Renewable Farming

We asked, “Show me the evidence on glyphosate.” Here it is

Finally, a research organization has assembled a virtually complete spectrum of information on glyphosate’s health effects — and published it in a single, well-written document.

The 80-page report, titled “Banning Glyphosate,” was released Aug. 20 by the Institute of Science in Society. You can review it at this link.

Eight world-recognized researchers cooperated to assemble a wide array of evidence documenting widespread and worsening health damage from glyphosate in its many herbicide formulations worldwide. Most of the evidence is from actual use of glyphosate in our environment, not the typical short-term laboratory feeding trials which for years indicated the compound alone, in its technical form, shows little toxicity.

The larger scale, longer term epidemiological studies in the real world indicate, in words of the  report, “Everywhere, people are seeing steep rises in cancers, birth defects and other serious illnesses as glyphosate use increases. The World Health Organization’s recent re-assessment of glyphosate as a ‘probable carcinogen’ vindicates the evidence witnessed by communities, researchers, doctors and campaigners for many years.”

Over the past five years, we’ve noticed a significant change in attitude among farmers as we’ve visited with them about the safety of glyphosate formulations they’re using.  Five years ago, the typical grower would almost always dismiss any question about glyphosate’s safety. “Safest chemical out there. Doesn’t affect anything but plants.”

Now, we hear, “Yeah, well, maybe we should get rid of it. Weeds are getting resistant anyway. But what am I going to replace it with?

That’s a very perceptive question. Because it raises a follow-on issue. All herbicides have a chelation effect — they lock up certain essential nutrient elements, or metabolic pathways. With thousands of chemical compounds applied in agriculture, health threats will not disappear. And we haven’t begun thorough examination of many other compounds as they’re actually used in combinations on a large scale. 

Farmers can be part of the answer, but the essential ingredient in weed control with fewer chemicals is management. That’s the scarce, valuable ingredient out in the country. Some farmers and ranchers have sharply reduced herbicides with cover crops and extended rotations. A few have totally eliminated herbicides.

We encourage you to read the full report from the Institute of Science in Society. If you have time to read only one chapter, start with Dr. Don Huber’s description of glyphosate’s action, Chapter 9.