THE DETAILS: Researchers tested four combinations of Roundup on cultured human cells, and found that one inert ingredient in particular, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, significantly boosted the toxic effects of the main ingredient, glyphosate. In the study, the combination of the two killed or damaged many more of the cells than glyphosate alone. The study was published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
WHAT IT MEANS: In the U.S. alone, farmers and homeowners use an estimated 100 million pounds of the Roundup herbicide a year. The problem is, weeds are becoming resistant to the chemical, so farmers are forced to apply more and more of it. Between 1994 and 2005, the use of glyphosate increased 1,500 percent. And while the manufacturer and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency say the product is safe, a growing body of nonindustry-funded scientific research suggests otherwise. When the active ingredient alone is tested—which is standard procedure in toxicology testing—the product may seem relatively safe. But when all the chemicals in the product are tested together, which provides a realistic snapshot of the product’s safety, the results suggest much more toxicity.
A recent Rodale Institute article on pesticides like Roundup highlighted some of the research showing the detrimental effects this type of weed killer has on people and amphibians:
• In May 2009, a group of environmental lawyers in Argentina filed a petition to ban glyphosate after a study linked it to embryonic mutations affecting the nervous system and skeletal development in amphibians.
• Government-funded research out of Argentina also found higher-than-normal rates of birth defects and cancer rates in people in areas with glyphosate fumigation.
• In 2005, a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found Roundup to be toxic to placental cells at concentrations lower than that used in agriculture.
You don’t need nasty chemicals to keep your lawn and garden looking gorgeous—try these techniques and keep dangerous chemicals away.
• Go natural and save money. Protect your family and the environment (and save money in the process) by using tried and true organic techniques from OrganicGardening.com. Hint: Corn meal gluten could be your new secret weapon.
• Get off the Roundup treadmill. A product that becomes less and less effective, forcing consumers to buy more and more of it, may be profitable for the manufacturers. But it’s not so great for your budget. The nonprofit Rodale Institute, a pioneer organization in organic farming, recently investigated the topic of superweeds, ones that have grown resistant to glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup. The U.S. Department of Agriculture–named “worst weed in the world,” Johnsongrass, is among them. Switch to chemical-free methods for a better bargain.