News of the week

The latest on Roundup. Ohio's radioactive deicer. Saving the Franklin's bumblebee

Latest roundup on Roundup

Bayer, the company that makes all that aspirin and is also the parent company to Monsanto, the company that makes the most loved and hated weedkiller, Roundup, announced on Tuesday that it would be removing Roundup and any and all other glyphosate-based products from store shelves by 2023 to avoid further legal claims against the company related to the herbicide. A Bayer spokesperson said the removal was due to litigation and not to any safety concerns.

Glyphosate was first synthesized in in 1950 in Switzerland. Monsanto made an independent discovery/synthesis in 1970, and the first mention of its use as a household weedkiller was made in 1980. It is the most widely used weedkiller in the United States.

While Bayer is making this announcement, they are still fighting a legal battle all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The company filed a petition with the Court asking the nine Justices to reverse the verdict of an appeals court that upheld damages to Edwin Hardeman, who used the herbicide and now blames his cancer on Roundup.

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Hardeman’s case is one of several cases that the pharmaceutical and chemical company is fighting over Roundup. Here, in California where I live, a state appellate court recently upheld a ruling that awarded $87 million to a couple who used Roundup at their home over a 30 year period and who both later developed similar types of cancer. In its ruling, the First District Court of Appeals in San Francisco blamed Monsanto for inadequately informing customers and others about the health hazards of its product, saying, “Monsanto’s intransigent unwillingness to inform the public about the carcinogenic dangers of a product it made abundantly available at hardware stores and garden shops across the country.”

In March of 2015 the International Agency For Research on Cancer, an agency of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Ecological consequences of Roundup use

Monarch butterflies don’t have lawyers to sue Monsanto, but maybe they should. Their numbers across the United States have been shrinking for the last 20 years, with the population of western monarchs, the ones that live west of the Rockies, declining by as much as 99.9 percent.

Examining data from a nine-year period, a research team from Michigan State University found that populations of monarchs declined through the Midwest from 1994 to 2003, when large-scale use of glyphosate was first used in Midwest agribusiness. Their findings were published in the journal Ecography back in 2017.

Other factors, such as climate change, human land use, crop choices, and pesticides were also linked to the decline of North America’s most recognized and cherished butterfly. Weather fluctuations and population changes in Mexico, where the butterfly migrates for the winter, were also examined by the research team.

The team linked the decline of the monarchs in the Midwest to the decline in milkweed, which is killed as a weed by Roundup. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed, and the monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves and stems of milkweed plants.

Glyphosate has been linked to the development of superweeds resistant to the herbicide, such as giant ragweed in the Midwest, and upsetting the nutrient cycle of watersheds.

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Other News

Brief synopses of environmental news from this week. For more information, click the links.

Ohio to stop using radioactive deicer

The Ohio Transportation Department announced that it will stop buying AquaSalina, a product used to melt ice on roadways when the weather is very cold. The deicer is made from the salty water that comes from oil and gas wells.

Samples of AquaSalina were found to have levels of radioactivity two million times the allowable level. The radioactive substances are radium-226 and radium-228. Both can cause bone, liver, and breast cancer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Ohio Transportation Department began buying AquaSalina in 2013, with a present inventory of 227,208 gallons. (The Columbus Dispatch)

Franklin’s bumblebee listed as Endangered by U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Franklin’s bumblebee, a primary pollinator of alpine plants in northern California and southwestern Oregon, was listed as Endangered this week by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.

This bumblebee inhabits a limited range that crosses the border of Oregon and California. It has always been difficult to find, and there have been no sightings in the last five years.

Besides its limited range and small population, Franklin’s bumblebee has probably been affected by disease and pesticides. (East Idaho News)

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