Roundup Weed Killer Kills More Than Weeds

Alarming new research on the health hazards of Roundup weed killer is shining a harsh light on a regulatory process that was meant to protect us.
By Amanda Kimble-Evans
December 2009/January 2010
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Widespread planting of GMO crops has led to a sharp increase in the use of Roundup weed killer.
PHOTO:MATTHEW T. STALLBAUMER
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To protect our health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets maximum legal residue levels for every pesticide, for dozens of crops. But a new study in the respected journal Toxicology has shown that, at low levels that are currently legal on our food, Roundup weed killer could cause DNA damage, endocrine disruption and cell death. The study, conducted by French researchers, shows glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic to human reproductive cells.

The potential real-life risks from this are infertility, low sperm count, and prostate or testicular cancer. But, “Symptoms could be so subtle, they would be easy to overlook,” says Theo Colborn, president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange. “Timing is of critical importance. If a pregnant woman were to be exposed early in gestation, it looks like these herbicides could have an effect during the sexual differentiation stage. They really lock in on testosterone.” The bottom line is more research is needed before we can fully understand the effects of glyphosate exposure.

A Perfect Poison

The researchers’ most disturbing findings were not only the cytotoxic and hormonal responses to low-dose exposures, but the fact that the “active” ingredient — glyphosate — had much less of a toxic impact alone than the branded chemical mixtures sold to homeowners and farmers nationwide.

Solvents and surfactants, legally considered “inert ingredients,” are mixed with glyphosate in products such as Roundup weed killer to create chemical formulations that increase mobility and more direct access to the cells. “Those same factors that aid penetration into a plant, also aid penetration into the skin,” says Vincent Garry, professor emeritus of pathology at the University of Minnesota. “These chemicals are designed to kill cells.”

Despite being termed “inert,” these added (and usually secret) ingredients are anything but benign, as the manufacturers have claimed for decades. The new French research found the surfactants not only amplify the effects of glyphosate, but glyphosate also amplifies the effects of the surfactants. Basically, one plus one equals something larger than two.

Herbicide manufacturers are subject to fewer rules in the testing of inert ingredients than they are for active ingredients, explains Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, Calif. “The tests the EPA requires for inert ingredients cover only a small range of potential health problems,” Cox says. “Testing for birth defects, cancer, and genetic damage are required only on the active ingredients. But we’re exposed to both.”

The Rise of Roundup

Glyphosate, mostly in the form of Roundup products manufactured by the Monsanto Co., has been widely used in the United States since the 1970s. Today, we spray more than 100 million pounds on our yards and farms every year, making it the most popular of the Monsanto chemicals. Monsanto continues to assure us its product is safe. “It’s used to protect schools,” a Monsanto spokesperson told Scientific American. Protect schools?! From what, killer weeds?

Glyphosate use has skyrocketed in recent years because of the widespread adoption of genetically modified corn, soy, and cotton varieties that Monsanto developed to be resistant to glyphosate, according to the Center for Food Safety. Although the companies promoted glyphosate-resistant crops as a way to reduce herbicide use, there’s actually been a sharp increase in use on corn, soybeans, and cotton since 2002, thanks to the emergence of resistant weeds. Farmers are battling glyphosate-resistant weeds with more glyphosate and other herbicides.

Most of the food we eat that contains corn or soy was sprayed with glyphosate herbicide, and we’re being exposed to higher and higher levels of residue. In response to petitions from Monsanto, the EPA has approved up to 20-fold increases in the legal residue limits for food crops.

“Our bodies are gigantic spider webs of chemical communications that work in the parts-per-trillion range,” says Warren Porter, professor of zoology and environmental toxicology at the University of Wisconsin. “When you put so-called ‘insignificant’ amounts of toxic chemicals into the mix, you have a molecular bull in a china shop. The possibilities for impact are endless.”

Better Testing Coming

In response to growing public concerns, the EPA is getting ready to launch new tests on 67 potential endocrine disruptors. Critics say the proposed tests will cover only a portion of organs in the endocrine system, but supporters say it is at least a step in the right direction.


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Post a comment below.

 

Casadelasartes
4/21/2012 12:32:44 AM
The World According to Monsanto http://youtu.be/Rml_k005tsU

Summer Hawk_1
5/31/2010 6:26:58 PM
Vote with your money... When you shop try to make educated purchases. My family just gets by with the income that we produce. We make a moral choice when shopping. Every little bit adds up in the big picture. Please visit www.rareseeds.com this is my favorite seed company. They are working to protect our natural genetic food heritage. Support sustainable agriculture. Grow your own... support a local farmer... Garden for your family and children... read, read, read! Learn learn learn! Pass it on! Thanks!

CARMEN ORTIZ
5/27/2010 7:15:36 AM
Interesting how some people use any unrelated article to promote their beliefs or are just more interested on reading their own babble. This article is NOT about growing food, over population or birth control (or not). It's about the effects of Roundup. Nothing new in the article, except the fact that we are still being indoctrinated by the people who produce this deadly product and the government who allows it. Roundup is deadly, and if you read Mother Earth you know it. Not enough fertilizer? Get real. Everything we plant leaves behind organic material, manure is produced constantly by every living thing in the planet. Our planet is a self contained compost producing machine. Some people are simply lazy. Why pull weeds, when we can poison them (and every living organism around the weeds). If low count sperm was the only side effect, I'd be ok with it. BUT it is not, our genetic integrity is being destroyed whether or not we get cancer; so is that of all the animals, insect and micro-organism just so the people who make Roundup (among other) can make a profit. If you can't believe that we don't need that poison, then I guess all you read in Mother Earth are the email because you certainly having been reading the magazine as long as I have.

oldfordtruck
5/26/2010 1:46:15 PM
Agent Orange was once considered a "safe" herbicide, just ask any VietNam veteran.

quiltingmatilda
5/26/2010 11:09:50 AM
I'm tired of all this non-related to the subject chatter in these comments. The subject is the production of food. People want cheap food, so big government and big corporations try to supply that. Trouble is, 40% (used to be 25% about 5 years ago) of food that gets to people on the plate or is not used before it spoils is wasted. Those are the statistics, look it up.

Angel_2
5/26/2010 10:14:58 AM
In my understanding of the earth and her purpose there is enough for all and there is no reason to fear over population. Also with my limited understanding of Native cultures in America most of those valued life. I make my own choice to have children that is my choice and that is between my Heavenly Father, my husband and I-NOT THE GOVERNMENT. I thought that ME was dedicated to helping us with our stewardship to care for the earth not spreading Population control propaganda. As posted previously, is quite hurtful to someone who wishes to have a child. I can understand this because I thought I couldn't have anymore some years ago, but was able to. Now that I cannot and it hurts that I can't. I feel being a parent is a blessing not a curse. Please be sensitive to others who desire what you may not.

proscriptus_1
5/26/2010 8:59:56 AM
I'm sort of with you, Dakota. Overpopulation is the fundamental issue behind a host of secondary problems--we don't need giant per-acre yields if the population is carried at a reasonable level. But I'd rather not see it done through mass poisonings, I guess. How about a tax incentive for non-farm families to remain childless?

Ewan R
1/27/2010 4:07:00 PM
Citations? The scientific literature is bereft of any credible links such as those you are claiming, the increases in herbicide useage need to be looked at in terms of environmental impact, not sheer quantities being used (for instance I could take 500mg of acetominophen to take the edge off a headache, I could equally take 250mg of say, vicodin, or some other narcotic drug - only a fool would argue that the decreased quantity being utilized was a good thing - herbicides need to be considered in the same fashion also) Toxicity tests have been done on whole organisms, the results are that glyphosate, and crops sprayed with glyphosate, have no significant effects. The handful of studies which suggest there may be some effect are either statistically questionable (Seralini's reanalysis of Monsanto data for instance) or look at cells in culture and then suggest from their findings that whole organism studies may be needed (whole organism studies which have been done, and show no significant effects)

Chris_61
12/22/2009 2:35:51 AM
Life is about choices, every choice has pros and cons. Glyphosate is very likely not the perfect utopian solution to pest control. However it is one of the very safest and most environmentally sound products ever introduced, EVER. The only safer alternative I know about is to use NOTHING. However, that is a utopian myth. You might be able to grow a tomato in your back yard without fertilizer or pesticide, maybe several if you have access to manure. Great. However the reality is that the amount of food that needs to be produced to feed this world can not be done if all yields are dropped by 65%, there is only enough manure to feed a very small percentage of the cropland, and the alternative to glyphosate is tillage. Remember the dust bowl days? Glyphosate is not perfect, but what is a better alternative? Please use it safely, until we learn about something better.

t brandt
11/18/2009 6:49:34 AM
A review of the medical literature shows precious little evidence that normal, correct useof & exposure to the common ag chemicals cause any health problems. Lies must be told with the statistics to prove their point here. =We have the dilemma that use of technology allows us to increase farm yield on less land, thus saving land for Nature, but in so doing we allow our population to increase, thus taking up land from Nature.

Cheri_1
11/12/2009 4:09:19 PM
Dakota: what kind of person ARE you posting something like that on here? How dare you? I guess you think the government should secretly slip a little poison into our childrens immunizations to cause infertility in the name of saving the planet. Even if that IS your opinion, you need to just shut UP. If people choose not to have children because they believe as you do, fine. But don't come on here and say that it's OK to poison our society because we ought to have less people on the planet.

Dakota Woman
11/11/2009 12:23:00 PM
While cancer is not a good thing, low fertility is NO PROBLEM as a side=effect of the use of Roundup - look at the statistics on human gross over-population - currently a bit over 2X what our Holy Mother the Earth can comfortably carry without the ongoing extinction of other species we are seeing - the rainforests, plants across the globe, animals on land & in the oceans. A world with mostly humans is going to be dull past tolerance. Let's hear it for LOTS MORE human infertility & low sperm counts! The sooner the better.








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