Uncertain Health in an Insecure World – 51
“The Monsanto Years”
For Neil Young, The Monsanto Years began in 1972 when his first son Zeke was born with neurological damage from an in utero stroke. His second son Ben was born in 1978 with cerebral palsy and quadriplegia. His dad, Scott Young (below), a famous hockey writer, died in 2005 from Alzheimer’s disease. His 2015 album of this name is a musical rant against the multi-national agrochemical & biotechnology corporations, whose products increase crop yields but negatively impact human health through the food chain.
The Netherlands has just joined nations as different as Russia and Mexico in saying “No!” to Monsanto’s sale of glyphosate-based herbicides (RoundUp™) for non-commercial use. So, while Dutch lawn growers and home gardeners will now have to fend for themselves, the big agribusinesses are still free to use herbicides linked by environmental health research to an array of birth defects, neurological conditions and kidney diseases (focused in Sri Lanka). The World Health Organization recently reported that glyphosates can also cause cancer, promoting the May “March Against Monsanto” and genetically modified (GMO) foodstuffs by hundreds of thousands in 38 countries around the world.
Systems biologists know that you need not understand every step to know that something works.
The major impact of glyphosates on the human body is via the cytochrome P450 (CYP) metabolic pathway, a family of enzymes that detoxify ingested substances, control medication metabolism and regulate other ubiquitous cell functions. CYP alters amino acid tryptophan levels and serotonin neurotransmitter signaling, which may in turn worsen Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. CYP changes may also cause endocrine disorders and weight gain. Industry studies submitted to the E.U. Commission underplayed the relationship between RoundUp™ and birth defects (i.e., teratogenicity).
Conspiracy theorists surround this issue.
WikiLeak has released reports of the Bush 43 Administration’s State Department plans to “retaliate and cause pain” against “target countries” in Africa, Europe and Latin America that refused to use GMO seeds. The U.S. also lobbied foreign governments to adopt pro-agriculture biotech policies, permissively regulate GMO seed use, and oppose genetically engineered (GE) food labeling.
Scientific literature on this subject is spotty.
The Journal of Biomedical Research International (impact factor 1.58) recently published a study showing that Monsanto’s undisclosed adjuvants in RoundUp™ are up to one thousand times more toxic than the main active ingredient, glyphosate. In 2007, The U.S. Geological Survey reported glyphosate and its breakdown products entered the air, fell to Earth in rain, and permeated ground water in Mississippi, where 2 million kilograms of the stuff is applied annually. Not surprisingly, these toxins are reported by the on-line Journal of Environmenal & Analytical Toxicology (impact factor unavailable) to be measurable in the urine of European animals and humans, entering waste water through that pathway.
Often, it’s all quite personal.
An equal opportunity activist, Young also critiqued Starbucks, Chevron and Walmart for various compounding corporate sins. Their responses reflect an alternate view of a complex, multifaceted issue.
Waging heavy peace against a powerful force takes courage and persistence.
Presenting an alternate view of the world, as a person or proselyte, requires passion.
Neil Young’s song, Ohio, told of four unjust deaths in 1970 at the hands of the U.S. National Guard. It was a bald brutal fact. If millions are dying from RoundUp™ toxicity in The Monsanto Years, then those facts should be equally incontrovertible.
Problems arise when governments squelch data, and when advocates base their case on weak science.
In the Square, we seek the truth. In the Square, we are moved by real passion and robust science.
On this issue, we await the emergence of both.