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No RoundupGlyphosate, the active ingredient in the best-selling weed killer Roundup, widely used as a crop herbicide and drying agent is a carcinogen. California State agency orders danger labelling. Should the rest of the world follow suit?


Roundup is ubiquitous, much like fast food chains, and can easily seep into communities. On a recent trip to Corfu I saw men in hill villages staggering along shaking from head to foot, wobbling with each step. At first, I thought there might be some sort of genetic problem in the population, or that these were day-time drunks. But, as my walk into the olive groves progressed, I saw plastic canisters strung about the olive trees emblazoned with the words Roundup Gold. The containers were perforated to let the toxins leech out (see photo).  Could these damaged men be agricultural workers suffering from tremors, a sure indictor of coming into direct contact with a powerful nerve agent such as Glyphosate?

In October last year, I attended a Tribunal in the Hague to hear testimonies from all over world about the dangers of Glyphosate from academics, toxicologists and victims [1]. In April this year, after months of reviewing the evidence the Tribunal Judges found that glyphosate negatively impacts human health and the environment [2]. Their findings are a vindication for thousands of farmers, agricultural workers, their families and members of the public all over the world who claim to have suffered a range of adverse health effects, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, from even short exposures to Glyphosate.

In February 2015, Monsanto executive William Heydens emailed his staff to ghostwrite a scientific study saying Roundup is safe, and that he would tell scientists to “just edit and sign their names, so to speak.” [3]. It was a strategy that worked for their initial safety study in 2000 when Glyphosate was successfully launched onto the market. In 2017, sales of Glyphosate account for around a third of Monsanto's $15billion annual revenue. To counteract Monsanto’s safety claims, a group of leading international scientists have written a letter in support of banning Glyphosate [4]. This is an excerpt from their letter:


“On March 28, 2017, the California Office of Environmental Health Assessment identified the widely used herbicide, glyphosate, as a chemical known to the State to cause cancer under Proposition 65. This determination was based on the identification of glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen on March 20, 2015 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organisation (WHO). As scientists with extensive training and experience in the areas of cancer, children's health, developmental biology, endocrine disruption, environmental biology, epidemiology, and reproductive health we agree with these assessments and commend California regulators for their foresight in acting to protect the health of future generations.”

From 7th July 2017, under Californian law, any product containing Glyphosate will require a warning label [5]. Monsanto attempted to sue the State to rescind this ruling and now appeal the decision. However, the State validates the numerous independent studies commissioned by concern groups which found high levels of Glyphosate in human urine. Tests by the US Food and Drug Administration discovered traces of Glyphosate in oatmeal, baby foods and honey. [6]

Greenpeace’s accusation of conflict of interests has forced a re-check by European Chemical Agency (ECHA) which judged Glyphosate a serious harm to eyes and toxic to aquatic animals, yet safe for public use. This comes before the EU Commission can reach its final decision on Glyphosate by the end of this year. [7].  Meanwhile, post-Brexit Britain’s neoliberal Conservative government is likely to push for no labelling laws and no ban on Glyphosate. Malta, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands and Argentina have all banned Glyphosate outright [8].

The recognition by key International agencies of the harmful effects of Glyphosate marks an important step towards making its continued use a crime under the proposed law of Ecocide. [9]

Photos (c) Sam Burcher 2017

Perforated glyphosate