Is Roundup so Bad?

Her exhaustive examination of the history of glyphosate—the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup—reveals that a herbicide as common as laundry detergent is the health and environmental calamity of modern agriculture. Monsanto rolled out its wonder weed killer in 1974, claiming the chemical was "safe as table salt." With the introduction of "Roundup Ready" crops in 1996—soybean, corn, cotton, and canola genetically modified to be glyphosate-resistant—the use of Roundup rose dramatically, as farmers could apply it to entire fields without damaging their crops. "Testing shows glyphosate residues not only in bagels, honey, and oatmeal but also in eggs, cookies, flour, beer, infant formula," Gillam writes. In one study in Indiana, the chemical was found in 90 percent of the pregnant women tested. Gillam assembles independent research, internal Monsanto communications, and case studies of cancer victims into a comprehensive, disturbing report on the suspected health and environmental impacts of glyphosate exposure. Equally astonishing are the serial revelations of how Monsanto conscripted scientists, professors, and regulators to aid in its defense. The EPA emerges as the key accomplice here: For decades, the agency overlooked concerns that glyphosate was carcinogenic. (The World Health Organization announced in March 2015 that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen.) This is a story about what happens to public health and the environment when capitalism overthrows the social contract and the fever for profit poisons the heart against all morality.
Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science
Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science

“Outrage” is the only word that captures the experience of reading Carey Gillam’s Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science (Island Press, 2017). Her exhaustive examination of the history of glyphosate—the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup—reveals that a herbicide as common as laundry detergent is the health and environmental calamity of modern agriculture.

Monsanto rolled out its wonder weed killer in 1974, claiming the chemical was “safe as table salt.” With the introduction of “Roundup Ready” crops in 1996—soybean, corn, cotton, and canola genetically modified to be glyphosate-resistant—the use of Roundup rose…

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