Updated: September 19, 13:00 PST, 2018
Last month a landmark ruling was issued against Monsanto for $289 million declaring that glyphosate directly causes cancer. The World Health Organization has already labeled glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic" since 2015. Most people know that farmers use glyphosate on crops to kill weeds, but what few people know is that many farmers also douse crops with weed killer immediately prior to harvesting not for the purpose of killing weeds, but in order to kill the crop itself to make harvesting faster and easier. The process is called desiccation and many are now seeing it as an alarming and dangerous practice that needs to stop.
Farmers Still Desiccate Crops Despite Ruling
Tom Ehrhardt, co-owner of Albert Lea Seed, spoke with us about the practice of desiccation. "This human health disaster has been a long time coming," he told us. " Sprayed right before harvest, [glyphosate] kills the plant right before the crops are fully ripe. Of course there would be glyphosate residue in the seed...Round Up is a systemic herbicide which soaks up the active ingredient throughout the whole plant including the seed head. Common sense says this is not healthy."
Imagine going out into your garden and dousing it with herbicide, then eating from it the next day. This is essentially what is happening now, according to many experts in desiccation. We asked Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist from MIT, why so many farmers, despite the landmark ruling declaring glyphosate as cancerous, are ignoring it completely and continuing to desiccate their crops. "I'd imagine that their motivation is that it is more convenient and cost effective to use glyphosate," she told us. "If they are at a high latitude, they may face a failed crop due to frost if they wait for the crop to naturally go to seed."
And that is why wheat farmers, for example, will drench their crop with Round Up in order to harvest it, so that it lessens the risk of failure. But to what expense does this have on our health? "I personally believed that glyphosate contamination on wheat is responsible for the epidemic we are seeing today in gluten intolerance," Stephanie says. For others, however, the consequences of glyphosate is far worse than mere gluten intolerance. A string of lawsuits are lined up against Monsanto in 2019, many plaintiffs of whom have advanced cancer claiming Roundup as a significant contributing factor. One lawsuit, for example, can be found here: https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Jeff-Hall-complaint.pdf
Desiccation Is Not About Killing Weeds
Desiccation has nothing to do with killing weeds, and even though Round Up has been declared cancerous by a court of law, farmers still spray crops with it directly before sending it to market. The reason they do this is to speed up harvesting and dry out the crop to lessen any risk of moisture. But why do we as a society allow convenience to supersede our own health? And why do so many farmers turn a blind eye to the problem?
Wheat farmers in Saskatchewan, for example, so widely desiccate their wheat crops, that there is a hush culture of "don’t ask don't tell" among the farmers. Even in their own consciences, some believe wheat farmers who use herbicides before harvest don't even admit it to each other, a clear sign, according to psychologists, of a guilty conscience. According to Ecowatch.com, wheat farmers in this region report widespread use of toxic desiccation but do so anonymously out of fear of being found out.
"Like all "don't ask, don't tell" phenomena someone stands to lose a great deal when the Truth is found out," Ehrhardt told us. " I am not holding my breath, but I am sure there is a special place in hell for Monsanto and the other folks who have hidden the truth all these years."
Basically, numerous farmers know what they are doing is unhealthy, especially in light of the recent ruling, they know on some level it is morally wrong, but they do it anyway out of economic security, and simply don't talk about it.
We reached out to the National Association of Wheat Growers in Washington DC about the practice of desiccating wheat crops with Round Up just prior to harvesting in light of the recent ruling. They would not answer our questions and simply redirected us to a page promoting glyphosate as "safe." It is worth noting that their page promoting glyphosate as safe was unchanged and identical to the page as it existed pre-ruling vs post-ruling. So the landmark ruling had no impact on the National Association of Wheat Grower's stance on glyphosate and Round Up. Additionally, we asked them about their claim that desiccation with herbicide by US wheat growers is a rare practice, requesting their sources to back that claim up, but again, they refused to answer.
"We can’t comment on the case but I wanted to direct you to our glyphosate resources page: https://wheatfoundation.org/wheat-resources/glyphosate-use-in-wheat/. "
Caitlin Kennedy Eannello
Director of Communications
National Association of Wheat Growers
Cancer may not be the Only Adverse Effect of Glyphosate
Even though the bulk of lawsuits against Monsanto are focused on cancer, many believe that a range of other health problems are caused, at least in part, by accumulated consumption of glyphosate. In addition to her belief that glyphosate contributes to glucose intolerance, Stephanie cites evidence showing it may contribute to mental health problems as well. "Glyphosate excites the NMDA receptors in the brain, " she says, "and induces excessive glutamate exposure to neurons. Glyphosate and glutamate together excite the NMDA receptors, and this can lead to neuronal burnout. Glyphosate likely disrupts the metabolism of glutamate (neurotoxic) to glutamine (safe), because the enzyme that does this conversion requires manganese as a cofactor, which glyphosate chelates, making it unavailable." In a nutshell, this means that there are experts who believe glyphosate may be a factor in mental health disorders.
Numerous Lawsuits are Piling On:
Quaker oats has been accused to be complicit in the problem of desiccation, so much so that they are now being sued, along with several other lawsuits in the works. But even so, Ehrhardt believes that farmers will still delay in stopping the practice. "Farmers will be slow to change their use of Round Up because it is so wide spread and currently embedded in Big Agriculture's approach to food production," he told us. "However, the large punitive damage in the lawsuit and corresponding media attention on Pre-Harvest use of Round up and the fact General Mills and Quaker Oats are both fully aware of the desiccant practice with Round Up...is sure to have impact on some peoples buying habits."
"But Everything is Dangerous if Taken to the Extreme, Even Water Can Kill You!"
This is a common retort many in the industry use when trying to refute evidence that glyphosate is cancerous. Even many media reporters have been using this failed reasoning as a way to defend a carcinogen. With so many cancers today having unknown causes, what logic can anyone use to defend a known carcinogen being soaked up into a crop directly before being sent to market? Rational thinking puts the burden of proof on those who douse our food supply with herbicide. Lawyers who are filing numerous lawsuits take the position that those defending Round Up have the burden of proof to ensure beyond a shadow of doubt that it is harmless. Those who are against the use of glyphosate being applied on crops before harvest do not need to prove anything. The burden of proof, according to philosophical reasoning and legal precedent, rests solely with those who defend the practice.
So until Montsano and the agricultural industry have a scientific consensus of irrefutable proof that glyphosate, a weed killer, is resoundingly harmless to humans, the rational default position, according to legal experts involved in the case against Monsanto, is not to do it. This begs the question why do we as as a society allow farmers to spray weed killer on our food supply directly before harvesting?
Imagine someone spraying your garden with chemicals and then right before you eat from it telling you "well, you need to prove that the chemicals are harmful". This is backwards reasoning, a position taken in several current lawsuits. It is the person who sprayed the food with chemicals who needs to prove they are completely safe.
Furthermore, evidence is now piling up in the exact opposite direction- that glyphosate is a direct cause of cancer and does not belong in our food supply.
Because I am also someone who eats food like everyone else, I have a vested interest in this story. I cannot help but wonder, why do we need special labeling for Organic food? Why aren't all harvested crops in our nation organic by default? This is our food supply! It is astonishing to me, when I consider what we have done as a society, that among all of our crops- corn, oats, barley, wheat, rye…nearly all of it…that they are all processed with chemicals unless they are labeled "organic". It should be the other way around. All crops should be organic. All of them. Any crops processed with chemicals, or desiccated with cancerous toxic weed killer should get a special label on them. Instead, we put special labels on the healthy crops, and the rest of the "bulk" of our food supply gets no label, and inside it, are untold numbers of molecules of laboratory created toxins.
I acknowledge that there is a problem among our growers and farmers that moisture in crops can ruin a harvest. It is a real problem. A wheat grower, for example, who deals with a late rainy season has a real risk of uneven ripening, or even crop failure. So yes, a problem exists. And in our society, when a problem arises, we put our best minds together to solve it. But with this particular problem, Monsanto, among others, decided that killing the crop with weedkiller to dry it out was a perfect solution. And farmers adapted it. And because the agricultural industry has embraced chemical desiccation, there is no longer a 'need' to come up with a new solution to the original problem.
Only when we as a society ban the use of weedkiller as a desiccant will we be forced to go back to the drawing board and come up with a real solution, this time one that is healthy for all of us.
Any expert who calls weed killer "safe" for human consumption, even in tiny quantities, despite large amounts of evidence to the contrary, is selling us all the same propaganda that the tobacco industry sold us decades ago (going so far as to testify to congress) that cigarette smoking is not cancerous. It took us years to finally wake up to that lie. How long will it take us to wake up to the notion that spraying weed killer on crops immediately before harvest is a completely dangerous and rationally absurd practice that should have never been legal to begin with.
Arthur Hunter is a computer programmer and co-founder of Theravive. He has been in the tech industry for over 20 years, with multiple Microsoft certifications. He has a love and passion for the intersection of technology and mental health and how the gadgets we use and the time we spend on them play a part in our mental well being, for better or worse. Together with his wife in 2007 they founded Theravive, which currently has thousands of licensed therapists and psychologists. He enjoys writing on occasion, reporting on mental health and technology. You can reach Arthur at 360-350-8627 or write him at webadmin - at - theravive.com.