Roundup Is Killing Us
By Paul Tukey
Lips quivered on ashen faces. Hair stood on forearms. Heads shook and, in some cases, tears formed.
The result, he said, is the death of agriculture, our livelihoods and the planet as we know it. A pesticide product which was supposed to just be killing weeds, he stated bluntly, is systematically killing us.
When he was done, I snapped a photo of his final slide with my iPhone that talked about our children’s futures. I knew I would soon be heading home to enjoy a holiday weekend setting out decorations, cutting down a tree and sipping hot chocolate with two precious little girls—yet I also knew my life would never quite be the same.
“Future historians may well look back and write about our time, not about how many pounds of pesticide we did or did not apply, but by how willing we were to sacrifice our children and jeopardize future generations based on false promises and flawed science, just to benefit the bottom line of a commercial enterprise.”
You simply can’t hear what Don Huber had to say and then go blindly about your life. At least I can’t.
So this weekend I shuddered when I looked at the base of the Christmas trees, where Roundup had been sprayed to make things look clean for holiday lumberjacks. I scowled at the shelves of the garden center where the poinsettias stood like bright sentries announcing the season at hand. At the end of the row, canisters of Roundup awaited spring, when they would be as eagerly gobbled up by customers as the Christmas flowers were on this day.
We sang Christmas carols. We baked cookies and set our tree in its stand, yet as I draped lights and hung ornaments, Dr. Huber’s words echoed in my ears. I kept thinking about the fact this would be my first holiday season without my grandmother and my aunt, both of whom were claimed by Alzheimer’s Disease. Dr. Huber told the audience the incidence of Alzheimer’s is expected to skyrocket in the next 20 years, probably because Roundup robs so many essential micronutrients from our food.
As we talked of our holiday plans and the friends and family we’ll visit, our hearts ached for our lovely, amazing friend, Mary, who will spend Christmas week tethered to a chemotherapy drip. She’ll make it through, because she’s a ferocious fighter. But why should she have to fight so hard? Is it because when we inhale Roundup it then targets our livers, our kidneys, our hormones, our bones, our thyroids and our sex organs? And Roundup is literally everywhere in the air and water we breathe.
It’s impossible not to take this personally if you let yourself think about it. Do you know anyone with autism, ADHD, endometriosis, Crohn’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s? If so, then you know someone who has been affected by the atrocities of Roundup. Do you know anyone who’s overweight, even obese? Of course you do, since one in three Americans now fall into that category. Well, it’s not because those people are lazy, or want to eat too much, or because their grandparents were fat and the gene was passed down. It’s because people don’t get enough essential nutrition in their meals each day, so they eat more to compensate.
And why don’t the meals have enough nutrition? It’s because most of our food is grown while being sprayed with Roundup, which reaches into our bodies and soils and steals things like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, copper, and especially iron, manganese and zinc. Whether you understand bodily function, or not, all you need to know is that without these essential elements in their daily essential amounts, your body stops working properly. Disease becomes rampant.
And whether you understand soil science, or not, understand this—Mother Nature is pissed off, and Mother Nature always wins.
Dr. Huber told the audience that his life changed profoundly the day he allowed SafeLawns to leak his letter to the Secretary of Agriculture to the general public last February. In that letter, he warned that a newly studied soil organism was capable of living among plants and animals, and that it was causing spontaneous miscarriage in humans. He warned that the appearance of the organism was heightened when Roundup was sprayed, as if Mother Nature were fighting back.
He was vilified. Mercilessly. Often by academics who had been his colleagues for decades.
But on Dec. 9, the 75-year-old emeritus professor—who was widely regarded in all circles as one of the planet’s most respected scientists until he began pointing out a rather inconvenient truth about Roundup—showed us pictures. They were images of a sinister organism that appears to be wreaking havoc that is perhaps irreversible.
“I have practically begged our government to invest more resources into studying this organism before it’s too late,” he said. “To date, I’m not seeing any action being taken.”
Since the government won’t act against the manufacturer, Monsanto, or the sellers like Scotts Miracle Gro or your local garden center, that means it’s up to you to vote with your wallet by not buying the stuff. It’s up to you to understand that approximately 80 percent of our commercial food supply is grown in a Roundup Ready environment—and that to support organic food and farming is to support a planet without Roundup.
Maybe instead of Christmas cards this holiday season, you can send a strong message to your elected officials that foods genetically modified to resist Roundup ought to be banned as they are in many European communities. They call our sustenance Frankenfood.
The world has a lot of problems these days and it can come off as hyperbolic ranting to suggest that so many problems are the result of a weed killer that comes in a ready-to-use spray bottle at your local hardware store. The thing about Roundup, though, is that unlike many maladies, it’s a problem we can control. We don’t have to use Roundup. We don’t have to eat the food produced with it.
And if we stop doing that, the problem could conceivably go away.
For our children’s sake we need to make this happen now.
In the meantime, don’t just take it from me. Click here for a great interview with Dr. Huber.
It encapsulates many of the similar points he made last Friday before the audience, numbering in the hundreds, who stood for a long, almost sobering standing ovation. It wasn’t the kind of raucous applause we lavish on Broadway actors or athletes on a field, but rather a respectful, somber homage to a man who is daring to try to save us from ourselves.
For more information, click here.
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By Ana Maldonado-Contreras
- Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
- Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
- New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.
You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
How Do Resident Bacteria Keep You Healthy?<p>Our immune defense is part of a complex biological response against harmful pathogens, such as viruses or bacteria. However, because our bodies are inhabited by trillions of mostly beneficial bacteria, virus and fungi, activation of our immune response is tightly regulated to distinguish between harmful and helpful microbes.</p><p>Our bacteria are spectacular companions diligently helping prime our immune system defenses to combat infections. A seminal study found that mice treated with antibiotics that eliminate bacteria in the gut exhibited an impaired immune response. These animals had low counts of virus-fighting white blood cells, weak antibody responses and poor production of a protein that is vital for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1019378108" target="_blank">combating viral infection and modulating the immune response</a>.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0184976" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In another study</a>, mice were fed <em>Lactobacillus</em> bacteria, commonly used as probiotic in fermented food. These microbes reduced the severity of influenza infection. The <em>Lactobacillus</em>-treated mice did not lose weight and had only mild lung damage compared with untreated mice. Similarly, others have found that treatment of mice with <em>Lactobacillus</em> protects against different <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/srep04638" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">subtypes of</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-17487-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">influenza</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">virus</a> and human respiratory syncytial virus – the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39602-7" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">major cause of viral bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children</a>.</p>
Chronic Disease and Microbes<p>Patients with chronic illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease exhibit a hyperactive immune system that fails to recognize a harmless stimulus and is linked to an altered gut microbiome.</p><p>In these chronic diseases, the gut microbiome lacks bacteria that activate <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">immune cells</a> that block the response against harmless bacteria in our guts. Such alteration of the gut microbiome is also observed in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1002601107" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">babies delivered by cesarean section</a>, individuals consuming a poor <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12820" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">diet</a> and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11053" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elderly</a>.</p><p>In the U.S., 117 million individuals – about half the adult population – <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">suffer from Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease or a combination of them</a>. That suggests that half of American adults carry a faulty microbiome army.</p><p>Research in my laboratory focuses on identifying gut bacteria that are critical for creating a balanced immune system, which fights life-threatening bacterial and viral infections, while tolerating the beneficial bacteria in and on us.</p><p>Given that diet affects the diversity of bacteria in the gut, <a href="https://www.umassmed.edu/nutrition/melody-trial-info/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">my lab studies show how diet can be used</a> as a therapy for chronic diseases. Using different foods, people can shift their gut microbiome to one that boosts a healthy immune response.</p><p>A fraction of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, develop severe complications that require hospitalization in intensive care units. What do many of those patients have in common? <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Old age</a> and chronic diet-related diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.</p><p><a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2008.12.019" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Black and Latinx people are disproportionately affected by obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease</a>, all of which are linked to poor nutrition. Thus, it is not a coincidence that <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6933e1.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these groups have suffered more deaths from COVID-19</a> compared with whites. This is the case not only in the U.S. but also <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/blacks-in-britain-are-four-times-as-likely-to-die-of-coronavirus-as-whites-data-show/2020/05/07/2dc76710-9067-11ea-9322-a29e75effc93_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in Britain</a>.</p>
Discovering Microbes That Predict COVID-19 Severity<p>The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired me to shift my research and explore the role of the gut microbiome in the overly aggressive immune response against SARS-CoV-2 infection.</p><p>My colleagues and I have hypothesized that critically ill SARS-CoV-2 patients with conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease exhibit an altered gut microbiome that aggravates <a href="https://theconversation.com/exercise-may-help-reduce-risk-of-deadly-covid-19-complication-ards-136922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acute respiratory distress syndrome</a>.</p><p>Acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening lung injury, in SARS-CoV-2 patients is thought to develop from a <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cytogfr.2020.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fatal overreaction of the immune response</a> called a <a href="https://theconversation.com/blocking-the-deadly-cytokine-storm-is-a-vital-weapon-for-treating-covid-19-137690" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cytokine storm</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">that causes an uncontrolled flood</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of immune cells into the lungs</a>. In these patients, their own uncontrolled inflammatory immune response, rather than the virus itself, causes the <a href="http://doi.org/10.1007/s00134-020-05991-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">severe lung injury and multiorgan failures</a> that lead to death.</p><p>Several studies <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2020.08.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">described in one recent review</a> have identified an altered gut microbiome in patients with COVID-19. However, identification of specific bacteria within the microbiome that could predict COVID-19 severity is lacking.</p><p>To address this question, my colleagues and I recruited COVID-19 hospitalized patients with severe and moderate symptoms. We collected stool and saliva samples to determine whether bacteria within the gut and oral microbiome could predict COVID-19 severity. The identification of microbiome markers that can predict the clinical outcomes of COVID-19 disease is key to help prioritize patients needing urgent treatment.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.05.20249061" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">We demonstrated</a>, in a paper which has not yet been peer reviewed, that the composition of the gut microbiome is the strongest predictor of COVID-19 severity compared to patient's clinical characteristics commonly used to do so. Specifically, we identified that the presence of a bacterium in the stool – called <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em>– was a robust predictor of COVID-19 severity. Not surprisingly, <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> has been associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2011.05.035" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">chronic</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-9440(10)61172-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammation</a>.</p><p><em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> collected from feces can be grown outside of the body in clinical laboratories. Thus, an <em>E. faecalis</em> test might be a cost-effective, rapid and relatively easy way to identify patients who are likely to require more supportive care and therapeutic interventions to improve their chances of survival.</p><p>But it is not yet clear from our research what is the contribution of the altered microbiome in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. A recent study has shown that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.11.416180" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers an imbalance in immune cells</a> called <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/imr.12170" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">T regulatory cells that are critical to immune balance</a>.</p><p>Bacteria from the gut microbiome are responsible for the <a href="https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.30916.001" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">proper activation</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of those T-regulatory</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nri.2016.36" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cells</a>. Thus, researchers like me need to take repeated patient stool, saliva and blood samples over a longer time frame to learn how the altered microbiome observed in COVID-19 patients can modulate COVID-19 disease severity, perhaps by altering the development of the T-regulatory cells.</p><p>As a Latina scientist investigating interactions between diet, microbiome and immunity, I must stress the importance of better policies to improve access to healthy foods, which lead to a healthier microbiome. It is also important to design culturally sensitive dietary interventions for Black and Latinx communities. While a good-quality diet might not prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, it can treat the underlying conditions related to its severity.</p><p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ana-maldonado-contreras-1152969" target="_blank">Ana Maldonado-Contreras</a> is an assistant professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.</em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Ana Maldonado-Contreras receives funding from The Helmsley Charitable Trust and her work has been supported by the American Gastroenterological Association. She received The Charles A. King Trust Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. She is also member of the Diversity Committee of the American Gastroenterological Association.</em></p><p><em style="">Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-healthy-microbiome-builds-a-strong-immune-system-that-could-help-defeat-covid-19-145668" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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