By Dr. Mercola
Monsanto, the world leader in the production of genetically engineered (GE) staple crops, has long claimed that its broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup is safe.
In fact, they have even used the following slogans to describe it:
- "It's Safer than Mowing"
- "Environmentally Friendly"
What we are now finding out -- unfortunately long after hundreds of millions of pounds of the chemical have already been applied to U.S. soil -- is that Roundup is proving to be a pervasive environmental threat, one that may already be poisoning a good portion of the world's remaining natural water supply.
Roundup is Contaminating Groundwater Supplies
The quantity of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, in the environment has been difficult to analyze due to its physicochemical properties, such as its relatively low molecular weight and low organic solvent solubility.
However, a recent study used a magnetic particle immunoassay to test for the presence of glyphosate in roughly 140 samples of groundwater from Catalonia, Spain.
The analysis found that glyphosate was present above the limit of quantification in 41 percent of the samples. As noted on GreenMedInfo.com, this indicates "that, despite manufacturer's claims, it does not break down rapidly in the environment, and is accumulating there in concerning quantities."
Groundwater, which is water from rain, lakes, streams or other bodies of water that soaks into soil and bedrock, can easily become contaminated when chemicals in the soil with low biodegradability and high mobility empty into it.
When groundwater is used as a drinking water source, this contamination poses a risk to animals, plants and humans alike. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains further:
"Contaminated groundwater can hurt animals, plants, or humans only if it is first removed from the ground by manmade or natural processes. In many parts of the world, groundwater is pumped out of the ground so it can be used as a source of water for drinking, bathing, other household uses, agriculture, and industry. In addition, groundwater can reach the surface through natural pathways such as springs.
Contaminated groundwater can affect the quality of drinking and other types of water supplies when it reaches the surface. Contaminated groundwater can affect the health of animals and humans when they drink or bathe in water contaminated by the groundwater or when they eat organisms that have themselves been affected by groundwater contamination."
That glyphosate has been detected beyond the limit of quantification in 41 percent of groundwater samples tested reveals yet another concerning "side effect" of its rampant use: namely, that it is not biodegrading in the soil, as previously assumed by many scientists, rather, is trickling down below the soil to the groundwater, where processes of biodegradation are much slower, and the opportunity for it to accumulate to toxic levels is much greater. These findings have devastating environmental and human health implications, as glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world and is being found virtually everywhere it has been tested…
Glyphosate is Also Found in Air and Rain Samples
The results of the first report on the ambient levels of glyphosate and its major degradation product, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) in air and rain water were published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in March 2011. The samples were collected during two growing seasons in Mississippi and Iowa. Glyphosate was detected in 60 to 100 percent of all air and rain samples, which lends further credence to the fact that Roundup does not readily break down in the environment, but rather is lingering all around us.
In 2009, a French court found Monsanto guilty of falsely advertising its herbicide as "biodegradable," "environmentally friendly" and claiming it "left the soil clean." The truth is that Roundup is anything BUT environmentally friendly. Even Monsanto's own tests showed that only 2 percent of the herbicide broke down after 28 days, which means it readily persists in the environment!
Unfortunately, thus far the United States has chosen to ignore the warning signs and allows the deceitful marketing and unabated use of glyphosate herbicides like Roundup. On a brighter note, the EPA is finally looking into the damaging effects of glyphosate on humans and the environment and plans to make a decision regarding its future by 2015. At that time, Roundup could either continue to be used as it is now, be required to have some modifications to its use or be banned entirely from use within the United States.
What are the Health Risks of This Latest Creation from the Makers of Agent Orange?
Biotech giant Monsanto has created some of the most dangerous products on the planet, including Agent Orange, dioxin, recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and genetically modified seeds. Glyphosate, aka Roundup, is shaping up to be one of the more dangerous notches on Monsanto's belt, not only because of the sheer magnitude of its use, but also because it has already been linked to more than 20 adverse health effects, including birth defects.
A recent report from Earth Open Source further revealed that Roundup herbicide not only causes birth defects, but industry regulators have known this for years and did nothing about it. After reviewing industry studies and regulatory documents used to approve Roundup, they noted:
- Industry (including Monsanto) has known since the 1980s that glyphosate causes malformations in experimental animals at high doses
- Industry has known since 1993 that these effects could also occur at lower and mid doses
- The German government has known since at least 1998 that glyphosate causes malformations
- The EU Commission's expert scientific review panel knew in 1999 -- and the EU Commission has known since 2002 -- that glyphosate causes malformations
This isn't surprising, considering a 2009 study tested formulations of Roundup that were highly diluted (up to 100,000 times or more) on human cells, and even then the cells died within 24 hours! They also found damage to cell membranes and DNA, along with an inhibition of cell respiration. Additionally:
- Glyphosate is suspected of causing genetic damage, infertility and cancer.
- Laboratory studies have identified adverse effects of glyphosate-containing products in all standard categories of toxicological testing. In one animal study, rats given 1,000 mg/kg of glyphosate resulted in a 50 percent mortality rate, and skeletal alterations were observed in over 57 percent of fetuses!
- The surfactant ingredient in Roundup is more acutely toxic than glyphosate itself, and the combination of the two is even more toxic.
What Does Roundup in Groundwater Mean for the Environment?
The outlook doesn't look good, as glyphosate is acutely toxic to fish, frogs and birds and can kill beneficial insects and soil organisms that maintain ecological balance. Numerous studies have also shown that glyphosate is contributing not only to the huge increase in Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), a serious plant disease, but also to an outbreak of some 40 different plant and crop diseases! It weakens plants and promotes disease in a number of ways, including:
- Acting as a chelator of vital nutrients, depriving plants of the nutrients necessary for healthy plant function
- Destroying beneficial soil organisms that suppress disease-causing organisms and help plants absorb nutrients
- Interfering with photosynthesis, reducing water use efficiency, shortening root systems and causing plants to release sugars, which changes soil pH
- Stunting and weakening plant growth
The herbicide doesn't destroy plants directly; instead, it creates a unique "perfect storm" of conditions that activates disease-causing organisms in the soil, while at the same time wiping out plant defenses against those diseases.
One More Reason Why Evaluating Your Drinking Water for Chemicals is so Important
Unfortunately, drinking water contamination is more the rule rather than the exception, and this is true whether your water comes from a well or a municipal source. If you have well water, unless you are getting your water from a well that is located 800 feet or more below the ground surface, chances are your well water has been contaminated by some, if not many toxic substances that have been dumped into the ground soil over past decades. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a natural well in the United States that hasn't been affected by some type of chemical such as Roundup from the surrounding soil.
If you live in a city and rely on the local water processing plant to provide you with clean water, you also cannot blindly trust that your water is clean.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. recently told ABC News that there are more than 140 chemicals in U.S. drinking water supplies that are not regulated by the EPA. This includes, gasoline, pesticides, rocket fuel, prescription drugs and more. If you would like to have your water tested, and I believe it is important to do, the most comprehensive test kit I recommend is from National Testing Laboratories. We have these test kits available at cost, a significant discount from the standard online price. If you're interested, you can purchase a test kit for Well Water or for City Water.
If contaminants are present, a whole house filtration system will provide the most comprehensive solution. I recommend a system that uses at least 60 pounds of filter media and can produce eight or more gallons a minute. When you are running two different showers, the dishwasher and the kitchen sink at the same time, you'll find out why these minimum levels are so important. You also need to look for a whole house water filter that has three separate stages of contamination removal:
- Stage one removes sediment
- Stage two removes chlorine and heavy metals
- Stage three should be a heavy-duty carbon filter for removing hormones, drug residues, chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides
You want to look for granular carbon in the carbon filter, not a solid block of carbon. The granular carbon allows for better water flow, which translates to more water pressure and better filtering properties as well. You also want to look for NSF certification, which ensures your water filter is meeting national standards. NSF certification is not given before a product can prove it removes everything it claims to remove. It's also good to makes sure all particles under .8 microns are being filtered out of the water. A lower number is actually better, but .8 microns is the standard I recommend because that covers most bacteria, viruses and VOCs.
Why Avoiding Genetically Modified Foods May Help Stop Glyphosate Water Contamination
Genetically engineered crops have vastly increased the use of glyphosate, as the so-called "Roundup Ready" soybean, cotton and corn crops allow farmers to spray Roundup directly onto their fields without killing the crops. Ordinarily, if you were to spray Roundup, or any other glyphosate-based herbicide, onto a plant, it would rapidly die. GM crops that are resistant to Roundup are the most widely sold GM varieties. So if you eat GM foods, there is a very good chance those foods contain Roundup residues -- and possibly hefty amounts of them. So what can you do? In your own home, you can:
- Avoid using glyphosate-containing weed killers on your lawn and garden
- Buy organic foods to avoid both genetically modified crops and agricultural chemicals like glyphosate
If you still want to purchase some processed foods, make sure you avoid those that may contain GM ingredients. This would be any food product containing any of the following ingredients, or any derivative thereof, unless labeled USDA 100% Organic:
✓ Sugar from sugar beets
✓ Hawaiian papaya
✓ Cottonseed (used in vegetable cooking oils)
✓ Some varieties of zucchini
✓ Canola (canola oil)
✓ Crookneck squash
You Can Join the Fight Against GMOs
The people of Boulder County have made it clear that they will not tolerate GM crops on their local land; now you, too, can let your opinion be heard. Several organizations, including Mercola.com, the Organic Consumers Association, the Institute for Responsible Technology, and the Environmental Working Group, are working to generate a tipping point of consumer rejection to make GMOs a thing of the past.
Here's how you can get involved:
- If you live in California and are willing to attend a short training session and then start collecting petition signatures (you will be part of a team of 2-4 people) for the California Ballot Initiative, sign up here. (For more information see: The California Ballot Initiative: Taking Down Monsanto.) Also remember to share this information with family and friends in California!
- Whether you live in California or not, please donate money to this historic effort
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the California Ballot. It may be the only chance we have to have to label genetically engineered foods.
- Distribute WIDELY the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. Look for products (including organic products) that feature the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal to be sure that at-risk ingredients have been tested for GMO content. You can also download the free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
- For timely updates, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter
- Look for in-depth coverage of the issue at the Institute for Responsible Technology, subscribe to Spilling the Beans, and check out their Facebook or Twitter.
- You can also join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or Twitter
In the meantime, the simplest way to avoid GM foods is to buy whole, certified organic foods. By definition, foods that are certified organic must never intentionally use GM organisms, must be produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and come from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs. Additionally, grass-fed beef will not have been fed GM corn feed, although now that GM alfalfa is approved, grass-fed will not always mean GMO free.
You can also look for foods that are "non-GMO verified" by the Non-GMO Project.