A letter to CT NOFA folks from a farmer

Mar 18th, 2012 | By | Category: General

Dear CT NOFA folks:

I’m writing as a CT resident, though our NOFA membership is in NY, where our family farm is. Sorry to be focusing on this issue late, after the public hearing; just finished a major project at work.

It is [sic] too late to make a difference with an op ed for the Hartford Courant or another paper?

Risk to human health was well supported by testimony at the public hearing for HB 5117, in particular from the BT gene for membrane disruption in caterpillars. Has there also been good testimony on the effects on non-target insects, of GMO crops genetically modified to produce systemic insecticide compounds? Eg. effects of eating corn pollen containing the toxic BT protein (intended to control corn borer) on monarchs and other butterflies from nearby meadows and backyards? Citizens should be able to vote with their pocketbooks against buying GMO foods that poison creatures that naturally wander onto farm fields from offsite areas. Are you aware of an investigation to find out whether the sharp drop in migrating monarchs in the late summer of last year was related to increased use of GMO-BT- crops?

How widely understood are the drawbacks of more widespread and heavier applications of Round-up (glyphosate) when Round-up ready GMO food crops are planted? From an ecological standpoint, increase round-up spraying further reduces hedgerows, buffer strips, and a low presence in fields of non-crop “weeds” and other plant species – food for sparrows and so many beneficial/harmless arthopods. The increased use of Round-up is also causing much faster evolution of crop strains resistant to glyphospate.The plan to introduce Round-up ready lawn grasses is of grave concern.

From a human and livestock health standpoint – with implications for farm economics- GMO food crops grown in soils drenched with persistent glyphospate are often low to deficient in trace minerals, as reported over ten years ago by researchers at the Institute of Plant Nutrition, at the University of Hohenheim, in Stuttgart, Germany. This is because glyphosate interferes with micro-nutrient uptake, both directly and indirectly. (In the midwest, a new business has actually sprung up since Round-up use became widespread: sale of micronutrient crop supplements to farmers.)

The herbicide directly immobilizes the trace minerals. It also blocks symbiotic mineral uptake processes by harming or eliminating soil microflora and fauna (like many other pesticides, as any orgnaic farmer knows). Round-up (glyphospate) impedes the natural recycling of dead plant materials into available nutrients in the rhizosphere, causing depletion of trace minerals over time. Toxicity screening has documented adverse effects on diverse soil organisms, including earthworms, isopods (sowbugs), springtails, nitrogen-fixing microbes, and beneficial mycorhyzal fungi, which form sheaths around roots and help with nutrient uptake.

From a health standpoint, mineral supplements are not the easy solution. It is widely known that trace minerals are more readily assimilated from food than from supplements. It is also a fact that insufficient levels of micronutrients interfere with human – and livestock – health and immune response – low zinc levels affect neurological health for example.

In Stuttgart, over ten years ago, university plant disease researchers first linked increased rates of pathogenic fungal diseases to Roundup application, and this has been confirmed over time for multiple diseases. Farms have begun switching from GMO soybean seed, since an They attributed lowered disease resistance to trace mineral deficiencies and missing beneficial microbes in soil drenched with Round-up (glyphosate). Mycorhyzal sheaths physically protect roots from attack by pathogenic fungi, which fosters increased use of fungicides, many of them toxic – with health risks for farm workers and consumers.

A mucus that protects roots from fungal infection is less effective in GMO Round-up-ready crops; is this due to modifications associated with genetic side-effects of the gene insertion? Much testimony has already been provided to the legislature on the inadequate follow-up testing process for genetic side effects of gene insertions. In addition to testing for adverse health effects, testing is needed for many other potential adverse side effects, like increased susceptibility to disease and reduced nutritional value of the food crop.

I do support inserting genes for disease resistance, provided testing for side effects is much more extensive than at present; directed by an entity other than the manufacturer (e.g. not by Monsanto). However, I strongly oppose inserting genes for herbicide tolerance or genes for producing pesticides. In my professional opinion, splicing new genes into chromosomes is likely to impair the crop plant, whether or not human toxicity results: e.g. micronutrient status, immune or antioxidant functions; the rhizosphere; and ecological harm. All these concerns warrant labeling of food for GMO content.

To introduce myself, I have my MS in Plant Ecology from UConn Storrs, my BA in Biology from Brown, and also 20 credits in Plant Pathology from Cook College at Rutgers. I have worked on a wide range of ecology consulting jobs since 1990, often reviews of development applications, with an interlude as Executive Director of the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association from 1995 to 2000.


Sigrun M. Gadwa, MS

Email sigrun.gadwa@sbcglobal.net

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2 Comments to “A letter to CT NOFA folks from a farmer”

  1. taozen carpenter says:

    I would love to read more from this thoughtful biologist who knows what she is talking about.

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