, 24 tweets, 9 min read Read on Twitter
@tedlieu Hi Congressman Lieu. Can we chat about this? About what it would actually mean to completely stop the use of this herbicide?
@tedlieu Because I understand that a lot of people are concerned. I consider myself among those who are concerned about potential health effects of pesticides in general, and this herbicide in particular.
@tedlieu I don't think anyone who doesn't sell glyphosate is very excited about how ubiquitous glyphosate is. You could make a pretty strong argument that we absolutely use too much of it. In fact, I've made that argument before. I think we've become way too reliant on herbicides.
@tedlieu But it's important to consider the alternatives before we remove this particular product as a tool. The alternatives to glyphosate, in many cases, are not better than glyphosate. Some of the alternatives are demonstrably worse.
@tedlieu If we stopped using glyphosate, in the short term we'd probably just replace it with a different herbicide. Or, in many cases, we'd replace it with multiple different herbicides. And those other herbicides are unlikely to be 'safer' than glyphosate in any meaningful way.
@tedlieu Studies have shown there are some potential health risks associated with glyphosate (and Roundup). I won't dispute that. But we also have studied glyphosate more than almost any other herbicide.
@tedlieu If you directly compare potential chronic effects of glyphosate to other herbicides, you'll see that it has among the lowest chronic toxicity. In fact, is has a lower mammalian chronic toxicity than ~90% of herbicides used in the last 25 years.
@tedlieu And I didn't make up those numbers. I wrote a paper on the topic: nature.com/articles/ncomm…
@tedlieu Here's a figure showing chronic toxicity values from that data set - each point is a different herbicide. Points to the left are more toxic, points on the right are less chronically toxic. The red diamond is glyphosate - quite a ways on the 'less toxic' end of the spectrum.
@tedlieu So if we stopped using glyphosate, we'd almost certainly replace it with one of those other herbicides, 90% of which are more toxic.
@tedlieu That's the most likely scenario, anyway. But in some cases we wouldn't just use a different herbicide - there are other ways to manage weeds. One of those is simply hand-pulling them. Manual labor.
@tedlieu In a lot of cases, hand labor is the most effective and sometimes even the most economical way to manage weeds. And there are certainly some examples where we could effectively replace glyphosate with labor.
@tedlieu This isn't a risk-free proposition either. Hand-weeding causes all kinds of musculo-skeletal injuries. Anyone who has worked in the fields can attest to that. Are these injuries worth removal of this herbicide?
I don't know the answer. But we need to ask the question.
@tedlieu And hand labor is simply ineffective for many weeds. I'd like to introduce you to Canada thistle (left), and Dr. Phil Westra (right). Dr. Westra is a weed scientist at Colorado State University. Here he's showing 14 months of Canada thistle root growth. Just 14 months.
@tedlieu Canada thistle isn't an anomaly. There are MANY perennial invasive species with similar root systems. You can't pull those weeds. (I mean, I guess you could, but it would be completely pointless.) Herbicides like glyphosate will move into those roots and kill them.
@tedlieu And for many invasive species, it is really important that we kill them. Alligatorweed, for example, can cause be a major issue and the potential impact in California is pretty high. dbw.parks.ca.gov/pages/28702/fi…
@tedlieu Now, I don't know if glyphosate is used to control Alligatorweed in California, but it happens to be one of the more effective options for controlling this invasive weed, which can destroy the natural ecology of waterways, and restrict navigation and recreation.
@tedlieu Choosing to just not control weeds is one potential alternative to using glyphosate. But that will have pretty damaging consequences in many cases.
@tedlieu In some cases, particularly ag systems, we could replace glyphosate with tillage. But tillage increases soil erosion potential and also tends to increase fossil fuel use. I know you're concerned about climate change - do we really want to trade glyphosate for more CO2?
@tedlieu I'm just a guy from Wyoming - I understand if you aren't interested in discussing this issue with me. But I'd strongly encourage you to chat with some weed scientists closer to you. You have some EXCELLENT expertise in your state. Seek them out. Ask questions.
@tedlieu Get their opinion about what stopping glyphosate would actually mean for your constituents. They'll be honest with you. There are absolutely cases where stopping the use of Roundup makes perfect sense. And they'll tell you that. (just like I would)
@tedlieu But there are scenarios where the implications of stopping glyphosate use are much worse than using glyphosate. It is important not to remove a tool without at least considering those cases.
@tedlieu Anyway, thanks for listening.
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