As if glyphosate weren’t controversial enough, being the focus of over 125,000 Roundup weed killer lawsuits in the U.S, now comes the news that the world’s most widely used herbicide (and pesticide) causes the release of other pesticides long banned to be leached from the soil because of erosion—which is caused in the first place by glyphosate.
Chlordecone: Banned Nearly A Half Century Ago, Still Lurking In Marine Animals
Chlordecone is a pesticide that’s also known as kepone. Kepone was created in the US in the 1950s and banned in America in 1975, the same year the governor of Virginia instituted what would be a 13-year ban on fishing for a stretch of 100 miles along the James River, which became polluted because of kepone contamination.
The pollution harmed fish populations and caused several neurological issues in workers of a kepone production facility that had been releasing the pesticide into the James River.
According to a Southeast Virginia news website, WYDaily.com, in 2017, two-thirds of fish samples collected from the James River still had detectable levels of kepone.
In 2009, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, declared that chlordecone should be banned from production on a global scale.
Chlordecone Making A Surprise Reappearance In The Carribean
Banana plantations were heavily sprayed with Chlordecone in the French-administered Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadalupe, otherwise known as the French West Indies.
According to Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) researchers had been baffled as to why chlordecone still polluted the waters surrounding the French West Indies, even though it was banned in the islands in 1993.
One reason not mentioned in C&EN was that after the ban, banana plantation workers were discreetly still applying chlordecone. Because chlordecone leached into the drinking water supply, over 90% of French West Indies residents were shown in a 2018 study to have been contaminated by the banned chemical. The pesticide has been linked to cancer. A 2010 study published in European Journal revealed Guadalupe had one of the highest rates of diagnosed prostate cancer in the world.
Because Chlordecone does not bind to water, the researchers expected the pesticide to remain in the soil; the soil itself would remain contaminated but at least the pesticide would not enter the watershed.
Glyphosate Degrades Soil, Releases Other Pesticides
Enter glyphosate. The main active ingredient in the infamous Roundup weed killer brand, glyphosate was sprayed in the French Indies beginning in 1997. A quarter of a century later, scientists may have figured out why Chlordecone, banned so long ago, remains a contaminant in waterways.
A new study published in Environmental Science Technology concludes that glyphosate accelerates soil erosion and therefore causes the release of chlordecone.
The herbicide, created by Monsanto, clears vegetation, which permanently leaves soil bare, making it easier for water to carry the soil away.
Glyphosate Releases DDT From Soil
The researchers followed up on a previous study they conducted that examined sediment cores from the bottom of a lake in France. The core samples analyzed the levels of pesticides used by nearby vineyards and found that starting from the early 1990s, soil erosion rates had almost doubled compared to the previous two decades, which coincided with the beginning of glyphosate use. The researchers found that another highly-toxic banned pesticide, DDT, which was banned roughly around the same time glyphosate was first being applied in the French West Indies, was being released because of soil erosion caused by glyphosate.
Workers Demand Compensation
According to C&EN, the researchers conducted their study in the French West Indies because they wanted to replicate the results of the study conducted on the lake in France. Chlordecone was sprayed widely in Martinique and Gudadalup by banana growers to control weevils on plantations beginning in 1972. In 1990, Chlordecone was banned in mainland France. However, in the French West Indies, it remained legal until three years later; illicit applications of the pesticide continued for many years after.
Many workers, represented by seven organizations on the two islands have sought compensation from the French government because of Chlordecone exposure, as a Washington Post article from last month highlighted.
Is Glyphosate Causing Soil Erosion and Pesticide Release Elsewhere?
Probably. Although research is lacking to definitely conclude that glyphosate is releasing toxic pesticides from the soil worldwide, the researchers involved in the study believe that that’s probably the case.
Even if research has yet to prove this on a global scale, it’s already a well-established fact that erosion is detrimental to ecosystems. Soil erosion, among other concerns, increases the risk of flooding.