Is Roundup Safe?

weedy yards. Is roundup safe?

The debate on the safety of Roundup, a popular weed killer containing the active ingredient glyphosate, has been a hot topic for years. With conflicting opinions from regulatory agencies, scientific studies, and the general public, it’s no wonder that the conversation on this widely used herbicide remains contentious.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the latest research on glyphosate and its potential health risks, explore the ongoing controversy surrounding its use, and discuss the question, “Is Roundup safe?” We will also consider alternative methods of weed control. Buckle up; it’s time to unravel the Roundup conundrum.

Key Takeaways

  • This article provides an in-depth understanding of the herbicide glyphosate, its uses and potential health and environmental impacts.
  • Regulatory agencies hold varying opinions on Roundup’s safety due to the potential human health and environmental implications of its use.
  • Alternatives to Roundup Weed Killer are explored, including natural herbicides, physical weed control methods & precautions when using them.

Understanding Glyphosate

man spraying

Glyphosate, a non-selective herbicide, is the most widely used herbicide worldwide, largely thanks to its effectiveness in controlling a broad range of weeds. Its popularity, however, has come at a cost, as concerns about glyphosate residues in the environment and potential health risks have grown in recent years.

The subsequent portions of this article delve into the details of glyphosate, its significance in Roundup, its mode of action, and its potential environmental ramifications, as presented in the glyphosate general fact sheet.

Roundup’s Active Ingredient

Glyphosate is the star player in Roundup, a widely-utilized weed killer on the market. This powerful herbicide has been formulated with salts to enhance its water solubility and proprietary surfactants to facilitate plant uptake. Glyphosate can be applied in various ways, including:

  • Aerial spraying
  • Ground spraying
  • Sponge bars
  • Wiper applicators
  • Droplet applicators

When properly applied, glyphosate effectively targets a broad range of weeds, making it a popular choice among farmers, landscapers, and homeowners.

How Glyphosate Works

Glyphosate’s mode of action revolves around its ability to inhibit the shikimate pathway, an essential metabolic process for plants and certain microorganisms. The shikimate pathway is responsible for the production of aromatic compounds and amino acids, including phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan, which are integral for various physiological processes in plants.

Glyphosate, by disrupting this metabolic pathway, eradicates most plants effectively, thereby proving to be a formidable deterrent in weed control.

Glyphosate in the Environment

Once applied, glyphosate can persist in the environment, binding firmly to soil particles. Its half-life in soil ranges from approximately 7 to 60 days, depending on soil and climate conditions. The primary means of glyphosate breakdown in the environment is through microbial degradation, with phosphate availability in certain soils potentially expediting the process.

Despite its persistence in soil, glyphosate poses minimal risk of groundwater contamination, as it is not highly mobile and is broken down by soil bacteria. However, its impact on soil microbes is a topic of concern.

Research indicates that glyphosate can significantly alter microbial composition and enzymatic activity in plants, disrupt the growth of certain fungal species, and interfere with the production of aromatic amino acids in microorganisms. These effects can negatively impact plant nutrient uptake, highlighting the need for a deeper understanding of glyphosate’s environmental consequences.

The Controversy Surrounding Roundup

herbicide spray bottle

The safety of glyphosate and Roundup has been the subject of intense debate for years. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains that it is safe when used according to label instructions.

The contrasting opinions of these agencies, coupled with various scientific studies and public concerns, have fueled the controversy and left many people questioning the true impact of glyphosate on human health and the environment, despite the presence of some scientific evidence.

EPA’s Stance on Glyphosate

The EPA, contrary to the WHO, does not consider glyphosate to be carcinogenic to humans. The agency deems glyphosate safe when utilized in accordance with label instructions.

The EPA’s risk assessment process evaluates the potential health and ecological effects of pesticides like glyphosate, taking into account factors such as exposure levels, toxicity data, and potential risks to humans and the environment.

In April 2019, the EPA concluded that exposure to glyphosate, when used according to the label and following regulations such as the Food Quality Protection Act, does not pose a risk to human health. For more information on pesticide safety and regulations, you can visit the National Pesticide Information Center.

WHO’s Classification of Glyphosate

In contrast to the EPA, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” based on available evidence. This classification has been a major point of contention between the EPA and the WHO, with the two agencies disagreeing on the cancer risk posed by glyphosate and the assessment of risks associated with its use.

The differing opinions of these regulatory agencies have contributed to the ongoing debate on glyphosate’s safety.

Public Concerns and Opinions

Public sentiment regarding glyphosate safety is a mixed bag. Some studies have indicated a positive association between glyphosate exposure and health issues, such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Conversely, other studies and assessments, including those by the European Food Safety Authority and the EPA, have not identified critical areas of concern regarding glyphosate’s impact on human health. Overall, the debate surrounding glyphosate has led to a variety of opinions and concerns among the general public.

In addition to the scientific debate, public protests and movements against glyphosate use have emerged. Some examples include:

  • Greenpeace Italy organizing protests against glyphosate use in Europe, citing risks to biodiversity
  • The March Against Monsanto movement holding protests against glyphosate
  • Demonstrations in countries such as Colombia and France

These public actions further highlight the controversial nature of glyphosate and the need for continued research and examination of its safety.

According to, “Roundup is a widely used weed killer known for its active ingredient, glyphosate. Concerns have arisen regarding its potential link to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers due to heavy glyphosate use in various industries.

“Glyphosate inhibits essential plant growth enzymes, posing a risk to both unwanted weeds and desired plants, and Roundup offers various formulations for both residential and commercial use. Additionally, Monsanto introduced Roundup Ready crops, genetically engineered to resist Roundup’s effects, allowing for extensive field spraying without harming crops.

The need for alternatives to Roundup arises due to concerns about its potential cancer risk and other health issues. Research suggests that long-term exposure to glyphosate may increase the risk of cancer, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and may cause oxidative stress, a precursor to various diseases.

“Natural alternatives to Roundup include vinegar, essential oils, iron-based herbicides, and manual approaches like mulching and weed pulling. These alternatives offer options that do not contain glyphosate and are deemed safer for human health and the environment. Read these articles for more information.””

Evaluating the Health Risks of Roundup

man spraying weeds

Considering the continuous dispute and divergent viewpoints on glyphosate’s safety, examining the potential health risks linked to Roundup is imperative. Subsequent portions of this piece will delve into the relationship between glyphosate exposure and cancer risk, the influence of glyphosate on beneficial gut bacteria, among other potential health concerns.

Cancer Risk: Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

One of the most contentious health concerns surrounding glyphosate exposure is its potential link to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects white blood cells. A review published in Mutation Research by researchers at the University of Washington showed that individuals exposed to glyphosate had a 41% greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma than those with light or no exposure. This was compared to individuals without any exposure to the herbicide..

However, another study of over 57,000 farmers found no link between glyphosate use and lymphoma. The conflicting findings in these studies contribute to the ongoing debate about glyphosate’s potential cancer risk.

Effects on Beneficial Gut Bacteria

In addition to cancer risk, glyphosate may also have an impact on beneficial gut bacteria. Research suggests that glyphosate can reduce key microbial metabolites, such as indoles, L-glutamate, and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are important for the gut-brain-microbiome axis. Glyphosate may negatively affect plant nutrient uptake by disrupting microbes that contribute to nutrient availability.

Moreover, glyphosate has been shown to:

  • Target the EPSPS enzyme and other non-target sites, potentially affecting more than half of the bacterial species in the core of the human gut microbiome.
  • Reduce the abundance of beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, and potentially facilitate the growth of opportunistic pathogens in the gut microbiome.
  • Disrupt the balance of beneficial gut bacteria, which may lead to a range of health issues, such as digestive disorders, allergies, and autoimmune diseases.

Other Potential Health Issues

Beyond cancer risk and effects on gut bacteria, glyphosate exposure has been linked to other health concerns. Studies have indicated that glyphosate exposure may be associated with:

  • Visual memory impairment
  • Autism-like behaviors
  • Depressive-like behavior
  • Birth defects/reproductive function issues

Glyphosate has also been implicated in endocrine disruption, with some studies suggesting a link between glyphosate and endocrine-disrupting effects in human cells.

However, the exact risks associated with consuming glyphosate residues on food are not yet fully understood, and research on glyphosate’s potential health risks continues.

Roundup in Agriculture

plane spraying crops

The use of Roundup in agriculture is widespread, with glyphosate being the most prevalent agricultural chemical ever used. In this part, we delve into Roundup’s function in contemporary agriculture, touching upon the uptake of Roundup Ready crops, the detection of glyphosate residues in food, and the potential ramifications for agricultural workers.

Roundup Ready Crops

Genetically modified crops, such as Roundup Ready plants, have been engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. These crops include:

  • soybeans
  • corn
  • cotton
  • canola

They incorporate a gene that allows them to produce an enzyme that is not affected by glyphosate, enabling the crop to survive while surrounding weeds are eliminated.

The development of Roundup Ready crops has led to a significant increase in the use of glyphosate, as farmers can now apply the herbicide without damaging their crops.

Glyphosate Residues in Food

With the widespread use of glyphosate in agriculture, the presence of glyphosate residues and pesticide residues in food has become a topic of debate and concern. Glyphosate residues have been detected in various food groups. For instance, pasta samples have been found to contain glyphosate levels ranging from 60 to 150 parts per billion, while honey nut cheerios have been found to contain 833 parts per billion.

However, the prevalence of glyphosate residues in dairy- and meat-based foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and soy products is generally considered to be low to medium.

The potential health risks associated with consuming food containing glyphosate residues are not yet fully understood. Some studies have indicated that glyphosate could reduce the viability of human cells and increase the leakage of certain enzymes, which could potentially have a negative effect on human health.

It is essential to consider that the overall prevalence of glyphosate residues in food is typically low, and further research is needed to better understand the risks associated with glyphosate exposure through food.

Implications for Agricultural Workers

Farmers and other agricultural workers may be at higher risk for health issues related to glyphosate exposure, including roundup exposure. These workers can be exposed to glyphosate through direct spray, drift from neighboring fields, and contact with treated crops, as well as through food and drinking water. Oilseed farming, dry pea/bean farms, and dairy cattle and milk production are the farm types with the largest number of exposed workers.

Studies have indicated that glyphosate exposure for agricultural workers may lead to alterations in liver and kidney function, as well as potential impacts on dopaminergic neurotransmission. Additionally, glyphosate formulations containing certain surfactants may be more toxic and affect reproductive health, potentially acting as a developmental or reproductive toxin.

The overall long-term risks and effects of glyphosate exposure remain a subject of ongoing debate among scientists. All are still asking: Is Roundup Safe?

Legal Actions and Roundup Litigation

Woman spraying weeds at Yellowstone National Park

In recent years, numerous legal actions and litigation have been filed against Monsanto, the original manufacturer of Roundup, and Bayer, the company that acquired Monsanto in 2018. These lawsuits allege that Roundup caused cancer in the plaintiffs and that Monsanto and Bayer failed to warn consumers about the potential risks associated with the product.

In subsequent parts, some prominent cases, Bayer’s reaction to the lawsuits, and the possible future outcomes of these legal proceedings will be discussed.

Notable Cases

Several high-profile lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto and Bayer, alleging that Roundup caused cancer in the plaintiffs. One of the first significant lawsuits against Monsanto involved school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who claimed that glyphosate in Roundup caused his cancer. The case proceeded to trial in 2018 and concluded in a $289 million verdict against Monsanto.

In another case, a California jury awarded a couple over $2 billion in damages, claiming that Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

These cases, among others, have shone a spotlight on the potential health risks associated with Roundup and have called into question the safety of glyphosate. While some verdicts have been reduced on appeal, the legal battles surrounding Roundup and glyphosate continue to unfold, with potentially far-reaching implications for the chemical industry and regulatory authorities.

In other ongoing litigation, Bayer has implemented a five-point plan to address potential future glyphosate litigation and has reached settlements to resolve a substantial number of claims. As part of its plan, Bayer has agreed to stop advertising Roundup as “safe and nontoxic” and will cease residential sales in the United States by 2023.

The financial impact on Bayer resulting from the Roundup controversy has been significant, with the company allocating over $15 billion to settle potential legal claims linking Roundup to cancer.

Future Implications

The outcome of ongoing litigation may have significant implications for glyphosate’s future use and regulation. Some potential outcomes include:

Dandelion gone to seed
  • The EPA reexamining its determination on the safety of Roundup
  • Proposed bills affecting the EPA’s authority on the use of pesticides
  • Increased awareness of the potential health hazards linked to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup

With increasing public scrutiny, changing regulations, and the potential for further legal actions, the future of glyphosate and Roundup remains uncertain.

Alternatives to Roundup Weed Killer

Given the ongoing controversy surrounding Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, many people are seeking alternative weed control methods. Subsequent portions will delve into natural herbicides, physical weed control strategies, and safety measures to consider when utilizing alternatives to Roundup.

Natural Herbicides

spray bottle

For those seeking a more eco-friendly approach to weed control, natural herbicides offer a viable alternative to Roundup. Vinegar, with its acetic acid content, is one such option. Herbicidal vinegar, containing a higher concentration of acetic acid (10-20%), is more potent than household vinegar (5% acetic acid). When applied to weeds, vinegar acts as a contact herbicide, leading to the weeds drying out and dying. However, vinegar may not kill all types of weeds, and multiple applications may be necessary for effective weed control.

Another natural herbicide option is corn gluten meal, a byproduct of corn processing. Corn gluten meal acts as a pre-emergent herbicide, inhibiting weed seeds from germinating and growing. However, it does not have any effect on already-established weeds.

Plant-based oils, such as clove oil, eugenol, and d-limonene, can also be used as natural herbicides. These oils burn the foliage of weeds upon contact, disrupting the natural barriers that weeds produce to protect their leaves.

Physical Weed Control Methods

Physical weed control methods offer an alternative to chemical herbicides, allowing for weed management without the use of potentially harmful substances.

Hand weeding involves manually extracting weeds from the soil, ensuring that the entire weed, including the root, is removed to prevent regrowth. Mulching involves covering the soil with an organic material layer, such as straw, to impede weed growth.

Another method, solarization, involves utilizing the sun’s heat to eradicate weeds by covering the soil with a transparent plastic sheet. These chemical-free approaches to weed control can be effective in managing weeds while minimizing potential harm to the environment and human health.

Precautions When Using Alternatives

While alternatives to Roundup may be more environmentally friendly, it is still important to exercise caution when using them. Some natural herbicides, such as vinegar and plant-based oils, can be toxic to humans and pets if ingested or if they come into contact with the skin.

Similarly, iron-based alternatives can cause cellular damage and necrosis in broadleaf weeds as well as in nearby plants. It is essential to read the label and follow the instructions carefully when using any herbicides, natural or otherwise, and to wear appropriate protective gear, such as gloves and a face mask, to minimize potential exposure.

If You Decide to Use Roundup

As you have read, there are diverse opinions as to the safety of Roundup, so if you should decide to spray with Roundup, take precautions. Don’t spray when there is any wind. We lost a tree due to a neighbor spraying on a very windy day. Drift can happen up to a mile, so don’t assume your spray will remain where you want it.

Use protective clothing such as eye protection, chemical-resistant gloves, long sleeves and pants, closed-toe shoes or boot, dust mask, and hat.

When you finish spraying, wash off your boots and gloves. Strip all clothing in the laundry room and put it immediately in the washer. Good idea too, to jump in the shower. These are easy precautions, so protect your health as much as you can.

Summary: Is Roundup Safe?

In conclusion, the debate surrounding the safety of Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, is complex and multifaceted. As research continues to emerge, the potential health risks, environmental impact, and regulatory implications of glyphosate use remain contentious.

With ongoing legal actions and an increasing focus on alternative weed control methods, the future of glyphosate and Roundup is uncertain.

As we navigate this complex issue, it is essential for individuals to stay informed, consider the latest scientific evidence, and make informed decisions regarding weed control practices that best align with their values and priorities.

Frequently Asked Questions

How harmful is Roundup to humans?

Exposure to Roundup may cause irritation in the nose and throat, as well as increased saliva, burns, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested. In extreme cases, fatalities have been reported due to intentional ingestion. Thus, Roundup can be harmful to humans.

How long is Roundup toxic after spraying?

Roundup is usually safe to plant edible or non-edible items in an area where it was sprayed after three days, but waiting a week or two is recommended for extra precaution.

Is Roundup still toxic after it dries?

Although Roundup is safe for humans and pets once it dries, repeated exposure can still lead to health risks like cancer, birth defects, hormonal disruption, and miscarriages. Therefore, caution should be taken with dry Roundup.

Is glyphosate considered safe by all regulatory agencies?

All agencies are divided on glyphosate’s safety; while the EPA states it is safe when used according to instructions, the WHO’s IARC classifies it as “probably carcinogenic to hum

Final Comments

My disclaimer: I do use Roundup, but very cautiously. It would be impossible to maintain this farm without Roundup or a chemical even more potent (which I am unwilling to do). If left alone, the weeds become man-high with tough, woody stems that can’t even be cut with a weed eater blade. If I roundup small weeds on a regular basis, I can keep things under control.

I realize, though, that Roundup is a very strong and dangerous chemical. Because of that, I wear protective clothing, only spray in the early morning when there is no wind, and clean everything (including myself) when I finish. Roundup is nothing to take for granted. It does a good job in controlling weeds, but you have to realize the consequences of being careless with it. Do take care if you use it.

I don’t usually do this, but this blog is AI assisted, which means AI wrote part of it and I wrote and revised the rest. The topic is so complex that I wanted to make sure I had the facts correct.

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