By Samantha Debbie
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, is the most widely applied herbicide in the world. More than 100 million pounds of the weed killer are applied to crops each year in the United States alone.
The chemical, categorized as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO), has been linked to a variety of cancers, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, liver cancer, stomach caner and thyroid cancer, as well as numerous other health problems.
Research shows that glyphosate not only disrupts biological processes in humans, but is also aggressively altering our environment in ways that are sure to have lasting impacts.
Government scientists may be covering up the effects of Monsanto herbicide on soil quality
One of the most recent concerns regarding the widespread application of glyphosate is the impact it’s having on soil nutrients. Some experts allege that USDA scientists are purposely covering up critical information regarding potentially irreversible soil damage caused by glyphosate.
When the herbicide is sprayed on “traited” or GMO crops, it eventually moves into the soil from the plant’s root system, a complex atmosphere relying on certain bacteria, fungi and minerals in the soil to function. When the root system is balanced, crops are more capable of fighting off diseases, and photosynthesis is improved.
However, scientists are beginning to understand that the application of pesticides can disrupt this essential system, resulting in the plant’s death, according to a report by The New York Times.
Glyphosate disrupts plant root systems, destroying beneficial bacteria and fungi
“Because glyphosate moves into the soil from the plant, it seems to affect the rhizosphere, the ecology around the root zone, which in turn can affect plant health,” said Robert Kremer, a USDA scientist who has studied the impact of glyphosate on soybeans for more than a decade.
Rhizobia is important, as it’s the bacterium that fixes nitrogen, which is often deficient in many soils.
The differences in root systems between conventional and GMO crops can be seen with the naked eye. When investigators tried to pull GMO corn from the soil in one Iowa field, they were met with a challenge, needing to use a shovel in order to pry the stalks from the soil.
Once the roots were finally freed, they were observed as having chunks of dirt hanging from them. The roots also fanned out and “were studded with only a few nodules, which are critical to the exchange of nutrients,” reports The Times.
On the contrary, conventionally grown corn in another Iowa field was easily tugged from the ground, with the dirt around the roots resembling coffee grounds which easily shook off the plant.
While glyphosate is only sprayed on herbicide-resistant crops, conventional growers are worried about contamination of their crops due to heavy rainstorms that cause runoff from neighboring GMO fields.
Plants are unable to obtain the necessary nutrients after herbicide application
Kremer, who is the co-author of one of five papers published on the impacts of Roundup, says the herbicide is “altering the whole soil biology,” and is changing nutrient availability when glyphosate passes through the roots of crops and into the soil.
Similar to its impact on nitrogen, glyphosate immobilizes manganese, another essential plant micronutrient. Roundup ready crops are also more susceptible to being impacted by Fusarium, a fungus that causes wilting.
A November 2014 study found that glyphosate negatively impacts earthworm populations, a species that decomposes dead organic matter. Earthworms also create burrows in the soil, allowing oxygen and water to enter, and carbon dioxide to exit.
“We are already seeing glyphosate-resistant weeds. If we continue to use glyphosate in the same fields year after year, it’s a matter of time until microbial communities in the soil will shift to more detrimental species,” explained Kremer.
And regarding more sustainable methods, Kremer added, “More farmers are interested in using cover cropping to maintain soil quality and other organic amendments. But it’s a steep learning curve for them.”
Other works by Samantha Debbie
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