Spraying of forests and crops in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have been impacting terrestrial ecosystems, streams, rivers and marine ecosystems for over 60 years. During that time various chemicals have been used and most of these have ultimately been shown to have major negative impacts on ecosystem and human health. Today the base ingredient of choice is glyphosate. And if you are interested in the ecological health of the Bay of Fundy and its principal watersheds and surrounding lands, then it is important to become informed about forest and agricultural spraying with this and associated chemicals.
While it is relatively easy to find scientists who express opinion about the safety of glyphosate, it is difficult to find the quality of research that was used to bring the use of the deadly DDT to a halt. Nevertheless it exists and it will be presented here on a regular basis.
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WHAT IS GLYPHOSATE?
(Based on Caroline Cox / Journal of Pesticide Reform v.108, n.3 Fall 98 rev.Oct00)
Glyphosate is a broadspectrum herbicide widely used to kill unwanted plants both in agriculture and in nonagricultural landscapes. Estimated use in the U.S. is between 38 and 48 million pounds per year. Most glyphosate containing products are either made or used with a surfactant, chemicals that help glyphosate to penetrate plant cells.
Glyphosate containing products are acutely toxic to animals, including humans. Symptoms include eye and skin irritation, headache, nausea, numbness, elevated blood pressure, and heart palpitations. The surfactant used in a common glyphosate product (Roundup) is more acutely toxic than glyphosate itself the combination of the two is yet more toxic.
Given the marketing of glyphosate herbicides as benign, it is striking that laboratory studies have found adverse effects in all standard categories of laboratory toxicology testing. These include: medium term toxicity (salivary gland lesions), longterm toxicity (inflamed stomach linings), genetic damage (in human blood cells), effects on reproduction (reduced sperm counts in rats; increased frequency of abnormal sperm in rabbits), and carcinogenicity (increased frequency of liver tumors in male rats and thyroid cancer in female rats).
In studies of people (mostly farmers) exposed to glyphosate herbicides, exposure is associated with an increased risk of miscarriages, premature birth, and the cancer nonHodgkin’s lymphoma.
Glyphosate has been called “extremely persistent” by the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, and half lives of over 100 days have been measured in field tests in Iowa and New
York. Glyphosate has been found in streams following agricultural, urban, and forestry
Glyphosate treatment has reduced populations of beneficial insects, birds, and small mammals by destroying vegetation on which they depend for food and shelter. In laboratory tests, glyphosate increased plants’ susceptibility to disease and reduced the growth of nitrogenfixing bacteria.
Described by their manufacturer as pesticides of “low toxicity and environmental friendliness,” glyphosate based herbicides can seem like a silver bullet when dealing with unwanted vegetation. However, glyphosate poses a variety of health and environmental hazards.
Glyphosate, N( phosphonomethyl) glycine, is a systemic and nonselective herbicide used to kill broadleaved, grass, and sedge species. It has been registered in the U.S. since 1974 and is used to control weeds in a wide variety of agricultural, urban, lawn and garden, aquatic, and forestry situations. Most glyphosate herbicides contain the isopropylamine salt of glyphosate.
Glyphosate products are manufactured by Monsanto Company worldwide. They are marketed under a variety of trade names: Roundup, Rodeo, and Accord are the most common names in the US.
Unlike most other herbicides, chemicals which are closely related to glyphosate are not effective herbicides.’
Glyphosate is the seventh most commonly used pesticide in U.S. agriculture, the third most
commonly used pesticide on industrial and commercial land, and the second most commonly used home and garden pesticide. Estimated annual use according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is between 38 and 48 million pounds.6 The largest agricultural uses are in the production of soybeans, corn, hay and pasture, and on fallow land. Glyphosate use is currently (1998) growing at a rate of about 20 percent annually, primarily because of the recent introduction of crops which are genetically engineered to be tolerant of the herbicide
In the U.S., 25 million applications are made yearly on lawns and in yards.