Glyphosate Sprayed on GMO Crops Linked to Lake Erie’s Toxic Algae Bloom
Glyphosate, the controversial main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup and other herbicides, is being connected to Lake Erie's troubling algae blooms, which has fouled drinking water and suffocated and killed marine life in recent years.
A dead fish surrounded by algae in Lake Erie during a record-setting algae bloom in 2011.Photo credit: Tom Archer/NOAA
Phosphorus—attributed to farm runoff carried by the Maumee River—has long been identified as a leading culprit feeding the excessive blooms in the western Lake Erie basin. Now, according to a new study from chemistry professor Christopher Spiese, a significant correlation has been established between the increased use of glyphosate to the percentage of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) in the runoff.
As No-Till Farmer observed from the study, DRP loads in Lake Erie increased in the mid-1990s at the same time that farmers began the widespread cultivation of crops genetically engineered to withstand multiple applications of Roundup.
"For every acre of Roundup Ready soybeans and corn that you plant, it works out to be about one-third of a pound of P [phosphorus] coming down the Maumee," Spiese told the agricultural publication.
Here's how the team came to the conclusion, as No-Till Farmer reported:
Through his own and others' research, Spiese found that depending on the types of metal in the soil, glyphosate does release P. For example, when glyphosate is applied to soil containing iron oxide-hydroxide, P is immediately released. But almost nothing is removed when it's an iron oxide material.
Finally, Spiese took soil samples all over the Maumee watershed, applied P to them and then sprayed glyphosate to see how much P was released vs. soil that wasn't sprayed with glyphosate after 24 hours. He saw desorption occurred all over the watershed, but certain areas were higher than others, specifically in the southeastern corner.
Based on the average two glyphosate applications growers make every year, Spiese estimates that overall, 20-25 percent of the DRP runoff is caused by glyphosate. But depending on the location within the watershed, that percentage could be much lower or much greater.
"Some of those sites, it's less than a percent. Other sites it's almost 100 percent," he says.
Previous studies have tied glyphosate to the phosphorous fueling Lake Erie's blue-green algae. In 2009, Ohio Sea Grant researchers, Drs. R. Michael McKay and George Bullerjahn of Bowling Green State University, found that glyphosate could only be detected in the lake at certain times of year—after crops are planted.
"Our research is finding that Roundup is getting into the watershed at peak farming application times, particularly in the spring," McKay said.
Approximately 1,000 metric tonnes (about 2.2 million pounds) of Roundup is applied in the Lake Erie watershed per year, and it is being detected in adjacent waterways particularly in the spring, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) noted from McKay and Bullerjahn's study.
The researchers also found that the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in the lake are capable of using phosophonates.
"It turns out that many cyanobacteria present in Lake Erie have the genes allowing the uptake of phosphonates, and these cyanobacteria can grow using glyphosate and other phosphonates as a sole source of phosphorus," Bullerjahn said.
Harmful Lake Erie blooms have increased at record levels over the last decade, according to the U.S. EPA and are expected to become more common due to warmer temperatures and heavy rainfall that feed algae growth.
The toxic algae rob oxygen from the waters creating dead zones where fish and other marine life are unable to survive. The algae is also a threat to humans—swallowing it can cause health problems such as rashes, vomiting, numbness and difficulty breathing.
In February this year, the U.S. and Canada announced a goal to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering affected areas of Lake Erie by a total of 40 percent by 2025.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Volkswagen is bringing back its hippie-approved minivan but with a 21st century upgrade—the new I.D. Buzz is all-electric.
The concept car was first revealed at the Detroit Auto Show in January and now the German automaker is officially putting its reinvigorated Microbus into production.
I have asked repeatedly to have my short interview clip removed from this film. The director refuses. He believes his film is fair and balanced. I do not.
I am often interviewed (see media) and hardly ever quoted incorrectly or out of context. This film is one of those rare exceptions.
A report released Wednesday by Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Sierra Club and Oil Change International, in partnership with 28 organizations around the world, revealed that the world's biggest banks are continuing to fuel climate change through the financing of extreme fossil fuels.
The plaintiffs claim that Monsanto and BASF implemented and controlled the dicamba crop system, releasing seed technology without a corresponding, safe and approved herbicide.
Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke, who recently recommended a reduction in the size of the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument to President Trump, is advocating for more drilling and mining on public lands and waters.
The former Montana Rep. told Reuters that the development of America's protected federal lands could help the country become a "dominant" global energy force.
EPA Gives Notice to Dozens of Scientific Advisory Board Members, Plans to Offer Buyout to 1,200 Employees
Worried about the future of the Great Barrier Reef? If so, you're not alone.
Many publications have already written obituaries for the reef, despite the fact that it is not completely dead. Thanks to this video via Vox for sounding the alarm on this critical issue, before it's too late.
By Olga V. Naidenko, Ph.D.
In a landmark rule with global repercussions, California state scientists are preparing to issue the world's first health guideline for Monsanto's glyphosate herbicide based on its cancer risk. The state's proposed safe level is more than 100 times lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) legal allowance for the average-sized American.
By Bob Henson
A high risk of life-threatening flooding continues on Wednesday over parts of the central Gulf Coast as Tropical Storm Cindy lumbers toward shore. The greatest flood threat will be across low-lying areas of far southern Mississippi and Alabama, according to the NWS/NOAA Weather Prediction Center. A second area with a moderate flood risk lies across far southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana.