Can feed produced using glyphosates kill cattle?

Over drinks at the Schleitheim swimming pool on Sunday – it was over 30C! – Peter Gasser asked us if we’d heard about the cattle herd that died in northern Germany. “They’re saying it is glyphosate poisoning,” he said. Robert always said Roundup (a Monsanto glyphosate product widely used for weed control) is so harmless you could drink it. Professor Monika Krüger, from the University of Leipzig, believes her research proves otherwise. She thinks that glyphosate poisoning is the reason for the deaths of the cattle – not a large single intake of the product, but a long steady diet of cattle feed grown using glyphosate products. That’s not good news for farmers who have come to depend heavily on glyphosate products in their weed control strategies.

This wheat was sprayed with a glyphosate product shortly before harvesting, to kill weeds and speed up maturity.

Last week a short video clip on German TV ( ) showed Herman Bormann, a farmer from Niedersachsen, Germany in his empty barn, after his herd of several hundred cows and calves all died of what doctors diagnosed as the result of the toxic bacterium Clostridium Botulinum. But why?

Professor Krüger has been doing research on the effects of glyphosate on cattle for some time now. She says her findings show that glyphosate has a negative effect on the good bacteria in the gut, upsetting the delicate and necessary balance of good and harmful bacteria. This makes the body more prone to disease. Bormann had the last of his cattle tested for glyphosate residues. All of them showed a high concentration of glyphosate in the urine. Professor Krüger then tested farmers for glyphosate residue, all of whom also had traces in their urine. She tested her staff, and also herself. Two thirds of the staff, including herself, tested positive for glyphosate. None of them were farmers. (The German Institute for Riskassessment – Bundesinstitute fuer Risikobewertung – states the amounts found in the urine were below those known to be harmful to humans.)

Homeowners often depend on glyphosates to control those pesky weeds growing in their driveways. Counties and towns use it to control weeds in problem areas.

Monsanto, of course, says that Roundup is perfectly safe, referring to their paper on the safety of Roundup for humans and animals . Environmentalists take issue with this paper, such as the author of the following site which compares Monsanto’s finding with those of French scientists:

The video clip won’t have done much to make Europeans more open to the idea of importing Genetically Modified (GMO) crops, which has been a bone of contention between the USA and Canada and Europe for some time. Nor will do much for Europeans’ trust in North American food products.

I find this all particularly interesting at a time when our neighbours in western Canada are busy filling their sprayers for a preharvest application of glyphosates. It’s an ideal time to catch those tricky weeds such as thistle and quackgrass, and to speed up maturity of a late crop. (In Switzerland, preharvest applications are not allowed.)

The agriculture articles I read all stress that Professor Krüger’s findings have not yet been published, making them not credible. We do know that there are more problems with cross pollination and contamination of Roundup Ready canola varieties than we were first told about. Weed varieties resistant to Glyphosate products are also on the increase. Maybe there could be more problems with human and animal health than we first thought too. Maybe we should be getting just a little worried? Or at least more careful as to how we use the product?

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