50+ Crazy Facts About Glyphosate in Roundup Weedkiller

By - March 28, 2019
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At the center of both scientific and political debate, the blockbuster weedkiller Roundup and its primary ingredient, glyphosate, have dominated the agricultural world since it was introduced in the 1970s.

The single most popular weedkiller in human history, glyphosate has helped increase crop yields around the world. But that may have come at enormous cost, as Roundup and glyphosate have been linked to disease — and even death.

It can be difficult to sort fact from fiction, but that’s just what this list will do. From its history to its impact on human health and even its success in the marketplace, take a look at these 50 crazy facts about Roundup weedkiller.

Glyphosate History

While Monsanto initially began studying glyphosate as a water softener, the company would eventually make billions off the compound as an herbicide as well as using the weedkiller to help spark another invention — Roundup-ready seeds.

  • Swiss chemist Henri Martin was the first to discover glyphosate in 1950. (1)
  • Glyphosate was patented as a descaling agent for cleaning water pipes by the Stauffer Chemical Co in 1961. (2)
  • Monsanto introduced glyphosate to the market as Roundup in 1974.(3)
  • The EPA classified glyphosate a potential carcinogen in 1985, but the agency later reversed its decision. (4)
  • Monsanto’s John Franz was awarded the U.S. National Medal of Technology in 1987 in recognition of glyphosate’s effect on increasing worldwide crop production. (1)
  • Roundup-Ready soybeans were introduced to the agricultural market in 1996, followed by Roundup Ready corn in 1998. (5, 6)
  • Monsanto’s patent on glyphosate as an herbicide expired in 2000. (7)

Glyphosate Use

Put simply — there is no bigger herbicide used in farming than glyphosate.

  • Rates of glyphosate observed in humans skyrocketed by 500% in a period between 1993 and 2016. (8)
  • More than 288 million pounds of glyphosate were sprayed on U.S. crops in 2016 alone. (9)
  • Use of glyphosate on crops rose nearly 2,000% between 1992 and 2016. (9)
  • More than 750 products in the U.S. contain glyphosate. (10)
  • In 2014, enough glyphosate was used to spray more than three-quarters of a pound on every acre of harvested land in the U.S. (11)
  • 40% of the glyphosate sprayed on U.S. crops in 2016 was used on soybeans, while 34% was used on corn crops. (9)
  • About 74% of the glyphosate sprayed on crops since the mid-70s has been used in the past decade alone. (11)
  • Glyphosate use on crops in the U.S. nearly doubled between 1997 and 1998. (9)

Glyphosate in Food

Depending largely on the crops used to make the foods, it’s highly likely something you ate today could have been exposed to glyphosate.

  • High levels of glyphosate were recorded in more than 70% of oat-based breakfast foods served to schoolchildren in one study. (12)
  • 6 out of 6 popular brands of orange juice were found to have detectable levels of glyphosate in a 2018 study. (13)
  • The FDA did not have a test for glyphosate residue in foods before 2016. (14)
  • A 2016 study found high levels of glyphosate residue in breakfast cereals, snacks, chips and cookies. (15)
  • EPA-accepted levels of glyphosate residue in food and feed crops range from 0.1 parts per million (coconut and pineapple, for instance)  to 400 parts per million (non-grass animal feed, for instance). (14, 16)
  • A California court struck down a state law calling for product labels, including those on food, to warn of the cancer risks of glyphosate. (17)
  • Canadian officials reported in 2018 that glyphosate traces were found in 30% of food it tested. (18)

Glyphosate in Courts & Laws

Monsanto has largely convinced the U.S. government that glyphosate is safe, but there’s reason to believe that impression may not last.

  • A California jury in 2018 fined Monsanto $289 million over claims that Roundup caused a school groundskeeper to develop non-Hodgkins lymphoma. (19)
  • Nearly 10,000 lawsuits are pending against Bayer, now the owner of Monsanto. (20)
  • At least 13 countries have banned or severely restricted the use of glyphosate — Bahrain, Belgium, Bermuda, Colombia, El Salvador, France, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates. (21)
  • A survey of residents from five EU countries found two-thirds of them favored banning glyphosate. (22)
  • In 2017, California became the first U.S. state to issue an official warning on glyphosate. (23)
  • Roundup is banned for use on plants in city parks in Boulder, Colorado. (24)
  • Chicago has stopped using glyphosate in public spaces. (25)
  • Warwick, Massachusetts does not permit the use of Roundup by anybody within the town. (26)
  • Since 1988 Portland, Oregon has restricted the use of Roundup, but as recently as fall 2018, the weedkiller was being used in public parks. (27, 28)
  • A French court in 2009 ruled Monsanto had misled consumers with ads that declared Roundup “left the soil clean” and was biodegradable. (29)

Glyphosate Health and Safety

The bulk of debate over glyphosate and Roundup centers on whether the weedkiller is harmful, or even fatal, in humans, as well as animals and even plants that it’s designed to protect.The organic process by which Roundup kills weeds is not present in humans, so for years the consensus has been Roundup is perfectly safe for people and pets. But that consensus appears to be breaking down.

  • Six years after classifying glyphosate as a potential carcinogen, the EPA reclassified it as likely not a carcinogen in 1991. (4)
  • WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer determined in 2015 that glyphosate was a likely carcinogen, though there exists scientific debate on the subject. (30)
  • A 2018 study linked glyphosate exposure to shorter pregnancies; the study found that 93% of the women observed had detectable levels of glyphosate in their urine. (31)
  • While it no longer holds an herbicide patent, Monsanto holds a patent on glyphosate as an antibiotic. (32)
  • Glyphosate has been linked to digestive problems caused by imbalances in gut bacteria. (33)
  • Glyphosate has been linked in studies to birth defects like microcephaly. (34)
  • Analysis of chronic kidney disease in a farming area of Sri Lanka finds glyphosate may interact with local hard water and nephrotoxic metals. (35)
  • A French study found that Roundup, even more than glyphosate alone, killed human liver cells. (36)
  • Glyphosate has been linked to breast cancer growth via estrogen receptors. (37)
  • A study of east-coast states connected parental exposure to Roundup within two years before a child’s birth with incidents of brain cancer in children. (38)
  • Multiple studies have linked glyphosate to Parkinson’s disease. (39)
  • A 2018 study found glyphosate may disrupt crucial gut bacteria in bees, potentially contributing to colony collapse, which could devastate food crop production. (40)
  • Glyphosate and other herbicides were linked to changes in human DNA, including shortening telomeres, which have been shown to predict lifespan. (41, 42)
  • Studies have shown that glyphosate contributes to fungal and other infections in Roundup Ready crops. (43, 44)
  • A 2009 study showed glyphosate-based herbicides disrupt human endocrine cells. (36)

Glyphosate Money Matters

Weedkiller is big business, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

  • The global weedkiller market is worth about $9 billion per year. (45)
  • The market is expected to grow by about 20% through 2024. (46)
  • Bayer completed an acquisition of Monsanto for $63 billion in 2018. (47)
  • Bayer spent $2.8 million on lobbying efforts in 2018, the leading spender in agriculture. (48)

Expert Insight on Glyphosate

Let’s go beyond facts and figures and see what real people are saying about glyphosate and Roundup.

  • “We’re going to see for the first time evidence that nobody has seen before, evidence that has been in Monsanto’s files that we’ve obtained from lawyers and the people in Monsanto… I don’t think it’s a surprise after 20 years Monsanto has known about the cancer-causing properties of this chemical and has tried to stop the public from knowing it, and tried to manipulate the regulatory process.” – Robert F. Kennedy Jr, Co-Counsel for Dwayne Johnson (53)
  • “At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.” – Stephanie Seneff – Stephanie Seneff Senior Researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (52)
  • “When you spray glyphosate on a plant, it’s like giving it AIDS.” — U.S. agronomist Michael McNeill (49)
  • “From my perspective it’s remarkable that we have been ingesting a lot of this chemical over the last couple of decades.” — Researcher Paul Mills (8)
  • “The fact is we simply have no idea the extent of the harm most chemicals are doing to our bodies or our planet.” — Environmental activist Erin Brockovich in a Guardian essay (50)
  • “There are more toxic chemicals out there, but the overall impact of Roundup and glyphosate may be greater because of its use in the hundreds of millions of pounds.” — Author and activist Jeffery Smith (24)
  • “One thing we cannot deny is that glyphosate exposure in pregnant women is real. … The bad news is that the dietary intake of genetically modified food items and caffeinated beverages is suspected to be the main source of glyphosate intake.” — Dr. Shahid Parvez, Indiana University researcher (31)
  • “This testing is important, because the EPA has only been looking at the active ingredient. But it’s the formulations that people are exposed to on their lawns and gardens, where they play and in their food.” — Jennifer Sass, Natural Resources Defense Council scientist, on a study that found Roundup may cause more damage than glyphosate alone in some cases (45)
  • “What these things come down to is credibility. As you saw, Monsanto was not credible, apparently, to the jury.” — Attorney Gary Baise, on the 2018 verdict against Monsanto (51)


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    2. A Short History of Glyphosate, (2017). Retrieved from https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/short-history-glyphosate
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    4. A Short History of Glyphosate, (2017). Retrieved from https://sustainablepulse.com/2017/09/06/a-short-history-of-glyphosate/#.XA_0fNtKiUm
    5. Roundup Ready Soybeans, (2012). Retrieved from https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Roundup_Ready_Soybeans
    6. Roundup Ready Crops, (2017). Retrieved from https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Roundup_Ready_Crops
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    8. A Weed Killer Is Increasingly Showing Up in People’s Bodies, (2017). Retrieved from http://time.com/4993877/weed-killer-roundup-levels-humans/
    9. Pesticide National Synthesis Project, Low Estimate Agricultural Pesticide Use by Crop Group 1991 to 2016, (2018). Retrieved from https://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/pnsp/usage/maps/county-level/StateLevel/LowEstimate_AgPestUsebyCropGroup92to16.txt
    10. Weedkiller Cancer Ruling: What Do We Know About Glyphosate?, (2018). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45155788
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    12. Getting Toxic Chemicals Off The Menu, (2018). Retrieved from https://www.ceh.org/wp-content/uploads/Glyphosate-in-Schools-Report.pdf
    13. Breakfast Favorite Orange Juice Tainted by Glyphosate Herbicide Threatens Our Health and Florida’s Environment, (2018). Retrieved from https://www.momsacrossamerica.com/orange_juice_postive_for_glyphosate_again
    14. Questions and Answers on Glyphosate, (2018). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/foodborneillnesscontaminants/pesticides/ucm583713.htm
    15. Glyphosate: Unsafe on Any Plate, (2016). Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.fooddemocracynow.org/images/FDN_Glyphosate_FoodTesting_Report_p2016.pdf
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    17. Federal Judge Rules California Can’t Label Glyphosate Herbicide as Cancer-Causing, (2018). Retrieved from https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2018/06/15/federal-judge-rules-california-cant-label-glyphosate-herbicide-as-cancer-causing/
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    19. Monsanto Loses $289 Million Verdict in Roundup Cancer Trial, (2018). Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-10/monsanto-s-roundup-caused-groundskeeper-s-cancer-jury-finds
    20. Bayer Hit by More Lawsuits Over Safety of Roundup Weedkiller, (2018). Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/bayer-hit-by-more-lawsuits-over-safety-of-roundup-weedkiller-1542098262
    21. Germany + 13 Other Countries Say No to Glyphosate: What About the U.S.?, (2018). Retrieved from https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/germany-13-other-countries-say-no-glyphosate-what-about-us
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    26. Weed Killer RoundUp Banned in Warwick, (2017). Retrieved from https://www.wwlp.com/news/local-news/franklin-county/weed-killer-roundup-banned-in-warwick_20180327073914934/1082347958
    27. Portland Parks And Rec Continues To Use Roundup After Recent Cancer Controversy, (2018). Retrieved from https://www.wweek.com/news/city/2018/09/20/portland-parks-and-rec-continues-to-use-roundup-after-recent-cancer-controversy/
    28. Where Is Glyphosate Banned?, (2018). Retrieved from https://www.baumhedlundlaw.com/toxic-tort-law/monsanto-roundup-lawsuit/where-is-glyphosate-banned/
    29. Monsanto Guilty in ‘False Ad’ Row, (2009). Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8308903.stm
    30. Glyphosate Toxicity and Carcinogenicity: A Review of the Scientific Basis of the European Union Assessment and Its Differences With IARC, (2017). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5515989/
    31. Study Finds Direct Evidence of Exposure of Pregnant Women to Herbicide Ingredient, (2018). Retrieved from https://news.iu.edu/stories/2018/03/iupui/releases/22-study-pregnant-women-exposure-herbicide.html
    32. Glyphosate Formulations and Their Use for the Inhibition of 5-Enolpyruvylshikimate-3-Phosphate Synthase, (2010). Retrieved from https://patents.google.com/patent/US7771736
    33. Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance, (2013). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945755/
    34. Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Produce Teratogenic Effects on Vertebrates by Impairing Retinoic Acid Signaling, (2010). Retrieved from https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/tx1001749
    35. Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka?, (2013). Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/2/2125
    36. Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Are Toxic and Endocrine Disruptors in Human Cell Lines, (2009). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19539684
    37. Glyphosate Induces Human Breast Cancer Cells Growth Via Estrogen Receptors, (2013). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23756170
    38. Parental Exposure to Pesticides and Childhood Brain Cancer: U.S. Atlantic Coast Childhood Brain Cancer Study, (2009). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2702394/
    39. Glyphosate Induced Cell Death Through Apoptotic and Autophagic Mechanisms, (2012). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22504123
    40. Glyphosate Perturbs the Gut Microbiota of Honey Bees, (2018). Retrieved from https://www.pnas.org/content/115/41/10305
    41. Cytotoxic and DNA-Damaging Properties of Glyphosate and Roundup in Human-Derived Buccal Epithelial Cells, (2012). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22331240
    42. Lifetime Pesticide Use and Telomere Shortening among Male Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study, (2013). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3734498/
    43. Glyphosate Affects Soybean Root Exudation and Rhizosphere Micro-Organisms, (2017). Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03067310500273146
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    46. Global Glyphosate Market Set For Rapid Industry Growth, To Reach USD 10.88 Billion By 2024, (2018). Retrieved from http://industrynewsinsights.com/10373/global-glyphosate-market-set-for-rapid-industry-growth-to-reach-usd-10-88-billion-by-2024/
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