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posted by janrinok on Wednesday July 30 2014, @07:04PM   Printer-friendly
from the Monsanto-is-having-a-bad-week dept.

Monsanto's RoundUp, a widely used pesticide, uses the active ingredient Glyphosate and it may be up for another serious beating. Medical specialists and scientists in Sri Lanka has found that when glyphosate comes in contact with heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, manganese and cobalt which exist naturally in the soil or fertilizer, it becomes highly toxic and has a high likelihood of causing fatal kidney disease for anyone that comes into contact with it. And because the substance binds to metals it will not show up in current tests. The report (and another one) is published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and has resulted in that the Sri Lanka president to ban glyphosate immediately.

Exposure to glyphosate causes a drop in amino acid tryptophan levels, which interrupts the necessary active signalling of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with weight gain, depression, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. The report show that industry and regulators knew as long ago as the 1980's and 1990's that glyphosate causes malformation, but that information was not made public. Glyphosate is also a teratogenic.

Monsanto has been in the news quite recently.

 
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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday July 30 2014, @07:42PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday July 30 2014, @07:42PM (#75654)

    I was very unimpressed with the conclusions drawn from the second paper. Its a meta statistical analysis of 44 previous studies looking for trends and the like among active ingredient groups.

    2 of 44 papers found a rather tenuous link between glyphosate and a peculiar form of cancer. Whats very carefully not being reported is 42 of 44 papers did not.

    This doesn't necessarily prove its an outright disinfo campaign or falsified results. Further research into why 96% of studies found no link and 4% found a rather tenuous link is probably a good idea.

    One huge problem is glyphosate is rather carefully controlled such that there's only a couple (just one?) formulation which is mostly inactive ingredients. And I donno what its mixed with, but I assure you from personal experience applying the stuff, its unholy stinky, some kind of organic solvent, and probably not terribly good for you. Much as an apple might be healthy to neutral, preserving it in a vat of formaldehyde and then eating both the formaldehyde and apple will make you extremely sick, because of the formaldehyde, but that doesn't prove apples are unhealthy.

    There is a peculiarity of techies and SN is no exception that everything is binary. Either stuff is mothers milk and its pure and organic and healthy for all and we all should have the government force us to drink it, or its pure unadulterated evil. The problem is the real world doesn't work like that and people who try to think like that in the real world are pretty much idiots. As an example of what I'm getting at, probably we need to spend our time and money lining up anyone who uses arsenic based insecticides up against a wall and then shoot them, all of them. Thats some real bad shit and no one disagrees and it seems fairly conclusive. Glyphosate? Well, it doesn't seem very harmful despite and immense amount of use although further research is probably advisable. And what are we going to replace it with? Don't BS me about organic farming... we'll probably replace it with something that is known to be worse, but doesn't have the scary name.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 30 2014, @07:55PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 30 2014, @07:55PM (#75659)

    Glyphosate is an herbicide.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday July 30 2014, @08:18PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday July 30 2014, @08:18PM (#75668)

      "Glyphosate is an herbicide."

      I assume you're commenting on "arsenic based insecticides".

      Yeah see thats the weird part about glyphosate, I don't have chloroplasts so it sounds ridiculous unlikely that it would have any effect on me. Kind of like that diatomaceous earth that kills any bug with an exoskeleton by dehydration, well, I don't have an exoskeleton so I should be able to bathe in that stuff with no effect at all. So I'm not an herb, so the most carefully targeted herbicide known to humanity probably shouldn't do anything to me at all, like this whole topic is just a joke. None the less biochemistry is strange and there could be a side effect, although most of the literature is along the lines of "wifi causes cancer" variety because there isn't any real literature showing a problem, mostly crackpots.

      I was using the arsenic insecticides as the gold standard (however inaccurately) of WTF are you thinking spraying that kind of stuff anywhere nearby food. On the number line spectrum of dumb vs good ideas, its no question thats pretty far along the dumb idea edge whereas glyphosate is probably leaning around the good side although the error bars do technically slightly extend into the maybe a bad idea part of the spectrum. Scientific research might gradually start pushing glyphosate from "neutral" to "bad", that might be correct, maybe not, my gut feeling is "not", but the summary and the woo woo website link implies its an obvious and well known fact its worse than nerve gas, which is fairly idiotic.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 30 2014, @08:31PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 30 2014, @08:31PM (#75674)

        Yep, I was going for a +1 pedantic.

        Biological systems are complicated. Unfortunately, there's profit and progress to be made, and we can't run experimental trials on humans (anymore/yet), so we'll just keep making incremental improvements in our choice of chemicals until we're only a little over the neutral line into the bad territory.

      • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by opinionated_science on Wednesday July 30 2014, @09:50PM

        by opinionated_science (4031) on Wednesday July 30 2014, @09:50PM (#75715)

        however, we (and plants) do have mitochondria which are strongly related i.e. they produce ATP. Mess with that at your peril...

        • (Score: 2) by opinionated_science on Thursday July 31 2014, @01:42AM

          by opinionated_science (4031) on Thursday July 31 2014, @01:42AM (#75770)

          to moderators, I was replying to the "we dont have chloroplast" point. Relying on a lack of homology from two capture microbial mechanisms is very dodgy indeed. Let's not forget that R-CN targets the electron transport cascade in the mitochondria...

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by TheLink on Thursday July 31 2014, @02:09PM

        by TheLink (332) on Thursday July 31 2014, @02:09PM (#75915) Journal

        Here's the problem: Roundup is not only glyphosate:
        http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/weed-whacking-herbicide-p/ [scientificamerican.com]

        Until now, most health studies have focused on the safety of glyphosate, rather than the mixture of ingredients found in Roundup. But in the new study, scientists found that Roundup's inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells-even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.

        One specific inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, was more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than the herbicide itself - a finding the researchers call "astonishing."

        So many of those tests saying Roundup is safe because glyphosate is safe are in doubt.

        • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Friday August 01 2014, @03:02AM

          by Reziac (2489) on Friday August 01 2014, @03:02AM (#76224) Homepage

          But that can be an It Depends: If we mix glyphospate with X, Y, and Z to create Roundup, can we use less Roundup, and less of various chemicals in total? Or are X Y and Z required to get a good level of kill in the field? without X Y and Z, might we need a whole bunch higher level of glyphosphate to do the same job?

          I recall the uproar over malathion spraying in California... turns out the malathion wasn't the problem; it was the petroleum-based carrier that ate car paint and was potentially toxic.

  • (Score: 2) by cafebabe on Wednesday July 30 2014, @08:40PM

    by cafebabe (894) on Wednesday July 30 2014, @08:40PM (#75678) Journal

    I donno what its mixed with, but I assure you from personal experience applying the stuff, its unholy stinky, some kind of organic solvent, and probably not terribly good for you.

    After browsing glyphosate [wikipedia.org] and ester odorants [wikipedia.org], I presume it smells worse than rancid milk.

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    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday July 30 2014, @09:08PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday July 30 2014, @09:08PM (#75691)

      Most of the bottle is solvent / buffer solution, not much actual glyphosate in a sprayer bucket.

      Kind of like "everyone knows what paint smells like" but they're actually talking about liquid paint aka the solvents that evaporate away. Obviously paint doesn't smell once all the solvents are gone.

      You see this in non-paint finishes too. Urethane is odorless once it polymerizes, but the benzene or WTF it is in the "paint" can is really stinky.

      I can't be the only SN guy who's ever sprayed roundup, I think it stinks like fresh paint, and just like paint, as soon as it dries (minutes) I can't smell it anymore. I am almost motivated enough to kill some weeds and let the stuff dry on the leaves and give it a big sniff. I mostly use it in places where I can't safely use a weedeater like by the natural gas meter (what could possibly go wrong?)

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by turtledawn on Thursday July 31 2014, @03:56PM

        by turtledawn (136) <{turtledawn} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday July 31 2014, @03:56PM (#75969)

        There are a fair number of compounds that bind so strongly to scent receptors that after only the shortest exposure, you are physically incapable of smelling them anymore until new receptors are generated, a matter of minutes to hours depending on the receptor in question. The disappearance of a scent absolutely cannot be taken to mean that the responsible compound is no longer present - that's a good way to get yourself killed in some industrial situations.

  • (Score: 2) by Bot on Thursday July 31 2014, @07:06AM

    by Bot (3902) on Thursday July 31 2014, @07:06AM (#75817) Journal

    > There is a peculiarity of techies and SN is no exception that everything is binary

    To me it is, but I don't see the situation as a dichotomy.
    I see it as: released chemicals are basically untested because the combinations with other released chemicals and existing substances is too high.
    Now, a sane society would have stopped this ages ago, but we aren't in one.

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  • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Friday August 01 2014, @02:51AM

    by Reziac (2489) on Friday August 01 2014, @02:51AM (#76219) Homepage

    Until ivermectin came along, arsenic-based insecticides (well, helminthicides -- would you call it that if it kills blood-borne worms?, but anyway) were all that stood between your dog and a heartworm infection. Yes, it had bad side effects (low-grade liver damage which mainly manifested as reduced tolerance for certain drugs), but in a heartworm area, not-using it had worse effects (heartworm infection is nearly always fatal if untreated, and not trivial or risk-free to treat). Arsenic-based drugs are still used to treat advanced infections, as the alternative is proving worse:
    http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?A=610 [veterinarypartner.com]
    (go down to "Ivermectin only")

    So while arsenic-based insecticides might be a bad thing, whether they should be banned depends whether there is a better alternative, or if not-using them might be worse.