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The Marin Municipal Water District's Deal With The Devil - Part II

On the eve of Marin County's review of the "Marin Biodiversity and Vegetation Management Plan" I'm reposting this blog from October of 2014.

In fall 2012 the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) started the environmental review process for the district's Wildfire Protection and Habitat Improvement Plan (WPHIP). As a major component of that process, the current Board of Directors of the Marin Municipal Water District supported and continues to support ongoing studies to consider the use of glyphosate-based herbicides in our watershed.

This overview looks at the facts and analyzes the risks of this decision.



“Extensive, long running evidence for the cancer-causing effects of glyphosate, and other toxic impacts, have been ignored by regulators. Indeed as the evidence has built up, permitted levels in food have been hugely increased. The public were kept in the dark through a litany of outright fraud committed by testing companies working for the corporations, deception, and half-truths. New research shows that the low levels of glyphosate found in human urine can promote the growth of human breast cancer cells, confirming the carcinogenic potential of the herbicide, known since the 1980s.”

~ “Glyphosate is a Disaster for Human Health,” The Ecologist, April of 2014,

by Dr. Mae Wan Ho

In our current system of corporate socialism, “bad actors” like Monsanto not only get subsidies for their bio-tech “research” but can effectively lobby for protection from the inconvenient facts being turned up around the world. And with Wall Street presently going gaga about all things biotech getting the government to protect your profits is apparently pretty easy.

This support and influence in Washington not only helps Monsanto and other glyphosate manufacturers to continue to prosper but it also impacts how glyphosates are studied and more importantly the kind of research that gets funded to determine whether or not glyphosates are safe, and how consumer protections are enforced.

The dirty little secret in all this is that the vast majority of studies done to date that concluded that glyphosates were safe, were paid for by Monsanto.

Government “Oversight”

Volumes of independent studies and thousands of anecdotal reports from around the world show a strong correlation between the use of glyphosate herbicides and every condition, disorder and disease imaginable.

In addition to those already noted in Part I, these include symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, heart palpitations, headaches, dizziness, numbness, insomnia, depression, shortness of breath, blurred vision, burning of eyes, gastrointestinal disorders, and blisters and rash. It includes conditions like depression, autism, allergies, infertility, obesity and diseases like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, colitis, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple myeloma, pituitary gland cancer, kidney disease and kidney cancer, liver cancer, skin cancer, stomach cancer, and many kinds of prenatal disorders and birth defects. And it has been linked to disruption of a variety of metabolic mechanisms leading to cell death.

Glyphosates are correlated to so many conditions, disorders and diseases you have to ask, how can something so toxic not be a concern to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other government agencies? For example, the EPA classifies glyphosate as a Group E chemical, which means they believe there is strong evidence that it does notcause cancer in humans.

So Are Glyphosate Herbicides Safe or Not?

For years Roundup products were labeled “biodegradable.” The definition of biodegradable is “the chemical dissolution of materials by bacteria or other biological means.” []. The word “biodegradable” provides significant assurances to consumers and undoubtedly has helped Monsanto sell more of its product. But by that definition, glyphosate-based herbicides are not and have never been biodegradable (Monsanto was sued in the French courts over their claim of biodegradability and lost, which is why today Roundup no longer makes claims of being biodegradable on their labels).

Roundup and other generic versions chemically break down into other chemicals. One of those is AMPA. The other is POEA (polyethoxylated tallowamine), a “surfactant” that increases the herbicide’s effectiveness (one of the so-called “inert” ingredients), which is released into the environment. Both of these chemicals are in fact potent neurotoxins that are shown to be even more harmful to humans and animals, particularly in combination with glyphosates.

This means that other chemicals resulting from the use of glyphosate herbicides also need to be studied to determine how safe glyphosate herbicides are.

It’s Not Just the Glyphosates

New studies that have evaluated the possible toxic effects of glyphosates and Roundup, separately, concluded that Roundup is more toxic than glyphosates alone. Even the EPA studies confirm this. If this is true, then the majority of historic studies of glyphosates were studying the wrong thing. No one was looking at the possible effects of the other ingredients in Roundup, the so-called “inert” ingredients, or how they act in combination with glyphosates.

According to a report published in Scientific American in June of 2009, Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells, by Crystal Gammon and Environmental Health News:

“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.”

Researchers found that “POEA, was more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than the herbicide itself – a finding the researchers call “astonishing.”

“This clearly confirms that the inert ingredients in Roundup formulations are not inert,” wrote the study authors from France’s University of Caen. “Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death at the residual levels” found on Roundup-treated crops, such as soybeans, alfalfa and corn, or lawns and gardens.”

Similarly, the Seralini study [Differential Effects of Glyphosate and Roundup on Human Placental Cells and Aromatase by Sophie Richard, Safa Moslemi, and Gilles-Eric Seralini June 2005: National Institute of Environmental Health Science / National Institutes of Health] noted that:

“Surprisingly, Roundup is always more toxic than its active ingredient” (glyphosate)… and that“…the presence of Roundup adjuvants (other inert ingredients) enhances glyphosate bioavailability and/or bioaccumulation.”

In plain English these studies establish proof that the “inert” ingredients in Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides, in combination with the glyphosate, are even more deadly and disease inducing that glyphosates are themselves.

Footnote: In a mind-blowing twist of the English language that only a government bureaucrat would love, the labeling of a Roundup ingredient as “inert” doesn’t mean the ingredient isn’t toxic or deadly to human beings.

It only means it’s not effective in killing plants.

But What About the “Scientific” Defense of Glyphosates?

The effects of the inert ingredients in Roundup (and found in all its generic clones) are well documented and go a long way toward explaining how it can bring about the kind of broad-based metabolic disruption that would be required to cause the disorders and diseases found. But even with this knowledge about how other ingredients in combination with glyphosates can cause magnified harm to humans, it still doesn’t refute the fact that animals lack the enzyme pathways to be directly impacted by glyphosate.

Again, researchers may have been looking for answers in the wrong places.

You Are What You Eat… And Drink… And Breathe… And…

There are about 10 times more bacterial cells in our body than there are human cells [Carolyn Bohach, University of Idaho, Scientific American, Humans Carry More Bacterial Cells Than Human Ones, by Melinda Wenner, November 2007]. The types of bacteria that inhabit our digestive system help us break down and absorb nutrients, which in turn affect the general health of the tissues in our bodies and internal organs. We literally can’t live without them.

Our intestinal bacteria also affect the workings of our immune system, our cellular metabolism, and the level of inflammation in our bodies: a known precursor to many cancers and a known cause of DNA mutation/damage.

The science of the bacteria of the “gut,” known as the “microbiome,” is a relatively new field of study. In the past several years it has been demonstrated that the types of bacteria found in our digestive system and in fact throughout our bodies can contribute to a wide variety of disorders and diseases, many of which are the ones associated with glyphosates and Roundup.

Some scientists are now suggesting that it may be our gut bacteria that are glyphosate’s main metabolic disruption mechanism. Because even though glyphosate manufacturers continue to claim that the chemical cannot possibly hurt humans because we lack the needed enzyme pathway to absorb it, it turns out that many of the bacteria in our gut do have that pathway, and that’s potentially a game changer.

If this is true, hundreds of types of bacteria, 99 percent of which have never really been studied, could be undergoing dramatic changes and causing metabolic and cell damage from trace amounts of glyphosate in our bodies and absorbed from the foods we ingest or the water we drink. And it’s a well-documented fact that glyphosate is one of the hundreds of foreign chemicals all of us have in our tissues and bloodstream, in residual amounts.

So we have to ask ourselves this: If beneficial chemicals like antibiotics can wreak havoc on our gut “microbiota,” what could known poisons and neurotoxins be doing?

My bet is nothing good.

Sympathy for the Devil

The incumbents on the Marin Municipal Water Districts Board of Director, Liza Crosse, Jack Gibson, Armando Quintero, Cynthia Koehler and Larry Russell are apparently unconcerned about all this. How else can they explain spending a great deal of time and money preparing an environmental impact report to study ways to use glyphosate-based herbicides, and Roundup in particular, to eliminate French broom in the MMWD watershed?

What is there to “study?”

Think about it. We’re talking about applying chemicals that are designed to kill life, to our drinking water source, and they’re willing to take the manufacturer’s word for it that it’s safe? The same manufacturer who said DDT was not harmful? Who said Agent Orange was safe for our troops in Vietman? Who said bovine growth hormone was good for us?


It makes me wonder, have any of the MMWD board members taken the time to educate themselves at all about these issues? And if not, why not? Isn’t that a responsibility of their elected office? Or do they subscribe to the apparently popular notion in Marin government that “thinking” is something we just pay consultants to do?

In April 2011 the MMWD Board received a study entitled, Final Report: Environmental decay of glyphosate in broom-infested Mt. Tamalpais soils and its transport through stormwater runoff and soil column infiltration. [by Hyun-Min Hwang and Thomas M. Young, Environmental Quality Laboratory, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis]

This absurdly limited report fails to even consider any of the information presented here and doesn’t mention anything about the overwhelming scientific evidence of glyphosate-based herbicide toxicity to humans, animals and other desirable plants. Rather, it chooses to accept the baseline assumptions about toxicity and residual threats to human and animal health that are published by the herbicide manufacturers themselves (the study evaluates the application of products called Aquamaster and Competitor, which are essentially generic equivalents to Roundup).

On the “findings” of this report the MMWD Board has continued to pursue the use of glyphosate-based herbicides in our watershed.

This makes no sense. Why in the world would we risk poisoning our watershed and our inestimably valuable drinking water supply like this, even for a minute?

This is a question that many peoples have been asking, lately.

But What About the French Broom and Fire Safety?

There are basically two ways to tackle the French broom infestation: apply toxic herbicides like Roundup, or create a long term vegetation management and eradication program and do the job manually with the assistance of goat herds (that have proven to be incredibly effective and 100 percent environmentally beneficial).

MMWD staff has estimated that doing it the second way, the right way, might cost millions of dollars more. The Board thinks this is an important consideration.

Let me get this straight. It’s okay to propose spending $45 million (that you know will end up being $60 million before it’s done) for a pipeline to Richmond to “intertie” our water supply with the rest of the region, and trade for Delta water that we’ll probably never get, while at the same time also agreeing to provide water to them in the other direction, but spending $5 or $10 million more to preserve our watershed and protect the health of every man, woman, child and animal in our county is called “too expensive?”

Do you know what it costs to treat just one child who has brain cancer?

This is even more absurd considering that Monsanto’s own product warnings on their Material Safety Data Sheet on glyphosate herbicide states that the product should not be allowed to “contaminate drains, sewers or waterways when disposed,” and that it should be “kept out of drains, ditches and waterways.”

Glyphosate-based herbicides in our watershed should be off the table – end of discussion. We need to keep our watershed pesticide free, guard it carefully (no intertie pipeline that can be used to export our water to other counties) and plan to live within our means.



glyphosates, herbicides, toxins