Organic Consumers Association


Previous Page

Click here to print this page

Make a Donation!


Monsanto's Roundup Pesticide is a Major Threat to Public Health

From PANNA, Pesticide Action Network North America
From <>

Rethinking Roundup
August 5, 2005

A recent study of Roundup presents new evidence that the
glyphosate-based herbicide is far more toxic than the active ingredient
alone. The study, published in the June 2005 issue of Environmental
Health Perspectives, reports glyphosate toxicity to human placental
cells within hours of exposure, at levels ten times lower than those
found in agricultural use. The researchers also tested glyphosate and
Roundup at lower concentrations for effects on sexual hormones,
reporting effects at very low levels. This suggests that dilution with
other ingredients in Roundup may, in fact, facilitate glyphosate's
hormonal impacts.

Roundup, produced by Monsanto, is a mixture of glyphosate and other
chemicals (commonly referred to as "inerts") designed to increase the
herbicide's penetration into the target and its toxic effect. Since
inerts are not listed as "active ingredients" the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) does not assess their health or environmental
impacts, despite the fact that more than 300 chemicals on EPA's list of
pesticide inert ingredients are or were once registered as pesticide
active ingredients, and that inert ingredients often account for more
than 50% of the pesticide product by volume.

The evidence presented in the recent study is supported by earlier
laboratory studies connecting glyphosate with reproductive harm,
including damaged DNA in mice and abnormal chromosomes in human blood.
Evidence from epidemiological studies has also linked exposure to the
herbicide with increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and laboratory
studies have now begun to hone in on the mechanism by which the chemical
acts on cell division to cause cancer. A Canadian study has linked
glyphosate exposure in the three months before conception with increased
risk for miscarriage and a 2002 study in Minnesota connected glyphosate
exposure in farm families with increased incidence of attention deficit

Studies have also documented glyphosate's toxicity to wildlife and
especially to amphibians. Recently, studies conducted in small ponds
with a variety of aquatic populations have presented evidence that
levels of glyphosate currently applied can be highly lethal to many
species of amphibians.

Glyphosate is the world's most commonly used agricultural pesticide, and
the second most-applied residential pesticide in the U.S. Recent
evidence notwithstanding, glyphosate is considered less hazardous than
other herbicides, an attitude that has increased the pesticide's use and
desensitized policymakers to its impacts. The spraying program in
Colombia to eradicate coca and opium poppy-the raw materials for cocaine
and heroin-is one example. A mixture of glyphosate and several inerts
has been sprayed aerially over more than 1.3 million acres of farm,
range and forest lands in that biologically diverse nation for five
years. The U.S. Drug Czar recently noted that despite the spraying,
which is funded by the U.S. government, the number of hectares in coca
production has remained essentially unchanged. A report on the impacts
of the spraying produced for the Organization of American States has
been sharply criticized by AIDA, an environmental organization, because
the analysis failed to assess the impacts of deforestation resulting
from movement of illicit crops into previously forested areas, adverse
effects on endangered and endemic species, substantial collateral loss
of food crops, livestock and fish, and human health effects.
Authorization of next year's funding for the spray program is now
underway in the U.S. Congress, where the Senate Appropriations Committee
complained in a non-binding narrative report, "The Committee is
increasingly concerned ... that the aerial eradication program is
falling far short of predictions and that coca cultivation is shifting
to new locations."

The herbicide is used in forestry in North America to reduce grasses,
shrubs and trees that compete with commercial timber trees. Glyphosate
is also widely introduced into the environment and the human food chain
through cultivation of transgenic, or genetically engineered crops that
are tolerant to the herbicide and contain glyphosate residues. "Roundup
Ready" crops have been responsible for increased use of the herbicide in
recent years. Monsanto's sales of glyphosate have expanded approximately
20% each year through the 1990s, accounting for 67% of the company's
total sales as of 200l. EPA estimates glyphosate use in the U.S. is
103-113 million pounds annually.

Sources: Sophie Richard, Safa Moslemi, Herbert Sipahutar, Nora
Benachour, and Gilles-Eric Seralini, Environmental Health Perspectives,
Vol. 113, No. 6 June 2005,
; Glyphosate Herbicide Fact Sheet,
Journal of Pesticide Reform, Winter 2004, Vol. 24, No. 4, Northwest
Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides NCAP,
; Rethinking Plan Colombia, New
Science on Roundup: Threats to Human Health land Wildlife, Las Lianas,
June 2005,
; Critical Omissions in the CICAD
Environmental and Health Assessment of the Aerial Eradication Program in
Colombia, Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA);
The Center for International Policy's Colombia program, Relevant Text
from the Bills So Far, the 2006 Aid Request,
; PANNA, Monsanto Corporate Fact
Sheet; PANNA, Global Pesticide Campaigner, Inert Ingredients in
Pesticides, Sept. 1998.
Contact: PANNA

This GMO news service is underwritten by a generous grant from the Newman's
Own Foundation, edited by Thomas Wittman and is a production of the
Ecological Farming Association <>