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US: glyphosate and reproductive problems
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In an article posted this month by Sustainable Pulse, the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN, a national multi-disciplinary organization whose mission is to protect the developing child from environmental health hazards and promote a healthier environment) said there is new evidence regarding sharply rising herbicide use and risks to pregnant women and children living in the rural Midwest of the US.
The initial data from a study of pregnant women in an Indiana obstetric practice shows that glyphosate was found in the urine of 63 of 69 (91%) of test subjects. Women living in rural areas had higher mean glyphosate levels than women in urban/suburban regions, suggesting an additional route of exposure associated with proximity to corn and soybean production fields. In 2016 Sustainable Pulse reported that glyphosate had been found in the urine of 93% of the American public during a unique testing project that started in 2015 at the University of California San Francisco.
The lead scientist of the current study, Dr. Paul Winchester, said that mothers with relatively higher levels of glyphosate were more likely to have shorter pregnancies and deliver babies with lower birth-weight. These are worrying developments because shorter pregnancies with lower birth weights have been linked to lower cognitive ability later in life and a higher risk of metabolic syndrome.
Resistant Weeds and herbicide use
Among the issues to be addressed at the 2017 CEHN Translational Research Conference: New Challenges was the question of whether the increasing use of herbicides results in a higher risk to children. Evidence shows that most Americans are now exposed on a near-daily basis to herbicides widely used on corn and soybean fields and on farms in the Midwest the ongoing spread of weeds resistant to glyphosate is leading to the intensification of herbicide use.
Ten years ago, most soybean fields were sprayed with one or two herbicides. Four or more herbicides will be applied by most soybean growers in 2017, and some of these herbicides will be sprayed more than once. Herbicide use is likely to continue rising for several years, because the Environmental Protection Agency has recently approved several crops genetically engineered to survive applications of multiple herbicides. These next-generation genetically engineered crops is designed to increase reliance on, and use of specific herbicides.
Around 40 million acres of corn and soybeans will be planted in 2017 with new genetically engineered corn and soybean varieties, acres that will be sprayed with combinations of glyphosate and other herbicides. Moreover, the volume of herbicides sprayed on crops is rising: soybean herbicide use will, on average, more than double in 2017 compared with 2001 and the herbicide spray season will now last for four months compared with 6 weeks in the past. These factors are regarded by experts as the reason why the risk of reproductive problems and adverse birth outcomes will rise among women and children living in rural areas.