Science in Society Archive

Letter to Ventura County supervisor Steve Bennett on the dangers of glyphosate


Supervisor Steve Bennett, L-1900
800 S. Victoria Ave
Venura, CA 93009


Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
Institute of Science in Society
29 Tytherton Road
London N19 4PZ

5 September 2011

Dear Ventura Supervisor Steve Bennett,

I write in support of a worldwide ban on glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides on behalf of the Institute of Science in Society (I-SIS), a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to reclaiming science for the public good.

As part of the work of I-SIS, and also as a member on the roster of scientific experts of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, I and my colleagues have been monitoring and reviewing extensive scientific literature and empirical evidence on the use of genetically modified (GM) crops and livestock since 1994, and making the information available to policy-makers and the public worldwide via our website:, which is archived by the British Library as part of the UK’s national documentary heritage, as well as our quarterly publication provided free to key policy-makers, Science in Society (SiS), which is also publicly distributed in the UK, US and Canada, and open to subscription both online and in paper copies.

I highlight the health and environmental hazards of glyphosate, the world’s top-selling herbicide, largely because it is used with glyphosate tolerant GM crops now planted on 85 percent of the 148 million hectares given over to GM crops globally.  These hazards have been discovered and described in hundreds of research papers published by scientists independent of the industry in the US and in Europe.

Feeding trials have resulted in liver and kidney toxicities (including studies submitted by biotech companies for market approval, when the raw data were re-analysed by independent scientists) (see GM Feed Toxic, New Meta-Analysis Confirms, SiS 52), still births, stunting, infertility (GM Soya Fed Rats: Stunted, Dead, or Sterile, SiS 33) and birth defects ( Argentina's Roundup Human Tragedy, SiS 48), recently confirmed in a thorough laboratory study (Lab Study Establishes Glyphosate Link to Birth Defects, SiS 48), and corroborated by observation of highly toxic effects on placental and embryonic cells (Death by Multiple Poisoning, Glyphosate and Roundup, SiS 42).

It transpired that glyphosate was already found to cause birth defects in the biotech industry’s studies carried out in the 1990s, which were submitted to the EU for market approval (EU Regulators and Monsanto Exposed for Hiding Glyphosate Toxicity, SiS 51).

In the field, extensive studies by US scientists have confirmed that glyphosate and glyphosate-tolerant crops poisons and soil (Scientists Reveal Glyphosate Poisons Crops and Soil, and Glyphosate Tolerant Crops Bring Diseases and Death, SiS 47).  More than 40 crop diseases are now linked to glyphosate use, including Fusarium head blight, root rot, and sudden death syndrome. Glyphosate is a strong, general chelator that immobilizes nutrients in the plant and in the soil, rendering them unavailable. Moreover, glyphosate stimulates the growth of pathological fungi and enhances the virulence of pathogens such as Fusarium while killing beneficial micro-oganisms such as nitrogen fixing bacteria and Pseudomonas, an important multifunctional bacterium in the rhizophere producing numerous secondary metabolites that suppress harmful pathogens. The glyphosate tolerant GM crops actually take up and concentrate the herbicide, and secrete it through the roots, thereby poisoning the next crop to be planted in the soil. This research has been documented in more than a hundred research papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. That’s not all.

Earlier this year, USDA senior scientist Don Huber sent an “emergency” warning to US Secretary of Agriculture warming of a new plant pathogen in Roundup Ready GM soybean and corn that may be responsible for high rates of infertility and spontaneous abortions in livestock reported by farmers (Emergency! Pathogen New to Science Found in Roundup Ready GM Crops? SiS 50). He wrote: “I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.”

The overwhelming evidence on the health and environmental hazards of glyphosate demands an immediate ban on glyphosate herbicides and glyphosate tolerant crops. I sincerely hope that you can take the lead by banning glyphosate herbicides in your county.

Neither GM crops nor herbicides are necessary for productive agriculture. On the contrary, a growing scientific consensus now see the need to replace industrial, fossil-fuel intensive agriculture with organic, agro-ecological farming in order to save the climate and feed the world, based on abundant evidence that the latter is much more productive as well as resistant and resilient to the vagaries of climate change.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
For Institute of Science in Society

Article first published 06/09/11

Got something to say about this page? Comment

Comment on this article

Comments may be published. All comments are moderated. Name and email details are required.

Email address:
Your comments:
Anti spam question:
How many legs on a spider?

There are 6 comments on this article so far. Add your comment above.

Benjamin Edom Comment left 8th September 2011 01:01:42
A brilliant and telling article. I agree with all main points and particularly your key demands for democratic and responsible science. You have made great strides in renewing my faith in scientists. Many thanks.

Simon Hodges Comment left 8th September 2011 05:05:08
The depth of your physics is shown in your clarity on social and economic issues. Organic materialism hits the nail on the head. I have been spellbound by the Rainbow and the Worm (my physics education extends to A-level) and this is more proof of your brilliant, courageous mind. Am spreading far and wide. Simon

Todd Millions Comment left 16th September 2011 18:06:18
Exellent- One caveat-A levee on industry to pay for indipendent research. Sin taxes are a canadian specialty-but Goverments get very addicted to such vice revenue very fast.So they do much to protect the vices.

Matthew Colborn Comment left 23rd September 2011 20:08:02
I agree strongly with most of what you've said, especially about corporate science not being open or democratic. I've read the 'Rainbow and the Worm,' and whilst I think that these holistic views seem a vast improvement on reductionist materialism, I still do not think they go far enough as far as consciousness is concerned. e.g. the gap between phenomenological states and holistic physical states still seems wide to me. Second, if we insist that the 'left' adopt a particular ideology, even a holistic one, aren't we still imposing one monolothic point of view on people? I think that people and groups should be just as free to decide for themselves on scientific issues as on others.If they are not, you're still acting like a power elite. Replacing a dogma of reductionist materialsim with one of holistic materialism just seems like a swapping of dogmas to me, and not a truly open or democratic process. One alternative is a pluralistic approach that welcomes a diversity of views and accepts dissent.

Mike Mortier Comment left 16th October 2011 06:06:18
Thank God for courageous and humane scientists like Mae-Wan Ho. Science must be controlled by democracy just as the business world and even religion must be if we are to make progress to a more just, cooperative and safe planet. I’m 76 years young and I know it can be done, provided we all support people like Ms. Ho. P.S. I loved her book ‚The Rainbow and the Worm‘, even though the thermodynamics gave me a headache!

George Hewitt Comment left 8th November 2014 09:09:12
Excellent article. I am a STEM Ambassador - talk to Year 10 and up pupils - to try and address the shortage of Engineers and other scientific/technicial expertise. I will quote from this article at my next talk, next Tuesday.