Compiled by Caroline Cox, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides- (NCAP)
Roundup, and related herbicides with glyphosate as an active ingredient, are advertised as products that can "eradicate weeds and unwanted grasses effectively with a high level of environmental safety." However, an independent, accurate evaluation of their health and environmental hazards can draw conclusions very different from those presented in the ads. Consider these facts:
1. Glyphosate can be persistent. In tests conducted by Monsanto, manufacturer of glyphosate-containing herbicides, up to 140 days were required for half of the applied glyphosate to break down or disappear from agricultural soils. At harvest, residues of glyphosate were found in lettuce, carrots, and barley planted one year after glyphosate treatment.
2. Glyphosate can drift. Test conducted by the University of California, Davis, found that glyphosate drifted up to 400 meters (1300 feet) durng ground applications and 800 meters 12600 feet) during aerial applications.
3. Glyphosate is acutely toxic to humans. Ingesting about 3/4 of a cup can be lethal. Symptoms include eye and skin irritation, lung congestion, and erosion of the intestinal tract. Between 1984 and 1990 in California, glyphosate was the third most frequently reported cause of illness related to agricultural pesticide use.
4. Glyphosate has shown a wide spectrum of chronic toxicity in laboratory tests. The National Toxicology Program found that chronic feeding of glyphosate caused salivary gland lesions, reduced sperm counts, and a lengthened estrous cycle (how often an individual comes into heat). Other chronic effects found in laboratory tests include an increase in the frequency of lethal mutations in fruit flies, an increase in frequency of pancreas and liver tumors in male rats along with an increase in the frequency of thyroid tumors in females, and cataracts. (ne fruit fly study used Roundup; the other studies used glyphosate.)
5. Roundup contains toxic trade secret ingredients. These include polyethoxylated tallowamines, causing nausea and diarrhea, and isopropylamine, causing chemical pneumonia, laryngitis, headache, and bums.
6. Roundup kills beneficial insects. Tests conducted by The International Organization for Biological Control showed that Roundup caused mortality of live beneficial species: a Thrichgramma, a predatory mite, a lacewing, a ladybug, and a predatory beetle.
7. Glyphosate is hazardous to earthworms, Tests using New Zealand's most common earthworm showed that glyphosate, in amounts as low as 1/20 of standard application rates, reduced its growth and slowed its development.
8. Roundup inhibits mycorrhizal fungi. Canadian studies have shown that as little as 1 part per million of Roundup can reduce the growth or colonization of mycorrhizal fungi.
9. Glyphosate reduces nitrogen fixation. Amounts as small as 2 parts per million have had significant effects, and effects have been measured up to 120 days after treatment. Nitrogen- fixing bacteria shown to be impacted by glyphosate include a species found on soybeans and several species found on clover.
10. Roundup can increase the spread or severity of plant diseases. Treatment with roundup increased the severity of Rhizoctonia root rot in barley, increased the amount and growth of take-all fungus, a wheat disease), and reduced the ability of bean plants to defend themselves against anthracnose.
These facts about Roundup are taken From a two-part article about the health and environmental hazards of glyphosate published in NCAP's Journal of Pesticide Reform. Copies of the article, with complete references for all of .the information presented, are available from NCAP for $2.00. NCAP, PO Box 1391; Eugene, OR 97440; (541) 344-5044.