By George Harvey
Here is yet another example of a potentially dangerous product that has been widely unleashed on the unwitting public and the environment before it has been proven harmless.
In late March we got word that the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen.” Glyphosate is the chemical name for the Monsanto product Roundup, which is the most commonly used weed-killer in the world. It is often used in conjunction with genetically modified (GM) crops, specifically engineered to be immune to its effects.
This is hardly a surprise to some. Longtime readers of Green Energy Times and visitors to our website may remember that we posted a press release on Roundup in 2012. That article reported a peer-reviewed paper in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, which said quite a lot damning the product.
Among other things, that article said, “Researchers found that rats fed on a diet containing NK603 Roundup-tolerant GM maize, or given water containing Roundup at levels permitted in drinking water and GM crops in the US, died earlier than rats fed on a standard diet. They suffered mammary tumors and severe liver and kidney damage.” The entire article can be seen at bit.ly/GET-Roundup-2009.
Environmentalists had this product in their sights long before that, and for a simple reason: it is a killer. Its purpose is to kill any of a broad spectrum of living organisms that are exposed to it. Many of these are bacteria, but they also include a range of plants from grasses to shrubs and trees. If this reminds you of Agent Orange, it is probably for good reason.
Researchers working on glyphosate noticed a number of things about it that made them think it had value. One is that it had relatively little effect on most animals they tested. Another is that there were a number of plants that were naturally resistant to it, which made them hope that it would be possible to genetically engineer DNA of seeds of other species so they would be resistant to it as well. They achieved that, and Monsanto marketed the GM seeds as “Roundup Ready.” [sic]
A simple example of why it is a problem is that it destroys milkweed effectively and is causing the species to decline. As milkweeds decline, so do those other organisms dependent on them, including the monarch butterfly. It is a pattern repeated over and over, with many species of plants and the animals that depend on them.
We have no way to understand exactly how extensive the problems with Roundup are. Nevertheless, since glyphosate is the most commonly used weed killer, it is a big problem.
Over the years since it was introduced, the weeds it is used to kill have gradually produced resistant strains naturally. This has come to the point that the product has declining value as a weed killer. At the same time, as more of it is applied, it does more environmental damage to unintended victims.
The news that the WHO has classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, based on its own research, makes us believe farmers should not use it, and citizens should use neither it nor the genetically modified products raised with it. Monsanto takes the position that the WHO’s research is flawed. Roundup represents about 10% of the company’s roughly $15 billion gross revenues.