Quantcast
Food

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

Nestlé Plans to Bottle Water From Drought-Stricken Phoenix

'Guacamole-Thick' Algae Takes Over Florida's Atlantic Coast, 4 Counties Declare State of Emergency

'Horrifying' Research Seeks to Save Hawaii Reefs

Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation's Annual Gala to Fund Climate and Biodiversity Projects

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Surfrider Foundation / Twitter

Offshore Oil Drilling May Be Coming to a Coastline Near You

By Pete Stauffer

It's nearly impossible to convince certain people, most notably leaders of our federal administration, that bold action is needed on climate change, but recent events have certainly made a compelling case.

Three major hurricanes have battered U.S. coasts in recent months, impacting the lives of millions of people and causing billions of dollars in damage. Although no single storm event can be blamed directly on climate change, scientific experts agree that the warming climate and ocean waters contribute to the frequency and scale of hurricanes—putting the residents, natural resources and economic security of coastal communities at elevated risk. This makes the Trump administration's proposal to expand offshore oil drilling off U.S. coasts all the more dubious.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Taken on Oct. 11 in Barrio Maní, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. Cathy Mazak

'We Are Not OK': A First-Hand Account of Hurricane Maria

By Cathy Mazak

I'm so happy to be able to communicate with you again. As many of you know, I live in western Puerto Rico. In this post I want to tell you a little about my family's experience with Maria, and how you can help Puerto Rico.

On Thursday Sept. 21, when the sun came up, I looked out our front door at a wintery landscape. There was not one leaf on one tree in all the tropical forest that surrounds our property. Instead, the walls of my house were plastered with one-inch-by-one-inch pieces of leaves. It was as if they had been stripped off the trees, chopped in a food processor, and coated onto our house with a pressure washer.

Keep reading... Show less
Shutterstock

12 Global Cities Commit to Create Green and Healthy Streets By 2030

On Monday, the mayors of London, Paris, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Quito, Vancouver, Mexico City, Milan, Seattle, Auckland and Cape Town committed to a series of ambitious targets to make their cities greener, healthier and more prosperous. By signing the C40 Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration, the pioneering city leaders pledged to procure only zero-emission buses from 2025 and ensure that a major area of their city is zero emission by 2030. The policies are designed to fight air pollution, improve the quality of life for all citizens and help tackle the global threat of climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
LNG tanker. kees torn, CC BY-SA 2.0

GOP Senators, Fueled by Industry Cash, Propose Bill to Expedite Small Scale LNG Exports

By Steve Horn

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have introduced a bill to fast-track the regulatory process for the export of small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The bill, titled "Small Scale LNG Access Act," was introduced on Oct. 18 and calls for amending the "Natural Gas Act to expedite approval of exports of small volumes of natural gas." The proposed legislation follows in the footsteps of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) proposed rule which would assume that all U.S. small-scale exports of LNG, with the gas mostly obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), is in the "public interest" as defined by the Natural Gas Act.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Scott Pruitt. Gage Skidmore / Flickr

EPA Pulls Scientists From Talk on Climate Change, Highlighting Fears Agency Is 'Muzzling' Staff

Ever since Scott Pruitt took the helm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he has worked to undo decades of hard-fought climate protections, denied that carbon dioxide is a "primary contributor" to climate change, and even removed mentions of the term "climate change" from agency websites.

Now, the agency has canceled the speaking appearances of three of its scientists to discuss the topic at a conference in Rhode Island on Monday, highlighting "widespread concern that the EPA will silence scientists from speaking publicly on climate change," the New York Times reported Sunday.

Keep reading... Show less
Pixabay

Snow Leopards Still Threatened by Consumer Demand for Skins and Body Parts

Today is International Snow Leopard Day, a global observance commemorating the signing of the Bishkek Declaration on the conservation of snow leopards in 2013.

The snow leopard has been listed on the IUCN Red List as "Endangered" since 1986, although it recently had its threat status downgraded to "Vulnerable."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Dr. Michael Mann on Extreme Weather: 'We Predicted This Long Ago'

You can't go far in the climate movement without hearing the name of Dr. Michael E. Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University and author of The Hockey Stick and The Climate Wars and, more recently, The Madhouse Effect.

Dr. Mann came to public attention back in 1998 when he and two colleagues published the landmark MBH98 paper documenting average global temperatures across the centuries with a line graph whose steep uptick in recent years earned it the name "the hockey stick." The paper—with its inconvenient truth about the consequences of fossil fuels—made him a target for climate deniers, but Dr. Mann refused to be silenced and has become one of America's leading public voices for a scientific and rational approach to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
The Dutch Weed Burger is made from three types of algae. The Dutch Weed Burger

How Marine Algae Could Help Feed the World

By William Moomaw and Asaf Tzachor

Our planet faces a growing food crisis. According to the United Nations, more than 800 million people are regularly undernourished. By 2050, an additional 2 to 3 billion new guests will join the planetary dinner table.

Meeting this challenge involves not only providing sufficient calories for every person, but also assuring a balanced diet that includes the protein and nutrients that are essential to good health. In a newly published study, we explain how marine microalgae could be a sustainable solution for solving global macro-hunger.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox