Glyphosate is a chemical found in the weed killer, which is popular around the world. It was discovered in the 1950s, and the Monsanto company has patented it. They have included it in the 'RoundUp' product, and since then, many people have been using it in their plants.
The chemical name of glyphosate is 'N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine.' It was used in over 160 countries worldwide with over 650,000 tons in 2011. It is primarily used in agriculture and big farming. However, you can use it in home gardening and other public places.
Despite the expired patent of Monsanto in 2000, it continues to produce more glyphosate supply.
The company's strategy to market glyphosate is to introduce Genetically Modified (GM) plants to resist exposure to glyphosate. Farmers can plant GM corn, soy, and cotton and spray the entire fields with glyphosate without damaging the crops.
With this in mind, most of the products available in the market nowadays have glyphosate on them. According to reports, it can hurt the body with continued exposure.
This article aims to explain what glyphosate is and why it is used. Also, this will tackle the advantages and disadvantages of glyphosate. Finally, it will also discuss how do the authorities see glyphosate in the market.
Glyphosate: A Chemical You Should Take Note
One of the most widely used pesticides today is Glyphosate. Farmers use it on food crops on desiccation, for example, products like wheat. Also, this is used in the cultivation of 80% of the GMO crops.
Apart from agriculture, glyphosate is also used in gardens, parks, roads, railways, tracks, and cemeteries.
Glyphosate can be absorbed through the foliage on the roots of the plants, and it is transported to its growing points. It restrains the synthesis of the amino acids tyrosine, phenylalanine, and tryptophan and prevents its growth.
It is effective only on actively growing plants, and it can affect the farmer's produce.
Through the years, the Monsanto company has developed a genetically engineered crop that can tolerate glyphosate.
Although the glyphosate formulation has been approved by several authorities, its effects have been the number one concern as its usages have been globally increasing.
Formulations and Tradenames
As of 2010, around 750 glyphosate products are being sold in the market today. Half of the products are being introduced for conventional crops, and the Asia Pacific was the largest and fastest market in the whole part of the world. China is the largest manufacturer of glyphosate, and 30% of the global exports are from their land.
Some of the key manufacturers of glyphosate are Anhui Huaxing Chemical Industry Company, DuPont, BASF, Bayer CropScience, Jiangsu Good Harvest-Weien Agrochemical Company, and Dow Chemical AgroSciences, BASF, Nufarm Limited, Syngenta, SinoHarvest, and Zhejiang Xinan Chemical Industrial Group Company.
This chemical is an acid molecule. Thus it is formulated as salt for handling and packaging. It includes isopropylamine, potassium, mono-ammonium, and diammonium as the counterion. Meanwhile, the active ingredient in Monsanto herbicides is the isopropylamine salt of glyphosate.
US Environmental Protection Agency Classifies Glyphosate as Non-Carcinogenic
In the study conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), glyphosate was considered non-carcinogenic by the agency. Also, it is low in acute oral toxicity and dermal level.
The EPA described the situation as a worst-case model for those individuals who spend their lifetime eating food derived entirely from fields sprayed entirely with glyphosate but only when it is at its maximum level.
Finally, according to the agency, there is no adverse health effect under such conditions. In 2016, they issued a report stating that glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic.
California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment on Glyphosate
Meanwhile, in March 2015, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard (OEHHA) listed glyphosate as carcinogenic according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) assessment.
The Monsanto company filed a case against OEHHA in 2016. However, they lost the suit in March 2017.
Today, glyphosate was still listed as carcinogenic in the State of California.
Usage of Glyphosate
There are various uses and advantages of using glyphosate, according to manufacturers and farmers. Here are some of it:
Assist in Harvesting and Has Desiccation Properties
Glyphosate is also useful in helping the farmers dry out their products before harvesting. This process is known as desiccation.
This chemical can remove the moisture from the crops, and farmers use it on sunflowers, corn, maize, wheat, potato, and other crops one to two weeks before harvesting. This is indeed helpful in areas with wet summers like in the United Kingdom and Germany.
With glyphosate, the harvesting process will be speedy. According to data, 75% of the Rapeseed crops used to make canola oil are sprayed with glyphosate in the West portion of England in 2009.
Apart from this, glyphosate can help the plants concentrate their energy on ripening. It can prevent the death of the crops, shorten the growth period, and harvest it early, especially when the weather is not good.
However, whenever farmers spray the glyphosate when the harvesting period is close, many herbicides will remain in the resulting food products.
Increase Yield of the Products
For some farmers, the continuous use of glyphosate can help them increase the yield of sugarcane and sugar beet. The drying properties of glyphosate can increase fiber to sugar, which enhances the level of sugar in the cane.
According to the farmers at Louisiana farms, if farmers can properly do the spraying and the use of glyphosate, there can be an increase of 300 to 600 pounds of sugar produced per acre of land. This is indeed a 7.5 to 1 ratio of benefit-to-use.
Prevent the Growth of the Weeds
Farmers around the world use glyphosate to keep the unwanted weeds that harm their food crops. It is also used to spray the field to clear and prepare it for replanting.
In a survey conducted in 2012 in Germany, it has been found out that about 84% of farmers use glyphosate in their crops at least once a year.
Furthermore, government agencies worldwide use glyphosate to control the overgrowth of weeds in railways, parks, schools, sporting fields, and other public places.
It is mainly used in agriculture except where it is restricted or its use has been banned, such as in organic farms.
GMO Crops Are Resistant To Glyphosate
In 1996, Monsanto presented to the public a seed that can change the agricultural scenario not just in the United States but any part of the globe. Such seeds were genetically engineered to make them glyphosate-resistant.
Farmers and agriculturists patronized the new seeds. The introduction of GM seeds has ended the agony of selective spraying of the farmers to kill the crops.
The GM seeds can spray the entire field with glyphosate and kill the unwanted weeds on it. As such, the demand for new seeds rose dramatically. However, it posed a danger to the public.
Here are some of the effects of the use of glyphosate:
Effects of Glyphosate in Humans
Exposure to glyphosate could lead to various health problems such as the following:
- ADHD-This is an attention deficit disorder and has been linked to as an effect of glyphosate exposure since it can disrupt the functions of the thyroid.
- Alzheimer's Disease- Glyphosate can cause cellular death and oxidative stress, which can soon result in Alzheimer's disease.
- Anencephaly- This type of congenital disability pertains to the absence of the major portion of the scalp, skull, and brain. Exposure of pregnant moms to glyphosate can soon result in Anencephaly, and it can be heartbreaking for parents.
- Autism- Glyphosate can cause autism in children too. It can introduce the growth of gut dysbiosis in newborn children and pathogenic bacteria.
- Congenital disabilities- Due to the exposure of pregnant mothers to glyphosate, they can be at risk of having insufficient supplies of vitamins and minerals, plus congenital disabilities. Some of these are congenital disabilities, hypospadias, hormone deficiency, heart defects, micropenis, etc.
- Brain cancer- Pregnant mothers that ingested glyphosate can have a higher chance of developing brain cancer versus those that have a normal pregnancy.
- Cancer-Glyphosate can induce DNA damage which can cause several body cancer such as lung, prostate, and breast cancer.
- Obesity- Glyphosate can induce the shift in gut bacteria towards the endotoxin-producers, which can soon cause obesity.
- Reproductive problems-Studies show that subjects exposed to glyphosate can have reproductive problems like low sperm count, delayed onset of puberty, and decreased testosterone production.
- Respiratory illnesses-Glyphosate can also lead to respiratory illnesses such as asthma, pneumonia, allergies, and others.
Impacts on Biodiversity
Glyphosate herbicides are used to control plants and clear the vegetation. However, other plants and animals may also be exposed to glyphosate either directly or indirectly.
The mode of action of glyphosate means that any plant that is sprayed with it will surely be injured or get killed. Indeed, it is a high-risk herbicide for non-target plants.
Also, the continuous application can significantly affect the diversity and the number of plant species on the edges of the field.
In the past years, there has been a growing concern about the worldwide decline of amphibians. This group of animals is vulnerable to pesticides since their skin can absorb water-borne chemicals, and they can also eat contaminated food or preys.
As such, experts investigate the glyphosate contamination in the wildlife and the decrease of amphibians in numbers.
Glyphosate in the soil
Also, the glyphosate may contaminate the soil. It can form complexes with metal ions and potentially affect the nutrients in the soil. Studies also show that glyphosate can interfere with the uptake of minerals in crops.
The presence of glyphosate in the soil can also change the balance of the fungi and bacteria, which can alter plant health and the soil ecosystem.
Glyphosate in Water
Pesticides found in farms can be washed away by the rainwater, and they can run down the water resources such as the streams, ditches, and rivers or what we call the surface waters. It can also be washed down on the rock layers and soil and come on underground resources or aquifers.
People nowadays often use groundwater as the main source of drinking water. Thus, it can be contaminated with glyphosate.
Legal Cases: Advertising controversy
In 1996, the Attorney General of the New York Times ordered the Monsanto company to pull out adds that claim the RounUp product was 'Safer than table salt' and 'practically non-toxic to animals.
According to the company, they have been permitted by EPA with the said ads. However, they just pulled it from the New York Times.
Meanwhile, in 2001, French consumer rights and environmental campaigners forwarded a case against the Monsanto company in court. They said that it misleads the public about the impact of the herbicide on the environment. According to the group, glyphosate is dangerous for the environment, toxic to aquatic organisms.
However, the Monsanto company advertises the RoundUp product as biodegradable, and it leaves the soil clean after use.
In 2007, the company and French distributor were convicted of false advertising and were fined 15,000 euros. They were also ordered by the court to pay damages to the Brittany Water and River Association.
The Monsanto company appealed to the court, but the court upheld the verdict.
In sum, even if the EPA says that glyphosate doesn't have any adverse health effects on the body, it is still best if we consume organic products as prevention.
In farming, it will be helpful if we go organic and stop using harmful herbicides and pesticides, for it can only affect the soil, water, environment, and people around the farm.
It would be good practice for households to invest in water filters to prevent glyphosate in their drinking water. You can try the product of the Berkey Water Filters because it eliminates glyphosate in the water.
Finally, it is also best if you eat organic fruits and vegetables instead of sprayed with pesticides. With this, you can aid the local farmers, help protect the environment, and you can ensure the health as well of yourself and your family from any harm. As the cliche goes, 'prevention is better than cure,' and it is indeed true when we talk about health and wellness.