Roundup: A Threat to Frogs—and Humans?

At FROGS ARE GREEN, we have been concerned for some time about the weedkiller, Roundup, manufactured by Mosanto, because of studies that have shown birth defects and reproductive deformities occurring in animals, including frogs, after exposure to its active ingredient, the chemical glyphosate. A new review of scientific reports about Roundup by the organization Open Source Earth suggests that that glyphosate may cause birth defects in humans as well.

If you drive to your local Wal-Mart or Home Depot, you might see huge canisters of the weedkiller outside the store for lawn and garden use.  Roundup is one of the most common weedkillers in the U.S., used for agricultural as well as non-agricultural uses.

Soybean field, courtesy USDA

Yet there have been increasing concerns about the safety of the herbicide for years. One study,  for example, conducted by Argentine government scientist, Andres Carrasco, published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology in 2010, found that glyphosate causes malformations in frog and chicken embryos at doses far lower than those used in agricultural spraying. The study also noted these malformations were similar to human birth defects found in genetically modified soy-producing regions. Carrasco suspected that the toxicity classification of glyphosate was too low and that in some cases, this chemical could be a powerful poison.

How has glyphosate been regulated in the U.S.? Not very stringently it seems. According to the Huffpo article, regulators in the United States have said they are aware of the concerns surrounding glyphosate. The Environmental Protection Agency, which is required to reassess the safety and effectiveness of all pesticides on a 15-year cycle through a process called registration review, is currently examining the compound.

According to a statement given to the Huffington Post, the EPA initiated a registration review of glyphosate in July 2009. It will determine if their previous assessments of this chemical need to be revised based on the results of this review. It issued a notice to the company Monsanto to submit human health and ecotoxicity data in September 2010.

The EPA said it will also review information and data from other independent researchers, including Earth Open Source.

This sounds like a pretty flabby response to a serious issue. Imagine if in the early 1960s the response to the threats of DDT was so wishy-washy? We hope the EPA takes a much closer look at the most widely used weedkiller in the U.S.

*Most of the information in this post is from the Huffington Post report, “Roundup: Birth Defects Caused By World’s Top-Selling Weedkiller, Scientists Say,” by Lucia Graves.