As a Justmeans staff writer for the Sustainable Foods editorial department, I explore the disparity between consumerism and independence through the topic of sustainability. As a self-described 'urban homesteader' I look to find the balance between a sustainable lifestyle and use of corporate convenience. I don't necessarily want to live without electricity, but I want to be comfortable if eve...
Effects Of Glyphosate
Glyphosate is the primary ingredient to Monsanto's best selling herbicide, RoundUp. Conveniently and somehow without status of a monopoly, Monsanto also manufactures its genetically modified line of RoundUp Ready (RR) products, which are exactly what they sound like: ready for RoundUp.
Monsanto has conveniently positioned itself as both the problem and the solution: RoundUp can be sprayed liberally on any plant embedded with RR technology and survive. In other words, any plant that is not RoundUp Ready, dies.
There are so many potentially disastrous scenarios in this plan, one may be unsure where to start. And somewhere along the line our government felt that RR technology belonged on our soil, mostly in the form of alfalfa, soy & corn, three crops that are heavily used in processed foods and animal fodder.
Dr. Don Huber, recently retired from Purdue's department of botany and plant pathology, has been studying the effects of glyphosate for over 20 years. He says in an interview, "Glyphosate kills weeds by tying up essential nutrients needed to keep plant defenses active. Glyphosate completely weakens the plant, making it susceptible to soil borne fungal pathogens." He and co-author G.S. Johal stated in a paper published in the European Journal of Agronomy in October 2009, "ignoring potential non-target detrimental side effects of any chemical, especially used as heavily as glyphosate, may have dire consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops non-productive, and plants less nutritious. To do otherwise might well compromise not only agricultural sustainability, but also the health and well-being of animals and humans."
But it's not only Huber and Jobal that warn against the liberal use of glyphosate. The U.S. Department of State, when concerning the account of using glyphosate in the case of illicit plant production says, "Glyphosate can alter the production of carbon and nitrogen in the soil (with organic matter) ... That is to say, glyphosate, through this mechanism, could indirectly lead to carcinogenesis and other pathologies."
Rady Ananda at Food Freedom wrote a lengthy article about how scientists are urging the USDA to overturn the use of GM crops because of a number of side effects from the overuse of glyphosate including birth defects (teratogenic effects). Further, GM Watch published an article that declared, "...residents living in GM soy producing areas have reported serious health effects from glyphosate spraying, including high rates of birth defects as well as infertility, stillbirths, miscarriages, and cancers."
These are just some of the scholarly examples the effects glyphosate can have on both the body and the environment. But we can make a difference by not supporting these practices. If you have opportunity, choose to support your local, responsible farmers that focus on soil health by using crop rotation, companion growing and proper mulching practices to prevent soil erosion. If you don't have local farms, CSA shares or farmer's markets available, your next best option is to purchase strictly organic when any product contains corn, soy or a derivative of alfalfa (dairy).
Photo credit: Public Domain