Roundup (the best-known trademark for glyphosate) is, indisputably, the King of Herbicides but this King is a despot; with his enormous power he rules the world. Roundup is Monsanto’s jewel in the crown and amounts to one third of their revenue. It is the most widely-used agricultural chemical in the world; its spread is as far-reaching as that other giant - and killer – Coca-Cola.
Since 1974 some 9.4 million tonnes of glyphosate have been applied to crops. That, apparently, amounts to approx. 1kg of Roundup applied to every cultivated acre of land on the planet. Its residues are found in most of the staple crops of the Western diet – things like corn, wheat, cotton, soy and sugar as well as in something like 80% of processed foods. It is used by farmers, by local authorities for clearing roadsides, roundabouts and train cuttings and, privately, by landowners and gardeners.
It is a non-selective herbicide, highly effective at killing weeds, trees, plants, algae, bacteria, fungi and wildlife and it now seems – and contrary to what we were told in the past – that it is now killing us too. Perhaps that is fair and just as it is US who are spraying it with impunity killing much of our innocent environment.
The other horror in this sad tale are gm crops; those that have been genetically modified so that Roundup does not wither them. They are popular with many farmers because they can carry out broadcast spraying knowing it will not harm their particular freaky crop. We are surely and stealthily poisoning our bodies; scientists and big business will, surely, battle it out for years to come, but the evidence is stacking up and it is becoming just too enormous, and horrendous, to ignore.
So the good news is that the European Union has just refused to grant Monsanto a new license and it was US – people power - who largely persuaded the EU to, at least, delay another 18months pending more test results. The situation is complicated by the $62 billion offer in May from the German chemical giant Bayer to purchase the U.S. seed company,
Monsanto. A merger made in hell – it would make the Company the world’s largest agribusiness with an unprecedented monopoly over the world’s food supplies.
France, the Netherlands and Brazil too have completely banned the product. Spain twists and turns in a macabre dance; Roundup is still legal here; it is regulated but, of course, regulations are made to be broken! Its use is restricted near waterways, near schools and hospitals. Notices should be erected warning the general public if the area has been recently sprayed (have you ever seen one?) and operators have to be qualified to use the product. Spraying should never be carried out on windy days.
In Spain it is said that only one gm crop is cultivated – corn MON810. It has to be properly labelled and it is destined to animal feeds. Many of us, of course, eat meat.
A few facts that might startle you – and we do need to be startled out of lethargy.
1. According to El Mundo newspaper last year (http://www.elmundo.es/salud/2015/03/12/5501aaba22601d6d118b457c.htm) 45.4% of European food contains traces of pesticides. This analysis came from 81,000 samples (fresh and processed foods) from 27 member states. In those testing positive, 27.3% showed not just one pesticide but several, often forming dangerous chemical
cocktails. Glyphosate was, by far, the most commonly occurring.
2. Over 60% of bread sold in the U.K. is made from gm wheat.
3. 14 of Germany´s best-selling beers tested positive for glyphosate.
4. In the U.S. 41 types of honey from a sample of 69 tested positive for glyphosate. Because of the millions of hectares cultivated with gm crops there, many of our major foods are affected.
5. An Argentinean study earlier this year found that 85% of tampons and cotton pads contain traces of glyphosate. Gauze used in wound dressing tested 100% positive.
Recent independent testing by the University of California, U.S. showed that 93% of the general public there test glyphosate positive in their urine.
So we will all be able to stand out in our gardens peeing and killing the weeds!