Perhaps one of the most common questions I am asked in regards to pesticides is, “Is Glyphosate Safe?” So let’s take a closer look at this topic.
What is Glyphosate?
Glyphosate is a herbicide introduced by Monsanto and used by farmers to help control weeds. Glyphosate is also known as RoundUp. On our farm, we have used glyphosate for many years. In fact, this picture is from the early 80’s. We were spot spraying weeds with RoundUp. This was before our seeds used the GMO technology.
Why is RoundUp used?
Weeds. Weeds are a continual problem for farmers. When RoundUp (glyphosate) is used, it will kill any plant. The only exception would be glyphosate-resistant plants(weeds). This happens when glyphosate has been repeatedly used and the plant, over time, develops a resistance. Prior to using RoundUp, we used much more toxic herbicides. It’s imperative that we keep changing the herbicides we use to help lessen herbicide-resistant weeds. Weeds need to continually change. If they didn’t they would be extinct. And we know weeds are alive and well!
Is glyphosate toxic?
According to Cornell University study, glyphosate is a “moderately toxic herbicide.” Studies show no evidence of reproductive problems in test animals, which more than likely, also indicates the same effect on humans. There is no evidence of mutations.
What about cancer?
Rats, dogs and mice were repeatedly fed glyphosate at differing rates which resulted in no cancer. The EPA also stated there is enough evidence to support the same results.
How does it affect wildlife?
Glyphosate is only slightly toxic to wild birds and is practically non-toxic to fish. Glyphosate is also nearly non-toxic to bees.
What about the IARC report indicating the toxicity of glyphosate?
Yes, the original report from the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) did indicate glyphosate was a probable carcinogen. What we later found out was the WHO cancer agency edited out the word “non-carcinogenic” in its report. No one from the agency said who or why the change was made. Keep in mind that working a night shift, caffeine, high-temperature frying, very hot beverages and being a hairdresser are also classified as probable carcinogens.
What are the long-term effects of glyphosate?
Based on the length of time we have used glyphosate, chances are there are trace amounts in our food. There was a multi-university study done on the effects of accidental consumption of RoundUp. The results? It undergoes little metabolism, does not accumulate and is excreted mostly unchanged in feces and urine.
At the end of the day, farmers need to control weeds in their fields. If weeds are left unchecked, they use important nutrients and water that should be used by our crops. Farmers would love nothing better than to not use pesticides. They cost money. In fact, they cost a lot of money. But the economic impact is much worst if the weeds are out of control. I remember the days before glyphosate. The herbicides we used were terrible and I was always nervous about using them. When RoundUp was introduced, we were relieved because it was less toxic. And better yet, how effective RoundUp was and the cost was very reasonable.
Agriculture will continually find new and better ways to control pests (weeds and insects). Just like we always have.