Roundup, Birth defects, and the new trail in Mount Sutro Forest

The new trail connecting Stanyan (just above 17th Avenue) with Medical Center Way opened a few days ago. Though still marred by the stumps of dead trees and amputated shrubs, it provides better access from the Cole Valley side of the forest, and a view of the ravine through which the seasonal creek runs. The recent rains have helped the vegetation grow back.

This lies in the city-owned Interior Green Belt portion of Mount Sutro Forest. Unlike UCSF, which has used no pesticides in its part of the forest, the SF Rec & Parks does use Roundup (glyphosate) and Garlon (triclopyr) as it sees fit. We have a notice of Garlon 4 Ultra use as recently as September 2010.

We can only hope they don’t see fit.

We’ve been writing here about the risks of pesticides used in “Natural Areas.”  These are, in particular,  Garlon (a Tier I herbicide according to San Francisco Department of the Environment – SF DOE) and Roundup (a Tier II herbicide, not quite as toxic as Garlon).


Our post about Roundup and birth defects cites the relevant research. In short, Roundup can impact the brain development of vetebrate fetuses. Here’s what we wrote then:

heart breaking

“The actual article, which we read elsewhere describes some of the birth defects: microcephaly (tiny head); microphthalmia (tiny undeveloped eyes); impairment of hindbrain development; cyclopia (also called cyclocephaly – a single eye in the middle of the forehead); and neural tube defects. These are quite devastating. Many fetuses do not come to term, and many babies with these conditions die within hours or days.”

Now someone sent us a link to this article in the Huffington Post. It notes that researchers have found that European regulators have been aware since 1980 that Roundup can cause birth defects… but did not make it public. (Here’s the link to the source report on which that article was based.) We wonder if, in that case, the US authorities were ignorant of the research.


Separately,  Don Huber, Emeritus Professor from Purdue University, wrote an open letter to the Secretary of Agriculture about “Roundup Ready” crops. In it, according the the Huff Post report, he said, “It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases…”

We’re grateful that San Francisco has another line of defense in its own Department of the Environment. We’re dismayed that such powerful pesticides are still used in “natural” areas where people hike, children play, and dogs are walked. In fact, we’re not clear how the objective of controlling non-native plants over-rides the precautionary principle of not using risky chemicals.

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1 Response to Roundup, Birth defects, and the new trail in Mount Sutro Forest

  1. milliontrees says:

    Thanks for this important information. We received a link to a documentary film about Monsanto (the manufacturer of Roundup) from a Ph.D. scientist in Chicago that might interest your readers: This movie explores the inappropriate relationships between government and the chemical industry that enable the chemical industry to sell products that are harmful to the public. I say that these relationships are “inappropriate” because, although they should be (IMO), they are apparently not illegal. The chemical industry is apparently free to manufacture and sell dangerous products to the public because the regulation of the industry is inadequate to prevent that from happening.

    We should not be surprised by this. It is comparable to the current efforts in our Congress to dismantle the new regulations that are intended to protect consumers from the unscrupulous actions that contributed to our current economic crisis. American voters are essentially making these choices to trade their economic and health safety for other priorities. One hopes that they are at least conscious of the choices they are making.

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