Monday, May 21, 2018

Glyphosate: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

                                                                                                 submitted 7 April, 2018
                                                                                               published 14 April 18

            "Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science", by Carey Gilliam, published in 2017, is a book about glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup.
            Glyphosate is a chelating agent, a chemical that bonds to minerals.  It was originally manufactured to remove mineral deposits in water boilers.  Monsanto researchers discovered it would bond to, and disrupt, a phosphate bearing enzyme necessary for plants and bacteria, but not mammals.  The weed-killer, Roundup, went to market in 1970 as a wide spectrum herbicide, and was an immediate commercial success.  It was advertised as less harmful than other herbicides, safer than aspirin, and almost safe enough to drink.
            By 1995, annual US application of glyphosate was 40 million pounds, the seventh most widely used herbicide at the time, with 147 million pounds used globally.  It was applied for weed control before planting and after harvest, limiting the overall use.  At this point Monsanto introduced genetically modified (GMO) crops which were glyphosate resistant, so Roundup could be applied during the entire growing season.  Sales soared and by 2014, annual US application was 275 million pounds and 1.8 billion pounds globally, the most widely used herbicide on the planet.
            Problems soon appeared as weeds became resistant to glyphosate.  Totally resistant super weeds now infest more than 70 million acres in the US, increasing each season.  They are so tall and strong they can damage farm equipment.  They must be removed by hand, erasing the original advantage of the product.  More Roundup has to be applied every year to get the same results, but increased application contaminates waterways, damages the soil by removing key nutrients, and kills soil micro-fauna necessary for healthy plants.
            Research by independent labs indicated that glyphosate wasn't as safe as advertised.  Lab animal tests suggested links to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, tumors, and blood, pancreas, kidney, and liver diseases.  Other studies showed cell death in testes, hormone disruptions, and increased birth defects.  Roundup contains chemicals which help glyphosate absorb into the plant, creating more toxic synergistic effects.  There are no precautionary suggestions for the handling of Roundup, so farmers rarely use protective gear, and over the years there has been an increase in health issues within the farming community.
            The World Health Organization designated glyphosate as a possible carcinogen in 2015.  Forty-eight members of the EU Parliament had their urine tested, and they all had glyphosate in their body.  Food testing by independent labs have shown glyphosate residue in most food.  80% of rainwater shows residues, due to contaminated dust that nucleates the rain drops.  The state of California is currently considering regulating the product.  Over 24 nations ban import of GMO crops, due to glyphosate contamination.
            As a mineral chelating agent, glyphosate residues in the body may disrupt the system in many ways.  It can introduce heavy metals picked up from the environment.  It can remove minerals and harm beneficial bacteria, both essential for good health.  There is also evidence that glyphosate is an endocrine disrupter, upsetting complex hormone systems, producing a wide array of diseases, at very low concentration levels.
            Monsanto has protected its billions in profit by attacking adverse studies and the scientists doing the research.  They donate to legislators and maintain a revolving door between government and Monsanto by hiring former regulator.  Researchers are funded to present favorable findings to confuse the issue.  As a result, the US Food and Drug Administration, which for decades has tested foods for contamination by hundreds of chemicals, has never tested for glyphosate. 
            These are actions typical of a corporation trying to avoid responsibility for the adverse consequences of their product, and Monsanto has a long history of this behavior.  The chemical company produced DDT, PCB's, and the infamous Agent Orange from the Vietnam era.  In every case they fought evidence of harmful health effects for decades, delaying effective regulation and financial restitution for harm.  At one time, they moved their production facility across a state line to avoid environmental regulations.  In corporate ethics, nothing is important except the bottom line.  This is dualistic economics at its most lethal.