“Glyphosate is the Agent Orange of our Time”


Don– says an anonymous World Wildlife
Fund executive, quoted by Mike Wallace on CBS's "60 Minutes".

And Don Engebretson has lots to say about all that in this provocative article – worth a read (you think WE rant?)  Not for nothing is he called the Renegade Gardener.

Think what you will of Roundup, and Lord knows Monsanto gives us plenty of reasons to hate it, but I have to agree with Don's sighting of "scare
tactics, cloaked in deceit and unwarranted innuendo
" on this and other eco-topics. 

Now don't throw stuff at me, okay?  Throw stuff at Don.


  1. I like this article and here is why…
    To me it seems absolutely counter-productive to misinform others with scare-tactics. When I was a kid, I really liked the story of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’. I took it seriously. When we pass along information, if we want to maintain our credibility, we better have our facts, as opposed to opinions, straight. Chemicals are definitely dangerous when handled carelessly, and so are many other things. I avoid chemical use when it is not absolutely necessary. If we want to persuade others to garden organically, the best way is to lead by example, and to find alternatives to questionable substances. I agree that some common chemicals, (like those found in many detergents, fuels, cleansers, paints, etc), can be as harmful as those used in more obvious ‘chemical substances’.
    Listening to all known facts, and then making informed decisions is the most important thing. I respect that.

  2. My brother-in-law has patches on his skin from contact with agent orange from his service in Vietnam. Agent orange was sprayed all over the jungle, and if you were there the stuff got on you, just like what the government is doing in Colombia. The improper use of the product by our government is what causes the health concerns.

    I don’t know anybody who uses the product properly that has health concerns.

  3. Interesting article, and helpful.

    Interesting juxtaposition on this page this morning: in the sponsor ads on the right of the screen are:

    Glyphosate 41% herbicide

    Organic Pest Controls

    Weed Killer SuperStore

  4. I’ve never understood the use of spraying Round-up as a weed control.
    Yes, the weed dies but it still lies there all brown and dead which means you still have to expend energy to bend your arse over and pluck the offending dried up dead weed off the ground.

    To my minds eye using herbicides is just a middle-man step. One that can be cut out completely if you just work smartly and perhaps in some situations use a few calorie burning muscles.

    But to most Americans that cuts into their couch potato time, so whip out the hand held sprayer in one hand and savor a can of Bud in the other and spray away. The chips and the freeze dried onion dip is waiting for you.

  5. Has anyone read the Jeff Gillman book the truth about organic gardening? And totally forgotten what it is about?

    He has a thoughtful section about this very issue. Read it!

  6. Who really, truly, scrupulously follows the label directions on anything? I grew up in the landscape industry, and when it came to mixing RoundUp concentrate, everyone I saw put in the amount called for by the bottle, plus a little bit more “just to be sure.” Many of my homeowners are even worse. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about- glyphosate, lime, weed & feed- if a little is good, then a lot must be better. They can try to deny it, but the burn spots in the grass speak volumes 🙂

    I’m not saying that a ban, or onerous regulations are the best way to go; but we’re talking about the intersection of controlled chemicals and human nature. We should at least recognize how much of a factor basic human nature plays.

  7. Isn’t that the American way – more is better? It’s a hard montra to beat. Cars, houses, yards, people, stores, consumption. Everything is better when it’s bigger. That’s the root of the problem.

  8. Bermuda grass and nutsedge cannot be dug up–trust me on this, you could do it all day, every day, and you would still miss enough to allow to to re-establish itself. I wouldn’t care, except that both compete with the native prairie grasses that I am trying to re-introduce to my lawn.

    Roundup is the only thing that gets rid of the Bermuda grass.

    I haven’t found a completely effective way of getting rid of the nutsedge, but thankfully, once the blue grama gets going, I stop watering and the nutsedge suffers.

    I am careful and circumspect when I use Roundup, and I try not to use it very often. I am otherwise a mostly organic gardener, and see my use of Roundup as an unfortunate price to pay for trying to restore a little bit of prairie in my corner of the world.

    And I’m pretty sure I’m not a couch potato. 😉

  9. Oddly enough, I was just discussing the Roundup issue with a colleague of mine at the EPA. Here’s what Joel said about using Roundup (as opposed to more “natural” methods):

    “Your alternatives to herbicides in general are solarization, tarping to get weeds to germinate early and tillage. You can also hire people to pull the weeds. All of these are far more intensive and harmful to soil organisms than glyphosate ever will be.”

    I agree.

  10. This controversy about the toxicity of glyphosate vs. Agent Orange missing the real issue, about which I feel far more alarmed: that it is still U.S. government policy to expose civilians to harmful chemicals (of whatever toxicity) in the pursuit of political ends.

  11. The careful use of Glyphosate is important in native landscape reconstruction\ restoration. I can’t imagine how we would handle aggressive aliens without it…

    Spot treatment of teasel, asian lespedezia, canary reedgrass, etc., depends on careful herbicide use…they would be virtually impossible to control without herbicides.

  12. I agree with Michelle on the use of round-up on weeds. Pulling is a one step deal. Spraying, viewing ucky brown weed, then pulling takes twice the time. I have used round-up on poison ivy and wild morning glory. Brushed it on the leaves directly.

  13. I garden in zone 7, NC and because the growing season is long, hot and wet, weeds literally own this part of the world. And even in winter, the annual weeds can be rampant.

    We use shredded tree leaves for a 2″ mulch and never leave soil exposed, but still have weeds of all kinds finding little nooks and crannies to get started in.

    To save time and my back I use a small quantity of a non-Monsanto variety of glyphosate once a month, year-round in the garden (about 15-30 min. a month for our 1/6 acre garden) and recommend the same to my clients. Here’s why:

    1) you’re hitting weeds that have only germinated in the last couple of weeks, so they are very small and you only need a tiny spritz of glyphosate to kill them. Then they turn brown and are even smaller and not visible enough to need hand-pulling.

    2) by spritzing once a month, you hit weeds before they can flower and set seed, so over the long run you have a smaller inventory of weed seeds on site. Of course the wind and birds will always bring you more, but at least you are not adding to your problems with garden-generated weed seeds. I continue the monthly spraying even in winter to stop the winter annuals–chickweed, henbit, annual fescue, etc.–from setting more seed.

    3) even perennial weeds that can’t be killed by one spray of glyphosate–ivy, wisteria, nutsedge, honeysuckle, kudzu, bamboo, etc.–can be killed by a monthly spraying over a period of 3-6 months depending on the plant and conditions. Mowing these perennials, when possible, and then spraying the new growth is more effective than spraying the older leaves.

    I used to be an organic farmer and I do everything in the garden organically, except for using glyphostate. When some holier-than-thou gardener gives me some guff about it, I ask them if they are driving their horse and buggy today or a fossil-fuel burning car.

    Frank Hyman

  14. For Susan Tomlinson ( & any others who want to get rid of nutsedge ) : I’ve discovered the easiest way to kill nutsedge is to paint it with full-strength glyphosate. I use a child’s paintbrush & a small container of the chemical. The neighbors think I’m insane, walking & crouching around my property — painting weeds ??? But I don’t have any problems with nutsedge !

  15. Never hurt a bird or chicken by using glysophate selectively. Wouldn’t spray it on something with seed that birds eat.
    Mourning doves flew in one day and flopped on their backs dead.
    I noticed that farmers sprayed there green fields brown.
    Was the chemical glysophate a bird killer or did the farmer’s use something else?

  16. Fortunately there are some of us dirt grubbers who bow up when folks try to scare them out of using something that is working. I quit smoking 3 or 4 packs of cigarettes a day back in 1986 and I would have quit several years before that except that the scare-mongers angered me and I have enough good Scots-Irish genes to resist their tactics. I still do not believe that cigarettes cause atheletes foot, which had benn intimated.

    The same situation with the anti-chemical people. They try to blame every bad thing occuring in the world on chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Well, it just ain’t so. Sure, if any chemical is improperly used it can result in problems worse than what was wrong in the first place. But, the holier than thou orgnic folks go overboard. They advocate using such things as vinegar, green sand, epsom salts, etc., when all of these are chemicals,just not sold as plant chemicals. That doesn’t change a dern thing. A chemical is a chemical.

    Pulling up weeds used to be a habit of mine years ago, but I wasn’t eighty two years old then. I haven’t the stamina to do such pulling presently. Should I just stop gardening and sit on my couch and see what sprouts? Ain’t agonna do it! I am able to spray herbicides, mix water soluable fertilizer and spray pesticides, and I will continue doing so until I am no longer able. My couch will still be there.

  17. The state agency I work for manages several restoration projects that require controlling invasive plant species, most notably Phragmites australis. There are hundreds of acres of this stuff just in the projects I work on. The State requires control of these species,as letting them go means eventually there will be NOTHING ELSE growing in the area. Glyphosate and burning are the only options for areas of this size, and the areas that can be burned are extremely limited- they must be a good distance from other desirable plant species, and in most cases, they are smack up against the desirables.

    The State Dept. of Ag regulates pesticide use, and requires extensive training for those who will conduct the application (which includes aerial apps.) Weather conditions have to be met, mixing instructions must be followed exactly, and only certified personnel can conduct the application (registered personnel, a lesser classification, can assist).

    The problem is that the regulatory framework almost stops at the residential doorstep. Previous comments already touched on that. Although at work we’re right in the middle of this year’s phrag control efforts, at home I have had a bottle of RoundUp in my shed for years, holding off on cracking the lid until now.

    The English ivy and vinca coming in from the neighbor’s yard is now officially out of control, and either it’s going down or I am.

  18. I will pull a million weeds before I give one dollar to Monsanto. Or I will use my homemade horticultural vinegar.

  19. when china is asked to feed us, then perhaps USA farmers will feel guilty of using pesticides, till then you know cancers will get worse and more frequent… but who cares other than the so called greenies… as long as NFL,NHL,NBA,and sports in general are not affected…people need to SLAP THEMSELVES AND WAKE UP and take pride in this country where so many put their lives on the line to defend it…examine big pharma..it sure appears they both poison and then drug for remedy …oh well, bring on more shots…we’ll need them all one day…Follow the $$$ trails,ask your government for studies,reports, links to other country reports, ask for transparencies as to whom APROVES sale of these products, by the way, anyone know how to dispose of a flourecent light bulb under legal sanitation laws? or is this a second thought to government after they allow them to be sold..I feel for the next few generations, somehow I’m not betting my money on utube, cell phones, ipods and the like, unless they put them to business use…

  20. “But as our understanding of DNA and genes increased, we learned that it was the damage to DNA by chemicals and radiation or introduction of new DNA sequences by viruses that often led to the development of cancer.”

    [source:cancer intitute]

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