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October 14th, 2010
By: Ethan A. Huff
New research reveals that genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) are destroying both human health and the environment. According to Emma Rosi-Marshall from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., GM corn crops are leeching a toxic bacterial gene into the environment, polluting waterways and rivers across the U.S.
More than 85 percent of the U.S. corn crop in 2009 was GM. This GM corn contains a gene called Bacillus thuriengensis (Bt) that has been injected into it to repels pests like the corn borer beetle. Each kernel of corn literally grows a pesticide protein inside it called Cry1Ab that deters and kill pests.
Besides the fact that eating such corn is obviously toxic, the residue of this built-in pesticide also ends up covering large swaths of U.S. farmland. After the corn is harvested, husks, stalks and other residue doused and bred with pesticides end up getting carried away by rain, snow and other environmental factors into nearby rivers and streams
“Our research adds to the growing body of evidence that corn crop byproducts can be dispersed throughout a stream network, and that the compounds associated with genetically modified crops, such as insecticidal proteins, can enter nearby water bodies,” Rosi-Marshall is quoted as saying in a recent article in The Independent.
Tests revealed that every stream with detectable levels of GM pesticides was located within roughly 1,600 feet of a GM corn field. And roughly 90 percent of the streams and rivers in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana — three states that grow large amounts of GM crops — are located within this distance, indicating a serious problem.
“The tight linkage between corn fields and streams warrants further research into how corn byproducts, including Cry1Ab insecticidal proteins, potentially impact non-target ecosystems, such as streams and wetlands,” said Dr. Rosi-Marshall.
October 1, 2010
An insecticide used in genetically modified (GM) crops grown extensively in the United States and other parts of the world has leached into the water of the surrounding environment.
The insecticide is the product of a bacterial gene inserted into GM maize and other cereal crops to protect them against insects such as the European corn borer beetle. Scientists have detected the insecticide in a significant number of streams draining the great corn belt of the American mid-West.
The researchers detected the bacterial protein in the plant detritus that was washed off the corn fields into streams up to 500 metres away. They are not yet able to determine how significant this is in terms of the risk to either human health or the wider environment.
“Our research adds to the growing body of evidence that corn crop byproducts can be dispersed throughout a stream network, and that the compounds associated with genetically modified crops, such as insecticidal proteins, can enter nearby water bodies,” said Emma Rosi-Marshall of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.
GM crops are widely cultivated except in Britain and other parts of Europe. In 2009, more than 85 per cent of American corn crops were genetically modified to either repel pests or to be tolerant to herbicides used to kill weeds in a cultivated field.
The GM maize, or corn as it is called in the US, has a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuriengensis (Bt) inserted into it to repel the corn borer beetle. The Bt gene produces a protein called Cry1Ab which has insectidical properties.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, analysed 217 streams in Indiana. The scientists found 86 per cent of the sites contained corn leaves, husks, stalks or cereal cobs in their channels and 13 per cent contained detectable levels of the insectidical Cry1Ab proteins.
“The tight linkage between corn fields and streams warrants further research into how corn byproducts, including Cry1Ab insecticidal proteins, potentially impact non-target ecosystems, such as streams and wetlands,” Dr Rosi-Marshall said.
All of the stream sites with detectable insecticidal proteins were located within 500 metres of a corn field. The ramifications are vast just in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, where about 90 per cent of the streams and rivers – some 159,000 miles of waterways – are also located within 500 metres of corn fields.
After corn crops are harvested, a common agricultural practice is to leave discarded plant material on the fields. This “no-till” form of agriculture minimises soil erosion, but it then also sets the stage for corn byproducts to enter nearby stream channels.
August 20, 2009
A new federal study suggests that fish cannot escape mercury pollution.
The study, conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, tested fish from nearly 300 streams across the country for traces of mercury, and found that every sampled fish contained the substance.
Although all the fish had traces of mercury, only a quarter had levels considered unsafe for human consumption.
Over a thousand fish were tested from 1998 to 2005 for the study.
“This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation’s waterways, and protect the public from potential health dangers,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.
Mercury can cause learning disabilities in young children, and can also damage the nervous system if consumed.
According to researchers, the majority of mercury found in the streams was from coal-fired plant emissions. The mercury released from smokestacks finds its way into streams due to rainfall. Once in the waterways, the mercury is converted into methylmercury, which allows it to work its way through the food chain.
The highest levels of mercury were found in fish that lived in blackwater streams along the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana. Bacteria in these regions help the conversion process.
The concentration was also high in largemouth bass from the North Fork of the Edisto River near Fairview Crossroads, S.C.
“Unfortunately, it’s the case that almost any fish you test will have mercury now,” said Andrew Rypel, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Mississippi.
According to Rypel, research has shown mercury in fish from Alaska, Canada, and even fish that live deep in the ocean.
The most contaminated sample came from smallmouth bass collected from the Carson River at Dayton, Nev., an area that contains a number of gold mines.
“Some ecosystems are more sensitive than others,” Barbara Scudder, the lead USGS scientist on the study, told the AP.
All states but Alaska and Wyoming have issued fish-consumption warnings due to mercury contamination.
“This is showing that the problem is much more widespread,” said Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group
“If you are living in an area that doesn’t have a mercury advisory, you should use caution,” she said.
The Obama administration said it would begin crafting regulations for mercury emissions earlier this year. A previous plan drafted by the Bush administration was thrown out by a federal appeals court.
The Bush plan would have allowed companies to buy and sell pollutions credits, similar to a greenhouse gas emissions bill that was passed in the US House of Representatives in June.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has also proposed new regulations to lower mercury emissions from cement plants.