17 March 2015

Rounding Up Evil

A couple of codgers in my coffee shop were discussing RoundUp® and whether or not it was "evil".
Glyphosate molecule

Defining evil is tricky, but I'll give it a try.

There is a suite of Monsanto herbicides that continue to foul soil, groundwater and surface water. Much of our fouled water resources are no longer potable without engineered treatment.

Fresh water is a finite resource. Fouling the biosphere threatens the thin planetary life raft we inhabit. Monsanto's products & practices have generally degraded the biosphere.

As an impressionable consulting engineer fresh out of engineering school, my first job was to make a computer simulation of Atrazine migration in partially saturated soil and groundwater. Atrazine is a Monsanto herbicide. My simulation was based on contaminant transport equations meant to address, in the best back of the envelope sense, the question:
Where does atrazine go after soil moisture carries it into shallow groundwater?
The answer is that the dissolved herbicide finds its way into shallow wells or streams and rivers. Atrazine is a known endocrine disrupter in mammals. In the United States atrazine was the most commonly detected drinking water contaminant in 2001.

I learned first hand that Monsanto spends millions upon millions of dollars supporting stables of lawyers, consulting hydrogeologists, and consulting engineers to defend their products and practices.

One can only imagine how much money Monsanto can now funnel into influencing Congress as a result of the disastrous Citizens United v. FEC decision.

RoundUp was first commercialized in 1976.

I would never use RoundUp. I would never knowingly use any Monsanto product, yet their suite of products are omnipresent in the food chain.

It doesn't take a MacArthur Fellow to interpolate between killing a few harmless weeds with RoundUp and unintentionally degrading human health particularly in light of the fact that humans share 15% of our DNA with mustard grass.

I'm not trained in biochemistry so I probably can't defensibly decree that the RoundUp molecule is evil.

A more reasonable argument could be made that Monsanto, and their products and practices, have not served the common good, and thus Monsanto could be considered by you and me to be an evil entity needing an earnest regulatory harness rather than the wink-wink complicity of a corporate-backed Congress.


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