In April 2013, Testbiotech took samples of soybeans from fields in Argentina in regions that are known for the cultivation of genetically engineered soybeans.The samples were taken shortly before the harvest was due. Nearly all the soybeans grown in Argentina are genetically engineered, and made resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (brands such as Roundup). These soybeans were originally developed by the US company, Monsanto. Currently there are only very few publications on the actual load of residues in these geneticallyengineered plants after they have been harvested. So the purpose of this pilot project was to gather some more data on residues from spraying with glyphosate.
The samples were analysed in a laboratory at the University of Buenos Aires.The results showed a surprisingly high content of residue of up to almost 100mg /kg. In seven of the eleven samples the level was higher than the international maximum residue level (MRL) of 20 mg/ kg allowed in soybeans products used for food and feed. The results were confirmed in a second analysis. Aware that these results were alarmingly high, Testbiotech decided to publish its findings despite the small number of samples.
Testbiotech believes the high level of residues from spraying found in the soybeans indicates that they were not grown under conditions conforming to environmentally friendly agricultural practice. The dosage of glyphosate used in the fields concerned is likely to be much higher than recommended. Such high dosages could have been due to increasing weed resistance to the herbicide glyphosate which is also reported in Argentina.
Over-usage of glyphosate mixtures can have a negative impact on the environment and rural communities. A high level of residues from spraying can also impact health at the food and feed consumption level.
Similar problems with the application of high dosages of glyphosate are also likely to occur in countries such as Brazil and the US where these genetically engineered soybeans and other glyphosate resistant crop plants are grown on large scale, and an increasing number of herbicide resistant weed species are being reported.
Testbiotech recommends close monitoring of herbicide applications in those regions where the herbicide resistant plants are grown. This monitoring should cover residues in soil and water as well as in blood and urine samples from farmers, rural communities and livestock. Further, any soybean products containing residues from spraying which are used as food and feed should be subjected to many more controls.
The health risks and the environmental impact of glyphosate and its mixtures needs to be reassessed. There should be a substantial reduction in the high maximum residue levels currently allowed in food and feed products.
Agricultural practice should also be changed, switching from growing herbicide resistant plants to agriculture practice that supports crop diversity and biodiversity in the fields as well as in the rural areas.