GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are a source of concern among many Americans. Not only do we wonder if GMO crops are safe for us to eat, but should we feed them to our horses?
As feed crops are often sprayed with Roundup, an herbicide, we have a right to be concerned. These crops, designated “Roundup Ready” are engineered to be herbicide proof so that they will survive while the pesky weeds are eradicated.
Round-up’s active ingredient, glyphosate, originally used as a descaling agent for removing “scales,” or mineral deposits, from pipes by binding to them and making them unreactive, thus stripping them from pipes. Someone along the line discovered that the glyphosate could also kill bacteria and plants, and as there is a lot more profit potential in an herbicide than a descaling agent, glyphosate found an entirely new purpose.
At that point Monsanto bought the rights to it, and in 1969 patented it as a non-selective herbicide.
But how does this chemical work on plants, and how does it impact the health of the humans or animals that eat them? Glyphosate has been found potentially carcinogenic to humans by the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm. Rats fed genetically engineered, Round-Up ready grain, fell ill, and a large number of published scientific studies show that as little as 1 ppm of glyphosate will kill almost all bacteria—particularly beneficial bacteria—in the gut of animals. These beneficial bacteria, composed of trillions of cells lining our intestines, play an absolutely essential role in the health of most of our organs. In addition, soil is a living environment, containing millions of micro-organisms, and pesticides damage these communities of micro-organisms.
So what are we doing to ourselves and our horses?
Bacteria and plants make their own proteins, including three complex amino acids called “aromatic amino acids.” When glyphosate enters the plant cells it steals an atom of manganese making the plant unable to synthesize aromatic amino acids, and thus protein, killing the plants.
In the 1980’s when genetic engineering technologies became mainstream, someone figured out they could engineer agricultural crops to be resistant to glyphosate. Farmers would douse crop plants with it and they would survive, while the unwanted surrounding plants—the weeds—would die.
Several major crops that were engineered to be glyphosate resistant are now marketed as “Round-up Ready.” Although initially it seemed a revolution in weed management (with farmers planting up to 80% or higher of their corn, soybean and cotton with Round-up Ready crops), it soon turned out that not only crops that can become glyphosate resistant. Weeds can do it too, and they have. Higher and higher amounts of Round-Up continue to be used in order to eradicate the weeds. Amounts that once were considered extreme are now deemed normal.
Most pesticides and herbicides are closely monitored by government agencies in the United States and Canada, yet glyphosate has not been. The legal limits allowed have risen considerably, and little is known about the residual mounts of glyphosate in food crops for human and animal consumption.
Despite Monsanto’s claims otherwise, recent scientific studies clearly show that glyphosate does not degrade easily in soil, humans, and animals, and does accumulate in all organs.
Monsanto and North American governmental regulatory agencies have claimed for decades that glyphosate was the safest herbicide ever. Yet the evidence seems to show otherwise.
What’s the solution? Certified organic crops cannot be sprayed with glyphosate at any stage of the process.