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Roundup: The Hidden Factors of a Lethal Poison


A poison, by most people’s definition, is anything that will kill you within, say, a few hours. I grew up watching John Wayne and Clint Eastwood westerns where a well-placed rattlesnake would terrify. Or maybe a tarantula, the bite of which would kill you instantly. Or arsenic. These days the murder movies always seem to include anthrax, or ricin or sarin, or crime fiction’s favorite, cyanide.

All those poisons kill quickly, efficiently.

But what about the other poisons among us? We know they’re there, everywhere, but we’re not really sure what will kill us and what won’t. We believe the devil is in the dose, and that if we don’t ingest, touch, absorb or breathe too much . . . you name it: lead paint, carbon monoxide, asbestos . . . then we’ll probably be OK.

That same general apathy exists with pesticides such as weed killers, insect killers and fungicides. Most Americans feel that if they just don’t eat mouthfuls of the stuff in their cereal, they’ll be OK.

But will we?

These days this blog and many other on-line sites outside the mainstream media are rather fixated on Roundup, the world’s most widely used weed killer. It contains the active ingredient glyphosate as well as a whole bunch of “inert” ingredients that are used to “carry” and “stick” the active ingredient to the intended target plant. Roundup was originally marketed, highly successfully, as being “safer than table salt,” until a few noted scientists began to let the public know that assertion wasn’t exactly true. By then, though, the marketing “safer than salt” was as encoded in the collective American DNA as the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel.

We’re focusing on Roundup, as a reminder, because of decision by the late January decision by United States Department of Agriculture to deregulate “Roundup Ready” alfalfa by this spring. That means that millions of more acres of farmland will be coated with Roundup, and that the farm animals that consume the alfalfa will be taking in far more Roundup in their food supply. And if you remember anything at all about the food chain from grade school, you’ll know that, in the end, humans will be taking in far more Roundup, too.

I’m the first one to admit this won’t kill us, at least not instantly. But what will it do? The answer, if you look back at the chart at the top of this blog, can be chilling.

Glyphosate was originally patented as a soil “chelator” of minerals. That means that glyphosate functions like a magnet in the soil, attracting and binding all sorts of minerals onto itself and therefore taking them out of circulation for growing plants. If you look at the chart above and see that Roundup reduces the zinc in plants by 18 percent on average, you might not think that’s a big deal. Most people’s only connection to zinc is as an ugly white sun block worn by lifeguards.

But if you understand zinc’s critical role in the body, losing 18 percent starts to become significant.
Zinc helps metabolize carbohydrates, produce energy, aid in protein synthesis and transport carbon dioxide. Zinc helps relieve stress, helps heal wounds and is essential for memory function.

Take another example: iron. The main component of haemoglobin, which transports oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the lungs, iron is a primary causal agent that determines how we feel each day. It’s an antioxidant, probably has anti-cancer properties according to many doctors, and is known as a powerful immune-system booster.

Iron deficiency has also become one of the most common health problems in America, especially in women and the elderly. Is it because, as the chart above suggests, that food grown with Roundup — which is most American food — only contains 49 percent of the iron of crops grown without Roundup?

That answer, according to many doctors, is a resounding yes.

Every time we eat a piece of corn or soybeans that has been grown with Roundup, microscopic amounts of the Roundup wind up in our bodies. When we’re outside spraying the product in our lawns and gardens, or to kill that rogue grass growing in a crack in the driveway, we’re inhaling, touching, absorbing and ingesting the product — in much higher doses than we’re getting in our food.

Unless you’re wearing the proper gas mask and other protective gear, the Roundup winds up all around you and inside you. And inside you it also acts as a chelator, meaning it attracts those essential micronutrients away from where they should be doing their job inside your body.

The Roundup, as the chart above shows, attracts manganese away from plants. Inside your body, the Roundup draws away manganese essential for the optimum function of the liver, kidney, pancreas, skin, muscles and bones. Manganese deficiencies can impact the thyroid gland and, especially, the memory.

The human body only contains about 12 to 20 milligrams of manganese, an incredibly small amount overall. Because of that, it doesn’t take much change in the manganese levels to cause an imbalance or deficiency that can have profound impacts on humans. Consider this: Since the widespread use of Roundup Ready crops in agriculture in 1996, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease has increase by 9,000 percent. Is it due, in part, to the Roundup in our food and gardens?

The mere fact that it could be ought to be cause for concern.

Roundup isn’t even allowed in gardens in most of Canada because the doctors up there have seen and documented its negative health impacts.

It’s radical to suggest that Roundup should be instantly taken away from farmers and therefore out of our food supply. Big agriculture is a big ship that doesn’t turn on a dime; change needs to be phased in.

But given all we know, one thing is certain: We shouldn’t be pouring Roundup onto millions of more acres — onto a plant, alfalfa, that’s at the very core of our food supply. Allowing Roundup Ready alfalfa could very well doom the big ag ship to become the Titanic, irretrievably sunken forever.

Please make your voices heard and don’t let it happen.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
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  • Mark

    Thanks. That’s a big effect. Could you post the source for the table?

  • Paul Tukey

    The source is Purdue University.

  • Kevin McNulty

    I think what Mark means, or at least what I want to know, is what is the source of the graph not geographically, but scientifically: can you link to the study which produced this data? One of the most dangerous things we can do is take data out of context, whether it be for or against any particular issue.

    For example, you make the case that the chart shows a reduction of zinc by 18%… under what circumstances is this true? What amount of Roundup must be applied to exactly how much Alfalfa? At what point in the growth cycle? Before or after rain? Washing? Processing?

    And of course the logical extent of the argument: okay, let’s say it does reduce the zinc by 18%… how many of us actually eat alfalfa? And how many people then eat enough alfalfa that it is a significant source of zinc in their diet so that an 18% reduction is even significant? The most common use of alfalfa is as animal feed, and yes we end up eating those animals, but does the animal end product wind up 18% deficient in zinc? How much of the animal’s diet is alfalfa? And so on?

    You can’t just pull a number out of the air and call it bad.

    Still, I’m willing to entertain your argument – just back it up with science.

    • Paul Tukey

      I will try to find the study upon which the chart from Purdue was based, but I know the results depicted on the chart are average values. I placed the chart atop the article to help illustrate a point that most lay people do not understand: that Roundup is a chelator of minerals both in the soil and inside the body. The exact percentages of values associated with that chelation will change according to amounts applied, or soil conditions or to plant uptake, but the fact is that the use of Roundup still has an unintended consequence of removing minerals from our soils and our bodies. Many scientists believe this has profoundly negative consequences.

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