(Beyond Pesticides, June 27, 2011)
A study published in the May 2011 edition of the journal Reproductive Toxicology finds pregnant women and their fetuses contaminated with pesticides and metabolites of the herbicide gluphosinate and the Cry1Ab protein of the insecticide based on the bacterium bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), both affiliated with genetically engineered (GE) food. The study, “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada,” also identified the same chemicals, as well as glyphosate metabolites in the bodies of non-pregnant women.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, Canada, is intended to pave the way for a new field in reproductive toxicology including nutrition and utero-placental toxicities.
Herbicide resistance is the most common genetically modified trait in commercial agriculture. Crops are modified to be able to withstand extremely high doses of glyphosate (Roundup Ready) and gluphosinate (LibertyLink). Current herbicide resistant crops include soy, maize (corn), canola, sugar beet, cotton, with and alfalfa. As of 2005, 87% of U.S. soybean fields were planted with glyphosate resistant varieties.
The recently released 2010 Agricultural Chemical Use Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports that the use of glyphosate has dramatically increased over the last several years, while the use of other even more toxic chemicals such as atrazine has not declined. Contrary to common claims from chemical manufacturers and proponents of GE technology that the proliferation of herbicide tolerant genetically (GE) crops would result in lower pesticide use rates, the data show that overall use of pesticides has remained relatively steady, while glyphosate use has skyrocketed to more than double the amount used just five years ago.
Another common type of genetically engineering involves modifying crops to produce a protein of the insecticide Bt. Bt is a naturally occurring soil bacterium. GE crops threaten the long-term efficacy of Bt, which is an approved insecticide in organic farming.