Roundup - a safe weed killer of the extra class. At least that's how it is advertised. But is it really as good for the environment as its manufacturer promises?Glyphosate use in the field
When I glanced at my driveway the other day, a slight shiver came over my neck. Because again the weeds had pushed through the paving stones. When I sighed loudly, my neighbor shouted: "Well, you have to use the joint scraper again, right?" I rolled my eyes and just waved them off. Then it suddenly said: "Try Roundup." I became curious about this great remedy that my neighbor warmly recommended to me and made myself a little smart on the Internet.
What immediately became clear to me: Roundup seems to be THE weed killer par excellence. At least as far as the effect is concerned. I came to this conclusion because I came across countless forum posts and field reports from allotment gardeners who swear by Roundup. It should keep the beds and garden paths perfectly clean and easy to use. So Roundup seems to be a big seller. The good ratings and high sales ranks at well-known internet shops only confirmed all these statements.
But I couldn't ignore some of the headings that I stumbled upon during my research. Words such as “carcinogenic”, “toxic”, “malformation” and “contaminated food” were used in connection with Roundup or the active ingredient glyphosate contained therein. Of course, that contradicted everything I had previously learned. It became clear to me that I should get a little more information here before I really put the product in the shopping cart the next time I visit the garden center.
Mode of action of glyphosateGlyphosate - the most important active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup |
First of all, I asked myself what this glyphosate is. Then I found out on the Internet that it is the most widely used herbicide in the world by industrial agriculture. Agriculture is the main area of application for pesticides, but home and allotment gardeners also like to use the miracle cure Roundup. But why is it a “miracle cure” at all and why do so many swear by it? Quite simply: the glyphosate contained in the Roundup acts through the leaves and inhibits a certain enzyme (EPSP synthase) required for the metabolism of most plants. This enzyme is in turn required for the production of essential amino acids. So if it is killed, the plant will die within a few days. 5
But how can it be that soy, sugar beet and Co. survive in the fields, even though Roundup is being sprayed? That explained to me pretty quickly. In the past, the use of glyphosate in the field was only possible if cultivated plants did not grow on it at the same time. But that was a thorn in the side of many. The Roundup maker, Monsanto, went to work and began manipulating genes. In 1996, the agricultural group finally succeeded in incorporating a gene into soybeans, with the help of which the enzyme EPSP synthetase is formed. Thanks to this enzyme, the soy plants finally survived the rain of poison. But it shouldn't just be soy. In the meantime, there are also so-called Roundup-Ready (RR) corn, oilseed rape, sugar beet, cotton and alfalfa. 5
Who is Roundup?
Behind the weed killer product Roundup is the seed and genetic engineering group Monsanto, based in St. Louis in the US state of Missouri, which is currently merging with the German chemical group Bayer 10. The agricultural multinational was the first to launch Roundup in 1974 , Today Monsanto is the leading manufacturer of glyphosate-containing herbicides and glyphosate-resistant, genetically modified plants. Over time, of course, many followed suit, so that herbicides containing glyphosate are also produced by other companies.
Today, glyphosate is used as the main component of many herbicides worldwide. Especially in agriculture. Here it was initially only applied before sowing. Thanks to the genetically modified Roundup-Ready plants, Roundup can now also be used during cultivation. And some farmers also use it shortly before the harvest, because the glyphosate-containing agent dries out the plants, so that e.g. Grains can be harvested even in bad weather. 6
So it looks like Roundup really seems to be a good mean. And not just for agriculture. Finally, it is also sprayed in private gardens, on public spaces, on railway embankments and on the edge of the motorway. Why has the use of glyphosate been regulated in Austria since 2013 9? Why does France want to completely ban the sale of Roundup in garden centers? And why does Roundup keep making headlines?
Roundup - the silent poison
It is estimated that 2.5 million tons of plant toxins are injected worldwide every year. 99.7 percent of them get into the environment, soil and water unfiltered. In the case of spraying agents containing glyphosate, this can have disastrous effects. The product is said to not only damage soil life, it is also said to promote disease-causing fungi and impair the absorption of microorganisms. But not only nature suffers from the use - the animal world is also badly damaged due to the worldwide use of Roundup. Research shows that glyphosate also has a negative impact on the population of earthworms, spiders and birds. 5
Groundwater and surface water naturally also come into contact with the glyphosate through surface runoff and leaching. The devastating end: glyphosate is highly toxic to water. Depending on the dose, the agent in water can destroy almost everything that lives and grows in it. Be it aquatic plants, fish, amphibians or dragonfly larvae - if they come into contact with the glyphosate, they die. Of course, the agent also seeps into the groundwater and ends up in the drinking water sooner or later. 4
More and more farmers are fighting for their livelihood
A mysterious cattle death in Europe has been worrying for years. Animals are born malformed 7, milk, chicken and pig farmers lose their livelihood and farmers and their families fall ill. One thing seems to be to blame for this: the glyphosate. Gensoja has been used as feed in Europe for almost 20 years. Since then, farmers have seen a significant increase in animal diseases. Even if many authorities see no connection between the diseases and the active ingredient glyphosate. The farmers disagree. Many report birth defects and miscarriages.
And as if all of this wasn't bad enough, the number of sick farmers is increasing drastically. Because even in stable air and cattle droppings, glyphosate residues have already been detected. As a result, many farmers in Germany are seriously ill today.
The situation is different in rural regions of Latin America, where glyphosate-resistant plants are grown and a lot of roundup, e.g. by plane, is injected. Not only do farmers fall ill here, newborns are also increasingly being born with diseases. Mostly with physical and mental disabilities. Studies here have shown that in areas where Roundup is injected, there have been many more cases of cancer, leukemia and non-Hodgkin in recent years in ever increasing numbers among younger and younger ones. In addition, there were more and more miscarriages and fewer pregnancies in these places. On top of this, the number of congenital malformations that previously did not occur in the regions began to increase. 1
We Germans also take up glyphosate
Anyone who thinks that only animals and farmers are affected is wrong. The glyphosate reaches the stables from the fields and finally to us on the plate via eggs, milk, meat and cereals. Unfortunately, it is only sporadically checked whether and to what extent residues of glyphosate appear in food. The fact is, however, that in 2012, a sample-based study in 18 European cities showed that almost half of all people had glyphosate in their urine. And that also applies to Germany. Well over half of Germans have glyphosate in their bodies. 12
Several studies show how this can happen. For example, an investigation by the magazine Ökotest showed that eight out of ten bread rolls tested were contaminated with glyphosate 36. Also oatmeal, flour and bread. Because humans and animals do not have the enzyme that inhibits glyphosate, it was considered safe for a long time. The herbicide has also so far passed the necessary tests in the course of the approvals without any problems. Now that we are apparently even taking it in through food, the number of examinations is increasing.
A worrying study by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an institution of the WHO, has now also shown, for example, that the herbicide glyphosate definitely causes cancer in animals and most likely in humans. Above all, lymph gland and lung cancer is said to trigger glyphosate and thus the oh so popular weed killer Roundup. 4
Monsanto denies all allegations
So far, Monsanto vehemently denies all allegations. For example, it is often said that investigations were intentionally disregarded. It is almost always like this: if studies are published in which glyphosate is classified as a ticking time bomb, Monsanto quickly rows against it and starts a counterattack. Monsanto also reacted promptly to the WHO investigations. Monsanto believes that there is no scientific evidence that Roundup can cause cancer. Monsanto now even insists that the WHO withdraw its consent. 48
The good thing: in addition to Austria and France, Germany is now also reacting. In May 2015, the federal government's consumer protection ministers to ban plant protection products containing the active ingredient glyphosate. The Ministry of Agriculture had only replied that the legal basis for a ban was still missing. The approval of glyphosate is currently being re-examined by the EU, since the current approval of the active ingredient ends in December 2015. Update: The approval was extended to June 30th, 2016.
In May 2015, the Greens in the Bundestag also called hardware stores to voluntarily waive glyphosate. Some hardware stores also responded promptly. toom hardware store has e.g. decided to remove all remaining glyphosate-containing products from sale by September 30 at the latest. 8th
Conclusion on Roundup, Glyphosate and Co .:
That the first countries would like to regulate or completely ban the use of Roundup or weed killers containing glyphosate is at least a small step in the right direction. It cannot be the case that everyone can buy Roundup in the trade and use it in their own garden if it is so harmful to nature and people. Most of them don't even know about this danger. In our opinion, those who want to protect themselves, their families and our environment should definitely avoid Roundup and similar weed control agents with glyphosate. Otherwise you only support Monsanto. And I think that should stop as soon as possible. I have now also instructed my neighbor better. Roundup will certainly not use it again in his garden (I hope).
Interesting video article about Roundup / Glyphosat & its effects: