At the end of January, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that glyphosate, the main active ingredient in the world’s best-selling herbicide, RoundUp Weed Killer, poses no risks of concern to human health when it’s used according to the label.
Moreover, EPA concluded glyphosate is not a cancer-causing substance.
But a recent draft review from the agency has determined that glyphosate is likely to harm over 93 percent of endangered species and 96 percent of their habitats.
The evaluation on the compound was conducted as part of EPA’s routine registration review for herbicides, pesticides and fungicides and other synthetic chemicals. The review is conducted every 15 years.
When the EPA earlier this year concluded that glyphosate posed no risks to human health, the controversial chemical compound was renewed as an EPA-approved herbicide, albeit on an interim basis.
What, then, was the reason for the EPA’s volte face on the chemical, that’s been at the center of over 125,000 lawsuits, at least when it comes to wildlife and the environment? In order to approve glyphosate beyond the interim basis, the agency requires a thorough review of a chemical’s effects on nearly 1,800 protected plants and animals, pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, or ESA. (The Trump administration significantly weakened the rules of the ESA.)
Initial findings are open to a 60-day public review, after which, EPA will issue any forthcoming restrictions on glyphosate.
The draft found that glyphosate is “moderately to highly toxic to fish, highly to very highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates, moderately toxic to mammals, and slightly toxic to birds on an acute exposure basis.”
Moreover, the draft found that chronic exposure to the herbicide/pesticide causes “a variety of growth and reproductive effects” to land and aquatic animals as well as plants.
How Many Endangered Species Are Affected By Glyphosate?
Overall, 536 animals are likely harmed by glyphosate, according to the EPA draft. The breakdown, per species, is as follows:
- Mammal: 75
- Bird: 88
- Amphibian: 36
- Reptile: 33
- Fish: 179
- Marine invertebrates: 185
- Terrestrial invertebrates: 140
In addition, glyphosate is likely to harm 940 endangered plant species from run-off and spraying, the EPA draft found.
According to TheCounter.com, here’s what will happen after the 60-day public comment period ends: First, the EPA will analyze the comments. Then, the agency may consult with two federal agencies—the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, known as NOAA Fisheries. These two agencies, should they be consulted by EPA, will likely prepare reports that would inform steps to minimize impacts.
How Can Glyphosate Be Restricted To Protect Animals And Plants?
TheCounter.com suggests a few examples, including posing restrictions against the application of glyphosate on very windy days so the chemical doesn’t drift into waterways or public lands; perhaps the chemical will be banned within a certain zone of waterways or sensitive habitats such as wildlife preserves.
To be sure, the EPA draft will highly unlikely result in a ban on glyphosate. Environmentals are hopeful, however, that the draft review will result in more judicious regulations of the world’s most heavily sprayed weed-killing chemical.