Report: Pesticide-Birth Defect Link Hidden from Public

Roundup dangers range from birth defects and hormone disruption to reduced nutrients in food and possibly miscarriage.

June 8, 2011

Roundup weed killer, used both on farms and in yards, has been linked to birth defects.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Environmental health, plant, and food experts have been sounding the alarm about health risks associated with the popular weed killer Roundup for years, saying it leads to hormone disruption and more than three dozen plant diseases. One study even found its main ingredient, glyphosate, killed human cells in the lab. A new report published this month also alleges that regulators and the pesticide industry have long known about the birth defect link—some for more than two decades—but kept the details hidden from the general public. While millions of pounds of Roundup are sprayed on food crops each year, many people still also freely spray Roundup in weedy areas of their lawn. It's been found in drinking water, and even inside our food.

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THE DETAILS: A group of respected scientists published the report this month as the maker of Roundup, chemical company Monsanto, pushes the European Union to allow plantings of its genetically engineered seeds that rely on heavy Roundup sprayings (something that has been done in the United States for more than a decade). The authors allege that European government agencies and the European Commission, tasked with regulating chemicals, knew about birth defects associated with the product for years and, despite that, did not place stronger restrictions on the project. (Roundup is used in farming, but commonly as a home weed killer, too.)

At issue is the fact that Roundup seems to be exempt from regulators' taking a closer look at its health impacts. The European Union is set to adopt much stricter pesticide laws this summer; however, Roundup and more than three dozen other pesticides have received a free pass, and won't need to be reviewed until 2015. (Greenpeace and Pesticide Action Network are currently suing over this. The report authors say Roundup could actually ward off reviews until 2030.) "The beneficiary will be the pesticide industry; the victim will be public health," they write.

The report authors cite evidence that Monsanto has known since the 1980s that glyphosate causes mutations in animals at high doses; since 1993, evidence has emerged that even lower doses could cause birth defects. The German government has known since at least 1998 that glyphosate causes malformations, they write, noting that the German government has been behind a push to adopt chemical farming methods in Europe.

WHAT IT MEANS: There's plenty of scientific, peer-reviewed evidence out there to indicate that eating Roundup is not a good idea. Because it's a systemic pesticide and sprayed in high doses, produce and fruit and nut trees often take up the poison into the parts of the food we eat. That's major cause for concern, particularly since a 2010 Argentine study found malformations in frogs and chicken embryos at doses much lower than those used in farm field spraying. The Argentine scientists found that the mutations occurred mainly in the "skull, face, midline, and developing brain and spinal cord."

These mutations correlated with what doctors were seeing on the ground in Argentinean children who lived in areas that grew large amounts of genetically engineered Roundup Ready soy. The seeds are designed to grow into plants that can tolerate mega Roundup doses. Scientists found malformations in frog and chicken embryos at levels nearly nine times lower than what the European Union typically finds inside food.

While European public health advocates are working on keeping this dangerous GMO technology that uses even higher doses of Roundup than current chemical farming out of its borders, people in the United States and South America are faced with exposure every day. Three easy ways to reduce your exposure? Eat organically grown foods: GMOs, Roundup, and other man-made pesticides are strictly banned. Adopt organic lawn care techniques in your yard, and start an organic garden to further reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.

Read the report.

For more about the dangers of this chemical, read Roundup Red Alert: What You Need to Know about the Pesticide Poised to "Push Us All off of the Cliff".