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Bt: Toxic Soil & Nature’s Balance

By Dr. Wil Spencer

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a GMO more commonly known as Bt toxin, is spliced into the seeds of crops as a biological pesticide. Our environment is now sustaining genetically modified organisms in the soil, affecting everything we grow. As the seed sprouts, the Bt comes alive and grows with the plant as well as in the surrounding soils. This is a biological, living GMO pesticide that remains in the soil long after the plant is harvested. It also remains in every cell of the plant — all the way from the field to the end product, be it food, clothing, paper or tobacco.

GMOs are interrupting genetic expression of any and all plants grown in soil that has nurtured compromised seeds. This includes organic farming products coming from any farm that has been transitioned from conventional farming. To-date, there are 33 common crops being grown and harvested on over 444 million acres of land worldwide.

Beyond the soil, the effects of Bt toxin are found in the genetic makeup of pollinators, as the toxin has been found in nectar and pollen of the plants. These are taken back to the hive where it accumulates and contaminates the hive, ultimately contributing to colony collapse disorder.

We find these toxins in animals and in people (it has been found in breast milk and body tissue). It is now being reproduced in the gut. Bts are airborne, traveling in pollen and dust, spreading worldwide. DNA transfers naturally through mechanisms that allow gene flow across species. In this way Bts in the soil as well as in the air serve to compromise all efforts to produce organic and non-GMO plants, challenging their genetic integrity above and below the soil.

According to Wikipedia, there are several dozen recognized subspecies of Bacillus thuringiensis. Subspecies commonly used as insecticides include Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies kurstaki (Btk), subspecies israelensis (Bti) and subspecies aizawa (Bta). New strains of Bt are developed and introduced over time as insects develop resistance to Bt, or the desire occurs to force mutations to modify organism characteristics or to use homologous recombinant genetic engineering to improve crystal size and increase pesticidal activity or broaden the host range of Bt and obtain more effective formulations. Each new strain is given a unique number and registered with the U.S. EPA, and allowances may be given for genetic modification depending on its parental strains, the proposed pesticide use pattern and the manner and extent to which the organism has been genetically modified.

Bt toxin is the protein synthesized by the bacteria in the plant which, when ingested, binds to the gut wall of the host. Here it reproduces and breaks down the gut wall allowing gut bacteria into the body cavity and the bloodstream. This is what happens to the pests it is intended to defeat, as well as any subsequent consumer of the toxin.

intersecting roads and fields
Aerial of intersecting roads in rural Indiana

Pesticides all have a half-life. If the half-life of one active ingredient in a pesticide, which is a small portion of the total mixture, is 48 years without effective bioremediation, it will be actively contaminating plants for decades to come. For this reason we find things like glyphosate in organic farm products.

Hazards of Inert Ingredients

The inert ingredients in pesticides are not listed on product labels. These are fillers considered to have no real impact on the plant or the environment. Yet there is growing concern about the wisdom and safety of these unidentified chemicals. The EPA produces a list of ingredients acceptable for use as inert ingredients in pesticide formulas. Ten years ago this list contained 3,200 items and the list grows over time. It contains items of a caustic and/or carcinogenic nature as well as biological substances.

According to a study titled, “Unidentified Inert Ingredients in Pesticides: Implications for Human and Environmental Health: “In ordinary usage, the word ‘inert’ refers to something that is physically, chemically, or biologically inactive. The U.S. EPA recognizes that the statutory nomenclature for pesticides under FIFRA engenders public misunderstanding, stating that many consumers have a misleading impression of the term ‘inert ingredient,’ believing it to mean water or other harmless ingredients. (U.S. EPA 1997). In fact, an inert ingredient may have biological activity of its own, it may be toxic to humans, and it may be chemically active (U.S. EPA 2002). The arbitrary distinction between active and inert ingredients is well illustrated by the more than 500 inert ingredients that, according to the U.S. EPA (2006a), have been or are currently used as active ingredients.”

Discovery of the hazards of inert ingredients is stymied by the lack of public access to specific product ingredient information. Some of these ingredients significantly impact the environment and human health. Studies show that inert ingredients can increase the toxicity of the active ingredient, thus invalidating safety information regarding the active ingredient. These chemicals affect human nervous and cardiovascular systems, hormones, reproduction, mitochondria and genetics. Inert ingredients can increase the persistence of the pesticide in the environment, as well as increase the effects of the active ingredient to the point of neutralizing safety efforts provided by using protective gloves and clothing.

POEA (polyethoxylated tallow amine), a major adjuvant surfactant in Roundup, has been shown to be cytotoxic (toxic to cells) at doses far lower than glyphosate itself. Unfortunately, most regulatory bodies regard POEA as inert, requiring no risk assessment, even as research suggests otherwise. A International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health study found POEA was between 1,200 and 2,000 times more toxic than glyphosate alone, which highlights the problems with letting so-called inert ingredients escape regulatory scrutiny. In 2014, the Institute of Science in Society reported: “The major adjuvant POEA in glyphosate Roundup formulations is by far the most cytotoxic for human cells, ahead of glyphosate and its metaolite. It also amplifies the toxic effects of glyphosate.”

Pesticide use bears consequences to naturally occurring soil microbes, causing them to either die or to mutate. This environmental forcing of mutation has produced a MRSA effect in the soil. MRSA is a human infection caused by overuse of antibiotics in hospitals, which produced a forced mutation of overall antibiotic resistance in the infection. We now have superbugs in the soil that are resistant to pesticides in the same way MRSA is resistant to antibiotics.

So, pesticides are very much the same as antibiotics for the soil. In fact, glyphosate can now be found on the antibiotic roster for human application. Overuse of Roundup has produced this dynamic within the fungal population, of which fusarium is the most notable.

The Organic Consumers Association has published a number of articles reporting the outbreak of fusarium blight on crops after Roundup application. In an interview with Purdue University scientist, Don Huber, The Organic & Non-GMO Report, published in May 2010, Huber reports over 40 crop diseases associated with glyphosate use. He states, “Toxins produced can infect the roots and head of the plant and be transferred to the rest of the plant. The toxin levels in straw can be high enough to make cattle and pigs infertile.” Huber goes on to say, “Unfortunately, most researchers are forbidden to do work in the area. They don’t have access to isogenic lines (conventional and Roundup Ready plant lines that are otherwise genetically identical); the materials are denied to researchers.”

With research samples denied to conscientious researchers and growing evidence that current agricultural practices are traveling down a dead end road that will ultimately collapse the food chain while causing permanent alterations in conditions of health on all levels of life from microbial life to human existence, where is the way out of this dilemma?

There is enough genetic modification contamination already in nature that the planet will never return to the natural state it once knew. The unnatural modifications are imbedded into natural genomes sufficiently to ensure their permanence. Mother Nature has been thrown for a loop, and we humans may well need to hold onto our hats as she takes us through a monumental course in her efforts to establish new parameters of natural balance. The forces of nature cannot be stopped while nature’s design continues to strive for balance.

Genetic modification, pesticide residue and the lack of natural microbial life are causing resultant soil deficiencies. Nature is being forced to alter via chemical fertilizers, genetic modification and pesticides. Nature, being designed for balance is then forced into an equal and opposite reaction whereby chemical input forces resistance here and weakens resistance there. GMOs alter proteins that may protect the plant from something while the altered proteins attract other pestilence, like fusarium and lose their nutritional qualities, even becoming a nutritional detriment.

The core issue is the lack of a broad spectrum of natural soil microbes. Without microbes minerals in the soil remain locked and unavailable, forcing plants to uptake heavy metals and industrial waste in an effort to survive. The lack of microbes allows the chemical residue to remain while healthy populations of microbes would consume and neutralize the chemical effects. Additionally, genetic integrity in plants and soil depend upon microbial balance as it is the microbes that provide the correct environment for life within the biome.

Advanced, effective bioremediation is absolutely necessary in order to regenerate the soil. Plant life has been severely stressed so that, at this point, we need to stress in reverse. Diversity needs to be restored and the process of nature allowed to recover.

In Secrets of the Soil, Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird say, “… in soil properly nourished with adequate supplies of humus, crops do not suffer from disease, and do not require poisonous sprays to keep off parasites; that animals fed on these plants develop a high degree of disease resistance, and that man, nurtured with such plants and animals, can reach an extraordinary (and in fact quite natural) standard of health, able to resist disease and infection from whatever cause it may derive.” This is a reference to the work of Sir Albert in the early 1900s.

Senate document 264, titled “Miracle Men” submitted and read on the Senate floor in 1936 makes a point of recognizing mineral deficiency in the food chain by stating a man cannot consume sufficient amount of foods to meet his mineral needs. Mineral-deficient food means mineral-deficient soil. Health depends on broad spectrums of minerals and microbes. It is the broad spectrum of microbes that make minerals available.

It is no coincidence that fields are sterilized before a GMO crop is planted. Broad spectrums of natural microbial populations interfere with artificial genetics. When nature is faced with unnatural conditions it goes to work to restore natural balance. This does not sustain unnatural genetic information or expression.

Current attempts at soil remediation and regeneration via composting and fermenting or using biodynamic principles is somewhat effective, but inefficient and slow. While it does serve to increase fertility and nutritional density, it does little for the half-life residues of chemical formulations like glyphosate. Missing microbes cannot be restored without input. Fermentation is only accomplished with available microbes. Today many of the available microbes involved in fermentation are genetically modified.

Soil regeneration is simple and happens fast with the right ingredients and applications. Inputting broad spectrums of natural soilborne microbes and minerals will regenerate the soil. It is a matter of how much, how often, for how long and where to find from.

Certain strains of microbes eat chemicals, petroleum products and virtually all other impurities. Once eaten these poisons are converted to things like fatty acids, or plant food. Microbes provide the foundation for immunity. This is true for soil and plants, as well as for humans and the animal kingdom. Without broad diversity of microbes there is compromised immunity.

Soil regeneration can be likened to an art form and can be taken to levels of vitality beyond what is commonly considered healthy soil. Inputting sufficient soilborne microbes for remediation of chemical residues, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, unnatural genetics and restoring a natural balance of living organisms is the first step. Sustaining nature’s balance requires attention to building a healthy rhizosphere in which life in the soil is protected and can thrive. This is achieved with soil amendments in form of green manure, compost, peat, etc. Microbes in the soil will convert minerals and amendments to a form that can be taken up by plants. However, many soils are depleted of mineral diversity so it is necessary to saturate with a broad spectrum of hydrophilic plant-based minerals. In other words, plant-derived, prehistoric, composted, or phytogenic minerals.

With this method, and with sufficient saturation of beneficial microbes, remediation happens quickly. Broad diversity provides microbes that manage soil and plant detox, viability and immunity, minerals to build nutritional density and dependably high yields.

Spencer spoke at the Acres U.S.A. 2017 Eco-Ag Conference and Trade Show.