Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tips for Avoiding Glyphosate -- Should You and How-To

Recently, the Innternational Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has named glyphosate, a weed-killer best known under the commercial name "Round-up," as a probable carcinogen.  Naturally, the media is full of commentary on both sides of the issue: glyphosate is relatively harmless vs. glyphosate should be banned.

This article is perhaps the best middle ground I've found.  It points out that glyphosate could cause cancer, but the levels and exposure required are not clearly identified.  You can make your own decision about your thoughts on the weed-killer; the article I link above links out to the original report.

For me, however, this is another clue that weed-killers like glyphosate are not part of sustainable living, and they may be harming the very humans we hope to feed with our agriculture.  Right now, over 80% of all corn, soy, and cotton grown in this country are genetically engineered to withstand applications of glyphosate.  Corn and soy are in most packaged foods, and cotton is obviously a common component of clothing.  We are all exposed every day to some amount of glyphosate, and it is hard to come up with your cumulative exposure and then compare that to research on how much is needed to increase your cancer risk.  And all that's before you or your neighbors go and get that 10 gallon jug of glyphosate and start spraying it on the yard.

I know that some will disagree, but I don't find glyphosate use to be sustainable.  So, if you feel the same, here are some ways one person can reduce their family's glyphosate exposure and hopefully send a message that we would like more options in the food we eat and the clothes we wear.

  1. Avoid packaged foods where possible.  Stabilizers, emulsifiers, and other chemicals that preserve food quality are often made from corn or soy.  Nearly all corn or soy has been exposed to glyphosate.
  2. Buy organics, especially when purchasing corn- and soy-based foods and cotton clothing. Organics, by definition, have not been exposed to glyphosate.
  3. Ask for non-GMO, non-glyphosate-exposed crops at your farmers' market.  Last year, I went from booth to booth looking for non-GMO corn, and I couldn't find it.  But I'll bet others were doing the same, and I'll bet this year an enterprising farmer will grow some heirloom corn for our market. Farmers are businesspeople, and they respond to market forces. And, of course, when you see a farmer offering a non-GMO, non-glyphosate option, patronize that farm stand regularly and to the maximum extent of your market budget!
  4. Grow your own.  Obviously, you have control over what goes on your garden, so grow your own as much as possible and stay away from weed-killers like glyphosate.  
  5. Reconceptualize your lawn.  Stop seeing dandelions and clover as weeds, and you will stop seeing a need for the application of weed-killer.  Unless you actually run a golf course, you have no real need for an expanse of monoculture grass. If you use a lawncare service, ask for care without the chemicals, or reward an "organic" firm with your business.
  6. Patronize independent artisans who work with organic fibers.  The way to get more organic products on the market is to patronize those who work with organic source materials. (Shameless promotion time:) I have a line of organic yoga socks and writer's gloves  in  my Carrot Creations store that are handmade from organic yarn; other artisans do the same.
  7. Patronize big companies doing it right.  We just joined Costco, and I'm pleased and amazed at the array of organic foods in bulk.  We'll be getting all of our organic flour and sugar there now.
I expect this to be something of a debate for some time to come, but I'm doing my best to avoid glyphosate as much as possible.  If you are too, I hope these tips help.

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