Residue Problems with Herbicides in Gardening
By George Giltner, MS Biology, Adv. Master Gardener
A recent Mercola interview with MIT research scientist, Dr. Stephanie Seneff has raised the awareness of human health problems with glyphosate (Roundup) that has entered the American food supply by genetically modified organisms (GMO’s which include wheat, corn, soybeans, etc.).
Everyone has heard the sales pitch of how “biodegradable”, “environmentally friendly”, and “clean and inert” it is for years. Now biochemical research is painting a different picture that looks more like an evil villain. Mounting evidence according to Dr. Seneff pictures glyphosate as “the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies”.
These chronic diseases are the result of nutritional deficiencies and systemic toxicity caused by glyphosate. Strangely, the mechanism of harm is through intestinal microbes. Beneficial gut bacteria are preferentially affected (as weeds), causing disruption in microbial functions and lifecycle. Pathogens flourish and then inflammation causes disease. For a better description of the mechanisms, please view the hour-long interview: www.articles.mercola.com./sites/articles/archive/2013/06/09/monsanto-roundup-herbicide.aspx. Note: Some terms are scientific, however concepts are simplified by an interviewer. Discussions involve biochemical mechanisms related to autism, allergies, gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.
When you do use Roundup at home treat it with respect. Wear PPE, bathe, wash clothes, and do not inhale spray droplets. Keep the kids away from spray area and don’t let the dog roll in grass sprayed that will be rubbed off by petting at a later time. Remember that the half life of glyphosate ranges from 1 to 174 days as water and bacterial action are required for degradation. In ponds the half life is about 2 weeks to 10 weeks.
Another herbicide commonly used is “Sledgehammer”, halosulfuron-methyl. For controlling pesky nutgrass this herbicide will work by systemically destroying the nut tuber and stem. The question always comes up – “Can I use it in my Vegetable Garden?” The answer is emphatically “No” or “No Way”. The reason – The EPA states that it can persist at toxic levels to plants for months or years. Therefore if you have a garden area that was sprayed with this chemical, and it has not produced vegetables for years, it may be due this persistent chemical herbicide.
Yet another herbicide, Tordon (picloram) is commonly used to rid property of tallow trees or to destroy regrowth from stumps. The problem with Tordon is that it also persist for a long time, like several years. Trees in the vicinity of a treated tree may also be killed as the chemical can be easily absorbed by nearby roots. Broadleaf crops can be damage for up to two years. Extension recommends use of Roundup for stumps and root sprouts. Tordon should not be used for backyard usage.
These are just three examples of herbicides with residual or human health effects. Before you use any chemical for gardening, do like our county agent says, “Read everything on the herbicide label”. Also be sure to wear PPE, and above all keep updated on new research and herbicide safety.