The glyphosate dilemma: The world’s most used pesticide and its devastating effects on soil health and biodiversity

Glyphosate, the infamous herbicide used worldwide in commercial agriculture, is causing grave harm to our soil health and biodiversity. This chemical pesticide, often marketed as Roundup, is a weed killer designed to eradicate unwanted plants from fields, gardens, and lawns. However, the impacts of glyphosate reach far beyond its intended use, causing irreparable harm to the environment and the health of our communities.

This compound is the most heavily used agricultural chemical in history, with over 1.8 billion pounds of it sprayed across crops worldwide each year. This toxic chemical persists in the soil, disrupting the delicate balance of soil microbes that support plant growth and nourishment. But the indiscriminate use of glyphosate not only kills weeds; it also devastates beneficial soil organisms, disrupting the biodiversity essential for good crops and soil health.

Decline of soil biodiversity

Glyphosate widespread use in commercial agriculture has contributed to a massive decline in soil biodiversity, threatening our food systems and ultimately our health. A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that glyphosate application “can cause significant changes in the composition and abundance of soil microbial communities, with potential implications for ecosystem functions and services.” Another study conducted by the Soil Science Society of America found that glyphosate “reduces the abundance and diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), which can have detrimental effects on plant growth and nutrient acquisition.” The study also found that glyphosate exposure “can significantly alter the soil microbial community structure and function, with potential negative consequences for soil quality.”

Soil biodiversity is the cornerstone of a healthy and sustainable agricultural system. It is the diverse community of organisms that live within the soil, including bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and insects, all of which play a vital role in maintaining soil fertility, nutrient cycling, and plant health. Without healthy soil biodiversity, our crops are left vulnerable to pests, disease, and other stresses, leading to reduced yields and a decline in the overall quality of our food.

Human health consequences

When glyphosate is sprayed on crops, it can remain on the surface of the plant and its edible parts, such as fruits and vegetables. It can also be absorbed by the plant and accumulate in its tissues, meaning that it can be present in the actual composition of the food we eat.

A study published in the journal Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A analyzed a variety of food samples from different countries and found that glyphosate was present in 45% of the samples tested. The highest concentrations were found in soybeans, followed by lentils, peas, and chickpeas. Another study published in the journal Environmental Health analyzed the urine of people living in urban areas and found that 93% of the participants had detectable levels of glyphosate in their urine.

These findings raise concerns about the potential health impacts of glyphosate exposure through food. While the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” there is still ongoing debate and research about the specific health effects of glyphosate. Recent studies have linked glyphosate exposure to a host of negative health outcomes for humans, including cancer, autoimmune disorders, and developmental issues in children. A meta-analysis of studies published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that glyphosate exposure was associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In any case, the presence of glyphosate in our food highlights the need for more sustainable and regenerative farming practices that prioritize soil health and biodiversity over the widespread use of synthetic pesticides.

It starts with awareness

The need for regenerative agriculture practices that promote soil health and biodiversity is more pressing now than ever before. The shift towards regenerative farming techniques that prioritize soil health and diversity can lead to healthier ecosystems, more resilient crops, and healthier communities. A study published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment found that regenerative agriculture practices “resulted in increased soil health, microbial diversity, and ecosystem services.”

The evidence is clear that glyphosate poses a significant threat to soil health and biodiversity, contributing to the decline in the quality of our food and the overall health of our communities. It is time to reject the use of glyphosate and other harmful chemicals in favor of a more sustainable, regenerative approach to farming and a sustainable future. The road might be long, but by working together and spreading awareness, we will build a better future for ourselves and future generations.


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About the author:

Eglantine Zanders
Product Manager and Regenerative Practices Advocate

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