Survey: Organic farming beats conventional agriculture in Africa

By Reuben Kyama | Wednesday, Jul 20th 2016

Organic Farming beats Conventional Agriculture in Africa

CHUKA, KENYA: A long-term study in Kenya has shown that organic farming not only generates comparable yields, but also produces more income and health benefits for farmers than conventional methods.

Findings from the 10-year study conducted in Thika and Chuka sub-counties in the East African nation demystified the widely-held belief that organic agriculture needs more space to achieve comparable yields to conventional agriculture.

The survey, carried out since 2007 by the Swiss-based Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (or FiBL) in collaboration with local partners, involved field trials conducted on two locations in Kenya’s central highlands.

According to Dr. Noah Adamtey, the project’s coordinator, the study showed that yields of maize, an important staple food crop, under organic production are similar to those under conventional production in high input systems representing commercial largescale farming.

“We have seen that comparing the conventional system to that of organic system, yields are similar after the third year,” he said.

“Due to the high yields over time from organic system – although it’s not significantly different from conventional system – these yields was able to offset the costs and therefore gave similar profit margins to both conventional and organic systems,” the Ghanaian-born agronomist added.

With input costs lower for organic agriculture and higher prices on the markets, incomes for organic farmers start to be higher after five years of cropping and reach a 53% higher benefit in the sixth year, researchers said.

Parallel studies carried out in India and Bolivia on the production of cotton and coffee respectively proved similar positive results for the organic methods.

But Dr. Adamtey says a lot needs to be done to promote sustainable farming practices, especially among the small holder farmers in Africa.

“The message I am giving to the small farmers in Africa is that organic farming needs to be improved if they want to make more profit and also leave the land for the future generation,” he said emphasizing that small holder farmers need to do extra efforts in the management practices to ensure that the labor input gives an equivalent output.

David Amudavi, director of the Nairobi-based Biovision Africa Trust (BvAT) said the findings confirmed his organization’s approach of developing locally adapted agricultural practices for sustainable farming.

“The research work is quite indicative that –yes — organic agriculture is not a system that can be ignored,” Dr. Amudavi said pointing out that the findings also support the Pan African initiative on Ecological Organic Agriculture, which at the moment is being implemented in 8 African countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia (Eastern Africa), Benin, Senegal, Mali and Nigeria (West Africa).

“The health of our soils determines largely the future for us. If we can’t nourish our soils our future is likely to be doomed,” Dr. Amudavi says.

Organic farming is a farming method system which primarily aims at cultivating the land and raising crops in such a way, as to keep the soil alive and in good health by use of organic wastes, such as crop, animal and farm wastes) along with beneficial microbes to release nutrients to crops for increased sustainable production in an eco-friendly pollution-free environment.

But despite the huge benefits, the uptake of organic method systems is low among smallholder farmers across Africa.

Dr. Anne Muriuki of Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (or KALRO) says the ultimate goal is to support the development of policies and strategies that foster the adoption of sustainable land use practices.

“The organic sector has been growing though not rapid enough,” she said, adding that’s why it’s not being felt.

“We hope this experiment will continue to its conclusion and the trend we have begun to see will actually be strengthened,” Dr. Muriuki said, decrying the fact that Kenya lacked an organic agriculture policy in place.

“When there’s a government policy where everything can nest on then the government can push things in that area. We need an organic policy in place and we need to do that even more,” she added.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), at least 80 per cent of Africa’s population depends on agriculture as their primary source of livelihood. The sector has also provided employment to some 70 per cent of the people in sub-Saharan Africa.



Organic Agriculture Systems Continue to Outshine Conventional Systems in Multiple Studies

Organic Agriculture Systems Continue to Outshine Conventional Systems in Multiple Studies


by & filed under General, News

Though organic agriculture currently occupies a surprisingly low 1% of global cropland, several agricultural studies have recently favored organic systems over conventional systems in terms of profitability, crop yields, and environmental safety and health concerns.

Rodale Institute has conducted one of the most substantial studies of organic and conventional agriculture. The Farming Systems Trial consists of more than 30 years worth of side-by-side comparison of conventional chemical based systems vs organic manure based and legume based systems. The findings were impressive; organic yields consistently match conventional yields, even outperforming those yields during times of more moderate drought. Organic systems also build soil matter, making it more sustainable versus conventional systems’ tendency to deplete it.

Not only does organic farming use 45% less energy, but it also produces less greenhouse gas emissions.

Rodale also suggested in a conclusion of its 30 year trial that organic agriculture is the solution for feeding the world now and in the future. A report from the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United States (FAO) stated “organic agriculture has the potential to secure a global food supply, just as conventional agriculture is today, but with reduced environmental impact.”

The evidence of the profitability of organic systems in this, and many other studies, cannot be argued. Profitability is determined by many factors; crop yields, labor costs, price premiums, and cost savings.

Not only do cost savings due to reduced usage of nonrenewable resources and chemical pesticides increase profitability of organic crops, but cost-benefit analysis shows that it also helps to offset increased labor costs due to the need for manual labor versus mechanical labor that organic systems present. With this in mind, the need for manual labor presents a huge advantage not only for organic agriculture itself, but economically through job creation as well, providing 30% more jobs in rural areas.

Price premiums also make up for increased labor costs while adding to the profitability of organic agriculture. Studies show that while typical price premiums for organic crop products in the US are 30% or greater, profitability consistently matches or surpasses that of conventional systems even at 5-7% premiums.

Though profitability is high even without price premiums, studies showed that the riskiest time for farm owners is the average 3 year transition period when switching from conventional to organic systems, when initial increase in labor costs and lack of premiums during this time pose a limiting factor, causing some financial instability.

Ecologically, organic systems once again outshine conventional systems. Not only did soil health increase over time in organic systems, but carbon levels also increased, particularly in manure based systems. Carbon is an extremely important component of soil composition, acting as a reservoir for plant nutrients, helping to maintain soil temperature, and benefiting overall soil health. Organic soil also stored water more efficiently and reduced runoff. Conventional systems showed a decrease in soil health and carbon levels, and did not store water efficiently, producing runoff and depleting soil health over time.

tractor cultivating field

Human Health concerns also came into play in Rodale’s trial. Organophosphates used in pesticides were found in urine samples in children, cord blood in infants, and in breast milk. Not only do these chemicals cause developmental delays in children, but some animal studies suggest that they can cause DNA damage, low sperm count, testicular cancer, and even infertility in males and females. Furthermore, the organophosphates that were found in urine samples of children disappeared after a period of time on a strictly organic diet.

Rodale’s FST trial combined with the findings from more than 44 meta analysis studies prove that organic agriculture is overall more profitable, more efficient, and more ecologically favorable than conventional agriculture.

The Soil to Soul Connection (Part 1)

The Soil to Soul Connection (Part 1)

An Agrarian View on Holistic Health 8th April 2014 by Rumiyah Frederick /

I was giving this article much thought, because I wanted to present an idea to you that could be easily understood, allow you to ‘connect the dots’ and be inspired into positive action.  To clear all unrelated thoughts from mind, I went to sit on my veranda and started absorbing and ingesting all that surrounded me, the green grass, flowering plants, trees – all upright and full of life, springing forth from the earth, from the soil.  Then, in what must be the umpteenth affirmation to my-self, a meditation of and in agreement with the land, a knowing arose…“Of course there must be life in the soil!”

“…And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground….”  No, I’m not taking you on a Sunday school dissertation, trying to establish a career as a preacher, nor stir up some religious fervor.  What we will look at are scientifically proven, experience-gained, and concrete, natural life processes.

Soil –More than just Dirt

For soil to give and sustain life (flora and fauna) it must first be alive!   Would you be surprised to know that soil is a living dynamic substance, with many synergistic life processes taking place, comparable to that within the body of man?  Working within the framework of natural cycles, soil is a composite of weathered mineral rock.  However, these minerals are of no use without the many microbial activities taking place.  Your friendly earthworm, ant, bacteria and fungi have one of the most important jobs on this planet.  They breakdown organic matter and aid in the creation of organic chemical compounds which contribute to the texture and structure of soil, thus enabling life processes, one of which is respiration.  Bacteria within soil also play the important role in mineral transmutation (change from one mineral to another).  The totality of all these ongoing processes ensures soil fertility which leads to the bio-availability of vital life-giving nutrients to plants.  In harmony with all these elements of soil, there is the bio-electric life force element which is in constant motion.  Once equilibrium is maintained within these natural life-cycles of the soil, its vital life force potential is maintained.  This is ORGANIC soil at its best.

The Soul – De-mystified 

I know at the first glance of the word ‘soul’, most of us will already have a pre-conceived idea of what it refers to, or it may be that some of us are stil trying to get a grasp on one of those words that still seems so elusive to man.  Is it this or is it really that?!  Then again, some of us may already have this knowledge down-packed

Para-phrasing from a lecture, “Body, Soul& Spirit”, presented by Ben Ammi, the anointed Spiritual Leader of the African Hebrew Israelites at Jerusalem, I will use the following analogy to give some clarity.  Stay with me now.  Utilizing the example of an automobile – The part which we actually see as the motor vehicle is called the ‘body’.  (Are you generating a mental image and seeing the parallel?)

This body is placed over the chassis or the motor engine and all the ‘organs’ that cause movement.  The ‘chassis’ or the ‘organs’ or the ‘soul’ is what causes the automobile to move, is what causes the body of man to move.  If we were connecting the dots, we can now deduce that the soul of man refers to the inner parts of man comprising of cells, tissues and organs which animate the body, and carry out vital biological life processes such as digestion, respiration, absorption, regeneration and elimination.  Now you know what is implied when you’re told, “I love you with all my soul!”

The Connection – Regenerative Sustenance

A more accurate interpretation of the history lesson (as mentioned earlier) “…and man was created from the dust of the earth” taken from the original Hebrew interpretation is “man was created from the minerals in the earth”.  Is it a coincidence that there are approximately 102 minerals found in the soil, the same number found in the human body?

It has been scientifically proven that every cell, tissue and organ in man goes through a process of constant regeneration, whether by days, weeks, months or even years.   The epidermis of the skin is renewed every two weeks, red blood cells last only four months, and the liver ‘the detoxifier’ has a complete renewal rate of one to two years.  Where does this bio-regenerative nutrient material necessary for this regeneration and overall longevity come from? Of course from what we consume by the way of food nutrition.  And where does this vital nutrition come from?  You guessed correctly…PLANTS! – Plants grown in fertile ORGANIC soil.  Plants are capable of supplying our souls and bodies with WHOLE minerals which are endowed with bio-electrical life force energy required for the optimum regeneration of our cells.

The Creator knew that we could not chew on a piece of iron ore to gain the iron needed for red blood cell creation.  In his infinite wisdom He caused tasty vegetables and fruit trees to grow.  These plants, working within the framework of natural laws, are able to assimilate inorganic minerals into a form which is easily digested by man.

Here we find the answers to maintaining perfect health.  If we were made from the minerals of the soil/earth, then it goes to reason that all that was found within the soil/earth to create man would be there for his sustenance.  Thus, the SOIL –PLANT – MAN dynamic unfolds.

Now that you are aware of this vital relationship, it is upon you to take responsibility, not just individual responsibility, but that for the ones you love and depend upon you.  How do you take responsibility?  –  By being more conscious of what you put into your soul and those of others.  Introduce a wider variety of vegetables and fruits from across the colour spectrum into your diet.  As much as possible, ensure that these are organically grown.  Consume less processed and refined foods.  Eat more locally produced foods.  Do not be afraid to question the origin of vegetables and fruits before you purchase them.

The next time you sit at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table with your family, and you survey the spread before you, ask yourself, “Am I eating simply to be filled or am I eating to truly sustain my life?”  The choice is yours.  The choice is always yours!  I trust you to make the right one!
To Your Regeneration!

Amiran Kenya and African Boreholes Initiative partner to change fortunes of West Pokot farmers

Amiran Kenya and African Boreholes Initiative partner to change fortunes of West Pokot farmers

Amiran Kenya and African Boreholes Initiative partner to change fortunes of West Pokot farmers

By By FAITH RONOHUpdated Tuesday, July 9th 2013 at 00:00 GMT +3

For many years, the residents of West Pokot County had been keeping indigenous cattle. But changing weather patterns turned their fortunes upside down. They had to embrace crop farming. The trend is now geared for big change. This is after two biotechnology firms Amiran Kenya and African Boreholes Initiative (ABI) launched a farmer’s kit training centre in the region.

The training centre based at Kesogon area in the outskirts of Kapenguria town will boost food production in the cattle rustling prone region.

The initiative will see residents cut reliance on livestock for income and turn to agri-business farming.

It also seeks to sensitise farmers on innovative ways of farming using organic fertiliser. The move discourages use of synthetic fertiliser and other chemicals. Continue reading




Amiran Kenya Ltd the leading agro inputs supplier in Kenya together with African Boreholes Initiative, have brought a first of its kind innovation to the small scale farmers of Africa ushering them into the world of organic farming.

The Organic AFK was officially launched by Her Excellency Madam Ida Odinga at an event held at Huruma village which hosts the New Dawn Educational Center in which the first ever Organic AFK was installed. The students who attend their classes in metal containers are the first to undertake small scale organic farming in a greenhouse setting. The newly introduced technology aims at causing environmental and food security changes in Kenya and Africa as a whole.

K is for Kenya

K is for Kenya


By Ian Fitzpatrick, 26 September 2014

The latest in our A to Z of food sovereignty: Kenya

Agriculture is a hugely important part of Kenya’s economy. Over 87% of the population works on the land, and farming accounts for around 30% of the country’s GDP. The main crops it produces are maize, tea, sugar cane, coffee and wheat, and its most important export crops are tea, cut flowers, tobacco and coffee. Although most of the farming in Kenya is large-scale, conventional, high-input farming (Kenya uses more than 50% more chemical fertiliser per hectare than the average across sub-Saharan Africa) there is a small percentage of organic farming: around 13,000 farmers are certified organic and they work on 0.02% of Kenya’s agricultural land.
A Keyan farmer. Photo credit: CGIAR

There are also a large number of agroecological projects taking place across Kenya. Several organizations have been involved with encouraging farmers to grow, sell and eat African leafy vegetables. These are green leafy vegetables which are high in vitamins and minerals. One programme which helped over 200 households grow these vegetables was able to increase the number of varieties from 28 to 40 species. In addition 63% of these households increased their incomes by selling their produce. In around 80% of households producing African leafy vegetables, it was the women who were able to control their sale.

About the A-Z of food sovereignty project

We will be going through the A to Z of food sovereignty each day until world food day on 16th October. The words have been chosen to show the positive alternatives to corporate-led agriculture. Africa’s small-scale food producers already know how to produce enough food sustainably to feed themselves but the political and economic rules which govern the food system are set against them. These rules are written by and for multinational companies and political elites, in support of a global food system that benefits them rather than the millions of smallholders and family farmers who produce the food and get little in return.

– See more at:

O is for Organic

O is for Organic

By Ian Fitzpatrick, 2 October 2014

The latest in our A to Z of food sovereignty: Organic

Organic farming uses crop rotations, manure and compost to improve soil fertility and avoids using pesticides and chemical fertilisers to improve crop yields. Organic farming is a way of farming which includes many agroecological techniques such as water-harvesting, agroforestry, green manures, etc. It is also a term used to denote organic certification.
Farmers making their own organic manure  in Lower Nyando, Kenya. Photo credit: K. Trautmann

According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the worldwide umbrella organization, there were around 1.1 million hectares of organic land in Africa – 1% of the total agricultural area. But there are many more hectares of land where farmers basically practice organic agriculture without being certified. Let alone the millions of hectares of forests which communities across Africa use to collect wild foods and medicines (which are also organic!).

Organic certification has its advantages. For example among smallholders in two counties in Kenya, organic vegetable production helped to increase people’s incomes by almost 90%. The down side of certified organic agriculture is that in many parts of Africa it is export driven, with smallholder farmers often producing organic food for the organic market in Europe and USA. The most widely grown organic crops in Uganda are cotton, sesame and coffee. These provide a valuable source of income for farmers, but do little to address the problem of food security and food sovereignty in Uganda. Still, for many African farmers, getting access to a high-value market through organic certification can make a huge difference to their livelihoods.

About the A-Z of food sovereignty project.

We will be going through the A to Z of food sovereignty each day until world food day on 16th October. The words have been chosen to show the positive alternatives to corporate-led agriculture. Africa’s small-scale food producers already know how to produce enough food sustainably to feed themselves but the political and economic rules which govern the food system are set against them. These rules are written by and for multinational companies and political elites, in support of a global food system that benefits them rather than the millions of smallholders and family farmers who produce the food and get little in return.

– See more at:

Monsanto’s Roundup Linked to Cancer – Again

Monsanto’s Roundup Linked to Cancer – Again

Monday, 06 October 2014 09:19 By Jeff Ritterman, M.D., Truthout | News Analysis

Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)A brilliant and celebrated inventor, John Franz, gave us an herbicide, Roundup, which has changed the face of agriculture. This herbicide has become the foundation for an entirely novel approach to farming – biotech agriculture – that has expanded rapidly throughout the globe.

Monsanto makes seeds for soy, corn, canola, cotton, alfalfa and sugar beets that are genetically engineered to be tolerant to Roundup. The seeds are marketed in 120 countries. Throughout the world, Roundup is sprayed heavily as a weed killer without fear of damaging the cash crops, which have been engineered to survive the herbicide’s effects.

“The change in how agriculture is produced has brought, frankly, a change in the profile of diseases. We’ve gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects and illnesses seldom seen before.”

Roundup seemed, at first, to be the perfect herbicide. It blocks the ESPS synthase enzyme, which prevents the synthesis of amino acids that plants need for growth. Since animals don’t have this enzyme, it was initially hypothesized that they would be safe from Roundup’s effects.

Unfortunately, Roundup has now been shown to affect much more than the EPSP synthase enzyme. The herbicide has been proven to cause birth defects in vertebrates, including in humans, and it may also be the cause of a fatal kidney disease epidemic.

An increasing number of studies are now linking the herbicide to cancer.

Roundup Linked to Increased Cancer in “Soy Republic”

Roundup is now heavily sprayed in what is known as the “Soy Republic,” an area of Latin America larger than the state of California. This region has undergone a profound transformation since genetically modified (GM) crops were first introduced in 1996. Some 125 million acres in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay are now devoted to GM soy production.

Doctors serving these areas have documented an alarming increase in cancers. A group of dedicated physicians formed an organization, Doctors of Fumigated Towns. They held a national conference in August of 2010 in Córdoba, the center of Argentina’s soy region. The Department of Medical Sciences of the National University at Córdoba sponsored the conference. An estimated 160 doctors from throughout the country attended.

Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez, a pediatrician specializing in environmental health, explained his concerns:

“The change in how agriculture is produced has brought, frankly, a change in the profile of diseases. We’ve gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects and illnesses seldom seen before. What we have complained about for years was confirmed and especially what doctors say about the sprayed towns and areas affected by industrial agriculture. Cancer cases are multiplying as never before in areas with massive use of pesticides.”

Dr. Avila Vazquez blamed the biotech agricultural corporations for placing their profits over the public’s health:

“The tobacco companies denied the link between smoking and cancer, and took decades to recognize the truth. The biotech and agrochemical corporations are the same as the tobacco industry; they lie and favor business over the health of the population.”

It was the health of the population that concerned Dr. Damian Verzeñassi, professor of social and environmental health from the National University at Rosario. In 2010, he began a house-to-house epidemiological study of 65,000 people in Santa Fe, also in Argentina’s soy region. He found cancer rates two to four times higher than the national average, with increases in breast, prostate and lung cancers.

Dr. Verzeñassi commented on his findings: “Cancer has skyrocketed in the last fifteen years.”

Much the same was found in Chaco, Argentina’s poorest province. In 2012, two villages were compared, the heavily sprayed farming village of Avia Terai and the non-sprayed ranching village of Charadai. In the farming village, 31 percent of residents had a family member with cancer while only 3 percent of residents in the ranching village had one.

Carlos Fria lives in Avia Terai. He has complained about glyphosate spraying in close proximity to his home:

“If the wind changes, the agrochemicals come into the house. My uncle just died of cancer. My wife too, passed away from cancer. Now many, many people are dying of cancer. It didn’t used to be like that. In my opinion, this has to do with the poison they put on the fields.”

Roundup Linked to Lymphoma

Research has also been done in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand investigating possible links between glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, and cancer. A large number of studies have focused on glyphosate’s possible association with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have analyzed studies spanning almost three decades. The IARC is the branch of the World Health Organization that promotes cancer research. Scientists throughout the world with skills in epidemiology, laboratory sciences and biostatistics are brought together to identify the causes of cancer so that preventive measures may be instituted. The agency views cancers as linked, directly or indirectly, to environmental factors.

The research shows that Roundup is linked to a host of cancers in those living in the heavily sprayed regions of Latin America. It has also been linked to B cell lymphoma, and to brain cancer.

In April of 2014, scientists at the IARC published their review of twenty-five years of research on the relationship between pesticide exposure and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They found a positive association between organo-phosphorus herbicides, like glyphosate, and this cancer. The B cell lymphoma sub-type, in particular, was strongly associated with glyphosate exposure.

Roundup Linked to Brain Cancer 

The linkage to lymphoma is the most recent research raising concerns about glyphosate’s connection to cancer. Scientists from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services, specialize in illnesses caused by toxic substances. They published the results of the US Atlantic Coast Childhood Brain Cancer Study in 2009. Children with brain cancer from Florida, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania were compared to age matched controls. The researchers found that if either parent had been exposed to Roundup during the two years before the child’s birth, the chances of the child developing brain cancer doubled.

Roundup and Cancer: Human Observations Summarized

The research shows that Roundup is linked to a host of cancers in those living in the heavily sprayed regions of Latin America. It has also been linked to B cell lymphoma, and to brain cancer.

While the epidemiological studies show close correlation, they cannot prove causality. The gold standard for scientific proof is a randomized controlled trial, which would be unethical in this instance. You cannot ethically expose humans to an herbicide. Scientists therefore use a variety of experimental models to assess cancer risk.

Roundup Causes DNA Damage,  Errors During Cell Division

Cancer risk can be evaluated by experiments that measure Roundup’s ability to induce DNA damage.

One of the initial steps in the development of cancers is often damage to our DNA. Each of our cells gets its operating instructions from its DNA. If the DNA is damaged, the faulty operating instructions can re-program cells to divide rapidly and chaotically. When this happens, cells become transformed into cancers.

A number of experiments have been done using various animal models, all showing the same results: after exposure to Roundup, cells exhibited DNA damage. This was true in fruit fly larvae, in mice, in the blood cells of the European eel and in the lymphocytes of cows.

Another experimental model that has been used to judge glyphosate’s cancer risk focuses on the herbicide’s impact on cell division. Cells are vulnerable to being turned into cancers if an error is made during this delicate process. In the process of cell division, the DNA must be copied precisely. Each daughter cell must receive from its parent cell an identical copy of the DNA. If a mistake is made, the daughter cells will receive faulty DNA copies. Cells with damaged DNA can turn into cancers.

In a 2004 study done at the National Scientific Research Center and the University of Pierre and Marie Curie in France, Roundup caused significant errors in the cell division of sea urchin embryos. The scientists commented that these abnormalities are hallmarks of cancer and delivered a particularly chilling warning: The concentration of Roundup needed to cause these errors was 500 to 4,000 times lower than the dose to which humans may be exposed by aerial spraying or handling of the herbicide.

Roundup Damages Human DNA

The most worrisome of the DNA studies are the ones that show DNA damage in humans.

Dr. Fernando Manas, a biologist at the National University of Rio Cuarto in Argentina, has been investigating the effects of pesticides for years. He believes that glyphosate spraying is causing cancer by inducing DNA damage. His research has documented genetic damage in those exposed. When Dr. Manas studied pesticide sprayers working in the soy industry in Córdoba, he found significantly more DNA damage in their lymphocytes than in those of an unexposed group of controls. Roundup was one of the most commonly used pesticides.

The pesticide sprayers in Córdoba, the Ecuadorians living in Sucumbíos, and the normal volunteers all developed Roundup-induced DNA damage in their lymphocytes.

Genetics researchers from the Pontifical Catholic University in Quito, Ecuador evaluated Ecuadorians living in the Sucumbíos district in northern Ecuador for evidence of DNA damage. This area was heavily sprayed with Roundup by the Colombian government to eradicate illicit crops. Those exposed to the herbicide developed a number of acute symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, heart palpitations, headaches, dizziness, numbness, insomnia, depression, shortness of breath, blurred vision, burning of eyes, blisters and rash. When compared to a control group, they also showed significantly more DNA damage.

Interestingly, scientists have known since 1998 that when normal human lymphocytes were exposed to Roundup in a test tube, the lymphocytes developed DNA damage.

The pesticide sprayers in Córdoba, the Ecuadorians living in Sucumbíos, and the normal volunteers all developed Roundup-induced DNA damage in their lymphocytes. A cancer of the lymphocytes is known as a “lymphoma,” the very same type of cancer that the International Agency for Research on Cancer showed to be strongly associated with glyphosate exposure.

Roundup Boosts Cancer in Tissue Culture Studies

Another method that scientists have used to assess Roundup’s cancer risk is to expose cells grown in “tissue culture” to the herbicide. Sheets of cells are grown on a small dish with nutrients. Glyphosate is added and its effects are observed.

In 2010, researchers in India exposed mouse skin cells grown in tissue culture to Roundup. When the herbicide was added, the cells became cancerous.

Scientists in Thailand studied the impact of Roundup on human estrogen-responsive breast cancer cells in tissue culture. They published their results in 2013. Hormone-responsive breast cancer cells are known to grow when exposed to estrogen. Roundup also stimulated these cells to grow. The herbicide was able to bind to the cancer’s estrogen receptors, thus mimicking the effects of estrogen and accelerating tumor growth.

Roundup Causes Cancer in Test Animals

Roundup’s effects have been assessed in studies with a variety of test animals for more than three decades.

One of the earliest studies was done in 1979-1981, under the auspices of the United Nations Environmental Program, the International Labor Organization and the World Health Organization. Rats exposed to low levels of the herbicide developed testicular cancer. A larger dose did not produce the cancer. Unfortunately, at the time of the experiment, it was not understood that certain substances have more potent effects at lower doses than at higher doses. The evaluators erroneously dismissed the results showing the low-dose effect.

In a study from the Institute of Biology at the University of Caen in France, researchers studied glyphosate’s effects on rats. Originally published in 2012, the resulting report was retracted after the biotech agriculture industry complained. After extensive review failed to show any fraud or problem with the data, the report was re-published in 2014. In this study, Roundup was shown to double the incidence of mammary gland tumors. These cancers developed much faster in rats exposed to Roundup than in controls. There was also an increase in cancers of the pituitary gland.

Rounding Up the Evidence

Epidemiological studies in humans, in the soy regions of Argentina and in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have shown Roundup to be linked to an increase in cancer risk. There is a strong association between Roundup and B cell lymphoma, brain cancer and a variety of other cancers in those living in heavily sprayed areas.

In addition to these epidemiological observations, laboratory studies have shown that Roundup causes DNA damage, disturbs cell division, increases cancer growth in tissue culture and induces cancer when fed to test animals.

Proving Causality

Does the evidence linking Roundup to cancer prove causality? In the 1964 landmark Surgeon General’s Report, which for the very first time linked tobacco to cancer, Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry presented criteria for the establishment of a cause and effect relationship in a scientific study.

To meet Dr. Terry’s criteria, an association must be strong, specific and consistent. Cause must precede effect. And the association must be biologically plausible.

Biotech agriculture’s most powerful backer, it seems, is the government of the United States.

How well does the association between Roundup and cancer fit these criteria?

Roundup exposure is consistently and specifically associated with precancerous abnormalities in a wide variety of experimental settings. Epidemiological observations show a tight linkage between glyphosate and cancer. In the laboratory research, as well as in the epidemiological studies in the field, exposure to the herbicide precedes the development of the abnormalities. There are plausible biological mechanisms that explain how glyphosate can transform cells into cancers.

In citing the Surgeon General’s report, Drs. Wild and Seber, in their highly regarded statistics textbook, Chance Encounters, provide an example of a strong association. If an “illness is four times as likely among people exposed to a possible cause as it is for those who are not exposed,” the association is considered strong.

Most of the glyphosate exposure experiments and epidemiological observations show a doubling of cancer risk. This leaves some room for doubt.

But who, given the science, would want to expose their loved ones to Roundup?

The State of the Science vs. the Science of the State

Roundup has now been conclusively proven to cause birth defects and to be closely linked to cancer. If we do not want this herbicide to accumulate in our water, land, and food, we need to stop using it.

In the final sad irony, when the cancer cells reach their growth peak, they kill their host and die in the process.

The science is clear, but powerful economic interests have, thus far, prevailed. The executives of the biotech agricultural corporations and their backers have ignored or denied the science documenting Roundup’s harm.

Biotech agriculture’s most powerful backer, it seems, is the government of the United States.

This official policy was explained in a 2010 US State Department cable from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

“Our biotech outreach objectives for 2010 are to increase access to, and markets for, biotech as a means to help address the underlying causes of the food crisis, and to promote agricultural technology’s role in mitigating climate change and increasing biofuel production.”

The US government has been willing to exercise its muscle in support of the biotech agricultural corporations.

In El Salvador, for example, the United States recently pressured the government to buy Monsanto’s GM seeds or risk losing $277 million in development aid. El Salvador refused and stood firm, preferring to buy the seeds from its own struggling farmers.

Cancer’s Lessons

There is a disturbing parallel between the exponential growth of biotech agriculture and the spread of a cancer in the human body.

Cancers are cells that reproduce rapidly and haphazardly with no regard for the greater good of the organism. Cancer cells consume valuable energy, starving out normal cells. They grow so wildly and so quickly that they crowd out their neighbors. They send off emissaries to start new cancer colonies. They make harmful substances that damage healthy cells. They spread relentlessly. In the final sad irony, when the cancer cells reach their growth peak, they kill their host and die in the process.

Like a cancer, biotech agriculture has crowded out its neighbors and is spreading relentlessly. Also like a cancer, it makes harmful substances. Roundup is one of them. As more acreage comes under GM cultivation, we can expect Roundup use to continue to increase.

Roundup kills plants, causes birth defects in vertebrates, and is linked to cancer. Can a living planet withstand the continuous assault from this poison any more than the human body can withstand the attack from an aggressive cancer?

Do we need to fight biotech agriculture with the same persistence, commitment and force that we bring to bear in battling cancers?

The author thanks Vivien Feyer for contributions to this article.

KAPENGURIA: Farmers to benefit from organic farming skills

KAPENGURIA: Farmers to benefit from organic farming skills