Sunday, June 26, 2011

A new look at Roundup – activism group says it leads to birth defects

This Huffington Post story about the Monsanto weed killer Roundup has generated a lot of buzz over the weekend; nearly 6,000 have provided comments from different points of view.

A group called Earth Open Source compiled several studies that found adverse effects of the primary Roundup ingredient glyphosate in lab animals and is calling for a closer look by regulatory agencies.

Did the article change my mind on whether or not I believe our food supply is safe? Not yet.

The reporter says the group is pulling results from a few studies out of a huge pool of research studies to make these claims. One research study they noted was based in Argentina following a high occurrence of malformations and birth defects in humans following increased usage of the product in their agricultural sector. While I can’t say whether or not the study was flawed in any way, I know hundreds of American farm families using the product, and I am not aware of any instance of increased birth defects within our agricultural community. This could be due to our high level of regulation and our farmers attention to following guidelines. I would expect farm families would stop the use of the product immediately if they thought their health or the health of their children would be compromised.

The most intriguing part of the article was about the research conducted by Purdue University plant pathologist Don Huber. His research suggests that genetically modified crops produced with the application of Roundup contain a bacteria that may cause animal miscarriages. Huber did say that his research was inconclusive and further study is needed.

Question: is the presence of this bacterium exclusively found in the genetically-modified/Roundup production system? Having worked in the ag industry, I am very aware that plant pathogens are a real concern for farmers, causing severe financial loss. Food processors will not purchase contaminated grain. I would expect that if the use of glyphosate causes plants to be more prone to disease, farmers would no longer use the product. But I guess I also need to ask if feed mills and food processors are testing for the presence of this bacterium. I think I will keep my eye on this one.

The conversation circles back to my views on organic versus conventional food. As the population is surging, fewer people are willing to produce the food, and less land is available to grow that food, the use of genetically-modified crops and pesticides are inevitable. Do I wish that they were not needed? Of course. But I don’t see the folks reviewing the products deemed “safe” secretly eating other food. If you are out there, please let me know. I will then turn to a life of growing all of my own food, but will most likely hope to have a bottle of Roundup close by as the weeds in my neck of the woods are totally obnoxious.


  1. I'm glad to see the post and your impressions of it from the real world. These kinds of "reports" keep coming up in an effort to mislead people. My grandmom used Roundup decades ago.... so have millions of farmers and homeowners... that anecdotal experience is also what is seen in the hard numbers by scientists.

  2. I think it greatly depends on what you mean by "use" of Roundup. For the average family who sprays a small bottle of it on sidewalk weeds, the exposure is minimal. For my neighbors who use it very specifically, in small spray bottles, to kill individual invasive trees, the exposure is minimal. But for large midwestern farms who spray it on every damn thing within sight, or use aircraft to spread it over their entire fields at the beginning of the growing season, I don't think the "my grandmother used it safely" argument will hold up. I can't think of any studies that show an increase in birth defects for those families off the top of my head, but I'm willing to bet that if I dug around a little bit, they would be out there.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...