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Report: Roundup is Everywhere in Air, Water

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In what’s being called “groundbreaking” research out of Mississippi and Iowa, the weed killer known as Roundup has been found to be virtually everywhere in air and water. This comes on the heels of the June report that shows Roundup, the world’s best-selling and most unregulated pesticide, causes birth defects.

The key aspect of the new report, circulated Wednesday afternoon worldwide by Reuters, is that it comes from a chief United States government scientist.

“(Roundup) is out there in significant levels. It is out there consistently,” said Paul Capel, environmental chemist and head of the agricultural chemicals team at the U.S. Geological Survey Office, part of the U.S. Department of Interior.

Capel found that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, was found in every stream sample examined in Mississippi in a two-year period and also in most air samples.

“So people are exposed to it through inhalation,” Capel told Reuters. “This study is one of the first to document the consistent occurrence of this chemical in streams, rain and air throughout the growing season. It is used so heavily and studied so little.”

Though the glyphosate in its original form is not listed by the U.S. EPA as highly toxic when inhaled, it may become a major problem once inside the body. In the presence of human saliva, glyphosate is known to metabolize by mixing with nitrites in the human stomach and forming a new compound known as N-nitrosoglyphosate — a highly toxic substance that can cause tumors.

Standard carcinogenic tests involving Roundup using rats would not detect this effect since rats do not secrete nitrite in their saliva.

In light of his findings, Capel said more tests were needed to determine how harmful the chemical, glyphosate, might be to people and animals — yet the evidence has been clear for years. And in Roundup, the glyphosate is blended with other chemicals such as the surfactant POEA (polyethoxylated tallow amine), which is known for its toxicity in wildlife and also for killing human cells in laboratory tests.

In June, Earth Open Source, an organization that uses open-source collaboration to advance sustainable food production, concluded that industry regulators in Europe have known for years that glyphosate, originally introduced by American agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto in 1974, causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals. The report also concluded that this information has been hidden from the public in the U.S. and Europe for many years — despite the fact that U.S. regulators now allow upwards of 90,000 tons of the stuff to be used annually.

These days the news about Roundup’s toxicity is literally everywhere. Now a U.S government researcher has concluded that the Roundup is also everywhere in the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Is there anything left to do other than call your elected officials and demand this product be removed from the marketplace?

The Environmental Protection Agency was supposed to have reviewed glyphosate in 2012, but kicked that process forward to 2015. A “full” review utilizing fully modern analytical techniques isn’t scheduled to 2030.

Monsanto, meanwhile, said it is reviewing this new study by Paul Capel and the EPA
had no immediate comment on the study.

The official line from Monsanto regarding its product’s safety is predictable: “Regulatory authorities and independent experts around the world agree that glyphosate does not cause adverse reproductive effects in adult animals or birth defects in offspring of these adults exposed to glyphosate, even at doses far higher than relevant environmental or occupational exposures.”

This is the same company that was fined in the U.S. and Europe for claiming for years that Roundup was “biodegradable.” My pesticide applicator manual back in the early 1990s claimed, as did the company, that Roundup “broke down in the soil within seven days.”

We shouldn’t have believed them then.

We certainly can’t believe them now.

And for its part, the Scotts Miracle Gro company — that holds the retail license for Roundup — continues to promote it vigorously, often in advertisements that show men and women applying Roundup without protective gear. The company continues to advance its goal of selling seeds that have been genetically engineered to resist Roundup — so that even more Roundup can be sprayed.

Will yesterday’s news begin to put an end to this tragedy? Only if we use it to our advantage and demand that our elected officials do something about it.

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.

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