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Excerpt from: the Aeron Vale Allotments Trust & Gardeners Chat-shed  Newsletter. originally published in July/ August 2013

WEEDS, WEEDING &  WEEDKILLERS

Weeds, Weeding & Weed-killers

Lets face it, weeds are a real source of headaches, annoyance and general nuisance for most gardeners, some of us even develop a hate complex for them! They choke our crops, leach minerals from our soil, they often harbour pests that attack our crops, and they impoverish our cultivated plants by competing with them for food & water - to mention but a few problems they cause. A weed strewn allotment plot is NEVER a productive one and is  a weed seed factory that affects neighbouring plots. That's before we start pointing out how they spoil the overall effectiveness of our work and make the area we work on look like a real neglected eye-sore.

On the positive side, there ARE good weeds, a huge number have beneficial health and medicinal properties, some can be nutritious for us to eat (although they don't all taste that nice) and they've formed the foundation for herbalists to cure us of our ailments for centuries. They also help in keeping bio diverse balance which benefits certain insects. However this is not a valid argument for allowing them to grow where they can be a real problem. There IS a place for them, but not in the areas we've set aside for other varied crops that we need to grow and eat to sustain ourselves on a community scale.

So what's the best solution? Well you can:

  • work hard to eliminate their presence by digging them up on your 'patch',

  • work equally hard to keep the annual varieties that germinate every year under control by hand weeding,

  • hoe regularly,

  • make efficient use of mulches or

  • you can take a lazy short-cut and make them disappear - as if by magic - through the application of poisons to their leaves and/ or poison the soil they grow in

There is a weed-killer that has been developed by Monsanto that's marketed as 'harmless'. The company have done a terrific job convincing governments, horticultural food growers, farmers and the public generally, that their product causes no harm whatsoever, except to the actual plant it comes in contact with of course - but nothing else. Furthermore they say it's rendered neutral and safe when it comes in contact with the soil. So what's wrong with using a little of this innocent and benign concoction? After all, isn't it the answer to all our prayers, where we no longer need to use potent and deadly poisons to kill our weeds? Without it wouldn't we still have to depend on the old fashioned really harmful stuff (like sodium chlorate - remember that stuff?). So we're all lulled into a sense of security, confident in the knowledge that what Monsanto says is true. So no one even bats an eye-lid when you reach for that innocent little bottle of Roundup. Full marks to Monsanto on their excellent marketing con - or to put it bluntly the way they've hidden the truth and tarted up the reality with lies!

It’s been WAY too long since I went on a good ol' fashioned garden chemical tirade! I always assume that people realize the extreme dangers posed by herbicides (of ALL kinds) and other garden poisons. But I tend to forget how bombarded they are with ads and misleading facts, imploring them to use the junk, often implying that the toxins are somehow harmless. Like when Monsanto says that their Roundup is as harmless as table salt-which is actually very true - in a funny sort of way - since salt is one of the most corrosive substances on the planet!

And yes, evidence strongly suggests that Roundup’s so-called ‘inert ingredients’ (a decision often made solely by the manufacturer) are even worse than the ‘active’ ingredient, the extremely nasty chemical glyphosate. That’s why, when Monsanto talks about their popular concoctions of weed killers, they always say “the active ingredient in Roundup does this or that”. They never talk about the actual product, which kills earthworms and beneficial insects, has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and is taken up internally by any plants it doesn’t kill-so if you foolishly use it to control weeds in your veggie garden, you’ll be eating Round-Up for the next two years. Yummy yummy - ENJOY won't you?!

GLYPHOSATE (brand name Roundup) IS IT SAFE?

“Historians may look back and write about how willing we are to sacrifice our children and jeopardize future generations with a massive experiment that is based on false promises and flawed science just to benefit the bottom line of a commercial enterprise.”  So said Don Huber in referring to the use of glyphosate and genetically modified crops. Huber was speaking at Organic Connections conference in Regina, Canada, in late 2012.

Huber is an emeritus professor in plant pathology at Purdue University in the US and has worked with the Department of Homeland Security to reduce the impact of plant disease outbreaks. His words are well worth bearing in mind given that a new study commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE) and GM Freeze has found that people in 18 countries across Europe have been found to have traces of glyphosate in their urine (1).

Friends of the Earth Europe commissioned laboratory tests on urine samples from volunteers in 18 countries across Europe and found that on average 44 percent of samples contained glyphosate. The proportion of positive samples varied between countries, with Malta, Germany, the UK and Poland having the most positive tests, and lower levels detected in Macedonia and Switzerland. All the volunteers who provided samples live in cities, and none had handled or used glyphosate products in the run-up to the tests.

The Influence of the Biotech Sector on Safety and Regulation

Although ‘weedkiller in urine’ sounds alarming, Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences research division at King’s College London, says the levels found are unlikely to be of any significance to health because they are 300 times lower than the level which might cause concern. Alison Haughton, head of the Pollination Ecology Group at Rothamsted Research, said that if FoE and GM Freeze want their work to have scientific credibility and provide a genuine contribution to the debate on pesticide residues, they should submit their work for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Valid points, you might think. But FoE believes that there is sufficient evidence to suggest environmental and health impacts from glyphosate warrant concern. It wants to know how the glyphosate found in human urine samples has entered the body, what the impacts of persistent exposure to low levels of glyphosate might be and what happens to the glyphosate that remains in the body. New research published in the journal Entropy sheds disturbing light on such concerns (discussed later in this article).

In 2011, Earth Open Source said that official approval of glyphosate had been rash, problematic and deeply flawed. A comprehensive review of existing data released in June 2011 by Earth Open Source suggested that industry regulators in Europe had known for years that glyphosate causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals. Questions were raised about the role of the powerful agro-industry in rigging data pertaining to product safety and its undue influence on regulatory bodies .

Read Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini's REPORT

In the same vein, FoE says there is currently very little testing for glyphosate by public authorities, despite its widespread use, and authorities in Europe do not test for glyphosate in humans and tests on food are infrequent. Glyphosate was approved for EU-wide use in 2002, but FoE argues that the European regulatory agencies did not carry out their own safety testing, relying instead on data provided by the manufacturers.

Of course there are certain scientists (usually with links to the agro-industry) who always seem to be strident in calling for peer-reviewed evidence when people are critical of the biotech sector, but then rubbish it and smear or intimidate the scientists involved when that occurs, as has been the case with Dr Arsad Pusztai in the UK or Professor Seralini in France. It is therefore quite revealing that most of the data pertaining to glyphosate safety came from industry studies, not from peer-reviewed science, and the original data are not available for independent scrutiny.

 

Increasing Use

With references to a raft of peer-reviewed studies, FoE also brings attention to the often disturbing health and environmental dangers and impacts of glyphosate-based herbicides throughout the world . The FoE study also highlights concerns around the increasing levels of exposure to glyphosate-based weed killers, particularly as the use of glyphosate is predicted to rise further if more genetically modified (GM) crops are grown. It is after all good for business. And the biggest producer of glyphosate is Monsanto, which sells it under the brand name ‘Roundup’.

“The figures don’t lie; GMOs drive glyphosate sales.”

Despite its widespread use, there is currently little monitoring of glyphosate in food, water or the wider environment. The FoE commissioned study is the first time monitoring has been carried out across Europe for the presence of the weed killer in human bodies. FoE Europe’s spokesperson Adrian Bebb argues that there is a serious lack of action by public authorities and indicates that this weed killer is being widely overused. 

 

This certainly needs to be addressed not least because the prediction concerning increasing exposure to glyphosate is not without substance. The introduction of Roundup Ready crops has already resulted in an increase of glyphosate use. Using official US government data, Dr Charles Benbrook, research professor at the Centre for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, states that since 1996 the glyphosate rate of application per crop year has tripled on cotton farms, doubled in the case of soybeans and risen 39 percent on corn. The average annual increase in the pounds of glyphosate applied to cotton, soybeans, and corn has been 18.2 percent, 9.8 percent, and 4.3 percent, respectively, since herbicide tolerant crops were introduced.Glyphosate is used on many genetically modified crops. 14 new GM crops designed to be cultivated with glyphosate are currently waiting for approval to be grown in Europe. Approval of these crops would inevitably lead to a further increase of glyphosate spraying. In the US, biotech crops, including corn, soybeans, canola and sugar-beets, are planted on millions of acres annually.

Increasing Dangers

Evidence suggests that Roundup could be linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson’s, infertility and cancers, according to a new peer-reviewed report, published recently in the scientific journal Entropy. The study also concluded that residues of glyphosate have been found in food.

These residues enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease, according to the report, authored by Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anthony Samsel, a science consultant. The study says that negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation and damages cellular systems throughout the body.

In 2010, the provincial government of Chaco province in Argentina issued a report on health statistics from the town La Leonesa. The report showed that from 2000 to 2009, following the expansion of genetically-modified soy and rice crops in the region (and the use of glyphosate), the childhood cancer rate tripled in La Leonesa and the rate of birth defects increased nearly fourfold over the entire province. Sobering figures.

Professor Huber also notes the health risks associated with the (increasing) use of glyphosate. He says a number of plant pathogens are emerging, which when consumed could impact human health. Based on research that he alludes to (he refuses to make his research public or identify his fellow researchers, who he claims could suffer substantial professional backlash from academic employers who received research funding from the biotechnology industry), Huber notes that the use of glyphosate changes the soil ecology, killing many bacteria, while giving other bacteria a competitive advantage. This makes plants highly susceptible to soil borne diseases. At the same time, glyphosate has a negative effect on a number of beneficial soil organisms.

Huber’s concerns about the impact of long term use of glyphosate on soil sterility are similar to concerns expressed by Elaine Ingham, a soil ecologist with the Rodale Institute, and also research carried out in by Navdanya in India.

As for GM crops, Huber says they have lower water use efficiency, tend to be nutrient deficient, have increased bud and fruit abortion and are predisposed to infectious diseases and insect damage. He suggests that Roundup Ready crops, treated with glyphosate, have higher levels of mycotoxins and lower nutrient levels than conventional crops.

“… you could say that what you’re doing with glyphosate is you’re giving the plant a bad case of AIDS. You’ve shut down the immune system or the defence system.” Professor Ron Huber.

He concludes that, when consumed, the GM crops were more likely to cause disease, infertility, birth defects, cancer and allergic reactions than conventional crops.

Huber claims that consumption of food or feed that was genetically modified could bring the altered genes in contact with the microbes in the guts of the livestock or people who eat them. He feels this increases diseases, such as celiac disease, allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, gluten intolerance, irritable bowel disease, miscarriage, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome.

While none of these findings conclusively prove that plant (or animal) diseases are caused by the glyphosate, Huber feels safety evaluations have been inadequate, suggesting that previous (GM sector) research was substandard and extremely misleading in its interpretation of results – or worse.

With some hugely powerful players involved here, many of whom have successfully infiltrated important government and official bodies, much of the science and the ensuing debate surrounding glyphosate is being manipulated and hijacked by vested interests for commercial gain.

Some More Background Information:

During the early 1970s, Monsanto founded their Agricultural Chemicals division with a focus on herbicides, and one herbicide in particular: RoundUp (glyphosate). Because of its ability to eradicate weeds literally overnight, Roundup was quickly adopted by commercial crop growers. Its use increased even more when Monsanto introduced “RoundUp Ready” (glyphosate-resistant) crops, enabling growers to saturate the entire field with weed-killer without killing the crops.

While glyphosate has been approved by regulatory bodies worldwide and is widely used, concerns about its effects on humans and the environment persist. RoundUp has been found in samples of groundwater, as well as soil, and even in streams and air throughout the Midwest U.S., and increasingly in food. It has been linked to butterfly mortality, and the proliferation of super-weeds. Studies in rats have shown consistently negative health impacts ranging from tumours, altered organ function, and infertility, to cancer and premature death.

Health and Environmental Impacts of Monsanto's Roundup Pesticide

A recent study by eminent oncologists Dr. Leonard Hardell and Dr. Mikael Eriksson of Sweden, has revealed clear links between one of the world’s biggest selling herbicide, glyphosate (commonly known as Roundup, marketed by Monsanto), to non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a form of cancer - NHL.

There are even requests for permits for higher residues on genetically engineered foods because they are highly resistant to herbicides, instead of reducing herbicide use, glyphosate resistant crops may result in increased residues. They are already on sale. Commercial crop producers knowing that their crop will tolerate or resist being killed off by the herbicides will tend to use them more liberally. There have been no risk/benefit analysis carried out, so the regulatory authorities have failed to implement the precautionary principle with respect to GMOs.

(“Herbicide Tolerance,” New Study Links Monsanto’s Roundup to cancer,”

 www.biotech-info.net/glyphosate_cancer.html  - June 2001)

The Women’s Cancer Resource Center (WCRC) and CHOSE (Coalition for a Healthy Oakland School Environment), showed that chemicals such as Round-Up (glyphosate) can result in reproductive damage as well as damage to the kidney and liver, and some studies show a link between the chemical and cancer.

(Chemical Injury Network, June 2001)

Glyphosate (Roundup) is one of the most toxic herbicides, and is the third most commonly reported cause of pesticide related illness among agricultural workers. Products containing glyphosate also contain other compounds, which can be toxic. Glyphosate is technically extremely difficult to measure in environmental samples, which means that data is often lacking on residue levels in food and the environment, and existent data may not be reliable.

(“Greenpeace Report - Not ready for Roundup: Glyphosate Fact Sheet,” greenpeace.org - April 1997)

Glyphosate is found in weed killers and may cause cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, nerve, and respiratory damage.

(“Special Report: what you need to know about pest control,” Natural Health Magazine, May/June 2001)

Roundup: Label - Keep out of reach of children, harmful if swallowed, avoid contact with eyes or prolonged contact with skin. Remove clothing if contaminated. Spray solutions of this product should be mixed, stored and applied only in stainless steel, aluminium, fibreglass, plastic and plastic-lined steel containers. This product or spray solutions of this product react with such containers and tanks to produce hydrogen gas that may form a highly combustible gas mixture. This gas mixture could flash or explode, causing serious personal injury, if ignited by open flame, spark, welder’s torch, lighted cigarette or other ignition source. Avoid direct applications to any body of water. Do not contaminate water by disposal of waste or cleaning of equipment. Avoid contamination of seed, feed, and foodstuffs. Soak up a small amounts of spill with absorbent clay. Do not reuse container for any other purpose.

(Roundup - Label, farmcentral.com  - June 2001)

Monsanto's advertising campaigns have convinced many people that Roundup is safe, but the facts just don’t support this. Independent scientific studies have shown that Roundup is toxic to earthworms, beneficial insects, birds and mammals, plus it destroys the vegetation on which they depend for food and shelter. Although Monsanto claims that Roundup breaks down into harmless substances, it has been found to be extremely persistent, with residue absorbed by subsequent crops over a year after application. Roundup shows adverse effects in all standard categories of toxicological testing, including medium-term toxicity, long-term toxicity, genetic damage, effects on reproduction, and carcinogenicity.

Studies have shown that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, made bean plants more susceptible to disease, and reduces the growth of beneficial soil-dwelling mycorrhizal fungi. In rabbits exposed to glyphosate, sperm production was diminished by 50%, and caused genetic damage in the livers and kidneys of mice exposed to the herbicide. Monsano does not have to reveal the precise composition of Roundup.

(“Common Weed Killer (Roundup) Shows Evidence of Environmental and Health Problems,” Organic Gardening, July 2000  www.chem-tox.com 

Pharmacia Corporation owns Monsanto, and Monsanto makes Roundup insecticide. ( www.mercola.com - May 2002) The Pharmacia Corporation’s core prescription pharmaceutical business claims to be a good citizen wherever they operate, and they are implementing a new, comprehensive system for managing environmental, safety, and health issues and has adopted a series of ESH standards to guide operations worldwide. (Pharmacia.com - May 2002) Some may question the ownership of a company that produces so many harmful chemicals to people, animals and plants. Roundup accounts for half of Monsano’s corporate profits says Organic Gardening, July 2000.

Dangers that affect children’s progress and interactions at school include learning disabilities and behavior problems. Among the dangerous chemicals is Roundup, which kills all green plants that it touches (users are advised to avoid the area for 24 hours). Another is Diazinon, used for killing insects in lawns (this one has a warning to keep away from edible plants because of its high degree of toxicity). Some schools have opted to pull weeds by hand, thus eliminating the need for spraying.

(“Keep those pests away from school,” Alternative Medicine magazine, March 2002)

Obviously, the chemistry behind Glyphosate is known by Monsanto. The fact that it disrupts the CYP gene pathway, the enzymes that play a major role in body detoxification is something that can easily contribute to illness and disease. I wonder if this possibly has a direct correlation to the pharmaceutical industry? The same major financial institutions that own major biotech and food companies also own most of the major pharmaceutical companies. Mainstream media in the western hemisphere will always promote GMOs and Roundup as well as emphasize their safety. That couldn’t be further from the truth, they damage your DNA and RNA genomes, not just for profit but for experimentation and control.

It’s good to see more alternative media outlets sharing, and spreading information around the world together. The world is experiencing a mass awakening like never before, and it continues to move forward at an exponential rate. We are living in exciting times, aren’t we? (Well at least on some fronts). Monsanto’s Roundup alone is cause for so many concerns, and can create several health conditions within the human body.

Why are we ingesting this stuff? More to the point - why do we allow this stuff? And why on earth do we use it to clear up our own over-grown allotments before we start growing our own food?

Whilst it's legally available, then the choice whether to use it or not is entirely up to you as an individual - you're not breaking any laws. However don't allow me to say to you later "I told you so" - after poisoning your family, plants, soil, organisms in the soil, animals, birds, reptiles, fish, our water courses, drinking water  and the rest of the environment this stuff comes into contact with over a prolonged period.

The alternative? Back to the fork, knee pads & hoe I'm afraid - but a bit of hard work never killed anyone. That might not be the case when using poisons like glyphosate!

 

 

 

Compiled by: Gwilym ab Ioan 2013