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What is the herbicide roundup and is it toxic? Today, we're taking a look at the debate surrounding its potential environmental and health issues.

If you haven’t heard of Monsanto’s round-up, you might be living in a bubble. Despite consumers asking for more organic plant foods, our food industry has been monopolized by organizations like Monsanto, who control how our seeds are engineered and distributed and how are crops are raised. Our food systems are not as simple as they used to be. As the population grows, we are quickly eating through our resources in an attempt to feed ourselves. We are constantly in need of more plants to feed the animals that we eat and we also need more plants and animals to feed ourselves. One way of helping our food grow faster is by spraying crops with pesticides and messing with their DNA, or genetic material. We are injecting our animals with hormones to make them grow faster and feeding them with genetically modified grains.

Unless we are choosing to eat organic food, we are being exposed to foods that have been genetically modified and sprayed with pesticides. The most popular pesticide used by Monsanto is known as Glyph sate, and more commonly referred to as roundup. Although Monsanto insists that roundup is safe, there is a huge resistance to its use and mounting evidence to the contrary.

What Is Roundup?

Glyph sate is a broad-spectrum herbicide used to kill weeds and therefore protect crops and increase yields. Monsanto also introduced glyphosate-resistant crops, enabling farmers to be able to kill weeds, without killing their crops in the process. Roundup as it was named and adopted by Monsanto quickly became one of its leading selling products and by 2007, glyphosate was the most commonly used herbicide in the United States. The degree of Monsanto and roundup infiltration depends on your countries policies. In the United States, current so-called Roundup Ready crops include soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, and sorghum and now some wheat. Exposure to roundup can come from eating these crops, from soil contamination to other crops and also from eating animals that are fed roundup ready feeds. 

Is Roundup Toxic?

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in herbicide formulations that contain it, but other additives, also potentially toxic can be found in its formulations. Glyphosate has been identified as an oral and inhalation toxin at level III (on a I to IV scale, where IV is least dangerous). The United States Environmental Protection Agency requires glyphosate products to contain a label warning against oral intake and that handlers of glyphosate wear protective clothing and to not re-enter crop fields for 4 hours post use.

Despite glyphosate being toxic, evidence shows it does not lead to bioaccumulation in mammals and is excreted through urine and feces.

The Environmental Protection Agency considers glyphosate to be non-carcinogenic and relatively low in dermal and oral acute toxicity. So far studies have not found any associations between long-term low levels exposure to glyphosate and the development of disease. However, in 2009, a French court challenged Monsanto and accused them of lying and making false claims regarding advertising roundup as biodegradable and safe.

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