Monsanto's Roundup herbicide contaminates Danish drinking water

By Anders Legarth Schmidt

July 15, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- , Politiken, 05/10/03: Denmark's most popular herbicide Roundup is polluting the underground water far more than previously thought. Agriculture uses yearly 800 tons of active glyphosate in herbicide. The Environment Minister is looking at taking steps to address this.

The Danish drinking water resources are under attack from an unexpected quarter. The chemical glyphosate that is in the popular herbicides Roundup and Touchdown is against all expectations sieving down through the soil and polluting the ground water at a rate of five times more than the allowed level for drinking water.

This has been shown from tests done by the Denmark and Greenland Geological Research Institution (DGGRI) in an as yet unpublished article.

Believed Bacteria broke down glyphosate

"When we spray glyphosate on the fields by the rules it has been shown that it is washed down into the upper ground water with a concentration of 0.54 micrograms per litre. This is very surprising, because we had previously believed that bacteria in the soil broke down the glyphosate before it reached the ground water."

It is the Environment Ministry that has given permission to use glyphosate - based on the producers [Monsanto's] own research.

Used against Twitch and Thistles

Farmers spray glyphosate on their fields after the harvest to keep the soil free of twitch and thistles. It had been earlier found in wells in Roskilde and Storstroms regions as well as the Copenhagen district council area. Critics say glyphosate causes cancer, while its defenders call it a wonder herbicide.

Professor Mogens Henze the head of the Institute for Environment and Resources at Denmark's Technical University, says that the consequence of the new knowledge is that water works in five to ten years will need to clean the water before Danes can drink it.

"The results show that glyphosate is polluting our drinking water. And unfortunately we have only seen the tip of the iceberg, because glyphosate and many other spray chemicals are on their way through the soil at this point in time. Politicians need to look at agriculture in relation to clean drinking water and decide what it is they are going to do." says Mogens Henze, who isn't blaming the farmers who use something that the authorities have allowed.

Use Doubled

Statistics from the Environment Ministry show that the use of glyphosate has doubled in the last five years. In 2001 800 tons was used and that made up a quarter of farmers total use of pesticides. This shows that glyphosate is the most used herbicide by farmers.

As a result of the new research from DGGRI the Environment Minister Hans Christian Schmidt is currently thinking about doing something about the use of glyphosate on Danish fields.

"It is simply not acceptable that this stuff is turning up in our groundwater in such a concentration so high over the acceptable level. If this is the case then we must react quickly" says the Environment Minister, who is awaiting a report from the Environment Ministry.