The Chilling Thing an Industry Insider Said about Glyphosate, GMOs, and Why He Sold His Conventional Seeds Company

Dan Romig, who along with his father co-founded Trigen Seed LLC in 1993 and sold it to Limagrain Cereal Seeds in 2010, is an insider in the seeds industry. His father was head of R&D at Northrup King, a subsidiary of Syngenta, which Monsanto is currently trying to acquire.

The combined Monsanto-Syngenta behemoth would control a third of the globe’s seed and pesticides markets.

Among the controversies surrounding Roundup, Monsanto’s flagship product, and largest selling weed killer in the world, there is this one: the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a component of the UN’s World Health Organization, declared that glyphosate, one of the active ingredients in Roundup, is “probably carcinogenic.”

Don Quijones, in his article on WOLF STREET, Monsanto Bites Back, vivisected the implications of the Monsanto-Syngenta deal and issues surrounding glyphosate.

Dan Romig then commented on the article from his insider point of view, and in doing so also told the story of his company and why they ended up selling it. It’s a chilling, insightful, and important read:

By Dan Romig:

Glyphosate is now being used by grain producers to desiccate their fields before harvest. Four days before running the combine, growers spray their fields to kill weeds and their plants in order to have an easier harvest. But in so doing, glyphosate then enters the final product (wheat, barley, oats, and others). Almost every human being has it in their bloodstream.

Dr. Stephanie Seneff [Senior Research Scientist at MIT] has led the way in research on what this does to a person. As glyphosate gets into the digestive tract, it kills much of the beneficial bacteria and produces intestinal permeability, or ‘leaky gut syndrome.’ It also chelates minerals such as aluminum, and then ‘cages’ the aluminum which goes into the bloodstream, and finally ends up in the pineal gland. Look at the correlation between when RoundUp was invented in 1970, put into mass use around 1979 and then unleashed into GMO crops in the late 1990’s, and the rise in Alzheimer’s and autism among other neurological disorders.

Ironically, before my father and I started a conventional wheat seed genetics company in 1993, Trigen Seed LLC, he was head of R & D at Northrup King (a Syngenta subsidiary) and started the Bt corn program which entered the market in 1996 along with Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready corn and beans.

In the 18 years we worked breeding new hard red spring wheat varieties in the traditional manner of making crosses between two different parents, we watched technology jump ahead. Now, even non-GMO food sources are bred using double haploid breeding and single seed descent technology. What that does is provide the breeder with a much more homozygous genetic structure of the first generation of seeds that are produced from crossing two different parents. This is now used in private industry (Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer Crop Science and Limagrain to name a few), and by Universities that have Agriculture programs.

We sold Trigen to Limagrain in 2010 because this technology was needed to compete and unavailable to our small family business.

What we eat affects our health. It is practically impossible to avoid Big Ag & Big Food GMOs, antibiotics and hormones. The USDA just approved Dow’s “Enlist Duo” which combines glyphosate and 2,4-D for a new class of toxic GMOs that will soon be in your bloodstream. By Dan Romig.

And here is the original article by Don Quijones, Monsanto Bites Back.

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  27 comments for “The Chilling Thing an Industry Insider Said about Glyphosate, GMOs, and Why He Sold His Conventional Seeds Company

  1. Jerry Bear says:

    Wolf, I spent two years in the university as a chemistry major and i still know a lot about biochemistry, kind of a pet subject with me. The article quoted is gross pseudoscientific alarmism as you can tell by such buzzwords as references to “aluminum” (the 3rd most common element and rather hard to avoid), “leaky gut syndrome”, and “pineal gland” (the evolutionary remnant of what was once a 3rd eye and still mysterious thus a favorite target of mystics). There are plenty of concerns about glyphosphate without drowning it in kook nonsense. Glyphosphate is a chemical combination of phosphate and the common amino acid glycine. It acts as a weed killer in plants by interfering with the synthesis of certain essential amino acids. Although it is not acutely toxic in humans, it may interfere with our ability to utilize amino acids too. But it will take genuine, legitimate science to untangle all the likely chronic effects of glyphosphate, not hysteria and scientific superstition. I am suspicious of glyphosphate too but it is an improvement on the horrible and extremely damgerous weedkillers they used to use like 2,4D.

    • Dan Romig says:

      Jerry, I am not an expert on chemistry. Physics was my Bachelor’s Degree. Legitimate science is indeed untangling the chronic effects of glyphosate, and I have kept up with the science that has been done and published on the subject.

      One of the essential minerals that is needed for root growth and health after germination is manganese, and when planting wheat after a rotation or two of RoundUp Ready corn or beans, the soil is depleted of manganese. We preferred to plant our trials on ground that had been used for sunflowers because of this.

      The improvement over 2,4-D has worn out for glyphosate as RoundUp tolerant weeds are now prevalent, and sure enough, Dow is bringing 2,4-D back – with the USDA’s approval. Can you say, “Agent Orange?”

      The pineal gland is still not fully understood, but it does many things, and one of its functions is related to the circadian rhythm. Have you seen the new drug by Vanda Pharmaceuticals called ‘Hetlioz’? The ads on TV target veterans who’ve been blinded by war (Iraq & Afghanistan), and have trouble with their sleep cycle rhythms as a result. Please look at the number of Alzheimer’s and autism that was found on planet earth before 1970, and compare that to what we have today. The increase is exponential. Brilliant minds are trying to prove cause and effect. I believe that RoundUp is a main contributing factor.

      • Donald Bruce says:

        I think Roundup is dangerous just from personal experience. I owned a medium sized farm before retiring and in the late 70’s and we had a lot of trouble with Canada Thistle, a tough weed to control. We sprayed every year and 3 of my hired hands did it together for years. Monsanto said it was safe so they weren’t very careful handling it, spilling it in themselves quite often loading it in the tank of the field sprayer. Fast forward 35 years they are all dead from pancreatic cancer in a 8 year span after 2001. Co-incidence Monsanto?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Jerry, see my comment below and check out the linked articles.

    • Merf56 says:

      You are right on target. My spouse IS a biochemist. He read your comment and said you are correct.
      BTW – The mention of an aluminum connection to Alzheimer’s disease has so long been completely disproven as to be laughable!

    • d says:

      Glyphosphates uses which became the core of “Roundup” was original discovered/pioneered in New Zealand along with a lot of the very early monsanto research. late 1960s on.

      An acquaintance of mine worked in the early parts of the project pre and post grad. It damaged him severely and took decades to identify as the root cause of his issues. His only child also has issues, as does his grandchild (Shades of the relative to Glyphosphate, Agent Orange, which is why there is only 1 of each). Now he only eats fully organic..

      Glyphosphate can cause a condition similar to PTSD in adults and Glyphosphate is practically impossible to remove from the human body much like lead and other heavy metals as it resides in the same places, having very similar long-term multi-generational negative effects.

      Yes those who quote looney Science really only help Monsanto as 1 “looney Science” comment can be used by “Big GMO” to bury 1,000,000 truthful, factual “Anti GMO ” articles.

      Just like “Big Tobacco”, Monsanto and all the other GMO entity’s, will keep on raking in the big cash, until they are stopped.

      Like “Big Tobbaco” “Big GMO” will eventually have a similar fate.

      The question is how many millions will “Big GMO” Slaughter and how much irreparable damage will they do to this planet, and possibly a large % of Humanity, in the interest of profit, before they meet that same fate.

      Just like “Big Tobacco” always knew.

      Monsanto “KNOWS”, and always has.

  2. illumined says:

    “Look at the correlation between when RoundUp was invented in 1970, put into mass use around 1979 and then unleashed into GMO crops in the late 1990’s, and the rise in Alzheimer’s and autism among other neurological disorders.”

    Seriously? Most older people in the 70’s weren’t living long enough to get alzheimers. Autism rates skyrocketing? Well that’s exactly the same logic as the anti-vaccine people use, and it’s flat wrong wrong wrong. So why exactly have Autism rates skyrocketed? Because in the early to mid 90’s there was a definition change that broadened what traits defined it. Simple as that, New Age pseudoscience need not apply.

    • Rife says:

      When I snap my fingers you will start doing a chicken dance. Parrot!

    • sharonsj says:

      Illumined–oh do learn to use the computer for more than flapping your gums.

      According to the CDC, in the year 2000 one out of every 150 was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In 2010, it’s one out of every 68. (They also say about 1 in 6 children in the United States has a developmental disability.) And currently it’s one out of every 50 kids. A huge jump in numbers can’t solely be attributed to doctors suddenly paying attention to their patients. And I read that the definition was changed 20 years ago!

  3. tom-scott gordon says:

    Neither of the above pundits have fallen far from their family trees. I’m dating the extreme shift in chronic illness and endocrine disturbances to toxic overload, leaving none of you directly off the hook for your inane position on all counts. Humans can’t live on Windex, or Clorox alone. Every last drop of chems that we absorb combine to create an ultimately deadly toxic effect. And the only way to justify your insanely stupid position in defense of GMO’s is to admit you openly endorse mass genocide.

    What you need to do is go to Australia and spend a week with me mates doing permaculture. Eat real food, not this crap they serve at Bouchon, the Four Seasons, or Daniel.

  4. Wolf Richter says:

    I’m not a scientist, and I’m not wading into this debate personally, but…

    The MIT scientist cited and linked above, Stephanie Seneff, and her co-author are laying out their findings in this article:

    “Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases.”

    It’s a 48-page PDF with enormous amounts of findings. This is not “pseudo-science” but real science in all its messy complex aspects.

    A reader emailed me a summary of 72 key points of this article, in a language most of us mere mortals can understand. These are the first 4 summary points:

    1) “Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, is the most popular herbicide used worldwide,” it is extensively used in agriculture and lawn maintenance.

    2) Glyphosate residues are found in the main foods of the Western diet, especially sugar, corn, soy and wheat.

    3) “Glyphosate is toxic because it inhibits the cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes.” CYP enzymes play crucial roles in the detoxification of xenobiotics. [Xenobiotics are chemicals found in an organism that are not suppose to be there]

    4) “Glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.”

    So that you can read the remaining 68 summary points plus Dr Dan Murphy’s comments on the article, I converted the text of the email into an easy-to-read PDF and uploaded it. I encourage you to read it (though you might lose your appetite):

    • illumined says:

      The Samsel study you’re referring to was debunked last year.

      From the article:

      “The evidence for these mechanisms, and their impact on human health, is all but nonexistent. The authors base their claim about CYP enzymes on two studies, one of liver cells and one of placental cells, which report endocrine disruptions when those cells are exposed to glyphosate. Neither study is CYP-specific (The effect of pesticides on CYP enzymes, by contrast, has been studied specifically.) As for the gut bacteria, there appears to be no research at all on glyphosate’s effect on them.

      Samsel and Seneff didn’t conduct any studies. They don’t seem interested in the levels at which humans are actually exposed to glyphosate. They simply speculated that, if anyone, anywhere, found that glyphosate could do anything in any organism, that thing must also be happening in humans everywhere. I’d like to meet the “peers” who “reviewed” this.

      After reading the paper, I had to wonder — who are Samsel and Seneff? Seneff is a Senior Research Scientist in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. Her advanced degrees are in electrical engineering. She describes herself as having “recently become interested in the effect of drugs and diet on health and nutrition.” Samsel describes himself as an “Independent Scientist and Consultant,” and, for the last 37 years, has run Anthony Samsel Environmental and Public Health Services, which does “Charitable community investigations of industrial polluters.” I think it’s fair to say they probably went into this with a point of view.”

      And this is why one study does not prove or disprove anything. With this kind of shoddy methodology you can get a study to say just about anything, which many anti-GMO and anti-glyphsphate studies do. This is what a psuedoscience looks like: Come out with a predetermined conclusion and twist the evidence to support it by any means necessary.

  5. Mark says:

    ALL I WANT TO KNOW is WHO funds her Research……

  6. Pete Franklin says:

    The same author claims, in other “studies”, that glyphosate is the leading cause (emphasis on leading) for celiac disease, gluten intolerance, obesity, autism, and more or less every other inflammatory-driven illness (Alzheimers, Parkinson’s), cancers and more. Seneff even goes as far, recently (how tumor cells work overtime), to suggest that with the proper diet of food high in sulphur, cancers can cure themselves and that “mammograms are never a good idea”. By the way, the issue of mammograms is related to finding DCIS – small breast cell abnormalities which can turn malignant, but can also not, which she conveniently leaves out.

    The authors’ problem with their studies is that they mix good science with pure humbug. E.g., they raise the issue of statins and describe how glyphosate chemically interacts with various physiological mechanisms. But then they take a huge leap of faith and make a direct connection to how weed killers cause most human ailments without any proof of data and without control groups. This is where their “science” falls apart. Just because a chemical reaction occurs at a cellular level doesn’t mean it is causation to just about every illness out there. They miss concentration levels ingested, mechanisms from animals (most crops sprayed are animal feed) to humans, plants to humans, control groups (there are quite a few populations who are not exposed, but also get the same illnesses), and of course interactions with a host of other potential impacting factors (sugar consumption, environmental, genetic predisposition, and so on, the list is endless). In other words, there is no science, no data, no study, no control, no nothing.

    That is why all this isn’t science, it’s speculation. And if you put this into context of their other “published” work (there are peer reviews for anyone’s fancy out there), there are many reasons why one should be highly skeptical.

    Unfortunately, the authors might be right on some of the points. But they don’t prove it.

    Not that I sit around and drink Roundup cocktails (I have several seed tech investments in my PE group with focus on crop yield in arid environments and soil enrichments), but science should be science (and that goes for Monsanto’s sponsored research too).

  7. Petunia says:

    In 1984 I spent two weeks on a business trip in Uruguay. In that two week period I gained a great deal of weight eating their delicious grass feed beef. The beef melted in my mouth, it was so tender and full of taste. That trip was a wake up call for me about the quality of the food supply in America. On my return it was months before I could eat American beef. I had to forget how good the beef was in Uruguay first.

    • Dead at 18, Buried at 65. says:

      Hello Petunia,
      Here! Here! I totally agree with you. I went to an extreme remote wilderness property in Canada recently and stayed a few days and ate the food there. Food which was all grown naturally and I tell you this. The people to whom I spoke to said that they NEVER GET SICK! -And I do believe them!

      I agree that the aforementioned report on Glysphosate is tragically flawed and scientifically bankrupt! Though, Debtserf brought some sobering balance to the main points of the debate what the scientists above us made, which is how the whole troubling matter of what gets accepted as credible, investigative “Science” is just as bankrupt and immeasurably just as flawed as we all are!

      Here! Here!

    • d says:

      There is a country called New Zealand.

      Never uses feedlots.

      Doesn’t have Hoof and Mouth Disease. Or Mad Cow.

      Only feeds it beef and milk cows grass, and sometimes in the winter adds supplementary other unprocessed organic produce, Turnips, Swedes, Alfalfa, Ect…

      Some of their product is available in America. And is better than what you had in Uruguay.

      If TPP goes through. The US consumer may be able to access a little more of it.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        You can already buy range-fed and/or grass-fed Aussie beef all over the place in the US. It’s good, and often cheaper than US feedlot beef.

        • d says:

          We know, and New Zealand beef is better again.

          Simple fact:

          As Aussie has better access to the US market than NZ at the moment. Aussie exports their (To NZ low grade beef) to the US and imports New Zealand beef for their consumption.

          For tax reasons I spend 180 days in each of those, country’s, every year. I do not seek to promote 1 over the other, simply the better product (Perception?).

          Some US citicens do not like NZ beef as it is nowhere near the US feedlot beef they are used to. Whereas AU beef is similar to the stringy/coarse grained US feedlot beef, although much better as it is still mostly a free range natural feed product.

          New Zealand beef also requires gentler cooking as it is a softer product to start with. It is a very good meat to produce a proper Medium Rare steak with. A large volume of it is in fact heifer meat as heifers dont need to be neutered and are easier to handle on mixed dairy/meat production units.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Looking forward to NZ beef!!!

          When I was in NZ, the big industry was sheep (wool). “There are more sheep in NZ than people, except in the summer, when there are more tourists than sheep,” a Maori driver told us tourists.

          Over the years, I’ve eaten a lot of NZ lamb. Delicious!

  8. Waarnemer says:

    “First, do no harm” used to be the guiding principal. Especially in the corrupted USA (our politicians and bureaucrats are openly bribed), the corporations put our some favorable “research” and their cronies in government say it is ok to unleash their “better living through chemistry” on the public. And when, people start to getting sick or die, the corp’s run to their cronies in the courts and the courts say that the 1% should not be held accountable because they have “plausible” deniability (aka, money for a get-out-of-jail free).
    And meanwhile, some fool whose have given up thinking and accepted the “free market” religion of the 1% and argues how it’s ok the way it is… and when the dark night arrives and his kid is autistic, his wife dies of breast cancer, or other fallout from corporate greed… he sits, unwilling to accept the horror that he/she helped bring it on, so they rage out of guilt for the horror they have perpetrated on those whom they would love.
    Angry and alone, they must be self-righteous!

  9. Jerry Bear says:

    I think the point is well made that the harmful effects we are seeing are the result of the toxic assault of a great many things, especially agrochemicals. I read the memoirs of a country doctor in Montana whose customers were mainly ranchers and their families. They grew much of their own food and slaughtered their own meat and lived in a pretty pristine environment. Those old ranchers often stayed healthy and active into their 90’s and cancer was rare. This doctor was offered a chance to enter into a practice in Southern Illinois out in an area mainly dedicated to soybean production. He explored the area and found it green and pretty but heavily contaminated. Puddles of petrochemicals and agrochemicals were everywhere and stained every ditch and were often sprayed from the air with scant regard to humans on the ground. He found a much higher incidence of bad health and every family had someone with cancer. He decided to go back to Montana and continue being country doctor to his hardy ranchers.

    I think humans can tolerate toxic assaults from quite a few things individually but not from a whole bunch of things at once. as for expecting the chemical industry to be honest about such things, dream on! At least where their profits are concerned. How many decades did it take for the tobacco industry to finally admit that cigarettes could cause cancer?

  10. Jerry Bear says:

    Fun and Games with Statistics

    It is estimated that at least half of all studies in the life sciences (including medicine) are invalid because of bad statistics, I would like to mention some of the ways this happens. There are two basic kinds of errors in statistics. The first, Type 1 is a false positive. This is seeing an effect happening that isnt really happening. The usual methods will only allow this to happen maybe 5% of the time. If you can show that the likelihood of a false positive is only 5% or less, then you say your study is “statistically significant”. Type one errors have a way of happening though, by deliberate fakery. One classic technique is to perform a bunch of studies but hide the many negative results. If you keep it up you will get a false positive sooner or later by sheer chance. This study is the one that gets triumphantly publicized. Statisticians investigating these sorts of claims often have to search through drawers and cabinets and interview assistants to find the negative (and accurate) studies that were hidden. Nowadays, reputable scientific publications insist that any study has to be announced in advance before its results gets published, an effective preventative for this tactic. Another technique is “data fishing” or “data mining”. What you do is compare hundreds of pairs of different things to each other in the certain expectation that you will find false positives by sheer chance alone and you certainly do. That is how they came up with the false correlation between autism and vaccines. if you completely ignore the relationship between cause and effect, you can come up with all sorts of amazing correlations, all of which are in fact due to pure coincidence. To discourage this, reputable publications require you to state in advance what you think your results correlation is going to be and why you think there is some plausible causal link between the two, Then you perform the research to see if it pans out. Finding correlations by digging up old data is sternly rejected.

    The other error is a false negative and is called a Type 2 error. This means you fail to see something that is in fact happening. The likelihood of this error occurring is called the “power” of the study. Generally, it is around 20%. If the number is much more, than your study is a waste of time as you are not likely to find much of anything. Modern scientific publications are starting to require that the power of the study be calculated in and they will reject it if it is too weak. However, it is a famous tactic if you deliberately want to publish a negative result then you underpower your study in order to get a spurious negative result you can triumphantly present to the public. The cigarete companies were masters at these sorts of studies. Unfortunately, only a few percent of studies have their power calculated in advance. This is ridiculous if you want to perform valid research. Power reflects to a considerable degree the amount of time and money you want to spend on a study, this the excessive number of anemic studies in this age of constant cost cutting. It is possible to overdo power because if you do, your satistics start becoming sensitive to extraneous factors, in effect your study becomes too sensative to staistical noise in the data. Another phenomenon reflects the abysmal ignorance of the press on how stattistics works, Suppose a number of studies presents positive results on a phenomenon then suddenly a new study is negative. This is exactly what you would expect by chance, The risk of a false negative in even a good study is one in five whereas the risk of a false positive is only one in twenty. The result is taht the multiple positive sttudies indicate the phenomenon is real but the one negative one is just chance, That is not what the press thinks. They are firmly convinced that the most valid study is the most recent one and trumps all the others before it, Complete nonsense but you will run into this attitude all the time in the news media. Finally, I might mention that it is fatally easy to overrestimate the incidence of false phenomenon and get false positives. This often seems to happen in law enforcement. For example, suppose the actual incidence of drunk drivers on the road at any one time is about 1 in a 1000. Now to combat this, the city invests in new breathalyser machines that ALWAYS catch real drunks (no false negatives) but will give false positive readings in about 5% of sober drivers. This might seem a reasonable tradeoff but think about it. The actual number of the drunks is rare compared to the number of sober drivers. If the cops require mandatory testing of all drivers going through a given checkpoint, then out of every thousand drivers they test, they are going to catch one real drunk but falsely accuse 20 sober drivers. This is rather like the principle of Medieval jurisprudence that says it is far better for a 1000 innocent to suffer unjustly than for one guilty to escape. Say the police test 40,000 drivers on a holiday weekend. They will catch about 40 actual drunk drivers but arrest around 800 innocent citizens. If you have a malevolent prosecutor, he will take great pride in the number of his victims and try to pressure them in all sorts of ways to falsely confess to the crime and plead guilty. This sort of thing leads to some of the more grotesque miscarriages of justice we have seen in recent years. It is also a strong indictment of mass mandatory drug testing. All too often these tests catch far more innocent than guilty.

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