Glyphosate is the world's most-used pesticide, but does it have any negative effects? Is it safe to spray on public parks? What are the possible effects of having glyphosate residue left on your food?
This article explains what exactly glyphosate is and whether or not it has any negative environmental and health impacts. It also explores how this pesticide may be used without damaging sensitive environments. Glyphosate is the most widely used agricultural chemical in history, and it’s been in use since 1974. It’s now found even in soil samples from organic farms, due to the heavy use of glyphosate-resistant GMO crops that have been sprayed with the chemical.
1: What is Glyphosate and why do people use it as a herbicide?
Glyphosate, a product of Monsanto, was introduced for use primarily as an agricultural herbicide. It is a non-selective herbicide, killing all plants except for the specific species it is applied to. This makes it useful for farming because it can be sprayed on fields after crops have been planted. It can also be used to stop weeds from growing in roadsides, on sidewalks and along fences.
The main site of action of glyphosate is the shikimate pathway in plants. The shikimate pathway is used by plants to synthesize the amino acid, aromatic amino acids and other essential compounds. This pathway does not exist in animals such as humans; however, gut bacteria ferment foods that contain this pathway into short-chain fatty acids that are important in human nutrition.
The main effect of glyphosate on plants is to disrupt the shikimate pathway so that synthesis of these essential compounds is disrupted.
Glyphosate can also be used in the United States as a desiccant, or a tool for controlling pests such as termites and cockroaches. The most common material used in this application is silica gel, which absorbs water and releases it slowly over time. This is usually done by spraying the product onto surfaces where pests are known to reside. Glyphosate has also been used as an emulsifier for paints and coatings. Farmers used to flood their fields with glyphosate before planting but this practice is illegal due to the potential for it to contaminate groundwater. The recommended usage is for farmers to spray glyphosate when crops are 4-6 weeks old and again when they are 8-10 weeks old. Farmers do not commonly spray more than a couple of times total, so this has little impact on the environment or non-target plants
2: How are Roundup and Glyphosate Related?
Roundup is a brand name under which various glyphosate herbicide products are sold. Glyphosate is an herbicide, which means that it is a chemical meant to kill plants. It’s not used to grow crops like other herbicides; instead, it’s used as a pre-harvest treatment to dry out the crop and make it easier to harvest. The chemical can be sprayed onto crops in the field, or during the harvesting process.
In humans, glyphosate has been linked to several different health effects including birth defects. The herbicide was discovered by two Monsanto scientists in 1970 and patented under the company name in 1971. Monsanto went on to commercialize and sell glyphosate products under names like Roundup, Rodeo, and Ranger Pro. In the meantime, Monsanto has developed several GMO crops that resist glyphosate, including soybean, corn, canola, alfalfa, and cotton.
One of the major concerns with glyphosate is that its main ingredient, phosphonic acid or POA (also known as glyphosate acid), sticks around in your body for a very long time. Studies have shown that phosphonic acid can stay in the organs of laboratory animals for up to 6 months after exposure. It also remains in soil and water for long periods of time.
Studies have shown an increase in liver cancer among mice who were exposed to large amounts of POA. Studies on rats revealed a dose-dependent link between POA exposure and oxidative stress in the kidneys. Other studies have also linked low levels of POA with severe symptoms in livestock, including stunted growth, and a condition called “chronic wasting disease.”
Glyphosate is not only an environmental toxin. In humans, it has been linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and human birth defects as well.
Is Glyphosate Dangerous?
Many people believe that the only thing that is dangerous about glyphosate is that it’s a pesticide; however, this is actually a red herring. If you look closely at the differences between pesticides and other chemicals, you'll notice an important detail: pesticides are generally safe for people to use on food.