Friday, February 17, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Emma Herndon, New Hampshire Academy of Science, Lyme, NH
Farmers around the world use glyphosate based herbicides (GBH) in order to improve their crop yields. Since 1974, over 1.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate have been used in the USA. Glyphosate is listed as the “active ingredient” in GBH. There are a number of different chemical variations of glyphosate depending on the manufacturer of the GBH . RoundupTM lists glyphosate isopropylamine salt as its active ingredient. Several “other ingredients” are used in the commercial preparations such as in the product RoundupTM. These other ingredients are surfactants to improve the adherence of the GBH to plant surfaces. Although these other ingredients are a trade secret, the product Roundup is known to contain polyethoxylated tallowamine (POEA) as a surfactant. POEA has been implicated as harmful to human embryonic cells in vitro. Glyphosate is advertised as a product that kills plants and is not toxic to animals including aquatic invertebrates since these organisms do not possess the metabolic pathway that is interrupted by glyphosate. Monsanto, the company that manufactures Roundup, produces seed crops called Roundup Ready that are genetically modified (GM) to resist glyphosate. Farmers apply Roundup prior to planting Roundup Ready seeds. This is presumed to kill only weeds that would compete with the crop. This allows for less tilling before the initial sowing of the crop. Less tilling helps slow soil erosion. This study investigated the ability of a nematode to thrive on Roundup Ready corn stover compost that had been obtained from a farm that treated its corn crop with Roundup. The Caenorhabditis elegans is a microscopic nematode originally discovered in compost. If Roundup does not negatively affect the environment or animals, the C. elegans should be able to grow unharmed in compost derived from GM plants. To test this hypothesis, C. elegans worms were grown in two different types of corn stover compost: one corn stover from a farm growing Roundup Ready GM corn and one from a farm growing organic corn. Approximately 200 nematodes were introduced into each jar. The nematodes were harvested from the composts after 4 and 8 days. Results were contrary to expectation: on both days harvesting from the GM compost, no living nematodes were found; when harvesting from the organic compost, 8.5% of the nematodes survived after 4 days, and 10.5% survived after 8 days. This suggests that corn stover from GM corn crops treated with Roundup is harmful to the health of C. elegans.