EcoJustice Radio Environmental Health

Glyphosate: An Herbicide That Kills More Than Weeds


EcoJustice RadioListen to Kelly Ryerson, Founder of Glyphosate Facts as she reveals on EcoJustice Radio truths about glyphosate, one of the most common ingredients in herbicides and the main ingredient in Bayer/Monsanto’s infamous weedkiller and probable carcinogen: Roundup.

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Kelly Ryerson, Glyphosate FactsGlyphosate Facts: What You Need to Know and What You Can Do About It with Kelly Ryerson

Glyphosate is a common ingredient in herbicides, including Bayer/Monsanto’s infamous weedkiller: Round Up. The latter is one of the world’s most widely used herbicides with various applications including: weed control in agriculture, vegetation control, as a crop desiccant, in consumer home gardens and lawns, and in massive aerial sprayings to control illegal crops. It is also used extensively in home gardens and lawns, landscape, ornamental nursery, forestry, roadside and turf management.

Join Kelly Ryerson as she reveals truths about glyphosate, what we need to do about it, and how we can create the better world we seek. While glyphosate continues to be a planetary health emergency, we as a collective, can catalyze change by making informed consumer choices and advocating against chemical products and farming practices that cause irreparable harm. While several plaintiffs have recently succeeded in winning massive verdicts in court, to redress harms they suffered from Roundup, it will take many more of us to fully eradicate not only Glyphosate, but all toxic chemicals for the sake of planetary health.

STORY: GMO Herbicide Glyphosate, Toxic to Ecosystems, Carcinogenic to You

Glyphosate: Killing More Than Weeds? - EcoJustice Radio

With the introduction of glyphosate-resistant GM (genetically modified) crop varieties (aka. Roundup ready crops) in 1996, beginning with soybeans and later: cotton, canola, corn, alfalfa, and sugar beets, glyphosate’s use in agriculture increased significantly. Monsanto is now owned by pharmaceutical giant, Bayer.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic in humans”; studies had confirmed it caused cancer in lab animals. However, the EPA maintains that glyphosate is safe for human use, despite multiple studies demonstrating otherwise. Roundup and glyphosate-based products have had devastating impacts on our food systems, agriculture, public health, and ecosystem in the broadest sense.

“So as part of it, a lot of the lawsuits that Bayer was on the hook for came from residential users of Roundup. And so they were developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, mostly from dermal exposure. And the way that Roundup works, it can go right through your skin, and that Glyphosate can get into your bloodstream and really accelerate, um, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in certain people. And so because so many of the people that were suing them, it was well over 100,000 people suing, because they’ve been exposed to Roundup. And Bayer just had massive, billions of dollars of settlement, that they agreed to just to settle these cases and not have them go to court.” — Kelly Ryerson, Glyphosate Facts

Introduced in 1974 as part of the “Green Revolution,” Roundup (the first glyphosate-based product) was touted as a panacea for poverty for its capacity to increase crop yields and agricultural production. Glyphosate radically changed the face of farming on this continent. Small family farms, once the norm, were quickly overshadowed by the industrial farms of Big Ag and Big Chem. Biocides (herbicides, pesticides, fungicides), GMO’s, monocropping and soil degradation became the standard over biodiversity, regenerative farming practices, and soil health. We can attribute our current, astounding rates of chronic and degenerative diseases to this industrial-scale transition. Cancer, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, digestive disorders, diabetes, obesity, autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, allergies, kidney, liver and autoimmune diseases, are often correlated with widespread use of glyphosate, as well as reproductive issues, infertility and sperm count declines.

STORY: Toxic Exposure: The Monsanto Roundup Trials & The Search For Justice

aerial herbicide spraying

The Dangers of Roundup-Ready Crops

Following is an excerpt from the interview with Kelly Ryerson:

Carry Kim: Could you explain I know it’s kind of like going to the beginning, but for people who because we said a lot of people don’t even know that there’s any harm in Roundup and they have it sitting in their garage. So could you explain the relationship of Roundup, and Roundup Ready GMOs? It’s really very kind of elementary stuff, but it’s important for people who don’t know much about glyphosate already.

Kelly Ryerson: Yes. And it’s such a good question to ask because I was very confused when I started this because I didn’t realize how very connected GMOs are to Roundup. I frankly didn’t know anything about anything with agriculture or what I was eating. Um, so it’s very interesting. So Monsanto launched Roundup, which had glyphosate in it in 1976. And they then put it on the market. And it was mildly successful and still second to a few other herbicides. But people liked it and they were buying it and using it residentially. And farmers were using it. But of course they’re using it to spray to kill a weed on a farm. But they had to be really careful around their crops because if you spray it on the crop, the crop dies. So Monsanto’s patent on glyphosate was set to expire. And it was one of their blockbuster products. And so they knew that they needed to change something in order to keep on making profit.

So that is when they started to develop these genetically modified seeds. And they said, this is the future because we’re going to be able to create this food using genetically modified seeds. And they’re going to have better yields and they’re just going to make the farmers life easier. And all this amazing accolade towards what they call, um, they say it’s biotechnology. And I guess it is biotechnology. So now when you see biotechnology as it, um, relates to agriculture. Usually they’re talking about, um, GMOs. So they launched uh, in 1996. They said, okay, so we need to be sure we keep on selling Roundup. So we’re going to launch this. We are going to genetically modify a seed so that when a farmer plants it, it can grow. And you can just spray Roundup on top of the crop and it won’t die, because it’s been bred to be resistant to the effects of it, of glyphosate.

So they did this with corn and soy and cotton. And those are the three biggies in terms of genetically modified seeds that are Round. They’re called Roundup Ready Seeds because they are ready to be sprayed and they won’t die. Then I explore. They launched that. GMOs took off like wildfire in the United States. Quickly became the dominant form of corn and soy that we have here in cotton that we have in this country. And just that you see the use of glyphosate explode in parallel with it.

Carry Kim: That was 1996, right? Yeah, that we saw the first GMO crops, the Roundup Ready crops come out.

Kelly Ryerson: Exactly. And it’s interesting as I traced back to when I started having just some kind of everyday digestive problems, and it was in 1996. Mhm. Okay, so maybe that’s what that was. That was the launch.

Carry Kim: Well, it’s amazing to think that glyphosate has been around for really, five decades now. But also, like you said, to talk about the explosion of it when the Roundup Ready crops, seeds were developed. I think we’ve already had this first wave of GMOs, and now we know we’re kind of getting ready to see, like, I think, a second wave. People have already been talking about that. But, I wanted to ask you if you could also share how Roundup or glyphosate is used in agriculture as a desiccant and explain what a desiccant is, and then that kind of traces back to all the conversation you had about grain products.

Kelly Ryerson: Yeah, absolutely. Around actually, the same time, um, in the late 90s, early 2000s, the farmers realized, oh, this also is extremely effective at drying out a crop all at once. So when someone is farming grains, it is hard at harvest time, because on a typical field, the grain will mature at different rates from one side of the field to the other. So when you are all set and you’re going out and you want to be harvesting, it’s much easier to have everything just ready to go. And you do one fell swoop, cut all your grain, and you’re just done. But that actually, throughout history, hasn’t been the way that it’s done, because that wasn’t possible unless you could kill off all of it and dry it all out at one time. So that is where Roundup came in. And farmers realized, okay, we can take our sprayer out there. Spray it all so that it dies. And then we’ll go in with our combine and farm it and harvest it. They harvest it, it’s put in the combine, it’s processed at the mill, and then it’s directly put out into food producers factories.

So the step between being sprayed with Roundup to our bread, or these other grain containing foods is really quick. And it’s estimated that over 80% of our dietary exposure to Roundup is actually through this process of pre-harvest spray. So the GMOs are there are one component, but probably our dietary exposure is much more through this process of spraying the grains. In terms of GMOs. M the GMOs. Interestingly. Most of it goes to animal feed, which is something I didn’t realize at first. So a big chunk of it goes straight to animal feed. And that is why you’ll see so many very sickly animals. And you have another component that’s going in when you’re at the gas pump, and you see 10% ethanol, that comes from genetically modified corn, right? And so it’s processed into that. We export tons of it to Mexico and China and for their animal feed. And then this smaller portion, like 9% or something like that, goes into food stuff. So that’s where the high fructose corn syrup comes from. They take the GMO corn and they process it to a pulp and send that on its way to be our sweeteners. So it’s not great.

Kelly Ryerson, Founder of Glyphosate Facts, works at the intersection of agriculture, nutrition and health as a writer, speaker and policy consultant. She started the news site Glyphosate Facts as an educational resource to help spread awareness of the health impacts of chemical agriculture. She has a BA from Dartmouth College and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Carry Kim, Co-Host of EcoJustice Radio. An advocate for ecosystem restoration, indigenous lifeways, and a new humanity born of connection and compassion, she is a long-time volunteer for SoCal350, member of Ecosystem Restoration Camps, and a co-founder of the Soil Sponge Collective, a grassroots community organization dedicated to big and small scale regeneration of Mother Earth.


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Executive Producer: Jack Eidt
Hosted by Carry Kim
Intro By: Jessica Aldridge
Engineer and Original Music: Blake Quake Beats
Episode 162

Published on January 30, 2023 Updated on February 28, 2023

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