Early last year, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IACR) announced in an article published in Lancet Oncology that it had updated glyphosate’s status to “probably carcinogenic,” based on strong evidence from animal studies and “limited evidence” from human studies.
Despite this classification, however, vast quantities of non-organic crops are still deliberately doused with the carcinogenic Roundup in order to provide farmers with a more profitable harvest.
Monsanto’s Roundup is one of the world’s most well-known herbicides, and the most widely used agricultural and residential weedkiller in the United States. The adoption of crops genetically engineered to resist Roundup has led to an explosion in its use in the past two decades.
A 2010 paper by Monsanto describes the practice of killing good crops with Roundup right before harvest.
“Uneven maturity and green tissue delays harvest,” the paper reads, showing the reader photographs of the “uniform” and “complete” desiccation of fields of corn and sunflowers killed by Roundup.
According to the company, killing crops this way leads to lower drying times and costs. It also spares farmers the trouble of having to wait for crops to fully mature before harvesting them.
“By bringing harvest date forward 2-3 weeks, growers can more often meet the optimum planting date for winter wheat establishment, so maximizing yield,” the paper reads.
Strictly speaking, this practice consists of using Roundup as a desiccant, rather than an herbicide.
“Desiccants (or harvest management tools) are used worldwide by growers who are producing crops that require ‘drying down’ to create uniformity of plant material at harvest,” says the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association. “These products may also assist in pre-harvest weed control. In Canada, products such as diquat (Reglone) and glyphosate (Roundup) have been used as desiccants in pulse crops.”
Consumer advocates have grown alarmed at this practice of spraying right before harvest, fearing that such use leaves less time for residues to dissipate before the crop reaches consumers. At the very least, the use of Roundup as a desiccant means that even non-“Roundup Ready” crops may contain exceptionally high Roundup residues, resulting from being sprayed directly with the chemical.
Over the years, numerous studies have shown the damaging effects of Roundup exposure. Research has linked glyphosate and Roundup to cancer, organ failure and birth defects. Scientists from Flinders University in Australia have even discovered that Roundup disrupts the endocrine (hormonal) system at levels allowed in drinking water. That study also found that Roundup was more toxic to the endocrine system than pure glyphosate, suggesting that some of the “inactive” ingredients in the herbicide are also toxic either alone or in combination with glyphosate and other Roundup ingredients.