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GM soy and potatoes: leaving their mark on the soil?

(January 3, 2001 –Cropchoice News)—Researchers at the University of Missouri have concluded that spraying the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) on soybean plants increases fungi in the surrounding soil, which might reduce growth and yield. Meanwhile, researchers in Germany found that GM potatoes may alter soil conditions, as well.

When Roundup Ready soybeans receive the dosages of Roundup that Monsanto – the company genetically engineers the soybeans and produces the herbicide – recommends, the Fusarium fungus develops significantly faster than non-sprayed soybeans, reported Pat Donald, MU plant pathologist, and Robert Kremer, an MU soil scientist and USDA Agricultural Research Service microbiologist.

"There is a natural ebb and flow, but with Roundup Ready beans treated with Roundup, there was always a spike in the levels of the fungi studied," Kremer reported.

The concern for farmers is that elevated levels of Fusarium (some is common in all soybean fields) could lead to sudden death syndrome and other root rot diseases that reduce yields.

The scientists emphasized that their research did not show a reduction in soybean yields from the application of glyphosate as opposed to conventional herbicide treatments.

However, “potential yield impacts in subsequent seasons due to high soil Fusarium populations, resulting from continued use of glyphosate, needs further investigation."

It’s worth noting that more than half of Missouri’s soybeans are Roundup Ready. Meanwhile, traders are worried about a record soy crop in South America. Brazil, which does not grow GM soy, could weigh in with a 35.3 million ton crop, according to Safras e Mercado.

Across the Atlantic, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Soil Microbiology in Marburg, Germany found that planting genetically modified potatoes alters the microbial villages in the soil. Although it’s hard to say whether these changes are detrimental to future plantings on the site of the GM crop, the researchers favor the precautionary principle. This would mean removing the GM potato plants from the field until someone can evaluate the impact of the ecological alteration.

Sources: Doane, Positive News