The Hidden Costs of a Weed-Free Lawn

Evidence continues to mount that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weed killer Roundup, is potentially toxic. A recent report by Earth Open Source suggests that glyphosate causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals.

Pesticide Action Network's paper on glyphosate suggests toxicity, as well.

Glyphosate is sprayed on numerous crops and plantations, including nearly 80% of genetically modified (GM) crops (canola, corn, cotton, soybean, sugar beet), with relatively high levels permitted as residues in food and animal feed. It is used as a pre-harvest desiccant, and because it is a systemic herbicide, it cannot be completely removed from food by washing, peeling, or processing. It is widely used in home gardens and public places including roadsides. Human exposure is widespread and constantly recurring.

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Glyphosate is assumed by regulators to have no neurological effects—the US EPA did not require neurotoxicity studies to be carried out for the registration of Roundup. However, there is emerging evidence that glyphosate can affect the nervous system, and in particular, areas of the brain associated with Parkinson’s disease. In one case study glyphosate exposure was linked to "symmetrical parkinsonian syndrome." An epidemiological study of children identified a link with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, denies that any adverse health issues are associated with the use of glyphosate. In their blog post dated June 9, 2011, Monsanto says:

Regulatory agencies around the world have concluded that glyphosate is not a reproductive toxin or teratogen (cause of birth defects) based on in-depth review of the comprehensive data sets available. Additionally, we have anecdotal results from first-hand experience of millions of farmers and home gardeners who have used this product for decades. Roundup agricultural herbicide provides environmental and economic benefits of conservation tillage which are sustainable and provide effective weed management.

Information is often conflicting when it comes to chemicals and health. For those who choose to be cautious and eliminate the use of Roundup, alternatives do exist. In our next post we'll explore some safe, natural ways to create a healthy lawn without the use of chemical pesticides.