When I first learned about GMOs, the last thing on my mind was Roundup. Indeed, thoughts of our food seeds being crossed with foreign species like bacteria and viruses won my attention. Certainly, this is the most astonishing aspect of genetic modification, especially since nearly everyone has used or knows people who regularly use Roundup.
Roundup is not new. Changing the DNA of our food seed is. However, the more I have studied, the more concerned I have become about the use of this toxic weed killer. And you should be concerned, too.
Most Roundup is sold premixed and ready to use but only has glyphosate listed as the active ingredient. But, what is it mixed with? Well, it turns out we don’t have to know. Roundup is combined with surfactants (ingredients that work with glyphosate to help it adhere to the weed) but those don’t have to be listed on the label.
Monsanto sells Rodeo which is glyphosate only mixed with water alone, to be used near waterways because the surfactants were shown to be devastating to aquatic life.
Glyphosate works by blocking the enzyme pathways of plants so they cannot take in amino acids necessary for life, thus the weed dies. Because humans do not take up amino acids in the same way as plants, it has been deemed safe. It should be noted that many of the studies on the safety of glyphosate looked at glyphosate alone and did not address the surfactants.
Roundup has been sold to us as safe, effective and low risk, but recently studies have been released that show we have a significant cause for concern. An August 2011, US Geological Survey study showed that glyphosate is detected in the rain, streams and air in Mississippi and Iowa.
They also discovered that the degradation product of glyphosate, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), which has a longer environmental lifetime, was also frequently detected in streams and rain. These are areas where there are a significant number of genetically modified crops being grown. Read the US Geological study here.
According to an article published in the Ithaca Journal, a German study has detected significant levels of glyphosate in the urine of city dwellers. Links to the study (written in German) can be found here. This article also outlines new information, which suggests that glyphosate crosses placental barriers.
Additionally, the National Center for Biotechnology Information published an article outlining a study done on 48 farmers, their spouses, and their 79 children (4-18 years of age) monitoring glyphosate concentrations in urine. The study showed that 60% of the farmers and 12% of the children had detectable levels of glyphosate in their urine on the day of application.
Farmers that did not wear gloves during application had increased levels and all but one of the children either helped apply or were present during application.
Okay, so we know we are being exposed but Roundup has been deemed safe for humans and pets once it is dried, right? In fact, the Roundup label tells us that it is safe to plant in the treated area the following day. However, information released in this article show that Roundup and glyphosate cause endocrine disruption, damage to DNA, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and cancer, as well as birth defects.
The information in this article indicates that Monsanto has known about these effects for decades and that many of these effects are found and very low doses comparable to levels of pesticide residues found in food and the environment.
In 2011, Idaho farmers planted 390,000 acres of corn. There is approximately 200,000 acres of sugar beets planted each year. The Idaho Hay and Forage Association estimate that 1.25 million acres of Alfalfa is grown in Idaho each year. It has been reported that over 80% of corn and over 90% of sugar beets planted are genetically engineered. The ban on genetically engineered alfalfa has just been lifted. One has to wonder just how much Roundup we are being exposed to during growing season.
I believe there is significant cause for concern. There needs to be close scrutiny on the wide use of Roundup. Our air and water should be tested. The animals that eat these Roundup Ready Crops should be tested to see if glyphosate or any of its surfactants are showing up in the tissue or in the milk that ends up on store shelves.
In the meantime, we can all do our part. I know I have a bottle of Roundup in my garage that hasn’t been used in 4 years and will never be used again. You can also purchase items that are organic and GMO free to reduce your risk to Roundup and GMO exposure.
- Jenny Easley, Co-Founder, GMO Free Idaho