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The Use of Synthetic Herbicides

crops growing in the groundNow we move to the next category of synthetics, herbicides. These are chemicals intended to kill plant life. Herbicides are largely utilized to kill weeds, but they also have a major role in crop desiccation.

Perhaps the most popular desiccant herbicide is glyphosate, trademarked to the Monsanto corporation as Roundup. In the desiccation process, crops are sprayed with an herbicide to kill them prior to harvesting. This allows the poisoned plants to dry out in the field, saving time in harvesting and in the processing facility.

Glyphosate is used in many crops but is particularly common in grains, legumes, oilseeds, and sugar production. You may have noticed that these crops are all extremely common in processed foods. Glyphosate has been connected to the reduced ability of plants to absorb manganese from the soil. This trace nutrient is essential to human health and manganese deficiencies have been linked to problems such as neurodegenerative diseases and autism. Glyphosate is made with phosphorus (also used prominently in the production of artificial fertilizers) which is offers its own problems, in terms of environmental impact. There will be a further discussion of phosphorus production and its dangers upcoming as well.

A different type of herbicide that is also extremely common is atrazine. Researcher Tyrone Hayes has identified atrazine as a dangerous endocrine disruptor. In a laboratory setting, atrazine was found to change the morphology of frogs so drastically that biologically male frogs became indistinguishable from female frogs, even becoming able to reproduce with other male frogs. This is a serious threat to our ecology, as frogs regulate the number of pestiferous insects in their native environments. The levels of atrazine found in polluted waterways in certain parts of the midwestern United States actually exceed the levels that Hayes used in his laboratory research. The effects of atrazine on the human body have not been studied as thoroughly as we can hope they someday will.

According to a statement released by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in 2003, “Maternal exposure to atrazine in drinking water has been associated with low fetal weight and heart, urinary, and limb defects in humans.”

Another issue with the use of synthetic herbicides is that weeds are developing immunities to herbicides. The “logical” solution would be to use more and more potent herbicides as the need arises, but you can surely imagine how detrimental this approach would be to the already damaged ecosystem, and how increasing the toxicity of these already dangerous chemical agents would pose a threat of increased illness and injury to the human population, to say nothing of the domestic and wild organisms who come into contact with them.

Our next blog post will take a look at synthetic fertilizers and will include a brief overview of the dangers of synthetic phosphorus manufacture.

2 Join the Conversation

  1. L. Miller says
    Aug 20, 2021 at 7:33 PM

    Good to know. Important!!!

    • says
      Nov 18, 2021 at 5:39 PM

      So glad you found the information useful!!!

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