Glyphosate and cancer – revisited

Recently, a jury in San Francisco, California recommended that Monsanto be forced to pay $289 million to a man who has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It was a pretty stunning result from a court case that has been watched very closely. I haven’t read the court transcripts, and I don’t know what the jury was told or what was withheld from them. And I have no desire to make accusations that either side was acting in bad faith. So …

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As consumers shift to non-GMO sugar, farmers may be forced to abandon environmental and social gains

Dan Charles at NPR has recently done two interesting pieces about sugar production. In the first, he uses sugar as a proxy to look at the environmental costs and trade-offs of growing food in different places. It makes for an interesting comparison because there are two completely different crops (sugarcane and sugarbeet) that can be grown to produce the exact same product, refined sugar. The two crops have very different climatic needs, pest management requirements, and growing seasons. It is an …

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What does a GMO label tell you about herbicide use?

There has been quite a bit of discussion lately about various food companies deciding to label their products for GMO content in response to Vermont’s GMO labeling bill. I’m still mostly indifferent to GMO labels, and frankly, have grown tired of this particular debate. But there seems to be at least one misconception that I wanted to briefly address. If you follow the GMO issue at all, you’re probably aware that a large majority of GMO crops currently being grown are herbicide …

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Everything in Agriculture is a Trade-Off

The idea of trade-offs is familiar to everyone. None of us have unlimited money, time, or energy. We make decisions every single day about how to spend our money, our time, and our energy. Do I buy the red shirt or the blue shirt? Do I watch the football game or go to the concert? Should I ride my bike to work or hope I can find a good parking place? Do I call a plumber or try and fix the sink myself? Do …

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Dead plants are probably bad for earthworms

I’ve gotten a number of questions recently about a new study titled “Glyphosate-based herbicides reduce the activity and reproduction of earthworms and lead to increased soil nutrient concentrations” that was recently published in the online journal Scientific Reports. Although the title seems pretty straightforward, there are some flaws in the study design that preclude any broad conclusions from this research. I would especially be cautious of making statements like Roundup is “imperiling streams, lakes, [and] aquifers” or that there are “far-reaching consequences of [glyphosate] use in ecosystems” …

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GMOs, Herbicides, and the New England Journal of Medicine

An opinion piece was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, written by Dr. Philip Landrigan (an M.D.) and Dr. Charles Benbrook (PhD) titled “GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health”. I was asked to review the piece this week, and I can only assume it will eventually make the rounds on social media. So I thought it was worth commenting here since it is related to herbicides and herbicide-resistant GMO crops. The “Perspective” piece is basically a plea from Dr. Landrigan and Dr. …

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Trends in corn herbicide use (1990 to 2014)

USDA-NASS recently published the most recent corn herbicide use data (from 2014). I’ve been looking through the data, because, well, free data! Perhaps the figure below isn’t the ideal way to present it, but there are some interesting trends that can be observed this way. Total herbicide use in corn (in weight of herbicide applied) has remained relatively constant at about 2 to 2.5 lbs/acre since around 2000 (Top panel A). There have certainly been changes in which herbicides contributed to that …

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Glyphosate and Cancer: What does the data say?

A little over a week ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that glyphosate would be added to their list of agents that are “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Glyphosate wasn’t the only pesticide added to the list, but as Nathanael Johnson noted at Grist, glyphosate tends to be something of a lightning rod due to its association with genetically engineered (Roundup Ready) crops. Let me start by pointing out I’m pretty late to the party writing about this. The …

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Glyphosate use in wheat

A blog post titled “The Real Reason Wheat is Toxic” has been making the rounds on social media. The post by the “healthy home economist” is riddled with errors and misinformation.The post contends that glyphosate is commonly sprayed on wheat at harvest time, and that glyphosate then causes health problems when the wheat is consumed. Shortly after it started circulating, two excellent rebuttals were posted online, one by Sarah Schultz, and another by Jenny Dewey Rohrich. Both Sarah and Jenny …

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Seralini Rat Study Revisited

Anyone interested in the GMO debate has probably heard about the Seralini paper that I criticized a while back. That paper was eventually retracted by the original journal, and it has now been re-published in a different journal. There are quite a few articles describing the background, so I won’t get into those details. I suggest reading recent pieces at Retraction Watch or Grist if you want to get the background information. The Seralini press release for the re-published article states “The raw …

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