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Monsanto first introduced Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide, in 1974 as a solution for weed control. The innovative, less-toxic products were geared toward growing commercial crops, but also could be used by the at-home gardener. In the 1990s, the company capitalized on this need by adding a line of crop seeds for corn, soybeans and canola, immune to Roundup’s effects. When Monsanto’s patent expired in the early 2000s, other glyphosate-based herbicides entered the market.
Complaints Against Roundup
Correlations between Roundup exposure and cancer have existed for close to two decades. In 2015, a World Health Organization study confirmed many of these observations. Data indicated glyphosate is a probable carcinogen for humans and contradicted the EPA’s earlier motion to classify glyphosate as a less harmful chemical.
Later reports have indicated Monsanto doctored its research data, had an influence on the EPA, meddled with press coverage and had in-house employees wear protective gear while handling the allegedly “safe” substance.
In response to these findings, individuals diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) after using Roundup for several years filed suit against parent company Bayer, who bought Monsanto. To date, a few plaintiffs have won their claims. Currently, about 11,000 cases concerning Roundup and NHL are pending in court.
Other studies have found that trace amounts of glyphosate remain even after crops are processed into food. These encompass oat-based snacks and cereal, beers and wine. In response, cities in the United States and overseas have started banning or greatly restricting Roundup for public use. For instance, to control weeds in city parks and on school grounds.
Announced recently, Seattle has decided to look for alternatives to Roundup to control invasive species like the Himalayan blackberry in its public parks. Previously, the city opted for this herbicide to reduce growths without harming native species. A year ago, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department halted its application, citing concern for employee safety and in August 2019, Seattle’s mayor signed this move into law.
However, Seattle is not completely banning glyphosate outright. Rather, employees have been asked to try other weed-controlling methods, from mowing and mulching to other herbicides, before using Roundup as a last resort.
While not directly targeting Roundup, San Francisco has restricted the use of chemical pesticides since 1997. Furthermore, the California EPA classifies glyphosate as a carcinogen and in April, the state decided to label glyphosate-containing products as toxic, based on Proposition 65.
At the same time, cities and smaller municipalities across the state have stopped or restricted the use of Roundup. In July, Los Angeles permanently banned county departments from using Roundup and neighboring city Pasadena sought other alternatives in 2018. Burbank, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Thousand Oaks, Irvine, Richmond, Santa Cruz and Greenfield no longer use glyphosate products for public use.
Outside of the state’s more urban areas, Watsonville – a farming community – banned it for use on public lands in April 2019. Yet, the town still has to address its usage on private farmland, where pesticides can drift from crops on to school grounds and other public spaces.
Other Parts of the U.S.
In 2018, Austin, Texas, opted to restrict Roundup and Portland, Maine, completely banned it for public usage. Miami followed suit in 2019 for a somewhat different reason: Algae holds onto pollutants, including Roundup, and as algae blooms grow on top of the city’s water ways and create “green slime”, the chemicals then seep into the local water supply.
Glyphosate may also be destroying local ecosystems, from aquatic plant life to reefs. Restriction would then taper this potentially pervasive destruction. Until the ban, Miami’s departments went through 4,800 gallons of Roundup each year.
As of late 2019, communities across 13 states have decided to ban or greatly restrict glyphosate-based products and New York City and Boston are also poised to ban it. However, some municipalities remain hesitant. In spite of available research, Roundup has been instrumental in keeping tick populations down and controlling allergy-aggravating plants.
Outside the U.S.
A small village in France recently made news for banning glyphosate from being sprayed near homes and businesses. The decision came after test results showed traces of glyphosate in the urine of town residents. The motion resulted in the French government taking the town’s mayor to court, as glyphosate is not banned nationally. Yet since 2015, other communities across the globe have assessed whether they will continue using Roundup.
Did you use Roundup after it was advertised as a non-toxic, safe solution for weeds? Many people, without the use of personal protective equipment, have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a result. While Bayer and Monsanto continue to deny its effects, plaintiffs are seeking justice in court.