Glyphosate will kill you! By Wendy Morris

Another great article by Wendy Morris from Turf Wicket Maintenance.

Glyphosate will kill you!


Upon learning I’m a greenkeeper, many people become very concerned that glyphosate will kill me.  Now, notwithstanding that we use limited amounts of the chemical, it always surprises me how entrenched the fear is and how quick they are to warn me of the dangers.


I ask them ‘why not worry about the sun?’


I’m exposed to the sun nearly every day of my life.  It is a proven carcinogenic.  Australia has the highest melanoma rate in the world and by the age of seventy, two thirds of us will have been diagnosed with some type of skin cancer.  Ask your GP how they feel about you foregoing the long and long, the sunscreen and the hat, and they will quickly counsel you to not doing anything so stupid if you want to live.


But for whatever reason, many people don’t trust the APVMA, an organisation filled with people whose education on chemical safety far obliterates any layperson’s knowledge, when they tell us Glyphosate doesn’t pose a carcinogenic risk to humans.  Nor do these people trust the European Food safety Authority or the US Food and Drug Administration, who also found that Glyphosate is unlikely to be a carcinogen.


‘But there was that court case in America!’  Well, yes, there were court cases in the US, where civil juries agreed with plaintiffs that RoundUp caused cancer.


To understand why a jury may have reached this conclusion, we need to understand how the legal system works.  In many countries, including Australia and the USA, to prove someone is guilty of a criminal case the prosecution needs to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, whereas for a civil case (such as Johnson v. Monsanto Co) the plaintiff (person initiating the lawsuit) only needs to prove there is a higher than 50% chance that they are right.


Now imagine you are selected to sit on a jury.  The plaintiff is arguing that an imported species knowns as Bobble Lizardkills dogs, and the plaintiff wants a million bucks in compensation because his Bobble Lizard killed his dog.  The defendant denies this and asserts the plaintiff’s dog died of natural causes.


Lawyers from both sides argue their case.  They are presented equal opportunities to present evidence which may or may not be independent.  You yourself may not understand what ‘peer reviewed’ evidence is, and you can’t do any research on Bobble Lizard during the trial, because the rules of the game forbid it.  In short, you have two parties arguing their case and you are inherently led to believe that both sides are of equal merit.




In 2015, Dr Stefaaan Blancke, an Assistant Professor at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, published an article titled ‘Why do people oppose GMO’s even though science says they are safe’.   While the article relates to attitudes towards Genetically Modified Organisms, I believe a lot of the feelings that people have towards GMO’s have the same basis as their outlook on Glyphosate.


Glyphosate is unnatural, and therefore goes against the will of nature.  As humans, we are nervous about anything unnatural.  We like to believe that natural design isn’t nearly as flawed as it actually is.  Look at organic products for instance – they are generally well received by the public, despite organic chemicals being just as toxic as synthetic ones **


As you sit on a jury, half the time you’re hearing that Bobble lizard kill dogs, and the other half you’re hearing the Bobble Lizard don’t.  You are suspicious of Bobble Lizard because you know nothing about them, and the plaintiff’s lawyer seemed very convincing.  Your intuition is saying unfamiliar = unsafe.  Plus, the defendant’s lawyer failed to adequately explain why the dog lost a tooth two weeks after the Bobble Lizard moved into the defendant’s home.   You figure that all things being equal, you’re going to side with the plaintiff, who is also doing a great job at showing their distress over the loss of their dog.  The defendant, meanwhile, wears a suit and at one point rolled their eyes at the plaintiff’s testimony.


I’m not surprised Monsanto lost the case.


Now you might have finished reading this article and figured I love spraying.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We’re contractors, and spraying is time consuming and expensive.  We need to lug chemicals and equipment to site, we need to find suitable areas to measure and mix.  Spraying often constitutes a separate visit to site, which puts us behind our usual program, and costs us money in fuel and tolls.  Spraying is a pain, and we’d far rather improve our cultural practices to avoid doing any in the first place.  I don’t doubt the overwhelming majority of greenkeepers feel the same way.


However, sometimes the only way to get on top of a problem is to spray.  And frankly, as an industry we deserve to use inexpensive, effective chemicals that the experts deem safe, rather than being forced into using less safe, less effective and more expensive products because of a layperson’s ‘intuition’.






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