Glyphosate: A Closer Look At America’s Favorite Pesticide
Welcome to our informational page on glyphosate, “America’s Favorite Pesticide…”
-The below information is contained in this printable brochure. To request printed copies to distribute in your community, please contact us.
-Read the NOFA/Mass statement on glyphosate (Dec. 2018), here.
-To learn about how you can plug into our state-wide network of local activists working to protect their communities from pesticides, protect pollinators and promote organic practices, please click here.
-For the latest glyphosate-related news to share with your friends, see this curated “wakelet” and follow our sister organization on Facebook, Regeneration Massachusetts.
What is glyphosate?
More commonly referred to as Roundup, glyphosate was first patented in 1974 as an industrial pipe cleaner. It is now the most widely used herbicide in the world: it is used to kill weeds in fields growing genetically engineered crops like soy, corn, and canola and is often applied to non-GMO grain and other crops just prior to harvest, also as a desiccant. It is also widely used for weed control in landscapes, lawns, golf courses, and schools. Numerous studies show that even small doses of glyphosate are responsible for alarming health and environmental impacts. Research even shows that pesticides like glyphosate harm healthy soil communities, central players in soil carbon sequestration, a critical solution to climate change.
America applied 1.8 million tons of glyphosate to agricultural land from 1974 to 2016. (Clarification: This figure reflects the weight of glyphosate, not including the full formulation, which is even more toxic.)
Since 1995, the year when GMO crops started to hit the market, glyphosate use has increased 15-fold
Note: While the EU has taken a much more cautious approach to “standards” for allowable contamination, this is a bureaucratic standard not based in science. There is no truly acceptable level of glyphosate contamination in our food.
Glyphosate Is In Your Food
The USDA quietly dropped a plan to start testing food for residues of glyphosate in 2017. The FDA began a limited testing program in 2016, but the effort was soon suspended. Glyphosate cannot be washed off of produce, and residues are not necessarily destroyed by cooking. A 2016 study by Food Democracy Now! and The Detox Project comparing over two dozen common processed foods found that all of them had some level of glyphosate residues. The highest foods tended to be those that used cereal crops, presumably because they were treated with glyphosate used as a desiccant just before harvest. Some of the foods with alarmingly high residue levels were:
Glyphosate Is In Your Body
Contrary to what Monsanto wants us to think, glyphosate does not break down rapidly in the environment. Recent studies have found glyphosate residues in lakes, rivers, rainwater, soil and in human urine.
“Chronically ill humans showed significantly higher glyphosate residues in urine than healthy populations. The presence of glyphosate residues in both humans and animals could haul the entire population toward numerous health hazards….Global regulations for the use of glyphosate may have to be re-evaluated.”
Cancer: In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate to be a “probable human carcinogen.” Many scientists, including scientists at the EPA, concur with this assessment. A 2018 jury trial in California resulted in a $289 million dollar award to a landscaper dying of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Monsanto/Bayer now faces over eighteen thousand similar lawsuits.
Generational impacts: A 2019 study in a Nature journal reported increases in obesity, reproductive and kidney diseases, and other problems in the second- and third-generation offspring of rats exposed to glyphosate.
Gut Microbiome Disruptor: A 2018 rat study conducted by the Ramazzini Institute reported that low-dose exposures to Roundup at levels considered safe significantly altered the gut microbiota in some of the rat pups. Another 2018 study reported that higher levels of glyphosate administered to mice disrupted the gut microbiota and caused anxiety and depression-like behaviors.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A 2017 study showed that even in very small doses, glyphosate can cause the liver to swell up and develop Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). Symptoms of NAFLD include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, spider-like blood vessels, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), itching, fluid buildup and swelling of the legs and abdomen, and mental confusion.
Reducing glyphosate exposure is not that hard if you look closely at food labels or buy from trusted producers. The easiest ways to avoid the pesticide are to:
Buy Certified Organic
Since most of us don’t have the time or the opportunity to buy most of our food directly from farmers, the easiest way to avoid glyphosate is to look for the “Certified Organic” label when shopping. It’s worth noting that Organic food is not guaranteed to be glyphosate-free. While use is prohibited, drift from neighboring fields is possible.
Certified Glyphosate Residue Free
You can also look for a new label that certifies a food to be glyphosate-free. This label guarantees an even lower glyphosate threshold than the Organic label.
Buy Direct From A Glyphosate-Free Farm
Many farmers are happy to tell you if they use glyphosate or other pesticides. Next time you go to a farmers market or farm stand, just ask! By supporting farmers who are looking out for our health, we can push the industry towards a safer future.
Find Alternatives To Glyphosate On Your Property
Healthy soils will have less weeds, and biological pest control provides proven methods for non-toxic weed management. Consider flame weeding, steaming, using organic herbicides, or renting goats before making the decision to use glyphosate. If you work with a landscaper, make sure you ask them about their practices before enlisting their services. See this guide for resources on alternatives.
A Path Forward
Communities across the country are deciding to take action against biocides like glyphosate and the dangers they pose to humans and wildlife. By using tools like local municipal ordinances and resolutions, cities and town governments can promote organic landcare practices, limit pesticide use, and protect pollinators and sensitive ecosystems.
The process of enacting city or town policies usually starts with a handful of passionate citizen activists who want to create a safer, healthier community. Want to get active in your community? We want to help. NOFA/Mass is partnered with Toxics Action Center, Regeneration Massachusetts and others to help equip local activists with the tools they need to pass local ordinances to reduce pesticides in their communities.
Join the “All ‘Cides” local pesticide and pollinator organizing network!
NOFA/Mass envisions a commonwealth of people working together to create healthy landscapes that feed our communities and restore our environment. The use of toxic and persistent chemicals on landscapes, be they schools, playgrounds, municipal properties, community gardens or farms, is not compatible with that vision.
We are excited to now be joining forces with other organizations across the commonwealth at this critical moment of heightened awareness of the dangers presented by our society’s over-reliance and abuse of synthetic biocides like glyphosate and neonicotinoids (biocide is the most general term for a poisonous substance, and also means “the destruction of life” – appropriate!).
Click here for more details on how to get organizing in your community.