Puzzled #2 – UCSF: Roundup Herbicide

So, still considering the puzzling letter dated July 9, 2009.

Today’s topic: Roundup Herbicide

According to the letter, “UCSF is proposing to limit the use of herbicides to spot treatment of eucalyptus stumps, cut vines and blackberry roots only where needed to prevent regrowth, and where other means of prevention are expected to be ineffective.

“Proposing to limit” sounds good. However, they are proposing to “limit” it to eucalyptus, vines, and blackberry. Those comprise all the major species in the forest, so perhaps “limit” is giving the wrong impression. We’re talking thousands of applications here. Probably for years, since eucalyptus continues to resprout for upto nine years after it’s been cut.

The letter goes on to say, Pesticides will not migrate off-site primarily because the stumps will absorb them and application will be done long before the rainy season.”

It sounds far-fetched to believe there’ll be no migration from thousands of applications on a steep slope. The application will have to be made so precisely that there’s no excess. And the migration off-site can take place through groundwater, which could absorb chemicals both from the soil and from the decaying vegetation killed by the Roundup. Springs and seeps on Mt Sutro (and these exist in the project area) will also become contaminated. And though they plan not to apply it in the rainy season, the fact is that the forest is damp year round. In August, long after the rains have finished, it is actually slushy.

Migration can also take place by being tracked on the clothing, shoes and paws of people, dogs, and other animals wandering through the forest. Or from the dust and leaves blown down the mountain into our neighborhoods by the winds which will increase once the forest is thinned.

Monsanto claims that glyphosphate (Roundup) degrades quickly have been challenged. Monsanto defenders are not always independent – the company has admitted to a web-based campaign to smear scientists challenging its claims.

Why are we so concerned, anyway? Roundup is legal, right?

It is legal, but it is also highly controversial, having been linked with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (a cancer) and other unpleasantness, including birth defects of various kinds. It is dangerous to amphibians, and presumably some live in the Laguna Honda lake downslope of the forest. There is growing evidence that this chemical is far from harmless.

A June 2009 article in the Scientific American is titled “Weed Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells.” It notes that while most studies focused on Glyphosphate, the active ingredient of Roundup, the risks from the so-called “inert” ingredients are as high or higher – and have not been studied as closely.

“Until now, most health studies have focused on the safety of glyphosate, rather than the mixture of ingredients found in Roundup. But in the new study, scientists found that Roundup’s inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.”

The forest could be poisonous for years after this effort.

The letter continues: “UCSF is as concerned as the public about the use of pesticides and we intend to minimize use to the greatest extent practicable.”

This would be nice. The minimum required use is zero – this forest is safest left alone, not thinned, dried out, and poisoned.

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2 Responses to Puzzled #2 – UCSF: Roundup Herbicide

  1. Tree Lover says:

    I hope UCSF is also concerned about herbicides, hopefully they know the difference, since they’re proposing to use a very toxic herbicide to control re-sprouting of eucalyptus.

    Has anyone at UC heard of a little thing called “global climate change”? We’re supposed to be planting trees to clear carbon emissions from the air, and conserving water, which is becoming a rare commodity.

    This plan is all about cutting down trees and polluting the groundwater. Sounds like eco-terrorism. Leave the forest alone, or do real fire mitigation projects.

  2. Pingback: In the News: UCSF; Tree Planting; Native Herbicides « Save Mount Sutro Forest

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