Eco-Tip: Why You Shouldn’t Use RoundUp (or Trust Its Labels)

At the risk of sounding like the geek that I really am, I’ll make this confession: I’ve been reading the fine print on the back (and front) of Roundup bottles for a couple of decades.

The Roundup I’m talking about here is not cowboys chasing down straggling cattle or horses. Roundup, along with other brand names that contain the same ingredient, is a weed-killer that is the most widely used pesticide in the U.S.

What I’ve learned from all those years of Roundup reading is that what’s on the bottle, like most advertising, is not the whole story. Getting the rest of the story is not nearly as easy as getting the part of the story that’s on the bottle, but here’s a start:

1.  What the Roundup bottle says: “fast & easy”

The rest of the story: Roundup, like most pesticides, is good at killing pests. But that doesn’t mean it solves weed problems. As any gardener knows, there’s no shortage of other weeds to take a dead weed’s place. “Fast & easy” really means “fast & easy over and over and over again.” Long-term “fast and easy” weed management means creating landscapes that don’t encourage weeds. Want more specifics? Cornell University has detailed suggestions of what you can do to create a garden/landscape that doesn’t encourage weeds.

2.  What the Roundup bottle says: “targets an enzyme found in plants, but not in people or pets”

The rest of the story: Roundup can interfere with a variety of important life processes in both people and pets. For example, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identifies the major ingredient in Roundup as a mutagen.  (If your high school biology class was such a bore that you don’t remember, a mutagen is a chemical that damages genes, those amazing molecules that direct all of our body’s activities. Damaged genes can mean cancer or birth defects, depending on which genes are damaged.)

Another example: Texas Tech University biochemists found that Roundup decreased production of sex hormones in human cells. And not just a small decrease either – about 90%.

One last example: European researchers who looked at which herbicides were responsible for pet poisonings found that being exposed to Roundup and its chemical cousins after they were sprayed was the second most common cause.

3.  What the Roundup bottle says: “breaks down into natural materials without moving in or on the soil”

The rest of the story: Roundup can move fairly easily from the spot where it was sprayed. It often ends up passing through storm drains and water treatment plants into streams and rivers. The US Geological Survey recently surveyed 10 streams around the country upstream and downstream from wastewater treatment plants. The main ingredient in Roundup, and its breakdown product, were frequently found.

Read on for the full 10 Reasons Not to Use Roundup presentation.