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Glyphosate (Roundup herbicide) Misrepresentations

Question-and-Answer reprinted with the permission of Neil Sperry:

Dear Neil: I have read your column for many years. Recently you advised a gardener to prepare soil for next spring’s vegetable garden by applying glyphosate to kill existing grasses and weeds. In light of court findings that it is causal to development of leukemia, should you continue suggesting its use? Could you not advise using vinegar or some non-carcinogenic product instead?

I’ve been asked this more than once. As the son of a Texas A&M herbicide research scientist who spent a significant part of his career studying claims made by companies as they sought government labels for new herbicides, I have followed this case with interest. After the court settlement you mentioned was made, the EPA later (February 2020) published this detailed finding: in which they stated “…EPA continues to find that there are no risks of concern to human health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label.” I encourage you to read it.

Dr. John Wallace and Dwight Lingenfelter of Pennsylvania State University had written a short and to-the-point article Glyphosate (Roundup): Understanding Risks to Human Health (2019), in which they say that “Glyphosate has lower acute toxicity to humans than 94% of all herbicides and many common household chemicals, including vinegar and table salt. Glyphosate also has lower chronic toxicity to humans than 90% of all herbicides.”

As far as my recommending vinegar for preparing garden soils or just as a general weedkiller, I do not care to do so. I don’t think it works, at least not as well as I would expect it to if I were asked to write or talk about it positively in this kind of setting. It burns foliage, but it does not offer good long-term control of aggressive perennial grasses like Johnsongrass or Bermudagrass, two common invaders of garden spaces. They come back quickly and strongly.

I am comfortable with my recommendation of glyphosate sprays. Unless university or EPA research shows them to be of health concerns, I will continue to list them as an alternative for gardeners. Those who choose not to use them might consider solarizing by covering the new garden area with black plastic film for a few months during the growing season to kill out the existing vegetation. They can also follow that up with roll-type mulches between rows of vegetables post-planting.

Thanks for asking. It’s a great question.

Why bring this Roundup situation AGAIN – because so many folks have believed these “misrepresentations” about Roundup causing cancer. Neil continues to “SHINE THE LIGHT OF TRUTH” on this false information. He has done so for years; to make my point read this column which was written by Neil on Saturday, May 25th, 2019, and put on at:

It reads:

Glyphosate (Roundup herbicide) Misrepresentations

This Question-and-Answer from Neil Sperry was printed in the San Antonio Express-News on Saturday, May 25th, 2019.

“Question: You recently recommended Round Up in one of your answers. It gets into the soil and kills bees. I think you should retract your recommendation of it.”

“Answer: I believe you may have your products confused. There has been ample discussion of whether glyphosates (active ingredient in Round Up) might lead to cancer, but the EPA on April 28, 2019, reaffirmed its earlier announcement that

Glyphosates do not cause cancer in humans.

To further this substantiate this TRUTH, I published:

“This is a BRILLIANT response by one of the best and most knowledgeable -horticulturists in Texas and the U.S. This response coincides with the write-up done by my late friend and colleague, Malcolm Beck, who was the “father of the Organics Movement” in Texas and the originator of Gardenville Products (see: ).

The write-up explains: “Nature could approve of glyphosate if used properly in some conditions” and is housed at:

Malcolm begins his write-up with:

“I wrote a letter (Does Nature Approve) to HRM members and it was printed in the Summer, 2001, newsletter and Acres USA. However, my student and partner in organic promotion, Howard Garrett, does not agree with this approach. “

COMMENT BY PARSONS: Interesting enough many of Malcolm’s Organic “Disciples” did not speak to Beck for years before his death and increasing dementia after he wrote this opinion! Howard Garrett was reluctantly permitted by Malcolm’s wife Delphine to come and speak at Malcolm’s funeral because of the way they treated him before his death -- but other local organic proponents were told NOT to come to the funeral! I spoke at Malcolm’s funeral. This is what I loved about Malcolm i.e., he would test products and concepts before he would accept them – organically accepted or not!!

Malcolm wrote:

“Making the statement that," Nature could approve of glyphosate if used properly in some conditions" resulted from many years of studying. I grew up on a farm, worked on many neighboring farms and owned two farms of my own that were all overrun with Johnson grass. Years ago it was controlled by hoeing behind the cultivators, I controlled it on my own farm by hoeing. However, when the INS took my labor away I found no one in this country that you could pay enough to hoe, or even knew how. We cleared the first acreage I used for veining type vegetables of Johnson grass with the hoe. In 1975 when I wanted to expand ten more acres I tried to plow the Johnson grass to death but all I did was plow the soil to death. The Johnson grass is still there; the excess tilling destroyed the soil and a lot of the soil life. All the organic matter I built into the soil the previous seven years is now CO2 in the air along with my engine exhaust. I never did expand my vegetable acreage.”

The entire article is on at:

Because “Roundup” has now such a negative stigma attached to it, I no longer recommend Roundup to the uninformed public---I instead recommend they use the product: Knockout. It contains Glyphosate and WILL NOT CAUSE Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma like that “NASTY”, “DANGEROUS” Roundup!! since glyphosates do not cause cancer in humans!!!


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