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NoSpray Newz: Pesticides' Lawsuit update, & Forum in Brooklyn Thursday, June 30


Mitchel Cohen <[log in to unmask]>


Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>


Tue, 28 Jun 2005 04:37:34 -0400





text/plain (814 lines)

June 28, 2005
The newsletter of the NoSpray Coalition.


1. Judge Daniels issues favorable ruling on environmental legal issues in
NoSpray Coalition lawsuit.

2. NoSpray Coalition forum in Brooklyn THURSDAY, June 30, 7:30 pm. Guest
speaker, biologist Javiera Rulli from Argentina, and No Spray activist
Mitchel Cohen.

3. No Spray Coalition general membership meeting & elections of Board of
Directors, Tuesday, July 5, 7:30 pm in Brooklyn office.

4. NY Law Journal article on the NoSpray Coalition vs. NY City court case.

5. Valerie Sheppard, hero of our movement and co-founder of the No Spray
Coalition, RIP.

6. Greenpeace FactSheet on Monsanto’s “Round-Up” / Glyphosate

No Spray Coalition
388 Atlantic Avenue, 3rd floor
(between Bond St. & Hoyt St.)
Brooklyn, NY 11217

hotline: (718) 670-7110
listserve: [log in to unmask]
email: [log in to unmask]



U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels issued his long-awaited ruling in
early June on a case brought five years ago by the NoSpray Coalition, along
with a number of other organizations and individuals,* against NYC
government’s indiscriminate spraying of toxic pesticides to kill mosquitoes
said to be transmitting West Nile Virus.

Over the years a number of courts had eliminated the large body of evidence
we presented about people who were seriously sickened by the spraying of
poisons such as Malathion and pyrethroids over New York’s streets and urban
environment, whittling down the case to the sole question of whether or not
the City sprayed pesticides over water.

In this latest ruling, Judge Daniels agreed with most of our lawyers’
claims that spraying toxic pesticides over NYC waterways without a permit
­- even if unintended (and it was VERY intentional) or for a short time ­-
constitutes a violation of the Clean Water Act, and rejected the NY City
government’s claims to the contrary.

This is a very good result. Early findings on the law issues will stand as
"the law of the case" for later arguments when applying the law to the facts.

This was a long-awaited and very important decision, as it carefully
reviews prior case law and defines what constitutes a “pollutant” and rules
that helicopters and spraytrucks can be considered “point sources” under
the Clean Water Act, as well as under what circumstances pesticide-spraying
might indeed be opposed legally. We expect that it will have very positive
implications for environmental and social justice activists who are
fighting against the misuse of pesticides across the country.

With all the legalistic interpretations now out of the way and resolved in
our favor, the case will be fast-tracked and go to trial before a jury ­
with Judge Daniels presiding ­ to determine whether the City actually
sprayed pesticides over New York’s waterways.

The full text of Judge Daniels’ ruling is posted to the website at'%20Decision.pdf

*** We're now going to have to go into major fundraising mode to pay for
the actual court case on the Facts, organizing and office expenses,
literature, and so forth. *** We desperately need your help. *** Please
contribute whatever funds you can spare to enable us to pursue the lawsuit
and continue this very important work.

You can either make out a check to “No Spray Coalition” and mail it to 388
Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217, or you can pay by credit card via the
website: We need to raise tens of thousands of dollars ­
literally! ­ in the next few weeks. Contributions are NOT tax deductible,
but greatly appreciated.


* The Plaintiffs in the case are the No Spray Coalition, National Coalition
Against the Misuse of Pesticides, Disabled In Action, Save Organic
Standards - New York, Valerie Sheppard, Mitchel Cohen, Robert Lederman, and
Eva Yaa Asantewaa.


The No Spray Coalition, in conjunction with the Brooklyn Greens, invites
you to an extraordinary public forum: “Pesticides, Genetic Engineering and
Land ­ How the BIOneers are engineering the new colonization of land in
South America while also poisoning us here at home.”

Featured speakers are biologist Javiera Rulli, and anti-pesticide activist
Mitchel Cohen.

7:30 pm (7 pm for socializing and eating)
NoSpray Coalition Office: 388 Atlantic Ave. (between Bond and Hoyt
Streets), Brooklyn NY.
F-R-E-E (Please bring food and drink to share)

A, C or G train to Hoyt-Schermerhorn St.;
2,4 or 5 train to Nevins St.;
or (long walk) N,Q,B,D,R train to Atlantic Ave./Pacific Street.
Also, the #63 bus stops right near the office.

In addition to the ongoing (but much reduced, thanks to the hard work of
many activists) West Nile mosquito spraying, New York City parks were, over
the last few months, pounded with Monsanto’s Round-Up herbicide
(glyphosate), the same toxic brew being sprayed over Argentina’s
genetically modified soy fields. The speakers will be exploring the
connections between the mass spraying of pesticides and herbicides in the
U.S., the genetic engineering of agriculture, and the mass evictions of
peasants and indigenous people from their lands in other parts of the world.

We will also discuss the role of large environmental groups (such as the
World Wildlife Fund) in helping to “manage” and subvert the indigenous
resistance to the spraying and genetic engineering comensurate with the
theft of their lands.

About Javiera Rulli and her work:

Argentina is the world’s 2nd largest producer after the U.S. of genetically
modified crops, which are designed to withstand repeated pesticide spraying
(while everything else around them dies). Other G.E. crops are engineered
to produce pesticides in every cell of the plant. And a new GE technology
would have "designer seeds" grow only with the spraying of the company's
particular pesticide, developed exclusively to trigger that plant.

Currently, there is a huge expansion in the amount of genetically
engineered Round-Up Ready soy being planted for foreign markets, leading to:

- a catastrophic social and environmental crisis
- mass evictions of peasants and indigenous people
- violence, and serious human rights violations
- poisoning of people and nature
- contamination rivers and groundwater with pesticides and Genetically
Modified Organisms
- deforestation
- 56 percent of the population now under the poverty level

 From being known as the world’s grain barn, Argentina has become a “soy
dictatorship” of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, with a
growing external debt.

Over 99% of all soy production in Argentina is genetically modified,
consisting of the variety of RR soy, resistant to the herbicide Roundup
(glyphosate), and produced and patented by Monsanto. The implementation of
large-scale intensive agriculture has brought about a loss of agricultural
biodiversity and the destruction of local economies. The industrial
agriculture has resulted in the concentration of land in the hands of big
landowners and giant corporations, resulting in the expulsion of rural
workers and small and medium-sized producers. As a result, today more than
half of population survives under the poverty level.

The militarization of neighboring countries, such as Paraguay, is directly
related to the genetically engineered soy expansion. Last week in Paraguay,
growers of GM soy from Brazil crossed the border and attacked a peasant
community, TEKOJOJA, in Caaguazu, Paraguay, in order to drive them off
their lands, claim them for themselves and plant genetically engineered
soy. They evicted 270 people, burned down 54 of the houses and all of the
non-GMO crops. Two local farmers were killed -- ÁNGEL CRISTALDO and LUÍS
TORRES -- many people were injured and 130 people arrested, amongst them
many women and children.

Javiera Rulli is a biologist that works on issues of agriculture and food
sovereignity in Argentina. She has worked in Holland with ASEED ­ Action
for Solidarity, Equality, Ecology and Diversity ­ and participated in the
anti­Genetic Engineering and Food Sovereignty campaigns. She returned to
Argentina to live and work in a Kolla community in the Yungas, the tropical
montane forest region in the Northwest of Argentina.

In 2004/5, Javiera Rulli helped organize the Iguazu Counter Conference,
alongside the GRR and the MOCASE (Via Campesina Argentina). This was a
forum called in response and parallel to "the Business Round Table on
Sustainable Soy" initiated by the World Wildlife Fund. The
Counterconference brought together a wide scope of peasant movements (Via
Campesina Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina), indigenous organizations,
unemployed organizations and ecology groups aiming to consolidate a common
position and to coordinate future strategies for a different agricultural
model, based on principles of food sovereignity, land reform and local

This forum should be very interesting, as well as providing us with
international links to expand our anti-pesticide struggle. If you are in
New York on June 30, please come.


In addition to the forum, we will also be holding a NoSpray Coalition
strategy meeting on Tuesday, July 5th,
7:30 pm
at our office at 388 Atlantic Avenue, 3rd floor, Brooklyn, NY.

All NoSpray members in NYC: Please come!!!!

Please rsvp to [log in to unmask] At this meeting we will
- do some follow-up work on international work coming out of the forum
- elect our Board of Directors
- hear updates from our lawyers on the lawsuit
- updates on proposed Environmental Protection Agency pesticide label changes
- plan to distribute literature to every health food store in the City (and
place flyers on the website so that activists in other parts of the country
could modify and use them)
- discuss specific ways to protest the City Parks Department’s
mass-spraying with Round-Up / Glyphosate
- and other matters related to the lawsuit and negotiations with the City


Suit Over West Nile Spraying Goes Forward Against City

New York Law Journal
June 13, 2005
page one

By Mark Hamblett

A FEDERAL JUDGE has refused to dismiss a lawsuit claiming that New York
city violated the federal Clean Water Act when it sprayed to prevent West
Nile Virus.

Southern District Judge George B. Daniels said it would be up to a jury to
decide whether the city violated the act by spraying over water from a
helicopter in 1999 and 2000.

The decision in No Spray Coalition, Inc. v. The City of New York, 00 Civ.
5395, also denied the summary judgment motion brought by the coalition,
which has challenged the city’s spraying program on several fronts since it
began confronting West Nile in the late 1990s.

The city acted after some residents of Queens, followed by residents of
other boroughs, became ill from the mosquito-born virus. The city began
spraying by helicopter and truck in 1999 and has continued spraying each
year with the reappearance of the virus.

Opponents of the program sued in 2000, but their claims under the Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act and the state and city Environmental Quality
Review Acts were dismissed.

But the district court refused to rule on claims brought under the Clean
Water Act, leaving “for another day the question of whether spraying
insecticides directly over rivers, bays, sound and ocean surrounding New
York City as part of a prevention program would violate the Clean Water Act.”

Nonetheless, discovery was allowed to proceed on the Clean Water Act claim,
which alleged the city violated §301(a) by discharging pollutants into
navigable waters without either a National Pollution Discharge Elimination
System (NPDES) permit or a State Pollution Discharge Elimination System
(SPDES) permit.

After discovery, the District Court granted summary judgment for the city,
saying the Clean Water Act does not allow citizens to enforce its
provisions by brining suit. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit reversed and the case was sent to Judge Daniels for renewal of the
motions for summary judgment.

Judge Daniels said the two sides disagreed over whether the city’s actions
could constitute and Clean Water Act violation. And even if its actions
could amount to a violation, he said, the two sides disagree over whether
there has been sufficient evidence for a finding, as a matter of law, that
the city “did or did not violate” the act “by conducting its spraying
without an NPDES permit.”

Among the evidence presented by the plaintiffs, Judge Daniels said, was
that the city sprayed “directly over lakes, streams, ponds and marshes,”
including a helicopter spraying over a marina at City Island in both 1999
and 2000 and another helicopter spraying over Mount Loretto Pond and
adjacent wetlands on Staten Island. Other allegations include the Bronx
River and Staten Island’s Clove Lake.

The city answered that the program does not involve the direct discharge of
a pollutant into navigable waters and that it followed strict guidelines
protecting against the direct application of insecticides into water. The
guidelines contain setbacks of varying distances from bodies of water, such
as aerial spraying no closer than 300 feet from water.

The city also argued that some of the alleged spraying involved no more
than “atmospheric emissions” of pesticides that “do not constitute
discharges” and that residual particles of pesticide that may have reached
the water did not amount to a discharge of a pollutant in violation of the
Clean Water Act.

But Judge Daniels said the definitions of an “addition” of a pollutant to
water is “simple and plain.”

“The amount that is discharged does not affect a finding that an addition
has taken place. Nor does the fact that the pesticide is initially sprayed
into the air as a fine mist, if the mist descends downward toward water,”
he said. “Moreover, it would be unreasonable to distinguish between a
sprayed releasing a fine mist pollutant into the atmosphere over the water
and a pipe that released the same single flow of pollutant directly into

The reason, he said, was that violators of the act would be able to escape
the consequences by simply attaching an “airborne mist blower or hydraulic
sprayer to their pipe to discharge a pollutant over the water in order to
escape liability or regulation.”

And Judge Daniels termed “faulty” the city’s argument that its compliance
with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act freed it from
having to obtain an NPDES permit.

“The City did not have permission to spray pesticides directly over or into
the water under any state or federal law,” he said. “If the City did
discard the pesticides over the water, it did so in contravention” of the
Clean Water Act.

Because disputed issues of material fact exist over whether the city
actually discharged a pollutant, he denied the motion for summary judgment.

Karl Coplan of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, representing the
No Spray Coalition, said the decision “will clearly affect the scope of the
spraying they are allowed to do.”

Christopher King, senior counsel in the Corporation Counsel’s environmental
law division, represented the city.

- Mark Hamblett can be reached at [log in to unmask]

Note : The New York Environmental Law & Justice Project, (Joel R Kupferman)
is co-counsel to Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic. The Law Project
wrote the original Intent to Sue letter against the City - which initialed
the present legal action.



(The following appeared in the Winter 2005 issue of “G”, the newspaper of
the NY State Greens / Green Party of New York)

Valerie Sheppard was a founding member of the No Spray Coalition -- that’s
how I first met her. Actually, that’s not quite accurate -- I’m remembering
as I write -- we’d met a few years earlier in the offices of the Sheppard
Foundation for a meeting she hosted against the Cassini nuclear-powered
satellite that at that moment was hurtling back towards earth.

In 1995, Valerie’s son, Andrew, developed cancer. After several
conventional treatments, he was not getting any better and Valerie decided
to switch over to alternative treatments, which saved his life.

After that, Valerie and her cousin Sherri Culpepper established the
Sheppard Foundation for Alternative Therapies to assist others in similar
circumstances. The Foundation offers personal assistance, educational and
referral service for alternative doctors and practitioners who provide
holistic, non-toxic treatments for cancer and other degenerative diseases,
with an emphasis on children. Many people today owe their lives to Valerie
Sheppard and the loving, tireless work she did on behalf of those suffering
the effects of poverty, poor nutrition, and environmental pollution.

Valerie organized the first No Spray Coalition forums in Harlem in 1999.
The Coalition dedicated itself to fighting against the indiscriminate
spraying of toxic pesticides used to kill mosquitoes said to be carrying
West Nile virus. A friend of Isaac Hayes, she rang up alternative health
practitioners and put them on panels with No Spray activists like author
Curtis Cost, attorney Joel Kupferman, researcher Kimberly Flynn and Mitchel
Cohen. It was through her work that the No Spray Coalition was able to get
off the ground, and it was the people of Harlem, through Valerie’s efforts,
that immediately understood the need to stop the spraying and fund our work.

Valerie was also responsible for getting our message to the spray workers.
It was Valerie's credibility, knowledge and eloquence that went out over
the airwaves to a few of the spray workers who happened to be listening.
And Valerie got Joel Kupferman on the radio with her, so that he could add
his voice to hers in explaining that laws had been violated and people had
been harmed.

Without her, the sick spray workers would not have found us, and they would
not have gotten the info they needed to understand the legal and medical
seriousness of their exposures, and the fact that their illnesses stemmed
from those exposures. They would not have gotten to NY Environmental Law
and Justice Project or to Mount Sinai Hospital to get help. They also would
not have been able to come forward and provide testimony to the NY State
Department of Environmental Conservation, and we would not have had the
ammunition we needed to get Clarke Mosquito a hefty fine ($1 million!) nor
to block Clarke from getting a multimillion dollar 3-year spray contract.
Clarke would have been handed a license to spray anyone and anything in its
path -- free to be a roving menace on the streets of NY once again.

Valerie was born to Antiguan parents on August 24, 1953. She was raised in
Harlem. She was the granddaughter of the Rev. Cyril O. Sheppard, organizer
and secretary of the Antiguan chapter of the U.N.I.A. (the Universal Negro
Improvement Association, under the leadership of Marcus Garvey).

Valerie attended Brandeis H.S. and Touro College. When she was still a
youngster, her dad, Donald O. Sheppard, Sr., introduced her to
macrobiotics, which he had been practicing for many years. In 1975, Valerie
studied macrobiotics and eastern medicine under the tutelage of Michio
Kushi at the East-West Summer Camp.
Michio Kushi was one of the original people who put forth macrobiotics in
the United States. “Macrobiotics” means great or big life. Much of it
focuses on the macrobiotic “diet” -- a natural, whole grain & much more,
chemical-free orientation -- but there are also universal/spiritual
principles about creating balance in life (yin/yang, acid/alkaline).

Valerie faced her first challenge against industrial (western) medicine
when her eldest son, Ronald, was three months old and the hospital insisted
that he undergo a spinal tap for a minor Staph infection of the eye.
Valerie objected, and informed the hospital that she would treat him at
home. The hospital sent the police to her house to seek medical custody,
under the suspicion that he had meningitis. Valerie was forced to watch the
hospital give Ronald the tap -- it was negative. That was the start of
Valerie’s passion to provide support for families faced with parental
rights being taken away by the authorities.

As president and founder of the Sheppard Foundation, Valerie appeared on
numerous radio and TV programs across the country, including the popular
syndicated radio show “Night Talk” with host Bob Law, Kiss-FM’s “Open Line”
with Bob Slade, and WABC-TV’s “Like It Is” with Gil Noble. She was
frequently joined by singer and health advocate Isaac Hayes and comedian
and civil rights activist Dick Gregory.

Valerie was one of only 20 highy respected and dedicated Alternative Health
advocates who was ordained a Reverend, to go forth and spread, guide and
carry out the “gospel” of Alternative Medicine. She created a network of
alternative health providers, and helped organize them into the Foundation
for the Advancement of Innovative Medicine (FAIM), to protect the rights of
patients and practitioners and expand their options in use of
non-conventional treatments. Sadly, in the end it was the hospital that in
some ways did her in.

In September of 2002, Valerie was renovating her Bronx apartment when she
took ill with no warning. Apparently, like so many others in NYC, she was
exposed to mold in the walls which triggered an immune-compromising cascade
of ailments. For the next two years she struggled to regain her health,
with the loving support of her daughter, LaShawn, and her sons Ronald and

Feeling weak but in her usual feisty spirit, Valerie decided -- against her
better judgment -- to go to the nearby hospital for intravenous feeding,
instead of making the taxing trip downtown to her medical provider. Here,
the story gets confusing: Although Valerie went in for a very simple
“feeding,” the hospital apparently refused to provide her with the
nutrients she felt she required for several days. Her daughter, LaShawn,
finally was able to convince the hospital to provide the necessary
intravenous solution, but by then she had wasted away and was too far gone.
Valerie died on July 16, 2004, and a beautiful light went out of all of our

Valerie’s funeral was a very strange experience for us. Valerie’s life had
deeply touched everyone there, and some felt the need to reclaim Valerie’s
pagan spirituality for the patriarchal Christian messianism that they
practiced. Aside from her father, children, close friends and cousin
Sherri, her more distant relatives could not handle Valerie’s veganism and
non-Christian spiritual and Green beliefs. The point was driven home at the
gathering afterwards at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building,
which hosted a dinner that served mostly meat and dairy, without making
even an attempt to understand Valerie’s holistic and comprehensive vision
of what it meant to her to be healthy in body as well as mind, and to not
eat animal products.

People like Valerie could be the subjects of an “It's a Wonderful
Life”-type movie. To paraphrase the movie: If she had not lived, it would
have left such a terrible hole that many people would have fallen through.

When we went to visit Valerie, her office had an electric,
there's-lots-going-on-here vibe to it. Her father's cats were outside in
the garden running free. The cats themselves had a free vibe... as cats
allowed in their natural way would... they all were friendly to each other,
romping around and just being with each other in their environment. It was
quite amazing -- something in NYC you don't witness too often. The cats
were more Valerie's father’s interest than Valerie's but they completed the
picture of Valerie's office that day.... very together, dynamic, and free

Just like Valerie. Just like we’ll always remember her.

- Mitchel Cohen, Kimberly Flynn, Cathryn Swan, Robert Lederman, Jim West,
Donna Reilly contributed to this remembrance. For more info on the No Spray
Coalition:, and FAIM:


Reports are coming from all over Brooklyn that the NYC Parks Dept. has been
spraying the deadly organophosphate herbicide Round-Up -- Monsanto's hugely
profitable poison (the #1 selling herbicide in the world) -- around parks
to kill weeds growing between the cracks in cement, and on lawns, etc.

This is the same herbicide being sprayed by aircraft all over Colombia, and
on Argenina's genetically engineered Roundup Ready soy crops.

Connie Lesold in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn first noticed the spraying and
reported this (she saved the Warning sign as well), and next thing we knew
the sidewalks perimetering children's playgrounds throughout Brooklyn had
turned a putrid green. Now Carl Lawrence reports the same from his
neighborhood in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and
Brooklyn Heights.

Clearly this is a Brooklyn-wide Parks Dept. project. Any reports from the
rest of NYC?

The No Spray Coalition will be advertising a call-in blitz to NYC
government to protest this misuse of toxic herbicides (phone numbers will
be forthcoming). We will also be meeting with City Council members and
calling for hearings. Any additional ideas on how we should proceed?


The glyphosate, Roundup, is a noncholinesterase inhibiting
organophosphorous herbicide. (Malathion, on the other hand, is a
cholinesterase inhibiting organophosphate.)

Within the formulation, there are inert components such as surfactants that
contribute to the activity of the mixture. Polyoxyethylene amine (POEA), is
a major component of these surfactants and they are the major cause of
acute mucosal erosions in the mouth and the upper respiratory tract.
Intoxication may result from oral (ingestion) or respiratory (inhalation)

In addition, children (and adults) track the poison into the home. Wheel
chairs kick it up into people's faces. Monsanto says that it will not
affect people because glyphosate works on biochemical pathways that do not
exist in people, but this is a very narrow, self-serving position (as is
everything that Monsanto and the other agribusiness companies put out).

The OTHER chemical that the RoundUp is mixed with, Pendulum, is
manufactured by BASF (26 Davis Drive, Research Triangle Park, North
Carolina, 27709), and is composed of ACTIVE INGREDIENT: pendimethalin,
N-(1-ethylpropyl)-3,4-dimethyl-2, 6-dinitrobenzenamine 38.7% and

so-called INERT INGREDIENTS 61.3% (not listed)

These proportions may change depending on which of the 3 kinds of Pendulum
they are using.

The label says NOT to use it in iirrigation. But then the label goes on to
say that it works best when it is followed by rain (which washes it into
sewers and into the rivers and oceans! -- they leave that part out).

Excerpts from the label for one kind of Pendulum:

This product is toxic to fish. DO NOT apply directly to water, to areas
where surface water is present, or to intertidal areas below the mean high
water mark. Drift and runoff from treated areas may be hazardous to aquatic
organisms in adjacent aquatic sites. DO NOT contaminate water when
disposing of equipment washwaters.

DO NOT apply this product through any type of irrigation system.


The requirements in this box only apply to uses of this product that are
covered by the Worker Protection Standard. Do not enter or allow worker
entry into treated areas during the restricted entry interval (REI) of 24
hours. PPE required for early entry to treated areas that is permitted
under the Worker Protection Standard and that involves contact with
anything that has been treated, such as plants, soil, or water, is: •
Coveralls • Chemical resistant gloves made of any waterproof material such
as nitrile, butyl, neoprene, and/or barrier laminate. • Shoes plus socks

Follow manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintaining PPE. If no
such instructions for washables, use detergent and hot water. Keep and wash
PPE separately from other laundry.

From: carl lawrence <[log in to unmask]>

I wanted to tell you that yesterday I witnessed a Parks Dept. spray truck
in Cadman Plaza spraying with a huge spray spectrum Pendulum and Roundup
herbicide all over the place-in a rain storm. Of course most of it went
directly into the storm drains and on out into the harbor. They had dyed it
yellow so it was easy to see it every where. Are they allowed to do this? I
called 311 and was put on hold until I finally hung up the pay phone in
frustration. A woman said they were "cleaning" the park. We should organize
against this stuff and stop it. Please pass this along. Regards, Carl


  Glyphosate Fact Sheet

This fact sheet describes the basic properties of glyphosate and the issues
surrounding glyphosate resistance and weed control. Glyphosate is a broad
spectrum herbicide used to kill crop weeds. Monsanto’s trade name for this
is Roundup. Roundup Ready crops are engineered to withstand exposure to
glyphosate. This allows applications of the herbicide after crop emergence,
killing weeds but not Roundup resistant crop plants such as RRS (Roundup
Ready Soybeans).


Chemically, glyphosate is an organophosphate like many other pesticides but
it does not affect the nervous system as other organophosphates do. It is a
broad spectrum, non-selective herbicide which kills all plants, including
grasses, broad leaf and woody plants. It is absorbed mainly through the
leaves and is transported around the whole plant, killing all parts of it.
It acts by inhibiting a biochemical pathway, the shikimic acid pathway. At
low levels of application it acts as a growth regulator.

There are three forms of glyphosate used as weed killers;
glyphosate-isopropylammonium and glyphosate-sesquiodium patented by
Monsanto and glyphosate-trimesium, patented by ICI (now Zeneca). Other
common brand names are Rodeo, Accord and Vision.

Glyphosate is technically extremely difficult to measure in environmental
samples. Only a few laboratories have the sophisticated equipment and
techniques necessary. This means that data is often lacking on residue
levels in food and the environment and existing data may not be reliable.

Use In Weed Control

Glyphosate product sales are worth $1,200 million a year. In the US,
glyphosate was used on about 12-25 million acres annually in the 1980s. In
the UK it was used on almost 800,000 acres in 1994. Because it is broad
spectrum in action it is used to control a great variety of annual,
biennial, and perennial grasses, sedges, broad leafed weeds and woody
shrubs. It is used in fruit orchards, vineyards, conifer plantations and
many plantation crops (e.g. coffee, tea, bananas); in pre-crop, post-weed
emergence in a wide range of crops (including soybean, cereals, vegetables
and cotton); on non-crop areas (e.g. road shoulders and rights of way); in
cereal stubble; forestry; gardening and horticulture. Other uses of salts
of glyphosate are in growth regulation in peanuts and in sugarcane to
regulate growth and speed fruit ripening.

Human Toxicity

Because the shikimic acid pathway does not exist in animals, the acute
toxicity of glyphosate is very low. Glyphosate can interfere with some
enzyme functions in animals but symptoms of poisoning are only seen at very
high doses. However, products containing glyphosate also contain other
compounds which can be toxic. In particular most contain surfactants known
as polyoxyethyleneamines (POEA). Some of these are much more toxic than
glyphosate. These account for problems associated with worker exposure.
They are serious irritants of the respiratory tract, eyes and skin and are
contaminated with dioxane (not dioxin) which is a suspected carcinogen.
Some are toxic to fish.

In California, glyphosate is the third most commonly-reported cause of
pesticide related illness among agricultural workers. Glyphosate is the
most frequent cause of complaints to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive’s
Pesticides Incident Appraisal Panel. New formulations, with less irritating
surfactants, have been developed by Monsanto (e.g. Roundup Biactive), but
cheaper, older preparations are still available.

Environmental Toxicity

Glyphosate is one of the most toxic herbicides, with many species of wild
plants being damaged or killed by applications of less than 10 micrograms
per plant. Glyphosate can be more damaging to wild flora than many other
herbicides, as aerial spraying with glyphosate can give average drifts of
1200 to 2500 feet and ground spraying with glyphosate may cause damage to
sensitive plants up to 300 feet from the field sprayed. Glyphosate use is
thought to affect hedgerow trees, causing die-back, and may reduce trees'
winter hardiness and resistance to fungal disease

The direct toxicity of glyphosate to mammals and birds is low. However, its
effect on flora can have a damaging effect on mammals and birds through
habitat destruction. The US EPA concluded that many endangered species of
plants, as well as the Houston toad, may be at risk from glyphosate use.

Fish and invertebrates are more sensitive to formulations of glyphosate. As
with humans, the surfactants are responsible for much of the harm .
Toxicity is increased with higher water temperatures, and pH. In Australia,
guidelines state that most formulations of glyphosate should not be used in
or near water because of their toxic effects on tadpoles and adult frogs.
The newer, non-irritant formulations such as Roundup Biactive are not
included in this advice.

Of nine herbicides tested for their toxicity to soil microorganisms,
glyphosate was found to be the second most toxic to a range of bacteria,
fungi, actinomycetes and yeasts. However, when glyphosate comes into
contact with the soil it rapidly binds to soil particles and is
inactivated. Unbound glyphosate is degraded by bacteria. Low activity
because of binding to soil particles suggests that glyphosate's effects on
soil flora will be limited. However, some recent work shows that glyphosate
can be readily released from certain types of soil particles, and therefore
may leach into water or be taken up by plants.

Impact Of Genetically Engineered Herbicide Resistant Crops

The introduction of crops engineered to be resistant to glyphosate could
have two particularly damaging effects. Firstly, it will increase the use
of the herbicide, and secondly, it may encourage the emergence of herbicide
resistant weeds.

Monsanto claim that the introduction of herbicide resistant crops will
reduce the overall amount of herbicide used. They argue that glyphosate
will replace other, more environmentally damaging herbicides, because only
glyphosate need be used rather than several different compounds. They also
argue that weed killer will be used less frequently on resistant crops.
Importantly they also consider glyphosate to be 'environmentally friendly'
and a 'safe' herbicide, basing this claim on its reduced soil particle
binding and low toxicity to humans.

Other herbicides used on soybeans and other crops are unquestionably
harmful to the environment and human health. The question is whether
glyphosate is really any less harmful and whether herbicide resistant
plants will reduce the amount of potentially damaging chemical to the
environment. Evaluating overall amount of use on a weight or volume basis
does not allow for the differences in toxicity between chemicals. Weight or
volume of total herbicide may decrease simply because glyphosate is more
effective at killing plants than many other chemicals. Glyphosate is
already the eleventh most widely used pesticide in the US on a volume
basis. Its damaging impacts on the environment have already been described.

Whether there will be a reduction in the number of times herbicide is used
is also questionable. In their documents prepared for the US authorities,
Monsanto say that under current regimes, between one and five applications
of different herbicides or herbicide mixtures are needed to control weeds
in soybean crops, while with Roundup Ready soybeans only "one or possibly
two" applications of Roundup will be needed. Yet in their information for
farmers in Argentina, Monsanto recommends Roundup be used with Roundup
Ready soybeans before sowing, when the young plant has three to four leaves
and then whenever the farmers find weeds. This is "at least twice and
probably more frequently".

Herbicide Resistance In Weeds

One of the major concerns of weed scientists is that the emergence of
herbicide resistant weeds may be encouraged by the use of herbicide
resistant plants. Herbicide resistance arises in an analogous fashion to
the emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Mutations occur in
plants and when one arises which makes it resistant to the herbicide, it
will have an advantage and grow and flourish when other plants are killed
Resistance to glyphosate is easy to induce in plants in the laboratory.
Monsanto claims resistance to glyphosate is unlikely to emerge in the field
because it does not persist in soil. However, weed resistance to paraquat,
an herbicide which has a shorter soil persistence than glyphosate, is
already a serious problem. One weed specialist concluded, by comparison to
paraquat, that "Presumably glyphosate resistance can also be obtained with
multi-annual treatments" (Gressel, in Cassley et al, 1991). Roundup Ready
soybeans are intended to be used with "multi-annual treatments" and so the
emergence of resistance will be encouraged. Even before the increased use
of glyphosate expected with the introduction of resistant crops, there has
already been a report of glyphosate resistance in a weed which occurred in
ryegrass in Australia.

Glyphosate resistant weeds could also arise if there is gene flow between
the soybean and a related wild plant or if the soybean survives to emerge
as a weed ("a volunteer") in the subsequent crop. Gene flow is possible in
the Far East where soybean originated and wild related plants exist.
Herbicide resistant volunteers may be a problem where mild climates occur
and overwintering of soybean is possible.

Herbicide resistant crops are an expensive problem for farmers. Having
weeds resistant to another herbicide, triazine, have been estimated to cost
farmers up to $10 an acre in extra weed control expenditure. There would be
an extra penalty for farmers growing glyphosate resistant crops if
glyphosate resistant weeds evolved, because not only would they have to
change their weed control practices but they would have paid a premium for
the herbicide resistant seed in the first place.

Thus herbicide resistant soybeans promise increased herbicide use and
associated damage to the environment, together with an increased risk of
weed resistance, which would be a costly problem for farmers.


Active Ingredient Fact Sheet: Glyphosate. Pesticide News 33 pp28-29,
September 1996.

Breeze, V, Thomas, G & Butler, R (1992) Use of a model and toxicity data to
predict risks to some wild plant species from drift of four herbicides.
Annals of Allied Biology 121: 669-677

Carlisle S.M. & Trevors, J.T. (1988) Glyphosate in the environment. Water
Soil and Air Pollution. 39: 409-420

Casley J C., Cussans G W & Atkin R K (eds) (1991) Herbicide resistance in
weeds and crops. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinmann

Marrs, R H, Williams, C T, Frost, A J & Plant, R A (1989) Assessment of the
effects of herbicide spray drift on a range of plants of conservation
interest. Environmental Pollution 59: 71- 86

New Scientist, 6 July 1996, p6

Petition for determination of nonregulated status of soybeans with a
Roundup Ready gene. Agricultural Group of Monsanto to APHIS, USDA, 1993.

US-EPA RED Facts: Glyphosate, September 1993

Yates W E., Akesson N B & Bayer D E (1978) Drift of glyphosate sprays
applied with aerial and ground equipment. Weed Science 26 (6):597-604

GREENPEACE, April 1997
1436 U St. NW, Washington DC 20009

Original Article:

NoSprayNewz is the newsletter of the NoSpray Coalition. To comment, please
send a note to [log in to unmask] And please donate whatever funds you can
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