Published December 28, 2021

For the Farmer

Written by
Charlie Adams
| The Dakotan
Hefty 2018 plot [Photo: submitted by Charlie Adams]
Hefty 2018 plot [Photo: submitted by Charlie Adams]


MOHALL—Unfortunately, in our society today, if you say something enough or the major media sources say something enough, it becomes true in the minds of many people.  This has proven true because for some reason, one of the safest pesticides in the history of the planet, glyphosate (the chemical ingredient name of Roundup) has been villainized.  Glyphosate was discovered in the early 70s and then brought to the agricultural market as a very effective weed killer.  It continued to be an extremely helpful and cost-effective tool for farmers for many years, especially as research scientists evolved many crops to withstand glyphosate.  Therefore, farmers can now spray this exceptional weed killing herbicide right on the crop, kill all the weeds, and not hurt the crop.  The concept is basic:  Plants flourish when you kill all the weeds that steal valuable soil moisture and nutrients from the crop.  If you do this, you can raise healthier crops and produce more bushels.   

Part of why this valuable tool for farmers has been villainized is because of our legal system and the media.  In our country today, it seems like literally anyone can sue anyone else for any reason.  In the case of Roundup, a bunch of lawyers got together, spent a whole bunch of money on ads that say, “If you believe Roundup caused your cancer, join our class action lawsuit,” and then sued the company who first developed glyphosate, Monsanto, which is now Bayer.  The problem for Bayer is that even though all the data is in their favor, they still have to spend money on legal fees to defend themselves.  If you do an internet search for “Roundup lawsuit,” you do not get results showing news and developments on this issue, you get all the top search results pointing you in the direction of how you can join in on this lawsuit.  When you get upwards of 50,000 people suing you, the legal fees become astronomical, which is why, rather than litigating for years and spending billions in legal fees, Bayer instead decided to settle all lawsuits for billions of dollars.  In the end, the lawyers got rich and the farmers now pay a higher price for Roundup.   

If you dig into who the people are who are suing because they claim Roundup caused their cancer, you find people like the recent example of a Southern California woman who says she got it from spraying Roundup in her garden.  How much Roundup did she spray in her garden?  Another court case involved a 10-year-old who allegedly developed cancer from playing outdoors where his mother had sprayed Roundup in the yard.  Farmers have been applying hundreds and hundreds of gallons of Roundup on their farms every year for many, many, years, and you do not hear about farmer exposure to Roundup in these lawsuits.  Stores sell Roundup in one-gallon jugs for people to spray for household use.  Agricultural retailers commonly sell it in 270-gallon cage tanks for farm use.  Farmers do use protective gloves and other equipment when handling the chemical, but their level of exposure is exceedingly high especially when dealing with ag spraying issues on the farm like unclogging nozzles and cleaning out spray tanks from one herbicide mixed with Roundup to the next.   

The people in these lawsuits have cancer from some other cause. But there are now people who received a lot of settlement dollars, and farmers end up paying the bill in the long run.  When Monsanto, which was an agricultural company, got sued, think of it as farmers getting robbed by lawyers, because lawyers got rich at the expense of farmers.   

The price of glyphosate has recently skyrocketed due to many global factors, but it has been steadily on the rise ever since these lawsuits started to get popular.  The price the farmer pays for Roundup will likely never be as low as it was just 3-4 years ago.  So just understand it is the lawyers who did this to the farmers.   

Many materials are measured with an LD50.  LD stands for "Lethal Dose.” LD50 is the amount of a material, given all at once, which causes the death of 50% (one half) of a group of test animals. The LD50 is one way to measure the short-term poisoning potential (acute toxicity) of a material.  Keep in mind that glyphosate works on an enzyme found only in plants.  Humans and animals do not even have that enzyme, so the odds that glyphosate would ever hurt humans or animals has always been miniscule.  For instance, The LD50 (lethal dose) for glyphosate is 5600 mg/kg of body weight.  The LD50 for caffeine is 200.  In other words, it would take 28 times more glyphosate to kill you than caffeine, yet Americans readily consume large amounts of caffeine on a daily basis.  If we are going to ban glyphosate, we have to ban caffeine first, and good luck with that.   

There is a lot you hear in the media today that is true, but there is also a lot that is false.  The staunchest environmentalists are farmers.  The farmer has the most riding on the health of the soil and the health of the plant.  They are the farmer’s livelihood.  The farmer’s success and ability to provide for his or her own family is a direct result of being able to grow the healthiest crops that are of superior quality and free from disease.  To say that farmers are responsible for the demise of our environment and that important products like Roundup spread cancer is all a dangerous lie.  If farming practices are hindered by unnecessary regulation and important farm products are banned for poor reasons, then the farmer’s crops will suffer.  That means yields will go down, production numbers will fall, and food prices will go way up.  That will have a negative effect on all the people of Earth.      

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