Renewable Farming

Is there a link between lung diseases and molds in harvest dust?

Darker shades of color in corn and soybean fields offer evidence that persistent rains which delayed harvest have also multiplied an array of molds. And for the first time, a farmer has sent us visual evidence from running combines that GMO soybeans shed more dust — and molds — than non-GMO beans. 

October 23, 2018 — Howard Vlieger of Maurice, IA e-mailed his contacts a PDF containing several photos including the two below.

The first photo is a combine harvesting non-GMO soybeans. As you’d expect, there’s a cloud of amber dust from the combine’s air blast and shredder.

Non-GMO soybeans — fairly light-colored dust and a modest amount of it.

The second photo is a combine harvesting GMO soybeans. The dust cloud is larger, and visually darker. These two photos were shot at about the same time in the same season in the same vicinity of northwest Iowa.

GMO soybeans — darker shade of dust, and a lot of it

Howard included these photos in a brief PDF report which contains a U.S. map of increased lung disease incidence, by state.  It closely correlates to the concentration of GMO crops. Correlation is not proof of causation. But it certainly is a clue worth examining. And so far, the U.S. agency responsible for tracking down diseases, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has not offered any in-depth analysis of links between GMO crops and disease epidemiology. (You can download Howard’s PDF from this link.)

Here’s a link to a report on harvest dust which we published in fall 2015. It includes a further link to a previous report by Howard Vlieger on the specific types of molds involved with Roundup Ready and Liberty Link corn. 

Farmer comments: An Indiana farmer asked for data showing laboratory evidence of the difference in mold amount and species on GMO and non-GMO corn. We asked a couple of sources if this has been done. So far, no data. That would be very interesting.

Our only lab testing done for toxins on corn was to send samples of corn to Energy Laboratories for formaldehyde content in 2014. The corn came from our local co-op: We asked for a few pounds of corn dipped from their tub where they dumped weigh-in samples from incoming loads, and divided that into four samples. The lab reported formaldehyde in all four samples of GMO corn submitted. Concentrations of formaldehyde ranged from 0.017 to 0.091ug/ml (micrograms per milliliter).

In our locality, most of the corn delivered to this co-op elevator comes from GMO fields. One of our non-GMO advocate farmer friends quips that “farmers should get a discount at the undertaker. They’re partially embalmed already.”

Energy Laboratories found zero formaldehyde in one sample of our own non-GMO corn.