the soil to such critical levels it could produce an
epidemic and move from field to field throughout a wide area.

In a recent article titled "GM cotton blamed for disease," the Farm Weekly,
an Australian publication, predicted that "up to 90 percent of Australia's
cotton belt could be inundated by the soil borne pathogen Fusarium wilt
within the next decade" due to Roundup Ready cotton.

Fusarium contamination of cereals, such as the Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) in
wheat and barley that Dr. Fernandez is studying in Saskatchewan has been
responsible for serious crop losses. About a fifth of the wheat crop in
Europe every year is lost to FHB and in Michigan during 2002 it was
estimated that 30-40% of the crops were destroyed by the infestation. When
the mould passes into the food-chain undetected, Fusarium epidemics on
cereals can have even worse effects: a Fusarium epidemic of cereals was
considered responsible for thousands of deaths in Russia during the 1940s
and more recently in 2001, it caused a series of deadly birth defects among
tortilla-eating Mexican-Americans in Brownsville, Texas.

When cultured on Petri dishes, Fusarium can display various colours, often
ranging from orange to salmon-coloured, and it has a varying appearance on
different cereals and at different stages of its life cycle. On wheat and
rye it can appear as a chalky white colour; on barley it can appear as a
black rust, and on oats it can be black and reddish-orange coloured. Small
amounts of contamination of grains are invisible to the human eye, and
chemical tests have to be done to detect it. Since such tests are at the
expense of the farmer, minute amounts continually enter commercial food
products. It is at the higher levels that it can become a serious problem.

The Fusarium fungus can produce a range of toxins that are not destroyed in
the cooking process such as vomitoxin, which as its name suggests, usually
produces vomiting and not death, to the more lethal compounds which include
fumonisin, which can cause cancer and birth defects to the very lethal
chemical warfare agent fusariotoxin, more often referred to as T2 toxin.

During 2000, the US Congress planned to use the fungus Fusarium as a
biological control agent to kill coca crops in Colombia and another fungus
to kill opium poppies in Afghanistan, but these plans were dropped by
then-president Clinton who was concerned that the unilateral use of a
biological agent would be perceived by the rest of the world as biological
warfare. The Andean nations, including Colombia, where it was to be used in
the drug war against coca cultivation banned its use throughout the region.
Sanho Tree, the director of the Institute for Policy Studies Drug Policy
Project commented about using a chemical that produces a banned
micro-organism: "The US has supplied tens of thousands of gallons Roundup to
the Colombian government for use in aerial fumigation of coca crops. We have
been using a fleet of crop dusters to dump unprecedented amounts of
high-potency glyphosate over hundreds of thousands of acres in one of the
most delicate and bio-diverse ecosystems in the world. This futile effort
has done little to reduce the availability of cocaine on our streets, but
now we are learning that a possible side-effect of this campaign could be
the unleashing of a Fusarium epidemic in Amazon basin. The drug war has
tried in vain to keep cocaine out of people's noses, but could result
instead in scorching the lungs of the earth."

Because of the glyphosate-Fusarium link, Canada's National Farmers Union is
already opposing the introduction of genetically-engineered "Roundup Ready"
wheat, and this issue shows no signs of going away. Time will only tell if
Monsanto will be able to "fix" the problems of their "Roundup Ready" crops
with more genetic engineering- this time to control Fusarium--or will their
top weed killer and flagship line of "Roundup Ready" crops be rejected by
today's farmers?

Jeremy Bigwood is a freelance writer and investigator specializing in Latin
America. A shorter version of this story was published by IPS.

*******************************

5. Weedkiller May Boost Toxic Fungi

Article from the New Scientist. Date: 14 August 2003
Andy Coughlan
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994051

A widely used herbicide encourages the growth of toxic fungi that
devastate wheat fields, laboratory studies by scientists working for the
Canadian government suggest. If further studies confirm that the
herbicide, glyphosate, increases the risk of fungal infections - which
are already a huge problem - farmers might be advised to use it less.
That could be a major blow for backers of genetically modified wheat in
Canada, because the first GM variety up for approval in Canada is
modified to be glyphosate-resistant. If it gets the go-ahead, there is
likely to be an overall increase in glyphosate use. The potential problem
was spotted during a five-year study of plant diseases headed by Myriam
Fernandez of the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre run by
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. She
noticed that in some fields where glyphosate had been applied in spring
just before planting, wheat appeared to be worse affected by fusarium
head blight - a devastating fungal disease that damages grain and turns
it pink.

Deadly toxins

In Europe alone, fusarium head blight destroys a fifth of wheat harvests.
The fungi that cause the disease also produce toxins that can kill humans
and animals. "We found higher levels of blight within each tillage
category when glyphosate had been used," says her colleague Keith Hanson.
And his lab study showed that Fusarium graminearum and F. avenaceum, the
fungi that cause head blight, grow faster when glyphosate-based
weedkillers are added to the nutrient medium. But the investigators warn
against jumping to conclusions. "We're deferring judgement until we have
all the data," says Hanson. Analysis of the last four years of data from
the study is not yet complete, Fernandez stresses.

Dead plant matter

Hanson says that the real issue is whether the fungi leave more spores in
the soil. It is also possible that the effect is simply due to herbicides
leaving more dead plant matter in the soil for fungi to grow on and is
not directly caused by glyphosate. Monsanto, the company based in St
Louis, Missouri, that sells glyphosate as Roundup, as well as a number of
"Roundup Ready" crops modified to be resistant to it, claims that
glyphosate is already widely used without causing any apparent problems
with fungi. Monsanto applied to the Canadian government in December 2002
for approval of its Roundup Ready GM wheat. It says it will be keeping a
close watch on Fernandez's research. The team's initial findings are
likely to be seized upon by anti-GM activists. But switching to other
herbicides could be bad news for the environment - glyphosate is one of
the least harmful herbicides, as it quickly breaks down in the soil.
Ironically, Syngenta, another biotech giant, based in Basle, Switzerland,
has been developing and testing both GM and conventional wheat strains
that are resistant to the fusarium head fungi. "The results have been
promising," says a Syngenta spokesman.

********************************

6. Multiplying Microbes - Glyphosate Boosts Fusarium Levels in Missouri
Study

Article from Farm Industry News, USA. Date: 24 April 2001
Gil Gullickson
http://farmindustrynews.com/ar/farming_multiplying_microbes_glyphosate/

The next time you admire a weed-free field of Roundup Ready soybeans treated
with Roundup, bear in mind that the herbicide does more than just kill
weeds.

University of Missouri (MU) researchers discovered that glyphosate
(Roundup¹s active ingredient) herbicide applications changed the microbial
composition of soil in the field. Pat Donald, MU plant pathologist, and
Robert Kremer, an MU soil scientist and USDA-ARS microbiologist, conducted
experiments from 1997 through 2000 at two Missouri locations, which revealed
that Roundup Ready soybeans treated with glyphosate at recommended rates had
more Fusarium on roots within one week of application than did soybeans that
did not receive glyphosate.

So what? Fusarium fungi are almost always present in soybean fields. But at
elevated levels, they can clip yields through such diseases as sudden death
syndrome (SDS) and other root rots, Donald says.

"Although soil Fusarium populations varied among locations, glyphosate
significantly increased numbers at each location," Kremer says. "There is a
natural ebb and flow, but with Roundup Ready beans treated with glyphosate,
there was always a spike in the levels of the fungi studied."

The study coincided with findings by Missouri farmers regarding disease in
Roundup Ready varieties. "There were several complaints that surfaced about
sudden death syndrome that they had not seen with conventional varieties,"
Kremer says.

However, Donald and Kremer emphasize that glyphosate did not reduce soybean
yields in their studies. Yet, they add that the potential yield impact of
high soil Fusarium levels from continuous glyphosate use requires more
study.

"We need to look at it more and see whether there¹s a buildup of the
organism from year to year," Kremer says.

In contrast, Harvey Glick, head of biotechnology stewardship for Monsanto,
says numerous studies show that Roundup does not seriously impact soil
microbe populations around roots.

"I know that Fusarium is an important component of sudden death syndrome,
which is a real problem in beans," Glick says. "But just because you have
Fusarium doesn't mean you'll have an expression of the disease. Fusarium is
always present in the soil. When you spray Roundup on weeds, scientists
speculate that the Fusarium species from the roots of dead weeds may become
available to colonize the roots of living soybean plants. However, this does
not mean you will have the disease present."

Farmers also have been using the Roundup Ready production system for five
years over 60 million hectares, Glick says. "Any concerns with populations
of soil microbes or disease would have manifested itself by now," he adds.

More study needed. The Missouri researchers claim that little study of the
relationship between soil microbes and transgenic plants has been done.

"The tests are often limited to small soil insects and earthworms," Kremer
says. "We think there¹s been an oversight."

Though the increased Fusarium levels did not reduce yields, the MU
researchers express concern about continuous glyphosate use in Roundup Ready
soybeans.

Seasonal Fusarium increases result when farmers apply glyphosate on Roundup
Ready soybeans. Normally, these levels do not carry over into the next year.
However, repeated glyphosate applications in consecutive growing seasons
could cause Fusarium levels to snowball.

"It may be a good idea to rotate out of Roundup Ready soybeans
periodically," Kremer says. "Otherwise, there may be a future ecological
consequence if Fusarium builds up."


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