A little bit of glyphosate is present in everyone’s body. According to WHO, it causes cancer. Countries have been struggling to ban or restrict its use. A new movement to ban it is gaining ground.
Despite the well known effects of its use, not all farmers are willing to give up the chemical. It helps farmers to clear weeds growing in their fields. It is also used to clear railway tracks, parks, water bodies of wild growth of plants. In many countries, glyphosate is used as pre harvest desiccant. It is sprayed on a standing crop to ease harvesting.
It kills plants by blocking an enzyme, which helps in the synthesis of amino acids and essential nutrients. Though its use is restricted to tea plantations and for non crops in India, but still it is used.
Adverse impacts of glyphosate include poisoning, kidney and liver damage, changes in gut microflora, cancer, endocrine disruption, neurological damage and immune system dysfunction. Glyphosate formulations have been found to be more harmful than glyphosate.
Glyphosate is also disrupting the fine balance of nature
Other than human health, glyphosate also messes up with the environment and the organisms that keep it healthy. Studies show the chemical significantly decreased the activity of fungi which is crucial in the ability of the plant to absorb water and nutrients from the soil. Exposure to the chemical leads to reduction in beneficial microbes in soil. Moreover, friendly organisms such as earthworms are also affected when glyphosate is used says a study published in Scientific Reports in July, 2014. The report found that the earthworms in the study area were fatter and less active.
The herbicide is also a chelating agent and binds to nutrients present in the soil and making them unavailable to the plant, says a study published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research in January, 2018.
Continuous use over the years has led to herbicide resistance in weeds and the development of superweeds. Resistance was first seen in1996 in a weed called Lolium rigidum in an apple orchard in Australia. An assessment published in the Pest Management Science in October 2017 shows that since then 38 weed species have become resistant to glyphosate. These weeds are distributed across 37 countries and in 34 different crops and six non-crop situations. Many of these weeds have been found in fields where glyphosate resistant crops are being cultivated.
According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology in July 2014, food security is being threatened due to the use of Roundup. The study shows that even small doses of the chemical harms bees which are crucial for pollination. The researchers from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina found that honeybees exposed to Roundup exhibited decreased sensitivity to sucrose leading to a decreased ability to track and find food. Bees exposed to glyphosate also exhibited poorer learning performance, a decreased ability to smell and poor memory. They also exhibited higher frequencies of Colony Collapse Disorder most likely because they could not remember how to get back to their hive.