Object Of Concern: Glyphosate Roundup Out of the many chemicals that threaten life on this planet, Glyphosate Herbicide Roundup has transformed the way humans interact with certain fundamental aspects of society; food, and land management, unbalancing our system in an unsustainable manner. Glyphosate is used to eliminate unwanted weeds, a common problem in the agriculture business. It’s made from a chemical compound that seeps to the root of the plant, blocks the necessary EPSP enzyme, prohibiting the natural creation of amino acid pathways, resulting in death. Today, this herbicide is widely used in households all over the nation, as well as corporate agricultural farmers and timber companies. It's widespread usage affects everyone who comes in contact with the chemical, and causes illnesses such as cancer as a result of exposure and should be discontinued as a common product of everyday use.
History of Glyphosate Roundup was developed in the 1970’s, by a chemist employed by Monsanto, one of the largest manufacturers of agrochemical roundup since 1901. The glyphosate compound within roundup, kills any plant whose leaves are exposed. This has proven to be helpful for families that prefer to prohibit the growth of plants in their driveway and yards. Roundup is also largely used in forest management to wipe out invasive species and less profitable timber. Additionally, agricultural farms spray roundup on unwanted weeds. All of which inadvertently contaminate other crops, native plant species and surrounding habitats. Roundup is considered “non-discriminatory”, meaning it will kill any plant it comes into contact with, whether it be weeds, trees, bushes and even mass produced cash crops. Monsanto “fixed” this issue through the development of genetically modified organisms (GMO) that have the ability to resist the deadly effects of glyphosate. The effective resilience of GMO processed crops, generated an exponential growth rate in the amount of roundup used between 1994 and 2014 (Glyphosate Use United States). Today, glyphosate supports over 25% of the global agrochemical market (Glyphosate Use Worldwide) and “Each year, more than 250 million pounds of glyphosate are sprayed on American crops” (Estimated Annual Agricultural Pesticide Use). Nearly all corn, wheat, soy and cotton grown in the US is treated with glyphosate and is largely found in oats, cereal and granola breakfast foods. There are trace amounts of glyphosate in many of the commercial breakfast foods in the United States. Paul Robbins et al sheds light on this epidemic, in their book, Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction “what is out of sight, is out of mind”(142). This chemical is practically invisible, therefore, it has an even more deadly potential. Especially for those who, unknowingly come in direct contact with large amounts.
Risks and Hazards Glyphosate is applied to large massies of agricultural crops two to three times a season, which are then shipped out around the Nation and consumed by millions of people. The long term health effects of this chemical are few and far between, for such a relatively new chemical. A 2015 journal report explains that Glyphosate can not be removed by washing or cooking the food. Furthermore, the chemical has been detected in foods, years after application, even if the food has been frozen, dehydrated or processed (Schledorn). Companies knowingly poison future generations without any clue of health risks that are associated with prolonged exposures to the chemicals. The journal, Safety Evaluation and Risk Assessment of the Herbicide Roundup and Its Active Ingredient, Glyphosate, for Humanswritten by Williams, Gary M., et al., assess the risks associated with herbicides, explaining that there is a “ high polarity of the glyphosate molecule makes it practically insoluble in organic solvents” (121). This means that the compound will not break down or decompose. As roundup is sprayed onto landscapes, it remains there indefinitely. Particles slowly wash away into local waterways, contaminating drinking water and poisoning wildlife. These waterways eventually drain out into the ocean, therefore, the hazardous effects of glysphotoe potentially will be felt around the world.
Environmental Justice Companies that rely on Glyphosate for economic gain, claim that it “poses no health risk to humans” (Monsanto). However, the use of roundup herbicides not only devastates wildlife, habitat, local waterways and exacerbates wildfires, but they also pose serious health risks to Natives who maintain their ancestral rights to the land through the collection of indigenous plants and foods. For example, the California Indian Basket Association has complied information to raise awareness for unnatural chemical hazards that are now associated with Native traditional practices that are essential to the survival of their culture and religion. Dr. Michael O’Malley presents findings on the dangerous effects of glyphosate usage on ancestral land, in their journal, Recognizing Illnesses Related to Forestry Herbicides,“ A basket weaver may be exposed to pesticides by making skin contact while gathering. The plants that are eliminated by herbicide spraying because of their lack of commercial value, are often the same plants that provide Native people with traditional foods and teas, are used in baskets and for healing, ceremonial and other traditional purposes” (O’ Malley, 5). The use of roundup, threatens the health of Tribal members who depend on traditional practices, like basket weaving, as a cultural right and basic religious freedom. The California Indian Basket Association, have found that the use of such chemicals lead to high exposure of mouth cancer after years of gathering. Natives process plant materials for weaving, with their mouths, an ancient traditional technique that greatly improves productivity. The use of herbicides also contaminates Native foods such as acorns, which many species of wildlife also depend on for their survival.
Conclusion Humans and animals should not have to question whether or not their intuition to eat naturally growing plants, might kill them due to unethical chemical usage in the area. This parallels the story of chemically contaminated foods that society, specially kids, blindly consumes, without the true acknowledgement for the damage glyphosate can cause. The book, Environment and Society: A critical Introduction by Robbins et. al., explains how corporate greed triumphs over the wellbeing of this planet when he says, “we are knowingly creating highly dangerous pollutants” and are freely spreading them around the world. Corporations are obsessed with short, quick profits, no matter at whose expense. These chemicals will remain present in our food system, soil, water, air and bodies for hundreds of years to come. Despite numerous studies on the dangerous health effects of roundup, companies still continue using it. Glyphosate is another form of man's damnation and attempt to control the natural environment. It is our duty as part of this diverse collective of souls, humans, plants and animals, to stand up for what is morally ethical and ultimately benefits the prospectrity of world as a whole.
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