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Disturbing new research indicates that the microbial biodiversity of the soil and our food is being dramatically impacted by the use of herbicides like glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller. Researchers have proposed that many soil organisms, which are indispensable for the productivity of the soil in agriculture, as well as in raw and fermented dairy production, may be undergoing endangerment, if not also in some cases extinction in certain geographic regions of the world.
Research published in the journal Current Microbiology indicates that Roundup herbicide (®) is having a negative impact on microorganisms of food interest, and specifically those found in raw and fermented foods. They study authors concluded that Roundup herbicide’s inherent toxicity to soil organisms may explain what is behind "...the loss of microbiodiversity and microbial concentration observed in raw milk for many years."
The reseachers discovered that adverse changes in selected food microorganisms, including death and growth inhibition, were observed at lower concentrations of Roundup exposure than those recommended in agriculture. They also confirmed previous findings that adjuvants or so-called "inactive" ingredients in Roundup formulations were, in some cases, more toxic than the active ingredient itself, namely, glyphosate.
These findings may explain why certain species of Lactobacillus bulgaricus, used in milk production, such as the subspecies Lactobacillus cremoris, have been difficult to isolate from the dairy environment in some geographic areas, despite having a tremendously long history there.
It is likely that the use of pesticides, herbicides and biodiversity reduction (plant varieties in pasture) has contributed to the loss and endangerment of a key species used as food-starters. When microbial biodiversity in the soil is reduced or altered, so too will be that of the plants, all the way up the food chain to the grazing animals, and ultimately the human perched precariously atop the food chain, whose body contains 100 trillion bacteria that come directly or indirectly from the soil.
Microbial biodiversity is not just important for the production of certain raw and fermented food products, but is essential for the health of our entire planet as whole. The metabolic activity of microorganisms participate quite literally "at the root" of the nitrogen, phosphate, oxygen and carbon cycles, and are therefore indispensable for the health of the entire biosphere. They are also the most numerous inhabitants in the web of life. There are an estimated 6000000000000000000000000000000 (6 x 10 to the 30th power) bacterial cells on the planet, and soil microrganisms represent about 50% of the the total biodiversity in terms of numbers of species.
Soil organisms include fungi, and the mycellium which is technically the largest organism in the world, and have a special importance to the health of this planet. According to mycologist Paul Stamets, the mycellium may in fact be the "Earth's natural internet," a means through which species unrelated in genetic and geographic time and space may communicate with one another, effectively acting like a neural network within the biosphere. These microorganisms (and especially fungi, to which we are more closely related than bacteria) also contain information buried deep within their DNA on the evolution of the tree of life; if destroyed, undiscovered parts of ourselves will no doubt also perish.
Glyphosate has been shown in a wide range of other ecotoxicological studies to negatively impact the complex interactions of microbial groups, their biochemical activity and root growth, and subsequently having detrimental effects on plant growth and productivity. Glyphosate also alters microbial populations through changing the pH of the soil, and directly inhibits and/or kills certain soil organisms, while also encouraging the growth of other, potentially less beneficial organisms -- again, not unlike the effect antibiotics have on the human gut flora microecology.