'Roundup' weed-killer for use on Roundup Ready GM crops is also registered for pre-harvest application on many other crops. The purpose of spraying with the herbicide shortly before harvest is to prevent the harvesting machinery clogging up with green material (weeds and crop leaves, especially if applied fungicides have preserved them), and to clear the ground for the next planting. Some farmers also use Roundup to try to dry down their crop and speed up the harvest time, although there's not much data supporting this tactic.
Glyphosate, the major active ingredient of Roundup, is used as a pre-harvest treatment on many food crops including wheat, soya, oats, lentils, flax, oilseed rape, beans, barley, chickpeas and potatoes.
In March this year, GM-free Scotland reported how glyphosate is increasing in our food. This is happening courtesy of GM soya, maize, oilseed rape, and sugar-beet all designed to accumulate glyphosate without damage therein.
- the amounts of glyphosate sprayed onto GM herbicide-tolerant crops has increased annually due to the emergence of resistant 'super-weeds'
- genetically-transformed crops are rarely rotated now with crops requiring alternative management
- glyphosate persists in the soil and can be re-absorbed by subsequent plants
- aerial spraying frequently contaminates non-target food crops ...
- many of the crops to which glyphosate is applied before harvest are feed crops, but no regular monitoring of glyphosate residues in meat, milk or eggs has taken place in the EU in recent years
- glyphosate can be present in air, rain and groundwater (see WHERE DOES ALL THE GLYPHOSATE GO? - January 2012)”
- Glyphosate is also widely used on roads, parks and playgrounds.
Where does all this glyphosate end up? The answer seems to be inside us.
Previously, glyphosate has repeatedly been found in urine, faeces, milk and feed of animals, especially cattle. Now, a German study which will be published later this year has found the herbicide in all urine samples from an urban population in which none of the people had any direct contact with agriculture. Glyphosate was present at levels of five to twenty times the legal maximum in drinking water.
Originally hyped for its safety, glyphosate is becoming recognised as having many properties injurious to health. For example, glyphosate combines with trace metals and could cause micro-nutrient deficiency diseases. It could alter the microbial flora of the gut leading to long-term health consequences. The herbicide is increasingly implicated in fertility and embryonic development problems, and in the promotion of cancer. The German scientists warn that by entering the digestive tracts of humans and animals, glyphosate becomes a time bomb that can be ignited by stress or by an unbalanced or bad diet.
This confirmation that the herbicide is flowing in considerable quantities through the human body will not be welcomed by the agri-chemical and biotech industries. Sensibly, the university laboratory undertaking this study is keeping its identity under wraps: pressure from industry could all too easily compromise the research.
All this glyphosate sloshing around in the environment could be very bad news for farmers and very good news for the seed suppliers. The herbicide doesn't only kill off green leaves: it also enters the crop seeds where it prevents germination and causes almost universal abnormalities in any seedlings which do manage to sprout. Who needs terminator technology or legal contracts to prevent seed saving when glyphosate does the job for nothing?
As GM-free Cymru commented:
“ ... if something is too poisoned to be viable as seed, it is quite probably very stupid indeed even to think of it as safe enough for animals and humans beings to eat”.
It may not only be crops and weeds that are being sprayed to death by glyphosate.
- Steve Sebesta, 98 reasons not to use glyphosate on seed fields - Don't use glyphosate as a harvest aid in seed fields! Farm and Ranch Guide, 6.12.11
- Herbicide Options to Enhance Harvesting FAQ, Government of Saskatchewan, October 2010
- Bob Scott, Harvest aids often needed, sometimes overused, Delta Farm Press, 9.09.08
- Herbicides found in Human Urine, translated by Thomas Rippel, Ithaka Journal 1/2012
- INFORMED CHOICE - News, March 2012