Ever heard of an invasive plant called Japanese knotweed?
This green pest spreads rapidly via streams and rivers, and can regrow fast from tiny root fragments.
It's so bad that in the UK, some banks refuse mortgages if knotweed is found on the property or neighboring land.
Botanists agree that the best weapon against knotweed is Roundup … Monsanto's trade name for the herbicide glyphosate.
Roundup is highly effective against invasive plants because it is a “systemic” herbicide that travels throughout growing weeds, including the roots.
Compared with other herbicides, Roundup should be less toxic to animals and people. (It inhibits an enzyme found only in plants and micro-organisms.)
Faced with the prospect of an aggressively invasive plant, what's an eco-conscious person to do?
It's tempting to apply glyphosate, but growing evidence of its risks should give one pause before resorting to Roundup … even for a good conservation goal.
Fast-growing evidence reveals unsettling effects of Roundup
Roundup (glyphosate) now accounts for more than 83 percent of the pesticides used in the U.S. annually.
Recent evidence suggests that glyphosate is passed from mothers to babies, exerts disturbing soil effects, and leaves high residues in some GM crops.
Monsanto's Roundup Ready GM corn and soy are engineered to resist glyphosate, so that farmers can spray it on weeds growing near those crops.
Last month, scientists at the Arctic University of Norway reported “extreme levels” of glyphosate on genetically modified soybeans (Bøhn T et al. 2014).
And the results of a large evidence review raise concerns about Roundup and at least one kind of cancer.
Roundup linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma
The U.S. National Cancer Institute projects that in 2014 America will see 70,800 new cases of a white-blood-cell cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma and 18,990 NHL-related deaths.
Alarmingly, scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) just reported a strong statistical link between Roundup exposure and this cancer affecting immune-system cells.
The IARC team analyzed 44 research projects published since 1980, and found that people exposed to Roundup were twice as likely to develop this kind of cancer (Schinasi L et al. 2014).
And the IARC team found that people exposed to Dow Chemical's 2,4-D – a very common herbicide and suspected carcinogen – were 40 percent more likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Previous studies have found that farmers exposed to 2,4-D are at greater risk of impaired immune function (Faustini A et al. 1996).
The authors of the new study propose that both pesticides may cause genetic mutations in white (immune system) blood cells, simultaneously promoting cancer and weakening people's immune response to it.
Biotech giant's pesticide promise appears broken
Monsanto's claim that Roundup Ready GM corn and soy would reduce overall pesticide use is now clearly contradicted.
Various weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, leading some farmers to either apply more Roundup or older herbicides like 2,4-D.
Despite the lion's share of American farm acreage planted in Monsanto's Roundup Ready corn and soy, herbicide use doubled from 1996 to 2012 (USDA 2102).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering approval for GM corn and soybean seeds engineered to withstand 2,4-D.
The USDA estimates that If those GM seeds are approved, 2,4-D use is likely to triple, dramatically increasing people's exposure to a pesticide that may cause cancer.
What can one do?
Vital Choice will not knowingly sell any GM crops or GM ingredients.
Wild seafood cannot be certified organic, but virtually all of our non-seafood products are certified organic.
Our legislators should also be pushed to enact tougher regulation of all purposely toxic agrichemcials, using the precautionary principle.
In other words, chemicals that kill weeds or pests should have to be proven safe for animals and people before being approved.
- Bøhn T, Cuhra M, Traavik T, Sanden M, Fagan J, Primicerio R. Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans. Food Chem. 2014 Jun 15;153:207-15. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.12.054. Epub 2013 Dec 18. Accessed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24491722
- Cassidy E. “Extreme Levels” Of Herbicide Roundup Found In Food. Environmental Working Group, April 18, 2014. Accessed at http://www.ewg.org/agmag/2014/04/extreme-levels-herbicide-roundup-found-food
- Faustini A, Settimi L, Pacifici R, Fano V, Zuccaro P, Forastiere F. Immunological changes among farmers exposed to phenoxy herbicides: preliminary observations. Occup Environ Med. 1996 Sep;53(9):583-5. Accessed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1128552/
- Foley L. GE's Chemical Treadmill Spawns Zombie Herbicide. Environmental Working Group (EWG), April 14, 2014. Accessed at http://www.ewg.org/agmag/2014/04/ge-s-chemical-treadmill-spawns-zombie-herbicide http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814613019201
- Schinasi L, Leon ME. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Apr 23;11(4):4449-527. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110404449. Accessed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24762670
- The National Cancer Institute (NCI). Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Accessed at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/non-hodgkin
- USDA/ARMS. Glyphosate Effectiveness Declines. Jaunary 2014. Accessed at http://www.nass.usda.gov/