Roundup, Monsanto’s brand name for its glyphosate herbicide, has been touted as a “safe” herbicide since its introduction in 1973. It is a post-emergent, non-selective herbicide, used in agriculture worldwide in vast ground and aerial spray programs. Lawn and garden companies use Roundup and it is readily available for homeowner use. The best selling herbicide in the world, Roundup has undergone deep scrutiny around the globe to ascertain if, in fact, the claims made by the manufacturer are true. It is estimated that more than 100 million pounds of Roundup are used annually in the United States alone.
Monsanto has claimed from the beginning that Roundup is biodegradable and leaves the soil clean. As reported by BBC News in October 2009, a French court found the company guilty of false advertising on this claim. Residues of glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Roundup, appear in new plants a year after the chemical’s application.
Toxicity issues have been examined by scientists. The National Library of Medicine has published tests on human reproductive cells using glyphosate only compared with glyphosate plus other ingredients in the formula. Scientists at the Université de Caen in France found that the additional ingredients in the Roundup formula boosted the toxicity of the product. Not only did the Roundup formula kill cells, the toxic effect of the formula increased as time elapsed, using up to 100,000 times lower concentrations of the chemical than had been deemed safe for farm use. The diminished level used in the testing correlates to the residual amounts that might be found in foods grown in soil the year after application.
New “superweeds” have emerged that are immune to the effects of Roundup. These vigorous weeds are emerging worldwide. The typical response to the resistant weeds is to increase the amount of chemical used. The Rodale Institute reports that 7.93 million pounds of Roundup were used in the United States in 1994, and usage increased to 119.07 million pounds in 2005. This represents an increase of 1,500 percent. The Rodale Institute’s stand is that logically, increased use of the herbicide has made weeds stronger and the weed problems worsen, and that further increases in use could magnify the problem.