The declared safety of glyphosate formulations, particularly Roundup, is based on false claims made by Monsanto, the manufacturer – and parroted by the regulatory bodies of the USA, Canada and the European Union as well by users and scientists. These lies were exposed two years ago. I shall deal with that later in this article. Other claims for safety of glyphosate are based on 30-year old standards and testing methods.

It is being examined as to whether the current regulatory processes are adequate to assess the safety or danger of chemicals licensed since the end of World War II.

One obvious shortcoming is that the current approval process limits laboratory animal feed/test trials to 90 days only. This is entirely too short a period because chronic diseases do not show up in 3 months – not even 3 years, but more likely in 30 years in humans or by midlife in lab rats.

Another serious shortcoming concerns the emerging science of epigenetics by which it can be shown that the endocrine system is disrupted by chemical residues as low as a few parts per billion. This negates the use of an approval process based on “maximum residue levels [MRLs]. The futility of these processes is shown by the simple fact that the MRL for glyphosate in drinking water in the EU is 0.1 ppb while that in the USA is 7000 times that at 700 ppb. Can consumers trust science and regulators in this kind of scenario?

New research carried out from just about five years back and after the exposure of Monsanto, show an entirely different picture of glyphosate. Even so, still there are only a few long-term studies and still fewer tests on glyphosate formulations. The latter can lead to a dead end.

The focus should be on glyphosate formulations [GFs]. They are proved to be more than twice as toxic as glyphosate that makes up only about 41% of the GF. Only the manufacturers know what these additives are because they are claimed to be trade secrets and inert. They are far from inert. Manufacturers have not tested their toxicity; no one else can test their toxicity either, because they are not identified. One additive, POEA has been proved positively toxic. So the safety of GFs is highly questionable on that score alone.

(Professor) Mathew’s article “The Safety of Glyphosate” [CDN August 1, 2017] is misinformed and misleading. He appears to have a similarly inadequately informed supporting scientist in Dr. L.M.K.Thillekeratna, a former Director of the RRI. [CDN August 7, Letters to Editor]. I thought it best that the points raised by Mathew should be taken up separately.

1. Convenience of Glyphosate

Professor Mathew, though a scientist, is promoting convenience of use above human safety. What is he first? A scientist or a profit-oriented commercial farmer? Is he not a humanist either?

The convenience of glyphosate is admitted but it is backfiring because of health hazards being made known through Monsanto’s own covered up research of over 40 years and new research.

1. It is killing people and the environment.

2. It has created superweeds that cannot be killed by glyphosate even at high concentrations.

In the USA alone, 70 million acres were virtually idle in 2013 due to superweeds produced by use of GFs at least twice a year. Superweeds came out just a decade after the introduction of GFs. The idle acreage is increasing yearly. This is a 100 per cent increase from the idle land extent for the same reason in 2009. There are over 20 species of superweeds. Some are seven feet tall. One is a species of Amaranth, with millions of seeds per plant. We have a relative of it in “Katu Keera”. It is already a tough plant that has seeds in their thousands. That will be one of our superweeds.

Tests conducted by the University of Illinois Plant Clinic in 2016 showed that weed resistance to GFs and PPO inhibitor herbicides have reached epic proportions. Out of 2000 samples from 593 sites in 10 states, 76.8% of the sites showed resistance to glyphosate herbicides, 62.5% of the sites showed resistance to PPO inhibitor herbicides and 49% of the sites showed resistance to both types of herbicides. PPO inhibitors are herbicides which kill weeds by destroying cell membranes – a very much stronger poison than glyphosate.

Farmers who can afford to do so are employing bulldozers and digging out the entire land; others are using ploughs towed by tractors; others have abandoned the land and farming because they do not have the money to dig out the superweeds. These farms are in hundreds of acres. All are aware that this digging out will have to be done every year because the weeds broadcast millions of seeds – and these were lands that were farmed under “no-till agriculture” to prevent erosion!

What is the response from Monsanto? Blaming the farmer for monocrops and continuous use of a single herbicide. Monsanto ignores the fact that farmers followed Monsanto’s advice. The new advice is to use herbicides that have combinations of 2-4D, Dicamba and glufosinate from Monsanto and other manufacturers.

That means further poisoning – on a much more lethal scale, for humans and all living beings. It is also a losing battle. As Charles Darwin said, nature adapts; yes, but for the better or worse, here.

Superweeds will become a problem without a solution under the present methods of convenient agriculture promoted by the biotech industry and its supporters. Crop rotation, the use of different herbicides, adoption of other weed control measures, growth of ground cover, mulching etc. must be applied. Agriculture is not a business only. It is not for arm-chair farmers, visiting land-owners and single-minded seekers of profit. Agriculture is life – more so than medical services.

2. Toxicology of glyphosate

Professor Mathew states that “All Chemicals are toxic. So there is a range for toxicity and LD 50 is used as the standard”.

On his argument that all chemicals are toxic, we might just as well call for the removal of the bans and cautionary advices on DDT, Thalidomide, Polychlorinated biphenyls, Bisphenol A, Lasso, Aspartame, Paxil and even tobacco smoking etc. For instance, DDT helped eliminate Malaria; so let’s get it back to kill the dengue mosquito, and the malaria mosquito still found in Moneragala.

As for the LD50 standard, it was developed in 1927 to estimate the relative poisoning potency of a chemical given at once. Because of its inadequacy, several other tests such as LD01, LD100, LDLO and TDLO have been developed.

All these tests are more suitable for establishing acute toxicity; that is defined as the ability of a chemical to cause ill effects relatively soon after one oral administration or a 4-hour exposure to a chemical in air. “Relatively soon” is usually defined as a period of minutes, hours (up to 24) or days (up to about 2 weeks) but rarely longer.

As such, to an informed person, these tests are very obviously useless to test the toxicity of glyphosate. It is said that one can drink two pints of glyphosate without fear of a quick death. It is not acutely toxic. It is a Grade 3 poison in a descending scale of 4. 

Visit Sri Lanka's Largest online shop. Over 125,000 unique categories such as Fresh Flowers, Cakes, Food, Jewllery, Childrens Toys and other Sri Lankan e-commerce categories. Low delivery cost to most cities here and free delivery in Colombo.

Add new comment