Roundup, Part I: “A Very Serious Poison”
NOTE: This is the first in a three-part series about Roundup, the world’s most commonly used non-selective weed killer. As the lawn and garden advertisements begin for this season in some parts of North America, it’s timely to note the relatively new information available about this product’s toxicity:
A TELLING SITUATION PLAYED OUT last summer as if it were a dramatic scene in the latest Hollywood heist film. When Professor Andrés Carrasco prepared to exit his vehicle to deliver his research findings to an eager crowd in a small Argentine village, an organized mob violently attacked audience members and pinned Carrasco inside his car for more than two hours. While police reportedly stood by and watched, one audience member was bludgeoned in the spine and will never walk again. Another was treated for repeated blows to the head. A former human rights official was hit in the face and knocked unconscious.
No, this was not in the United States or Canada. But the situation had very much to do with a ubiquitous gardening and farming product that was developed and is used every day right here.
“Roundup is a very serious poison,” said Carrasco, the lead embryologist at the University of Buenos Aires Medical School and the Argentinean national research council. He never did deliver his report last August 7 due to the 100 thugs from the chemical pesticide industry, who threatened the lives of the professor and his followers. His report, however, was published soon afterward in the scientific journal Chemical Research in Toxicology and made headlines just about everywhere other than, ironically, the United States.
Though he has not since had to endure anything quite as threatening as the trauma he encountered last August, he told a recent interviewer that the chemical industry and certain government officials from around the world continue to employ intimidating tactics.
“I didn’t discover anything new,” he told the European web site GMWatch. “I just confirmed what other scientists discovered. In spite of the evidence, they still tried to run down my 30-year reputation as a scientist. They are hypocrites, lackeys of the big corporations, but they are afraid. They know they can’t cover up the sun with one hand. There is scientific proof.”
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU
Though Roundup is the world’s most popular backyard weed-killer, typically used without any protective gear by millions of unsuspecting North Americans, Carrasco’s research came out of concern for his countrymen. By some estimates, more than 50 percent of Argentina’s economy is built around the growing and exportation of soybeans that have been genetically modified to resist the weed killer developed in the 1970s. Because the soybeans are resistant to Roundup, the field can be sprayed relentlessly with the product; the weeds die and the beans survive — to be harvested and shipped around the world.
Carrasco and many others noted that an unusually large number of birth defects were occurring in the Argentine farming regions where the soybeans were being grown. Testing was required to determine if, in fact, the Roundup might be the responsible factor. His study shows that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, caused deformations in chicken embryos that resembled the kind of birth defects in humans. For a variety of reasons based on scientific principles, he’s convinced Roundup is indeed the culprit.
Most alarmingly, according to the doctor, the deformations resulted from much lower doses of herbicide than those commonly found as residue on the crops. That means that anyone eating the genetically modified soybeans was potentially in the same kind of danger as the farmers who worked or lived near the farms.
Jeffrey Smith, author of the books Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette, told Truthout that many other scientists have received similar treatment publishing studies critical of Roundup. Smith is currently supporting the work of Gilles-Eric Seralini, a scientist at the University of Caen in France. Seralini’s study, which was widely noted at SafeLawns.org and elsewhere in 2009, showed that small levels of Roundup kill human placenta, umbilical chord and embryo cells.
“The proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death around residual levels to be expected,” said Seralini’s report.
So when you’re shopping this winter and spring and considering what product to buy to take care of your “weed problem,” ask yourself if you’re creating a larger problem by bringing home a known poison. And ask yourself this question too: “If the chemical industry really had nothing to hide, then why would it physically attack a professor who was about to present a research paper?”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. June Irwin beginning in 1985, and reinforced by scores of other local, regional and national activists since then, Roundup is now off the shelves in much of Canada. In isolated areas of the United States such as Cape Cod, citizens in the United States are beginning to take action, too.
We need to share this story of Dr. Carrasco’s work. We need to get our media nationwide to be talking about this and to ask our elected officials to take action. Mostly, we need to vote with our wallets and stop buying Roundup — the primary product of Monsanto, worth by some estimates a whopping $44 billion. Plenty of natural alternatives exist, though perhaps none as inexpensive. The Chinese are now marketing their own products containing glyphosate, which has driven prices down quite remarkably.
Please . . . don’t be sucked in by the cheap price tag. Understand that you’re putting your kids, your pets, yourself and the planet at risk every time you touch this stuff.