The Corner

Energy & Environment

The Environmentalist Case for Roundup

A man uses a Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller spray in a garden in Bordeaux, France, June 1, 2019. (Regis Duvignau/Reuters)

Ted Williams makes it over at Slate.

He begins by dispelling the notion that the product causes cancer: Numerous scientific bodies have found there to be no good evidence that it does, and one prominent exception — the International Agency for Research on Cancer — was widely condemned for its methods. The man who led the review later “signed on as a litigation consultant for counsel suing Monsanto on behalf of alleged glyphosate cancer victims. He reportedly received $450 per hour.”

Williams goes on to note that he’s not a fan of the more aggressive uses of the substance, such as creating crops that are resistant to the stuff and dousing them in it. (This allows farmers to kill weeds but not crops with minimal effort; Williams says it can breed stronger weeds.) But he still opposes an outright ban, because it has important uses for conservation efforts:

A total ban on all glyphosate use would be an unmitigated disaster for fish and wildlife. Glyphosate is the most effective tool, often the only tool, wildland and aquatic managers have for restoring fish and wildlife habitats destroyed by alien plants. Even when they spray glyphosate, they use minuscule amounts and frequently they merely inject it into individual plants or paint it onto cut stems.

“Sure, it’s always better to use no-toxic alternatives, if they’re practicable,” says Dan Ashe, who directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under Barack Obama. “Often, however, they’re simply not. For instance, it would have been possible to hand-pull the head-high invasive verbesina from the ground at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, but it would have taken time and personnel that were simply not available. Use of herbicides like Roundup can accelerate the work, creating urgently needed nesting space for thousands of albatrosses.”

I hope policymakers listen, because Roundup nicely knocked out a poison-ivy infestation that — thanks to my ignorance of all things green — had all four of my appendages covered in rashes a couple years back. With that experience firmly in my memory, I do about 95 percent of my “weeding” via spray bottle these days.


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