My home, the Point Reyes National Seashore, recently announced plans to control invasive weeds in the park through the use of broad spectrum herbicides, specifically Roundup. They claim that this is the most environmentally appropriate and cost-effective option to restore endangered plants and wildlife.
Roundup, developed by Monsanto, is classified as a pesticide. Heavily used by consumers and industrial agriculture, it is the number one selling weed killer worldwide. For decades Monsanto has insisted that their product is safe, but Roundup has been linked to a host of health problems, including kidney disease, obesity, depression, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, infertility, celiac’s disease, gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, and developmental malformations.
The key ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate. Glyphosate is an antibiotic, destroying gut bacteria and weakening the body’s immune system. It is an endocrine disruptor. It interrupts the body’s ability to create neurotransmitters. It is a chelator, drawing out the body’s vital nutrients and minerals. It is a cell disintegrator, breaking down the blood barrier in the brain.
Thanks to Monsanto, glyphosate is now found in all our staple crops: sugar, corn, soy and wheat. Over 200 million pounds are used on our food every year. It shows up in over 80% of the food found in our grocery stores. It shows up in our drinking water. It shows up in our urine and breast milk. It shows up in our newborn children.
Until now Monsanto and the regulatory authorities, have insisted that glyphosate does not bio-accumulate in the body. But in 2014, a pilot study by Moms Across America, found levels of glyphosate in women’s breast milk over 1000 times higher than that allowed by European standards.
A study published in 2013 by the medical journal Entropy, found that constant exposure to even small amounts of glyphosate is highly toxic to humans, and that “the negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body”.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer released an assessment that glyphosate “probably” causes cancer in humans.
Unfortunately, glyphosate is not the only problem with Roundup. All herbicides are formulations that contain many other chemicals, including solvents, surfactants and emulsifiers. These chemicals are kept confidential by the manufacturer, and declared “inert”. The truth is that many of them are more hazardous than the active ingredient itself.
A 2013 study published in the journal Biomedical Research International, found that the formulation of Roundup was up to 1000 times more toxic than its active principle of glyphosate. These results challenge the EPA standard of “acceptable daily intake” a norm calculated from the toxicity of the active principle alone.
Along with the impacts on human health, a growing number of studies demonstrate the destructive environmental effects of glyphosate. In aerobic soil, it has a half-life up to 174 days. In anaerobic soil, it has been known to persist for months or even years.
In 2014 Nature magazine published a study that demonstrated the harmful effects of glyphosate on earthworms and mycorrhizal fungi. A study published in 2005 in the journal Ecological Applications found that even low doses of Roundup were “extremely lethal” to amphibians, and that the presence of soil did not lessen these effects. Researcher Rick Relyea writes: “The most striking result from the experiments was that a chemical designed to kill plants, killed 98 percent of all tadpoles within three weeks and 79 percent of all frogs within one day.”
The evidence is mounting, and it is too large to ignore. Glyphosate has wide-ranging adverse effects on all of life. Several countries have banned (or are in the process of banning) glyphosate. But while the rest of the world appears to be waking up to its dangers, it’s business as usual in the US.
What is the true cost of polluting our world with toxic chemicals? What if Roundup is the next DDT, and responsible for the new Silent Spring? How exactly is Roundup going to protect the endangered plants, birds and animals that live in the Point Reyes National Seashore? The red-legged frog? The snowy plover? Tidestrom’s lupine?
Roundup does not serve plants or animals. It does not serve the public interest. It does not serve life. It serves the US biotech industry and the US government who are pushing glyphosate around the world in an attempt to dominate global agriculture.
If we stand back and allow this poisoning to continue – if we do nothing – then we are complicit in this act of destruction. We are effectively signing the death sentence on our children, our (human and non-human) neighbors, and our own selves. We are allowing big business (in bed with the government) to commit ecocide, and to take us all down the path of sickness and death with them. What will it take for us to rise up and put a stop to this madness?
In the words of film maker, Ed Brown:
“Our country was built on revolution… As long as we live in a democratic society, as long as we are allowed free speech and expression, as civil disobedience in protection of human rights is part of our country’s moral imperative, we need to create the strongest resistance to this chemical that our lawmakers have ever seen. It is our absolute right to have safe food to eat. Glyphosate is contaminating our soil, our water, and all life on this planet. It is time for A New Resistance.”
Thank you for writing this very well argued article emphasizing the dangers of the chemicals that are routinely implanted into the natural world, and specifically into the food on which we all rely. It is indeed our absolute right to have food that is safe to eat, water that is safe to drink and air that is safe to breathe. It is up to all of us to pressure our government and its relevant agencies to make sure that nothing is allowed to be done that takes those rights away from us.