New findings released by the U.S. Geological Survey show the presence of pesticides and herbicides—notably Monsanto’s pervasive glyphosate-based Roundup—as well as its degradation byproducts and trace amounts of antibiotics routinely fed to livestock in watersheds and rainwater samples throughout the Mississippi Basin.
Research teams with the USGS investigated water supplies near where large amounts of genetically modified soy, corn and cotton are grown. The findings revealed that use of Roundup, or similar glyphosate based herbicides, had increased in the area more than eight times to nearly 90,000 tons between 1992 and 2007, despite claims by the biotech industry that use of pest-resistant genetically modified seeds would decrease the need for external pesticide and herbicide applications. Further, Monsanto, the dominant manufacturer of genetically modified seeds and companion herbicide, Roundup, has long insisted that the glyphosate will not leach into waterways due to its ability to bind instead to soil particles.
Three locations tested for glyphosate in air and rain in Mississippi, Iowa and Indiana showed notable traces in more than half of all samples, as well as in surface waters with concentrations at levels that would not be permitted to enter the public water supply, according to a statement from GMFreeze.org. The EPA’s drinking water Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for glyphosate is 700 micrograms per liter.
Glyphosate (tradenames besides Roundup include Touchdown and Rodeo) is an odorless organic solid white crystal used on food and non-food crops. It is the best-selling herbicide in the world, used in more than 90 countries, tripling in use since 1997 along with the increase in genetically modified crops.
Earlier this year, the SEC began an investigation of Monsanto, specifically of its Roundup incentive program aimed at securing sales that had slipped to less expensive competing products. The herbicide has also recently been linked to soil damage, resilient “superweeds,” declining butterfly populations and rootworms that have become resistant to glyphosate.
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Image: Dave McLear