Why Worry About Glyphosate?
Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) developed Roundup 40 years ago and turned it into the most popular weed killer in the world. Now there’s a raging debate about Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, as a cause of cancer. Kitsap’s forest practices are bringing the debate home to our area. Several large land parcels around Kingston, Indianola, and Poulsbo have been clear-cut this year. The spray comes next.
The timber industry routinely sprays clear-cuts with a glyphosate cocktail to kill unwanted “volunteers” like maple, alder, and Scotch broom so that newly planted fir seedlings don’t have to compete for sun and nutrients. The chemicals are sprayed aerially–from helicopters. The industry justifies their approach by saying:
– They’ve always managed their forests this way.
– Spraying with glyphosate is the only cost-effective weed control available.
– Glyphosate is safe – it might be toxic for a few days but it’s completely “gone” or “neutralized” within six months.
– They must obey strict environmental regulations before governmental watchdogs will issue spraying permits.
– Spraying is done by expert pilots and technicians, assuring that no poison goes beyond their land.
The truth is:
– Glyphosate was invented only in the 1970s, and few studies have been done about the extent of its long-term toxic damage. Research used by the forestry industry to claim that glyphosate is safe does not attend to its cumulative effects over time.
– Before glyphosate became widespread, controlled burns cleared forested land. Other natural methods now being tested include manual weeding, horticultural vinegar, and simply not spraying. The original sustainable method used for millennia was selective cutting, enabling not just one tree species (monoculture) but many.
– Glyphosate is not safe. The World Health Organization calls it a probable cause of cancer. Many scientific studies document the harm it causes to animal and human reproduction, including insects and amphibians essential to forest ecosystems. It stays in the soil and water.
– Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) does have rules regulating the use of pesticides in sensitive ecological areas—but the rules were written by the timber industry!
– Aerial spraying does not respect boundaries. Wind blows the poisons onto private residential property and public property. The soil and water table are all connected—glyphosate is everywhere now, is seeping into our wells, into the streams and the saltwater around us. It’s present in humans and animals too.
– Protective wear is often not supplied to workers spraying glyphosate from backpacks or trucks. These employees are usually immigrants with little knowledge of the chemicals or the danger they pose to their health.
Monsanto suffered a major blow last August when a landmark lawsuit brought by Dewayne Johnson, a California school groundskeeper dying of cancer, won a settlement of $289 million (later reduced to “only” $78.5 million). Now thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto-Bayer by cancer patients who trace their illness to this weed killer.
Because of a long history of corporate lobbying, industrial use of Roundup is still legal. The timber companies are using it like it’s going out of style. Lumber companies and the DNR are harvesting large parcels of timberland right now, including 467 acres just southwest of Kingston. Pope Resources has just announced it’s going to clear-cut and spray an additional 1600 acres in Jefferson County.
Over a dozen countries have banned use of glyphosate. Let’s get Kitsap to join cities and counties across the US that have already banned these poisons.
What can we do about this severe threat to our health and the environment?
– Talk to our elected officials (many accept large campaign donations from the very companies that poison the water and land). Call and email the officials listed below and ask them to move to truly sustainable forestry practices–balancing economic, environmental, and social well-being. When they hold town halls, attend! And stay on message about these unacceptable forest practices that need to change for our health and survival.
– Vote smart: find out who is fighting for you, not big-money interests, on our local clear-cuts and development projects.
– Insist on independent testing of our public water supplies and wells.
– Buy organic and non-GMO products when possible.
– Boycott Monsanto and Bayer. Stop using Roundup!
– Tell your neighbors about Roundup and the spraying of clear-cuts (most of it in our area is by Pope Resources).
– Participate in kitchen table discussions. Are you near a sensitive area? What can you do about it?
– Join the Kitsap Environmental Coalition!
About the Kitsap Environmental Coalition
We’re a nonpartisan group of 800 North Kitsap residents/homeowners deeply concerned about our wells, water, children, wildlife and beautiful lands. The KEC’s Facebook page and website (http://kitsapenvironmentalcoalition.org) are full of information about our area’s fight for a clean and healthy environment, about meetings, info sessions, and direct actions that need your participation and support. We raise public awareness, regularly work with elected officials to ban glyphosate and other harmful forestry practices, and closely monitor harvesting and spraying. We’re working with Kitsap PUD (Public Utilities District) to conduct water testing, and we’re starting to work with other organizations that can help with legal, organizational, and educational resources.
Contacts for elected officials:
Gov. Inslee: 360-902-4111 (send message through his website)
Sen. Patty Murray 206-553-5545 (send message through her website)
Sen. Maria Cantwell 206 220-6400 (send message through her website)
Rep. Derek Kilmer 202-225-5916 253-272-3515 (send message through his website)
Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz 360-902-1001 email@example.com
State Sen. Christine Rolfes 360-786-7644 Christine.Rolfes@leg.wa.gov
State Rep. Sherry Appleton 360-786-7934 firstname.lastname@example.org
State Rep. Drew Hansen 360-786-7842 (send message through his website)
Kitsap County Commissioner Robert Gelder 360-337-7080 email@example.com
KPUD Commissioner Debra Lester 206-588-9588 firstname.lastname@example.org
Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson 360-394-9700 email@example.com