Dust Study: Is There More to the Story on GMOs?

By Howard Vlieger, FARFA Board of Directors

In addition to the considerable questions about the safety of GMOs and their effects on mammals, what about other potential side effects to crop producers of GMO crops and their use?

Dust is a common factor that all of us in crop production must deal with. Whether it comes from a country road or a combine harvesting a crop, dust is present in many places in rural America.

A crop farmer in northwest Iowa had some keen observations in regards to dust and decided to do some testing. This gentleman, who we will call John, noticed a significant amount of dust in the hog building where he custom feeds hogs. John gathered a sample of the dust from inside the hog building and placed it in a zip lock bag and identified it as hog dust.

John noticed an unusually large amount of dust around the combine when harvest was in progress in his brother’s Liberty Link corn field. Liberty is an herbicide with the active ingredient of glufosinate which is a nonselective herbicide similar to Roundup, Roundup contains glyphosate as the active ingredient. John collected a sample of the dust from the combine in the Liberty Link corn field and placed it in a zip lock bag and labeled it.

John also noticed a large amount of dust around the combine during harvest in his father’s Roundup Ready corn field so he collected a dust sample from the combine and placed it in a zip lock bag and labeled it. John then sent all of these dust samples to Midwest Labs and had a mold count and identification test conducted on the samples.

The results are as follows:

  • Hog dust Liberty Link Corn Dust Roundup Ready corn dust
  • Total mold count 14,000 cfu/g 7,200,000 cfu/g 15,600,000 cfu/g
  • Aspergillus sp. (other) 10,000 cfu/g 7,000,000 cfu/g 15,600,000 cfu/g
  • Penicillium sp 3,000 cfu/g 200,000 cfu/g —

When John received the results from Midwest Labs there was a note for him to call the lab. When John called the lab, they were interested in where these samples had been taken from. The concern was due to the health hazards that these molds could pose to people working in the environment where this dust was located. The lab strongly advised that anyone working in the area of this dust should a wear protective breathing apparatus.

After receiving this information from John, I called Dr. Elaine Ingham to discuss this discovery and then sent her the test results. After reviewing the test results, Dr. Ingham told me that if the Aspergillus spores get inside a person’s lungs, there is no antibiotic that is effective to stop the mold from spreading through the lungs. Few cases of Aspergillus lung infections resulting in death have been recorded, but possibly only because pneumonia, asthma or viral infections are assumed to be the cause of death when respiratory failure occurs. A fungus growing in the lungs has not been considered as a cause of death by most physicians. Nor does death always occur, as the Aspergillus niger mold growing in the lungs might just cause a persistent cough and respiratory discomfort.

Dr. Ingham also told me that one of the side effects she has observed time and again is a decrease in the beneficial fungi in soil, including loss of mycorrhizal fungi and mycorrhizal fungal colonization of root system following glyphosate herbicide (the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide) application. When the beneficial fungi are reduced, then an increase in disease-causing fungi, such as Fusarium and other opportunistic fungi (Pythium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, Sclerotium, Sclerotinia) in the soil and fields where Roundup Ready (RR) crops are raised and crops are sprayed with glyphosate were observed. This has been validated by a few scientific studies related to increases in Fusarium following glyphosate use.

Following this discovery, I have spent many hours online researching the use of glyphosate and the affects of Fusarium and other opportunistic fungi. I would suggest that anyone wanting to educate themselves on this subject should do a Google search of this phrase “Does glyphosate cause fusarium?” You will have many articles to read from many different areas in the world. I have listed some of the various websites for your convenience. You will need to scroll down to view the Fusarium related article on some of these links.

Since learning of this problem associated with GMO crops I have heard numerous stories from different people in production agriculture about respiratory problems that seem to be connected with grain dust. I will share just a couple with you:

  • One gentleman has a job unloading grain (soybeans and corn) at a local elevator at harvest time. Within days of beginning to unload grain in the fall he comes down with a bad head cold that lasts for more than a month. Before the widespread use of Roundup Ready corn and soybeans he did not have this problem.
  • Another farmer told me that his brother came down with pneumonia after cleaning out his grain bin which contained Roundup Ready corn.

Another side effect of the GMO Roundup Ready crops is that certain chemical companies have taken away our rights as biological or organic crop farmers. The wind spreads the toxic dust from the neighboring fields onto the fields of those who care to make the extra effort to raise a healthier, more nutritious crop. Even though we grow only biologically produced non-GMO crops on our farm we have gotten in the habit of always wearing a dust mask when we are handling grain.

Now this certainly could be just a coincidence, but does it make you wonder; is there more to the story?