Roundup is the most widely used pesticide in the world due to its use on “Roundup Ready” genetically modified crops and its ubiquitous use by parks, municipalities, schools and homeowners as a weed killer.
Worldwide, more than 10 million tons are sprayed annually on food crops and unwanted weeds. I haven’t checked, but I think it’s also one of the most heavily advertised products on TV.
It’s hard to imagine anyone not familiar with the commercial of the poor dandelion that was seeded by nature in a driveway crack and how a blast of Roundup killed it on the spot! Now, that’s a responsible homeowner!
But there is always another side to the story when we are talking pesticides.
Over the past 35 years, multiple studies have shown that glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, is a probable human carcinogen. In 2015, even the World Health Organization’s cancer agency confirmed this designation. The most common cancer associated with Roundup is non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Studies also show that some of the inert chemicals in the product amplify the toxic effect of glyphosate on human cells, even at diluted or trace concentrations. Roundup has been shown to cause neurological damage, diabetes, liver and kidney disease and multiple sclerosis, as well as interfere with reproduction and fetal growth.
So why, you may wonder, is this dangerous product still on the market?
Let’s start with Monsanto’s disinformation campaign to hide its weed killer’s links to cancer.
Monsanto (and now Bayer, which purchased Monsanto last year) systematically discredit the independent scientists and journalists reporting on the science and roll out their PR machine and lobbyists in what is essentially a reputation management campaign. It buys scientists, promotes the work of friendly journalists and convinces our own EPA and FDA to carry its message to consumers that all is well with Roundup.
But all the spin in the world can’t stop the lawsuits. Recently, there have been three high profile cases, all involving people who had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma who had used Roundup in their respective occupations for decades. In each case, the jury ruled against Monsanto/Bayer.
The awards were in the millions – and even billions – of dollars, and there are an estimated 13,000 lawsuits waiting in the wings. Bayer’s top management is being rebuked by shareholders over the Monsanto acquisition and the litigation it inherited. This story will surely unfold over the next year or so – stay tuned.
The more important story is the one about how glyphosate is now being found in concerning levels in many of our foods, especially those made from GM crops. From Goldfish Crackers to Oreos, Cheerios to Stacy’s Pita Chips, grocery store shelves contain foods that have worrisome levels of the chemical. And as we continue to advance in the area of genetic engineering for food with its dependence on the heavy use of pesticides, we are looking at a growing resistance problem similar to antibiotic resistance.
Actually, it’s already happening. “Roundup Ready” genetically engineered glyphosate- tolerant crops are designed to survive being sprayed with Roundup while the non-GM plants and weeds around the crop die.
However, nature has adapted to this chemical assault, and now Roundup is being replaced with a combination product containing glyphosate and 2, 4-D, another, more toxic herbicide, also with links to human cancers and other diseases.
Your best way to control the amount of GM glyphosate contaminated foods you eat is to look for the USDA organic label or Non-GMO Project Verified label, buy from local organic farmers or grow your own!
Next time you look at the weeds growing in your driveway, please try to avoid going down to your local store for a gallon of Roundup.
A colleague and Canadian pesticide expert says it best… “Why would anyone spray chemical poisons in a neighborhood, where the only crop people are trying to grow is children?”
Alternatives that work just as well and cause no damage to the environment or our health include a product called “BurnOut,” made from citric acid and clove oil, or a propane weed burner.
Another novel weed killing device I just came across is a high intensity LED light at the end of a wand.
Here on Long Island where we are already in crisis over the contamination of our drinking water, we have to be especially aware that whatever we disperse into the environment will eventually find its way into our aquifers.