Nature vs. Monsanto: Guess Who Wins?


This just in from NPR (and thanks to Jenn for sending it).

Round One:  Monsanto rolls out the herbicide Round-Up.  Farmers cheer loudly and stop plowing fields.  Not plowing fields is generally a good thing–less energy used, soil preserved, more carbon sequestration, happy earthworms, etc.  What’s not to like?

Round Two:  Round-Up resistant crops!  Even better!  Plant your soybeans, keep on spraying!  Awesome!

Round Three:  Oooops.  If Monsanto can genetically engineer a plant to resist Round-Up, turns out Mother Nature can, too.  Now horsetail shrugs it off.  Monsanto’s response?  Not to worry!  We’re working on it!  Just keep spraying!

The best part is that this chemical is so safe and so wonderful that even NPR likes it. It’s way better, they point out, than other, more harmful chemicals, which appear to be the only alternative. Thanks, NPR!  That totally cheers us up! Why, it doesn’t hurt a fly!  Look, it’s hardly killing the weeds–how’s it going to kill a person? 

We were feeling so much better about the whole situation until we remembered–oh, yeah.  Nonselective spraying is killing endangered plants and destroying habitats.  The surfactant mixed with glyphosate turns out to travel pretty well in water.  And–uh–maybe it does disrupt human hormones, too.  But who knows?  Monsanto seems to think it’s pretty safe, so that must be right.

The French seem to be a little worked up over Round-Up, but you know the French. Always overreacting.

French court condemns the agrochemical giant Monsanto
for misleading publicity

The environmental organisation Eaux
et Rivieres de Bretagne (ERB)
won a complaint against the misleading publicity of Roundup (glyphosate), the herbicide with the highest worldwide sales. According to the ruling of the Lyon Court, Monsanto
France will have to pay a fine of 15,000 euro. The distributor of Roundup, Scotts France, was also condemned to pay 15,000 euro. The Court also ordered the publication of the judgement results in the
daily newspaper Le Monde and the magazine Maison et Jardin.

ERB started the legal process in 2001, appalled by the advertisements
of Monsanto identifying Roundup as “biodegradable” and
“respecting the environment”. These claims were made in 2000 in an aggressive television publicity campaign. ERB successfully
proved that glyphosate is present in many rivers in Bretagne and
is a product dangerous for the environment and human health. According
to the European Commission, products containing glyphosate have
to be labelled as “dangerous for the aquatic environment”
and “responsible for long-term effects on the environment”.

With this misleading publicity, Monsanto was conveying the message
that the product was not dangerous and targeting amateur users.
But according to ERB, as many as 55% of all rivers in Bretagne are
contaminated by glyphosate above levels permitted for human consumption.

Source: Liberation, S 27 January
2007, Eliane PATRIARCA


  1. As use of these mutant roundup ready crops increased more drift into neighboring properties has occurred. I know a woman in Iowa that lost everything on the North side of her property including several large trees.
    The extension service here in Illinois has been invovled in too many cases. The water contamination thing is scary.
    Congradulations to France for stepping up. Monsanto has been quick enough to sue poor farmers to intimidate them into not using seed they have raised themselves.
    American farmers have been slow to react but it is coming.

  2. Great post! You know, those Monsanto people are smart. SO smart that they’ve gotten themselves appointed to Invasive Species Councils all over, nationally and statewide. And guess what product is recommended to combat the ever-growing number of named invasives? Roundup, which is also freely recommended by the EPA. Nuf said.

  3. I think we should ALL send some comments to NPR. I listened to this and I thought NPR was endorsing Round-up!

    Which is totally bogus and unethical regardless of WHAT Round-up does.

  4. NPR does seem to be looking on Round-up benevolently. I don’t know if that was their intention. I remember going to the Bodega Marine Lab a few years back and hearing a researcher telling a group of us that the best thing they had found for controlling non-native invasive species right down by the water was Round-up! I was amazed.

  5. I heard this first thing this morning and actually had to listen again because I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. I’d like to see the Talking Plants blog take on this…

    just scary…

  6. Great post. Never trusted the stuff myself–and the maker, my God. How is it that Monsanto has not yet been beaten into oblivion by the forces of good?

    The whole idea of engineering soybeans so they can take being sprayed with an herbicide is so crazy, it practically sums up everything wrong with our culture.

  7. It comes as a shock how vile this chemical really is in a garden setting. in my garden I have not used any weedkiller for over 5 years – except this year, I sprayed in desperation some couch grass (nasty underground rhizomes)patches – well it certainly works, but why are all my ferns several yards away from where I sprayed (very carefully on a windless sunny day) all deformed with twisted yellow new fronds or are dead. 5 months later these sprayed areas are totally weed free! Nothing germinates in this soil. This shows to me how dangerous, persistent and vile this chemical is. If you use it, think twice and again.

  8. Hi all,

    I did send in a comment to NPR an dreceived this response from the reporter:

    “Thanks for your note. I don’t really think that our listeners believe that any pesticide is totally harmless. But it struck me as interesting and deeply ironic that this particular pesticide, because it encouraged no-till farming and because so many farmers used it instead of 2,4,D and paraquat, probably ended up benefiting the environment. And now, because it’s been overused, the farmers are back on that pesticide treadmill again.”

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