#16- The RoundUp (glyphosate) Debate

One of the hottest topics in the lawn care industry is Roundup. Over 42,000 lawsuits in 2019, countries banning it, some stores will no longer carry it, some people are angry and some defend it. In this episode I share some facts and my opinion (over 20 years around the product). 


ELS - #16- The RoundUp (glyphosate) Debate Transcript

Hey, Hey, what is up everyone? This is Ete with another episode of Eco Lawn Science. It's a wonderful blue sky ski day here in Utah with fresh powder. My wife is up on the mountain and I am here making another episode of the show for you.

Today we're going to jump in and talk about, well, probably the most controversial issue in the industry at this time because it's been all over the news and everything for the last year. 2019 was a brutal year for this product, but even before then, all kinds of issues and problems and science that backs up both sides of the arguments. So today I'm bringing in some, some facts and I say facts but take it with a grain of salt because as you know, there's facts on both sides of everything nowadays. You could watch one doc...An example is I've been on this ketogenic diet for almost two months and I've seen enough documentaries about how eating fat can burn fat and help your mental health. And then I watched one last night about how it's going to kill you. So there we go. So, but I've got some facts that I'm bringing in from some official, some real deal research. But take it with a grain of salt. I'm also going to spin my opinion of someone who's got over 15, oh 20 years, around the product. I'd love to bring some of my thoughts in it as well, but ultimately, I'm just trying to have this conversation here because there's so much back and forth and fighting and arguing on this topic. And yes, we're talking about Roundup.

Roundup herbicide weed control was founded or created by a company called Monsanto back in the mid seventies, and they actually sold it 2018 in the midst of all kinds of lawsuits, litigations, and negative press. They managed to sell it for a ton of money to Bayer here in America.

And so anyway, we've got some different, there's all kinds of different sides of this topic. And I'd like to offer my opinion and some facts and let you kind of come up with what makes sense for you. So Roundup, let's start at the beginning. What is it for those of you who don't know. Roundup is a nonselective systemic weed control. That means it doesn't select what it kills. So if you had 5 dandelions in a nice lawn and I spot treated it, so I hit those dandelions with Roundup. Because it's non-selective, it's going to kill everything it touches. So therefore you're going to have five big nice dead spots. Could be, depending on how you spray it, it could be three inches, it could be a foot wide. You see them all the time. And I always wonder how in 2022 people do not know that Roundup is a non-selective, cause I see it every year in my neighborhood, around. I see homeowners burn holes in lawns and I think how, how does that even happen? Who doesn't know that? But apparently people don't. I've been around this stuff, so I guess I've seen it.

And so it kills whatever it touches. So if you want to use it for, if you've got to kill off some grass to replant grass or whatever, rip out your lawn and put in xeroscaping you're going to, you could use that. If you have to kill off weeds in a flower bed, driveway, mulched area, you're going to use it. No you gotta be careful. It is systemic, so there's, it stays in the soil for a bit, but we'll talk about that in a little bit, et cetera. So it's got all kinds of uses, but you're not going to use it on an, on a nice lawn. You're not going to use it around flowers or plants that you don't want to kill if you're trying to kill off of them, you can use it. That's the purpose of it.

The active ingredient, which has caused all the heat and these arguments is glyphosate. And so Roundup is basically, depending on the percentage of active ingredient involved, it's glyphosate combined with different types of surfactants. Now I want to say this right off the bat. I actually use a very, very, very little to none of this product. I have for years in the past. But as a personal mission with my company Eco Lawn, I have been trying to get us to where we can again, have great landscapes, make homeowners happy without using, you know, with using more organic based or fully organic OMRI-listed products. And so I have an alternative to Roundup.

It's a non-selective, weed control. Works just like Roundup for the most part. The only downside is it doesn't have the systemic residual that Roundup has. But anyway. So I have been, I would probably say I'm at 90% of this other product and, and I'll tell you the name, it's called Finalsan. Very expensive here in the States. But I bring it in in large quantities overseas in 250 gallon totes. And so I can get the pricing down to where it's, it's even close to being affordable to use on my clients. And so that's where I stand. I use very little. We still have some situations where either there's a job that has to be done and the client can't quite afford for the Finalsan. It's just out of the price range or there's a few other circumstances that we may have to, but we're on a mission to be 100% of the Finalsan, a 100% organic non-selective.

And we are very close and we've been getting closer each year. So I hope by 2021 we are 100%. Anyway, so that's where I stand. That being said, I have seen both sides of this argument and you know, so last year in 2019, Costco stopped selling Roundup and... Oh, one thing I forgot to mention, Roundup is the brand name. So the product is glyphosate. That's the active ingredient, but Roundup is just the product name that Bayer now owns. And so there are all kinds of products that are the exact same formula, but they're not called Roundup, right. They're made by different companies, same formula, but Roundup is the brand name. It's not the active ingredient. So in 2019, Costco stopped selling Roundup. In 2019, just a few months ago, by October, there were 42,000 people are in lawsuits saying that it caused cancer. In 2019, Roundup 360, which is one of the Roundup products was banned in France and other countries are now working on a ban.

So you can tell this is a hot topic. So you have a lot of issues with this product and this is not new to Roundup, Monsanto or Bayer. Back in 1996, they ran ads that said it was safer than table salt and they were sued for that as well. They also have been caught falsifying test results. So again, yeah, I'll get to my opinion later. They had been caught falsifying test results. So a lot of... In the last it, you know, it's been around since '74, so what is that 40 something years, I should probably be able to count better off top of my head. It's been around, there's been a lot of issues against it. Now, let's look at some of the other things on it because there has been a lot of research that says the toxicity is so low on this product that it is, it is less toxic than aspirin.

There is research that says, because of the way Roundup works, it works on enzymes that human beings don't even have–that plants have–that it has no damage or toxicity to human beings, very little to fish, and none or little to pets. Now there's research that says that, and I'll tell you, there's research that says the exact opposite as well. So anyway, all sides of this argument, I want to share something, my experience and some of my faults on on it.

So over the last 15 years I've worked for myself between here and Jersey, owning my own company. So I've dealt with thousands and thousands of clients and it's one, and I've dealt with thousands of pro-, not thousands, but hundreds of property managers and landscapers and people who are also using it. Many are unlicensed and many are licensed.

And I want to speak to that for a minute. I had a conversation, you know, people get so mad about this product. They watch a documentary and people get so worked up that we're being poisoned by these giant chemical companies. And I'm not, and I think there actually is some truth to that, but there's more that I want to say. And so as I've been watching this, and you know, I'm familiar with the product, I know that if you follow the rates and applications correctly, you use very, very little. It's very effective at what it does. It does a great job with very little amount of active ingredient killing those weeds and keep it and helping you, you know, whether you're on a crop, a farm, whether you're doing your home. So it does a great job at what its at, and I've noticed everyone, you know, when the documentary or news comes out, everybody just loses their mind. They get angry. And I've even had clients call me this year and say, Hey, you know, we sent an email, "Hey, we're coming out to treat your lawn tomorrow." And I've had clients say, "Hey, is there any Roundup, are you going to use Roundup?" And I just thought, wow, like first of all, no. Secondly, Roundup doesn't go on lawns, you know, so I see people getting emotionally driven and angered and outraged without even understanding the product, without having any really true research or just knowing what it is. And so that tells me, you know, I don't know, that tells me there's a lot of truth and a lot of nonsense out there because it's very...it's emotionally driving everybody because they hear, okay, this person got cancer and there's 42,000 cancer people rising up against it, right out of the billions of people who have actually used it and so therefore it's bad. And I'm not saying it's not bad, but what I'm saying is I would love people to take a little more time to understand the product and understand more about it, get a little deeper. There are things that I don't like that I haven't liked about Monsanto on a personal level, especially when it comes to crops and GMOs and things like that. And that's a whole other conversation. But you, you have the choice to go buy organic, locally grown and sourced vegetables and fruit. And that's an easy one. You just pay a tiny bit more than you can have that and you don't even have to deal with that. But I think, you know, there's just a lot of lack of understanding on what's going on out there. And one of my observations of dealing with thousands of people, hundreds of property managers and landscapers is people are not following the label properly.

So whether you love the product or you think it's the most dangerous thing in the world, I'm not so much speaking to that, but I was speaking to, I think one of the biggest problems is the lack of education and the lack of following directions. You know, any product, whether it's a lawn care weed control, pesticide for killing bugs, it's the same thing, right. I've been, and I've seen people get a bee at their house, pull out this huge can of aerosol, you know, bee pesticide and use half a can on a bee, you know, and I go, okay, so you didn't read the dosage, you didn't read the, you didn't follow application instructions. And you know, that's what scares me is, is the misuse of products. I don't know. I haven't followed every detail of the cases, of the lawsuits. I don't know if the people that are suing were drinking the stuff, you know, I don't know if they were applying it without the proper, uh, PPO without the proper pants, boots, et cetera, which is set on the label.

I don't know any of that. I don't know if they were having the correct application rates, but I do believe if you're not following that, that's going to be an issue. You're going, I could absolutely see that being an issue. But you know, first of all, that's on you. So I think there's a big education needs to happen a lot of times. I have many times here in Utah, I've spoken with property managers who bring me in and they say, oh, I remember many times I had this conversation, "I can't kill these weeds. I've dumped gallons of Roundup on it and I just can't kill it." And so they're hiring me to fix it. And I thought, well, why are you dumping gallons of Roundup? You know, like that is so irresponsible. That is so, you know, not good for the environment, for the community, you know, and, and so because I've seen these characteristics so many times, I'm starting to believe that the first problem we need to address is we need to educate people who are using the stuff.

And one of the scariest things to me and I, I mean no offense to homeowners because you have all the right, but you know, as a licensed professional, I have to take tests, I have to report certain things. Everything we buy, I have to be accountable for it. Where my neighbor could go. And any of my neighbors, if you're listening, I'm not talking about you obviously, but my neighbor could go and buy 3 gallons of the same product and dump it all on, you know, a driveway where I may go in as a professional and use 10 ounces. And so I've found a lot of the environmental impact is coming from the misuse and misunderstanding of how to use the products.

I have run into many landscapers in Park City, Utah, I won't call out any names who I see driving around and they are not following the law and Utah, and maybe it's changed, but the last few, you know, cause they update, I think they did an update this year, but you have to have certain things on your truck. If you were carrying a product like Roundup, you would have to have your pesticide license number on the truck. You would have to have it secured in a certain way. You would have to have the name of your company in certain size lettering on your truck. You know, all these things. I can't tell you how many times I see guys with lawn mowers out there and I look in the trucks in the back, it's four backpacks and I see bottles of Roundup just laying there, maybe rolling around. And so I go, okay, well the truck has no, no label. I know the company, they're not licensed to apply, so therefore they haven't taken the proper tests or training to apply this. So are they even qualified to touch this, right.

And that's part of the problem. I'm seeing all this, I'm seeing homeowners misuse it. I'm seeing other companies that are not, not legally allowed to use it, using it, right. You have to have certain licenses and pay certain dues and prove that you understand it to use any of these products. And I'm seeing people all the time not using it as a company. A homeowner can go use it. I'm also seeing other companies that have licensing misuse it as well. So it's all over the place. But my theory is this. I think the biggest thing we could do to clean this up and you know, yes, there have been 42,000 issues of people saying I've got cancer from this product, but again, I wasn't there. When you were applying, what were you wearing? What was the application rates? What was the weather? Did you follow all the label to the T? I believe that education would be the best thing we could do right now regardless if you think it's the most toxic thing or you think it's safe.

I do think we all need to do better at educating ourselves. I know for me over the last year or two I've taken a lot more time and read deeper into the research, the toxicity reports and the labels into this product and probably any other product and I would recommend it if you're a service company out there and you do use this now take time now. You see the warnings, you see the concerns? Get in there, start reading and really understand it. Make sure you are up to code and for all the homeowners or people who are not licensed professionals out there treating it, read the labels, call a professional, hire a professional, you know, go to the source, call the manufacturer, but figure out how to do it correctly. I really believe if we just started there, this would get cleaned up so much. And I actually think that's a lot of the hatred and the attacks on the lawn care industry is because of this is if we could train people, if there was more education, I think you'd see a lot more of a cleaner environment and a lot less impact.

But unfortunately now it's like I have trucks, they might be spraying a compost tea, all organic and people get upset. Well, what are you spraying? You know. And so there's this whole weird energy coming off of people. And again, back to the, the thing I'm talking about, they don't have an understanding. They don't know what's in these tanks. They've just jumped to an accusation, without any data or knowledge, that we're poisoning the earth, where maybe we're applying a compost tea, rebuilding microorganisms in the soil. So I just wish everybody could hear this and, and look at themselves. Stop pointing the fingers for a minute. Look at yourselves and clean up your act. Okay.

A couple of last things. One is if you feel like you have some type of glyphosate, if you've been around Roundup a lot and you're concerned about it, you can actually go on Google and type in glyphosate blood testing and you can get your blood tested and they will tell you how many parts per million or whatever the metric is they use, how your blood is doing. I had a friend who did this, who is actually around some of these products a bit and actually came back very negative. And then I've had people who ate certain foods and it came back high. So if you're concerned or just curious, you could go ahead and put that in. Take a test. It's not expensive and find out exactly what's going on in your blood.

The last thing I want to speak to is alternatives to this. Now, yes, there's this huge debate. Whatever side of the fence you are on this. I, again, my vision was to become focused on more sustainable organic products. So I did mention it earlier. There are alternatives to Roundup. I just want to talk about a little bit about the pros and cons of them. I'm trying to get some research done now on the toxicity, like a report comparing the glyphosate as an active ingredient, the Roundup versus some of these organic alternatives on the impact level, but we still don't have that. But there are products, like I mentioned, Finalsan. It's a great product made from fatty, it's OMRI listed, so it's an organic certified product. It works fantastic. I have used it in flower beds, I've used it in driveways, and within two hours I have seen the plants curl up. Black as black. And within a day they are wilting and they're gone. They're just melted up. Really fantastic. The downside is on these organics, there's two downsides that I have found. One is they don't have the systemic, they don't stay in the soil as long, right. So they struggle when it comes to more of these deep rhizomatous grasses like you know, wild bluegrass or even with a weed like morning glory, they don't do as well. So you do have to hit them more often. Where a Roundup, you might be able to hit this grass and not have to come back for 8 weeks with the organics. You need to be back in three or four weeks later. So there is a little more. You have to use more of the product. The second thing is you have to use more of the product. The first application., I mean all of them. And an example is, you know, let's say you're targeting some easy to kill, you know, not too mature weeds in a flower bed.

If you going to use a product with like a Roundup or glyphosate, um, you might be able to get away with two ounces per gallon, right, of active ingredient and have fantastic kill in some situations when you're dealing with the all organic, that 2 ounces per gallon, now you're looking at sometimes 15 ounces per gallon. So there is a lot more of the product that you have to use. And that's what I said, that's what I meant when I said I'm trying to get research on the overall impact because yeah, it is organic but we have to apply more of it, right. So we're working on that. I'm trying to talk to them to get more info. But overall you've got Finalsan, you've got products like Avenger. Avenger uses different type of, I don't have a label in front of me, but like citrus oils. There are clove oil products. So there's a lot of oil-based products that found to work really well.

I will say this as far as dependability, consistency and effectiveness, Roundup is incredible. Put aside how you feel about it. The product works. When you're dealing with the more organic products, they're getting closer. Like Finalsan is the best one I have seen. That works really well, but it's always, it's not as consistent and as effective. But for me personally with the technology that's coming out and the advancements in organic weed control and looking at the impact and being a steward over the environment and the, the responsibility that I feel, I am driving my clients and I have been pushing for years to get away from these big company products. Get away from, you know, the mega companies, get away from, you know, the chemical manufacturers because I know that their research will also be biased. And so I choose to walk away, you know, to go a different direction.

But I don't have all the hatred for them. I am uncomfortable with the Roundup ready crops on my food, anything like that, I'm uncomfortable. But what makes me the most uncomfortable is the people that don't know what they're doing that are using it. The unlicensed companies, the homeowners that are out there just dousing it on little plants and going way over application and label. Those are the things that scare me. So that's all I have. You can make your decision. There's a lot more research, but that's a direction that I choose to head in. And I hope that if anything, if any of you are listening and you use this product, just please really study the labels, follow the rates, protect yourself and use it properly and you know, don't... Just be smart with it. And that also goes for other companies. And if you're a company, you're applying it, you're not licensed, get licensed or find a licensed company and have them do that work.

If you're a mowing company, you're great at mowing. Just mow. Don't bother getting into the chemical side of it and getting licensed and having techs because I've seen it too many times, unless you're really committed, it just becomes a hindrance to your mowing company. And you know, in Utah there are guys driving around, the state is driving around all the time and they are, you know, cause you could actually report people. If you see a truck that doesn't have the proper things and you see a chemical in it, you can take a picture of the license plate, send it in. And so they are checking, especially with all the allegations, all the lawsuits, the next few years it's going to get worse and worse on Roundup. And I am excited that it's going to hopefully make the organic versions more comparable and price more affordable and have more technology and advancement in that.

That's all I got for this one. Hope you guys have a great day and stay safe.

This is one of my my favorite products. It is an organic alternative to Round-Up and is made from soap of fatty acid. In this episode, I discuss the pros and cons of this product. 

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