Glyphosate is a chemical that can be 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 has been 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 still continues to produce more glyphosate supply.
One strategy of the company to market glyphosate is through the introduction of the Genetically Modified (GM) plants to resist the exposure to glyphosate. With this, farmers can plant GM corn, soy, and cotton, and spray the entire fields with glyphosate without damaging the crops.
With this in mind, the majority of the products available in the market nowadays have glyphosate on it. According to reports, it can have an adverse effect on 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 the glyphosate in the market.
Glyphosate: A Chemical You Should Take Note
One of the most widely used pesticides today is the Glyphosate. Farmers use it on food crops on desiccation, for example, products like wheat. Also, this is used in the cultivation of the 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 foliage on the roots of the plants and it is transported to its growing points. It restrains the synthesis of the amino acids which are the tyrosine, phenylalanine, and tryptophan and prevents its growth.
As such, 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 the 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, there are around 750 glyphosate products 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, Dow AgroSciences, BASF, Nufarm Limited, Syngenta, SinoHarvest, and Zhejiang Xinan Chemical Industrial Group Company.
This chemical is an acid molecule, thus it is formulated as a salt for handling and packaging. It includes isopropylamine, potassium, mono-ammonium, and diammonium as the counterion. Meanwhile, the active ingredient in the Monsanto herbicides is the isopropylamine salt of glyphosate.
US Environmental Protection Agency Classifies Glyphosate as Non-Carcinogenic
In the study conducted by US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the glyphosate was considered as non-carcinogenic by the agency. Also, it is low in oral acute toxicity and dermal level.
The EPA described the situation as a worst case model for those individuals who spend his lifetime eating food derived entirely from fields sprayed entirely with glyphosate but only when it is in its maximum level.
Finally, according to the agency, there is no adverse health effect under such condition. In 2016, they issued a report stating that glyphosate in 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 assessment done by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
As such, the Monsanto company filed a case against OEHHA in 2016, however, they lost the suit in March 2017.
Today, the glyphosate was still listed as a carcinogenic in the State of California.
Usage of Glyphosate
There are various uses and advantages of using the 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 in Germany.
With the glyphosate, the harvesting process will be speedy. According to data, 75% of the Rapeseed crops which are 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 its 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 harvesting period is close, a lot of herbicide 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 the glyphosate can increase the ratio of fiber to sugar, which enhances the level of sugar in the cane.
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, according to the farmers at Louisiana farms. 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 around the world use glyphosate to control the overgrowth of weeds in railways, parks, school, sporting fields, and other public places.
In sum, it is mainly used in agriculture except in the place where it is restricted or its used 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 in any part of the globe. Such seeds were genetically-engineered to make it glyphosate-resistant.
Farmers and agriculturists patronized the new seeds. The introduction of the GM seeds has ended the agony of selective spraying of the farmers so they won't kill the crops.
With the GM seeds, they can spray the entire field with glyphosate and kill the unwanted weeds on it. As such, the demand for the new seeds rose dramatically. However, it posed 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 is a type of birth defect which pertains to the absence of the major portion of the scalp, skull, and the brain. Exposure of pregnant moms to glyphosate can soon result to Anencephaly and it can be heartbreaking for parents.
- Autism- Glyphosate can cause autism in children too. It can introduce the growth of the gut dysbiosis in newborn children and pathogenic bacteria.
- Birth defects- Due to exposure of pregnant mothers with glyphosate, they can be at risk of having insufficient supplies of vitamins and minerals plus birth defects. Some of these are congenital defects, hypospadias, hormone deficiency, heart defects, micropenis, and others.
- 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 the 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 in the production of the testosterone.
- 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 the 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. These group of animals is vulnerable to pesticides since its 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 the minerals in agricultural crops.
The presence of the glyphosate in the soil can also change the balance of the fungi and bacteria which can alter the plant health and the soil ecosystem.
Glyphosate in Water
Pesticides found in farms can be washed away by the rainwater and it can run down the water resources such as the streams, ditches, and rivers or what we call as 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 the 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 the 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 and it is toxic to the aquatic organisms.
However, the Monsanto company advertise the RoundUp product as biodegradable and it leaves the soil clean after use.
In 2007, the company and French distributor was convicted with false advertising and was fined with 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 in the body, it is still best if we consume organic products as a prevention.
In farming, it will be helpful if we go organic and stop the use of harmful herbicides and pesticides for it can only affect the soil, water, environment, and people around the farm.
For households, it would be a good practice if you will invest in water filters to prevent the glyphosate in your 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 those that are 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.