Health risks [was Re: Biotech rice (roundup)]

Robert J. Bradbury (
Tue, 24 Aug 1999 06:36:16 -0700 (PDT)

On Tue, 24 Aug 1999 wrote:

> I just wish bioengineering would hurry up and make humans immune to the
> effects of roundup and other biocides put on food !

Well, to bring some balance to the discussion, I did a little research.


> Monsanto's new genetically engineered soybean has been modified so
> that it can survive heavy doses of Monsanto's poisonous weed-killing
> herbicide, Roundup (glyphosate).

> Agribusiness already dumps more than 500 million pounds of
> herbicides on U.S. farmland each year, with Roundup leading the toxic
> parade. Herbicides contaminate ground water and the food chain,
> contributing to the cancer epidemic which now strikes one in
> three citizens.

Really... A "cancer epidemic". Golly gee willikers, what would happen if we eliminated the epidemic. Well I guess more people would die from heart disease and stroke. Would we then have a heart disease and stroke "epidemic"? And if we eliminated those, then people would probably mostly die of "old age".

People are still having sex, its been going on for quite some time, they just don't understand its going to cause an old age *epidemic*! Quick stop them now!

From: [**Journal for Pesticide Reform** ?!?]

> Glyphosate's acute oral median lethal dose (the dose that causes death in
> 50 percent of a population of test animals; LD50) in rats is greater than
> 4,320 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of body weight. This places the
> herbicide in Toxicity Category III (Caution).

Ok, lets see in a 60kg human, this works out to 260 grams or .26 kg. A 750ml bottle of wine at 13% Ethanol is 97.5 ml of ethanol which we will say is roughly .1kg. A discussion of alcohol (at says the lethal dose of alcohol can be as low as 400 ml.

So Roundup is about 150% as toxic as alcohol, so we can generally look at it as roughly as dangerous. Given the fact that the amount of Roundup in their beer has to be a minimum of a 1000 times *less than* the amount of alcohol in their beer, I wonder why all those anti-genetic-engineering tree-hugging organo-naturalist types aren't trying to bomb the Budwiser breweries?

I must not be seeing something....

Discussing the use of enzymes in the food processing industry,, said:

> However, enzymes produced by genetically engineered organisms are cause
> for concern. Not enough is known about the long-term effects of these
> enzymes on humans and the ecosystem for them to be used across the board.

Gee, well, I'd say enough is known about the consequences of too much alcohol on "humans" at soccer matches, should we stop them too? Enzymes are proteins, proteins are broken down in the stomach or upper intestinal tract. The only known hazard that has ever been discovered from proteins, that I'm aware of, is the suggested risk that proteins in cow milk may increase the susceptibility of some individuals to childhood diabetes.

The general thrust seems to be -- if it is genetically engineered it is new and therefore it must be bad, lets wait until we know everything. Nobody explains that the only way you "know everything" is to produce the variety of situations in which that knowledge becomes known. Oh no, computers with keyboards and monitors that may emit X-rays, oh gosh, lets not use them until we know for sure who might use them too much and get repetitive strain injury or maybe even cancer.

For those of you who want to study luddite tactics, there is a short "Claims and *Facts*???" file at This gives a good example of what are reasonable "claims" and some questionable facts, to which there are quite good responses.

If there were a way to leverage it into the news, it would be interesting to "Crit" the page. I'd love to see a CNN news article -- "Scientists use technology to overcome luddite arguments".

For an interesting peek at the Ag-bio marketing slant try:

If you want a more balanced perspective (should be *required reading* for the people writing the above pages), try an article from the journal "Science of Food and Agriculture", January 1993:

Of course it would be interesting to know who the professional societies were behind the CAST. But the discussion about [all] pollution being about 2% of cancer risk and 98% of the cancer risk in foods is from "natural pesticides", fits with the general data from peer-reviewed medical literature.

The problem Jay (returning to the original comment) is that everything we eat, drink and most of our activities have some risk associated with them and the only way to eliminate those risks is to stop living. Short of that the best we can do is educate ourselves regarding the relative risks and adopt reasonable precautions and behaviors.