Monsanto, RoundUp and Junk Science


Senior Staff Scientist


You deserve safe, healthy food. Help us label GMOs and get antibiotics out of food animals.

By Caitlin Watkins on Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Op-ed written by CU Expert Michael Hansen. Reposted from Huffington Post The Blog.


Last weekend demonstrators joined a March Against Monsanto in some 428 cities in 38 countries, including more than 240 cities in the U.S. alone. What exactly has so many people riled up? Monsanto, of course, is an agrichemical and biotech giant, responsible for more than 90 percent of the traits in genetically engineered corn, soy and cotton sold worldwide. The company is a flash point for those who oppose the technology. But now a new issue has emerged. Monsanto’s herbicide glyphosate — trade name RoundUp — which is used on most genetically engineered crops (also known as GMOs), is sparking new and serious concern, not just among GMO opponents but among health and environment experts globally.

There is good reason to be concerned with glyphosate and its widespread use on GMO crops. When they were first being introduced in the early 1990s, biotech companies said GMO crops could do many things — produce more nutritious food, resist climatic stress, reduce pesticide use, and confer many other benefits. But, in fact, the characteristic most widely engineered into crops was the ability to withstand RoundUp. This was a win-win for Monsanto — they could sell the engineered seeds, and also sell the weed killer the seeds were designed to withstand. Since this greatly simplified weed control, farmers embraced the seeds and glyphosate use. Today, 90 percent or more of the corn, soy, canola, sugar beets grown on U.S. cropland are varieties that have been engineered to tolerate glyphosate.

Not surprisingly, glyphosate use has increased vastly. In the period between 1996 and 2011, during which GMO crops were introduced into U.S. agriculture, these crops increased herbicide use by 527 million pounds. Use of glyphosate on just two crops, corn and soy, has increased almost 17-fold between 1996 and 2012, from roughly 12.5 million pounds to 210 million pounds.

So what’s the problem here? Glyphosate (RoundUp) has long been touted as virtually harmless. EPA doesn’t even bother to test for residues in food, having decided years ago they pose little risk. But studies to the contrary have gradually been accumulating, and in March of this year, 17 experts from 11 countries meeting at the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), unanimously agreed to re-classify glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (e.g. Group 2A). The Chair of the IARC committee was Dr. Aaron Blair, formerly the top scientist on pesticides and cancer at National Cancer Institute.

Monsanto has called the IARC findings “junk science,” as the findings differ from the assessment of regulatory agencies in the U.S. and EU. However, IARC, unlike the regulatory agencies, looks at all the available studies in the scientific literature and does not ignore or downplay studies performed on the formulated product and/or which do not follow narrow testing protocols.

The response to IARC’s findings in other parts of the world was immediate. Colombia halted the spraying of glyphosate as part of their coca eradication program. Bermudaand Sri Lanka banned imports of glyphosate products, and Germany’s state consumer protection ministers called for “the supply to and use by private persons to be banned for precautionary reasons.”

Health risks are not the only new concern. The vast increase in herbicide use associated with GMO crops, virtually all due to glyphosate (RoundUp), has also caused a substantial increase in glyphosate-tolerant weeds, dubbed “super weeds” by some. A survey of farmers in 2012 found that almost half of U.S. farmers had glyphosate resistant weeds on their farms, up from 34% in 2011.

Widespread use of glyphosate on engineered crops throughout the Corn Belt also appears primarily responsible for a large decline in Monarch butterfly populations because the herbicide eradicates milkweed, on which the butterfly depends for food. In response to a petition from environmental organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department is considering whether to place the Monarch butterfly on the Endangered Species list.

The biotech industry’s primary answer to the super weed problem so far has been to develop crops (corn and soy) that are resistant to other herbicides such as 2,4-D and dicamba. But some scientists think these are even more toxic than glyphosate. Next week IARC will meet to discuss, in part, whether to changes the carcinogenicity classification of 2,4-D and related herbicides, and perhaps determine that they are “probable human carcinogens.” Stay tuned.

Whether you march against Monsanto or not, there are clearly new safety concerns — the cancer risks — and environmental impacts — superweeds and Monarch losses — linked to Monsanto’s herbicide. They demand serious consideration by regulators.

39 responses to “Monsanto, RoundUp and Junk Science”

  1. Carmen miranda says:

    Amazing to me the number of people here down playing Monsantos product toxicity. Obvious Monsanto plants attempting to discredit studies, scientists and world leaders bringing to light the dangers of the product. How do these people live with themselves?

  2. I really like it when individuals come together and share thoughts. Great site, keep it up!

  3. When I originally commented I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I receive four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a means you can remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!

  4. Next time I read a blog, I hope that it won’t fail me as much as this particular one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read through, nonetheless I really thought you would have something useful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something that you could possibly fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.

  5. Having read this I thought it was extremely informative. I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this information together. I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!

  6. Melissa says:

    Please don’t use articles from the Huff Post as documented truths. Do your own research and quote your own stuff.

    • Nancy says:

      Dear Melissa,

      It is not all about what you want posted. Please stop trying to be dictatorial with demands of what others post. If you choose not to have interest, simply withdraw or don’t read the post, but you do not have the right to dictate your terms. Perhaps you should enlighten yourself by researching instead of waiting for others to do it for you. If you did, you would discover that well researched, peer-reviewed journals have accepted members from Monsanto and removed some very good, valid research simply because it was not favorable to Monsanto. I wish you well.

  7. kayla says:

    I am surprised to see comments about “knee jerk” responses to these findings. I find that it is the opposite, ie that it takes a lot for people to question or change their consumer habits (ie use weed killer and spray pesticides even after excellent research (journal was the reputable Pediatrics) that shows it causes cancer in children, or not care enough about the suffering of animals that they eat to seek out more humane choices). Also, the free market has its benefits, but it is up to consumers/citizens to question when corporations are impacting our health by influencing the powers that be (politicians, researchers) to avoid revealing information or making laws to protect the public.

  8. rico567 says:

    There may be questions about glyphosate, and more research seems to be indicated. What is unfortunate is panic-stricken knee jerk reactions to one study. (But not as unfortunate as some comments- Agent Orange, chemically 2,4,5-T, has NO relationship to glyphosate).

    • Mary Elizabeth says:

      I support this comment. The general public does have a knee jerk reaction to mostly unvalidated comments made by people in films, pseudo-scientists with questionable credentials/motives, and those who simply want to inflame citizens with scare tactics. The extensive, through research and development behind agricultural products is exhaustive to even apply for registration by US EPA. I have no concern regarding conventionally produced foods.

      • Nancy says:

        It is really funny that no one does research on the Internet. Has anyone questioned why there is so little research against GMOs, so little peer-reviewed journals that show it is harmful? In trying to do some research, I found that one journal (you can do your own research as it is out there) actually removed a published journal article AFTER a member from Monsanto joined the publication. Interesting. And while there is little published research, there is some. And this open removal of research makes one pause as to the level of control. I for one will be looking at as much non-GMO food as possible.

  9. As l understand Roundup is very closely related to agent orange a known carcinogen. Many Vets from Vietnam have died from the effects of agent orange including one of our good friends. Evidently, glyphosate is very irritating to the intestinal tract causing many to think they are wheat intolerant when in fact it is roundup! Our friend who passed away developed diabetes, cancer and massive internal organ failure many years after being sprayed with agent orange that the Veterans Admin. finally admitted was the cause-and agent orange is a first cousin to roundup.

  10. Nathan Knowles says:

    Why does Junk scients sell well?

  11. Elizabeth R. Hanson, M.A. says:

    Visiting a medical doctor, being admitted to a hospital, or taking a prescription drug or over-the-counter (OTC) drug are not without risk today as almost all pharmaceutical drugs in tablets or capsules forms use GMO corn or soy as a filler or the GMO corn or soy are used in the manufacture of stearic acid or magnesium stearate, which aids the manufacturer in keeping their equipment clean. If an IV is needed at the hospital, the dextrose or corn syrup will be from GMO corn. Almost all pre-cooked processed foods served at hospitals are loaded with GMOs and agricultural chemicals unless the hospital advertises that it grows its own organic foods.

    In addition, it is virtually impossible today to purchase 100% pure organic cheese unless it is hand crafted as almost all the cheese cultures and microbial rennet have been genetically modified. As someone has already stated, most processed “organic” food is at best 90% organic, not 100% organic. Thus, everyone is eating food already tainted with RoundUp or with GMO additives. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid this unless one has an organic farm with no nearby neighbors who overspray with tainted GMO seeds and chemicals.

    We live in a very greedy, sick, and egocentered age where scientists think that they can play God while denying that He exists.

    • Nancy says:

      Great information. Unfortunately we have the best government money can buy, and the politicians and scientist they employ are getting their coffers filled.

      If, and only if we get rid of special interest money in our elections, will the voice of the masses ever be heard.

    • While you correctly surmise that potentially GMO corn products exist in most if not all, food chains and many industrial chains, you are completely incorrect when you speak of GMO cheese cultures. There are no GMO bacterial cultures available for dairy processing. Glyphosate serves a purpose to kill unwanted weed species and the risks of using glyphosate in the environment are fairly well understood. The biggest impact, however, has been the release of girls and women from the drudgery of weeding crop fields in addition to their domestic work. This unintended effect has increased women and girl’s education so they have more opportunities and can focus on improvement of their lives rather than back breaking work and endless pregnancies.

      • Concerned Consumer says:

        The GMOs in cheese, that she referred to, come from the GMOs in the corn and soy feeds fed to the cows. They would become a part of the cow, and therefore be present in her milk and rennet.

      • Conscious Consumer says:

        The notion of pesticides and herbicides freeing female farmworkers from a life of picking weeds is absurd. Now she’s free to work in some factory, big box store, or fast food restaurant – wondering how she’s goning to pay off her college debt – while getting fat and sick a diet of cheap, toxic processed foods. Besides many of these so-called weeds are wild forms of highly nutritious leafy greens, which farmworkers took home to feed their own families back in the day. Thanks to the increased use of herbicides and pesticides, they can no longer do this – and because they’re so poorly paid, they too are stuck with cheap, toxic processed foods as well. The truth is farmworkers, and their families, are suffering severe health problems – cancers, autoimmune diseases, and birth defects, for example – from pesticide exposure. Many of them are at the forefront of movements like March Against Monsanto and Pesticide Action Network because they are fed up with working under such inhumane, toxic conditions. Many of them would rather work for organic farms, if only there were more of them. These corporate giants belong in jail, not on Wall Street.

  12. a total ban, worldwide, of all herbicides and pesticides would be a good starting point. and probably a reduction in cancers would result!!!!

  13. Nancy says:

    I cannot believe anyone with the ability to do independent research would EVER say one word to support the atrocities of Monsanto (globally) and the politicians whose pockets are lined with the blood money.

  14. Evelyn Robinson says:

    I try to eat organic food but it is impossible for me to do it totally, being allergic to milk products, gluten especially, and onions. I refuse to eat animals and fish.

    Ii sickens me to the CORE to read this information about Monsanto’s products. I weep inside, knowing how food used to taste before chemicals were introduced. I will be 85 next week so I know the wholesome from the chemically introduced food!

  15. DockyWocky says:

    My father was DuPont Chief chemist. in his career

    He used to say that Red Dye #2 had been added to canned goods since about 1870.

    He then noted that the life expectancy in the US rose from about age 60 to age 71 in the period to which he was referring.

    He said he attributed the rise in US life expectancy to Red Dye #2 in our foods.

    Go figure.

    • John Whorfin says:

      Yes, that’s it the carcinogen Red Die #2 is responsible for the increased life span. Couldn’t be something like the introduciton of antibiotics. Maybe it was a joke, maybe believing it is what allowed him to sleep at night…

      — Lord John Whorfin

  16. Kawika Fischer says:

    Three comments:
    1. I just want to know if a food contains GMO. I can then make my own decision whether or not I want to eat it.
    2. If you eat beef, you are most probably eating GMO corn.
    3. We would not have this problem if corn and soybean were not so lucrative to grow. What else could you grow where you are Guaranteed a profit by Government subsidies? This has made farmland extremely expensive so that an individual is almost totally eliminated from being able to compete with a large corporation that can afford a losing year every now and then.

  17. Peter says:

    Organic will not do – it only needs to be 90% “organic”. Sorry, it’s all about appearance and presentation as so much is.

  18. Steve says:

    If Roundup caused cancer I would be a giant tumor!!
    I prefer eating to starvation.

    • John says:

      Drinking the koolaide, too, eh? Monsanto’s argument that Roundup is enhancing the world food supply is long disproven. That you may in fact be a giant tumor may only be a matter of time. Suggesting that Roundup is the only option to starvation is an error in logic. Hyperbole is no substitute for truth.

    • Eric says:

      Steve, that’s fantastic! Eat all the RoundUp you want. Monsanto will be so happy!

      And, you won’t have to be bothered by those pesky Monarch butterflies.

  19. Dr John R Pierce says:

    Monsanto promotes monoculture farming which robs the soil of an effective micro-biosphere which depletes nutrients in the plant product. The plant products, e.g., corn, soy, etc. are laden with glyphosphate that is even being found in mother’s milk. Our farm land is being destroyed, our food chain is being depleted of healthy nutrients and contaminated with herbicides.
    Monoculture farming has also resulted in kill proof weeds and will eventually result in fungal or viral plagues that will destroy all these GMO crops. Economically it increases farmer’s seed costs, prices to consumers all at great loss of productive soil. Nutrient depleted soil requires oil based chemical fertilizers at great additional cost to the farmer. There is very little positive about Monsanto other than lining the pockets of our politicians and those owning the company.

  20. Jeane DeVries says:

    Sanford Scholton, how are you not eating corn, if it is used in virtually all corn syrup used in sweetners? Its also in just about every processed food found on the grocery store shelves in one form or another. Just because its not “on the cob” on your plate doesn’t mean you/we are not eating it. Same with soy: soy milk, texturized vegetable protein, tofu…all those things we have come to believe were healthy for us are now toxic.

    • David B. says:

      You are assuming that all people eat and drink what you do. I don’t consume anything containing corn syrup, nor do I eat pre-fabricated foods.As for sugar, pure cane is just that. Mexico banned GMO’s and only used cane sugar to sweeten.

    • Hate to break the news to you, but practically all soy these days has the gene for Roundup (glyphosate) tolerance. It is unlikely you can eat a 100% GMO free diet if you count meat animals who ate GMO grains in their life as somehow GMO. This is sort of a ridiculous argument and CU normally has the sense to be more objective.

      • Nancy says:

        Wow! Try buying grass-fed beef or organically fed chicken. Read labels. You do not have to buy all of the garbage given. Little-by-little, there has been some change. I see more items advertising no high fructose corn syrup in their products, more grass fed, non-antibiotic meat, and more “organic” products.

        Until we change our political corruption and do something about our “two party” system corrupted by special interest money, the “best government” money can buy, we will continue to be poisoned.

        Also, on a final note, a medical website stated anyone consuming the equivalent of the amount of high fructose in a 21 ounce soft drink daily will damage their liver. It is not healthy and not “the other sugar.”

  21. Sanford Scholton says:

    The science behind the health risk of glyphosate if a bit weak in terms of this response. It is in the same carcinogenicity level as Malathion and Diazinon in the 2A level. Yet, Malathion and Diazinon has not had the same outcry.
    What bothers me is that since Roundup is primarily used in corn and soy beans. And that corn (not the type you eat) is used in virtually all the corn syrup used for sweeteners. The natural sugar industry stands to make a huge gain if foods have to be labeled as GMO’s. And one of the major reasons for labeling GMO’s is the glyphosate used during there growth. Point being – follow the money – a lot of this speculation is due to the work of the natural sugar industry.

    • Aimee says:

      Malathion and Diazinon are not nearly so well-known and ubiquitous as Round-Up. That’s why they have not had the same outcry.

      And, while corn syrup is virtually all GMO, most of the “natural” sugar in our food supply comes from GMO sugar beets. So I don’t believe that anti-GMO speculation comes from the natural sugar industry since they would be subject to labeling as well.

    • John says:

      The only money that needs to be followed here is Monsanto’s. Something about Occam’s Razor…

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