Toby Hemenway hemenway at
Thu Aug 2 14:44:19 EDT 2001

on 8/2/01 10:03 AM, Linda Smith at lsmitholy at wrote:

> What exactly is Roundup?

There's a very good PDF file on Roundup at
Scroll down to "pesticide fact sheets" and look under "glyphosate," the
generic name for Roundup. If you can't deal with PDFs, let me know and I'll
copy the text into an email.

>How does it work? 
It blocks the synthesis of amino acids necessary for growth.
>Why is it dangerous?  I've
> been told it's basically Agent Orange.  Is this true?

No. That's another unneccessary eco-lie that makes enviros look stupid (one
of my pet peeves, since the truth itself is pretty damaging). Agent Orange
is a mixture of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, which are far more deadly than Roundup
and also contain dioxin, one of the most toxic substances on Earth. Roundup,
while environmentally harmful and dangerous to humans, requires ingestion of
a far greater dosage to make you sick than either 2,4-D or 2,4,5-T. But the
"inert" ingrdients mixed with Roundup are toxic in themselves, and the
combination is even more toxic. The PDF file will tell you more than you'll
ever want to know.

 >Does it decompose
> into inert chemicals as touted by Monsanto?

Under perfect laboratory conditions, it decomposes into inert chemicals in a
few days to weeks. In the field, it takes much longer (a half-life of over
100 days), and in water, especially buried in river sediments, it can take
many years to decompose. Roundup's public image as "nearly harmless" is a
tribute to the genius of Monsanto's marketing department. They've done a
brilliant job of ignoring any data they don't like, doing just the right
tests, and telling the public what they want to hear. For a while they were
calling Roundup "environmentally friendly" until FDA made them stop.

For a look at my new book on ecological gardening,
Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, visit

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