Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, is the most widely used weed killer in the world. Glyphosate was recently classified as a probable carcinogen by The World Health Organization, due to a concern about pesticides in food, a decision I wrote about in this post.
While most health-concerned individuals were glad to finally see the WHO take a stand re glyphosate, many felt the language was too weak. Still, the WHO did use the word probable, not possible. There is a difference.
Why Has The Use Of Glyphosate Increased In Recent Years
Why are farmers using more glyphosate each year than the previous? Two reasons: The increased use of GM crops and a growing tolerance to glyphosate by weeds.
Roundup is the most popular glyphosate formulation made for genetically modified (GM) crops. This herbicide kills all plant life except for the crop.
But, weeds being weeds, they quickly develop resistance to glyphosate because only those weeds that tolerate the herbicide survive to pass on their genes. Thus was born a new generation of glyphosate-resistant superweeds.
GM crops encourage the use of more glyphosate, and it is estimated that over 500 million more pounds of glyphosate was used in the US between 1996 and 2011, than would have been used had farmers planted non-GM crops. Since 1974, two-thirds of the total volume of glyphosate applied in the U.S. was sprayed in the last 10 years.
Glyphosate is also sprayed on a wide variety of crops right before they are harvested, in a process called desiccating.
Why Farmers Spray Glyphosate On Crops Before Harvesting
Farmers kill crops with glyphosate one or two weeks prior to harvest to speed up drying time, a process called desiccating. Other farmers desiccate because it allows them to harvest crops one or two weeks earlier. This might be an acceptable practice to save a crop when absolutely necessary, but to spray a crop with enough pesticide to kill it, only to harvest it one or two weeks earlier, should be considered an improper use of pesticides.
Some farmers let weeds grow along with a GM crop, and then spray with glyphosate once or twice just before harvesting. The weeds die and the GM crop survives because it is resistant to the poison. This practice saves the farmer a lot of time and money. No need to worry about weeds during the growing season. The question is, would you want to eat bread that was made with wheat grown in this fashion? Do you know if you have in the past? Would you even want this type of crop to be used as daily feed for livestock raised for human consumption?
The Glyphosate Is Biodegradable Myth
Desiccating wheat with glyphosate is commonplace in many countries, including Canada. Producers have done such an effective job marketing glyphosate as safe and biodegradable that most farmers still believe this even though the claims appear to be false. If it really was so biodegradable, we wouldn’t be finding residue in urine or breast milk, would we?
The Sum Of The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts
We’ve all heard this said many times about different things. A team of complimentary players is capable of more than the sum of each individual. The same holds true with chemical formulations. The interaction produces a combined effect that is greater than the sum of the separate effects.
So it is with pesticides. Glyphosate is not sold as a standalone product. It is sold in formulations such as Roundup. Studies of formulations conclude that the end product is much more toxic than the isolated ingredients, as one would expect.
Pesticides In Food Are Poisons
It’s hard to be objective about pesticides, especially when it comes to our food. What makes it more difficult is the absence of independent government oversight. Companies that produce pesticides and food producers in general are operating on the honor system.
They initiate their own studies or studies authored by paid-for researchers, often cash-strapped institutions of higher learning. Even misleading food labels are not monitored for accuracy.
Poison Is Meant To Kill
As a consumer, I find it hard to understand why our government does not conduct accurate, independent testing of complete formulated products to determine toxicity. Studies of only one active ingredient don’t tell the whole story and the use of less than ideal testing procedures is questionable, to say the least. The fact that there is no requirement for independent studies of toxic products simply boggles the mind. We are being put to sleep by a mountain of evidence that is intended to minimize the risks we are exposed to.
Conclusion: An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure
There’s a saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that is my advice to you. Be as selective as you can about the food you buy and don’t get put to sleep by studies that are intended to mislead and pacify. Buy non-GM foods whenever possible.
The most likely way that change will come about is if we initiate it with our shopping power. Yes, there is a place for pesticides, but GM crops that encourage ever greater use of glyphosate, or any other pesticide for that matter, are not the solution. If you refuse to buy it, they won’t grow it.