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Roundup is a pesticide (a weed-killer or herbicide) containing the active ingredient glyphosate. It is a controversial herbicide that is the most heavily used pesticide in the world. And since the introduction of Roundup Ready crops that have been genetically modified to survive repeated Roundup applications, the use is only increasing on farms. Several posts (here, here, and here) have discussed research and controversies with Roundup, and the numerous health concerns (including that it is a "probable carcinogen"), as well as the residues that are in our food (and allowed to be there).

But...I just read an article that said that a product called Roundup, but containing acetic acid instead of glyphosate, is now available at garden centers in Austria. Ordinary vinegar is 5% acetic acid.  Huh?? Can that be? Yes, this product called Roundup AC is being manufactured by Scotts (the name is licensed from Monsanto), and it uses 10% acetic acid in place of glyphosate. Apparently Scotts wanted to use the name because Roundup is so well known as a strong herbicide. So, the question is: Will it soon also be available in the US and elsewhere? How well does it work? One problem - it is unknown from what I am reading whether other "more toxic" ingredients (the secret "inert" ingredients) are also in the product. Here is a link to the product's page at the Austrian store Hornbach and at Amazon (above photo is of Roundup AC).

By the way, vinegar works great as a weed-killer, especially on young weeds. Ordinary vinegar contains 5% acetic acid, but products with higher amounts of acetic acid (from 8% to 20%) are available (sometimes called horticultural vinegar) . But note that acetic acid products stronger than 10% can be dangerous if used carelessly - can cause burns if get some on bare skin or spilled on a person (it is acid, after all), so gloves and eye goggles should be used when using the stronger acetic acid products.

To use ordinary vinegar as a weed-killer: Use on a hot sunny dry day. Just spray or pour some on the offending weeds - and whatever the vinegar touches will soon die. Unfortunately the weeds may come back after a week or two (the root systems may not be killed off) - so just reapply vinegar. Or can make the effects of the vinegar stronger by adding one cup salt to a gallon vinegar or a little (a teaspoon or more) dish detergent to the vinegar. Or combine all three ingredients when needing permanent removal of vegetation from an area such as sidewalk cracks or gravel driveways.

From The Ecologist: Monsanto's new 'glyphosate-free' Roundup is vinegar!

Has Monsanto, dubbed the 'world's most evil corporation', turned a new leaf? It has taken the 'probably carcinogenic' glyphosate out of a new version of its market leading 'Roundup' herbicide, and replaced it with vinegar. The bad news is it's only available in Austria. That, and it may still contain toxic 'adjuvants' to increase its effectiveness.

A new type of Roundup is on sale in Austrian garden centres. It's the same old bottle with the same familiar brand name and is marketed by Scotts, under licence from Monsanto. The only difference compared with the old-style Roundup is that the new one has a prominent label on the front saying it's formulated "without glyphosate" ("ohne Glyphosat" in German). On the back, on the ingredients label, the 'active substance' is defined as none other than vinegar: 'Essigsäure'.


Monsanto's new 'Glyphosate-free' Roundup product, and a bottle of vinegar. Photo: Dr Helmut Burtscher  (a biochemist/ GMWatch).

In fact, organic and other gardeners have long been using vinegar as a weedkiller, which works by sucking moisture out of plants' leaves. It's most effective if used in dry weather when plants are already water-stressed, and the vinegar won't get washed off or diluted by rain. Most recipes also advise adding soap or washing up liquid to help it spread over leaves.

Why does Dr. Burtscher [biochemist who bought this product at an Austrian garden center] think that Scotts brought out this product? "The World Health Organisations' cancer agency IARC has stated that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen. Monsanto has admitted in court that it cannot claim that Roundup doesn't cause cancer because the complete formulation has never been tested. "Garden centres are wondering what they can tell their customers. They have undoubtedly lost business. Some have phased out all chemical pesticides, such as Bellaflora, which took this step in cooperation with GLOBAL 2000 long before IARC came out with its verdict.....Now they only sell organic-approved plant protection products."

But why does Burtscher think Scotts are calling its new vinegar-based herbicide Roundup? "Maybe Scotts thought: We need this trade name because people see Roundup as more effective than vinegar!"

Burtscher spent about €30 on the glyphosate-free Roundup but says in future he will just buy vinegar if it works out cheaper. It may also be safer, he adds, since "We do not know if the vinegar-based Roundup formulation still contains toxic adjuvants." ('Adjuvants' are additives present in glyphosate herbicide formulations that are designed to increase the toxicity of glyphosate to plants, for example by 'fixing' them to leaves and reduce wash-off in rain. But they can also increase the toxicity to animals, as in the case of tallowamine often used with glyphosate.) But if Scotts can prove the safety of the adjuvants, Burtscher says it's a win-win situation:"It's a victory for Monsanto because now it has a product that doesn't cause harm and a victory for people and the environment."

Why are huge (42+ pound) bags of lawn chemicals being sold with foods in stores? Should stacked bags of pesticides ever be placed next to foods in stores? Is this legal? Why is this happening in warehouse stores that call themselves environmentally conscious and brag about carrying organic foods?

Apparently the store does not recognize that the stacked bags of lawn chemicals (pesticides) are dangerous, that the bags can tear and spill pesticides, or that they always give off an awful chemical odor that can be smelled many aisles away. (This means we are breathing in those chemicals)

Why is it OK to place foods and enormous bags of pesticides in the same shopping cart, perhaps with children next to and handling the bags? (Note: I have personally seen this!) The pesticides should be sold in a separate area (like in Home Depot or Lowe's) or perhaps only in garden center. These pesticide products all say "Keep out of reach of children", to "avoid skin contact", and to "avoid inhaling". They are dangerous and do not belong in food stores.

The following photos were taken by me over the course of several years (2012 to 2015) in two Costco stores in NJ. The bags of "Turf Builder Winterguard Plus Weed Control" contain both fertilizer and pesticides and are commonly known as "Weed and Feed". Pesticides that kill weeds are also known as herbicides, and here the 2 pesticides (the active ingredients) are 2,4-D and mecoprop-p.

The first pesticide (2,4-D) was one of the the two pesticides found in Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War, and is linked to many serious health problems, including cancer in both people and dogs. (Note: scroll down for more information on these 2 pesticides).

Pesticides get into the body through the skin (dermal exposure) or eyes, through the mouth (ingesting it, including residues on foods), or through inhalation. Note that all odors represent an exposure to a chemical.

Pesticide products contain a number of ingredients – the “active ingredients” that targets the pest (weed or insect), and other ingredients that are just labeled "inert ingredients" or "other ingredients". Any one of them may produce a sickening odor. Odors also may be related to a breakdown product, a warning agent (a smelly substance added to make otherwise odorless products easier to detect), or a chemical added to the formula to hide a bad odor.

Currently, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), pesticide manufacturers are only required to list the active ingredients in a pesticide, leaving consumers and applicators unaware of the possible toxics present in the inert or "other" ingredients of pesticide products. Pesticide manufacturers argue they cannot release information on inert ingredients because they are trade secrets, and if released, their products could be duplicated. Quite often inert ingredients constitute over 95% of the pesticide product, and can be as toxic as the active ingredients. 

So.... what this means is that just by being able to smell the pesticide-fertilizers, we are being exposed to some chemicals through inhalation. And when this product is placed by foods, one doesn't smell food but instead inhales chemicals, perhaps the pesticides. These huge bags easily leak and spill (unlike small metal containers or cans). Leaking bags also result in shopping carts being contaminated with pesticides, as well as the store floor.

By placing the bags of pesticides next to foods, Costco is also sending the message to customers that the product is "safe", but that is incorrect. Pesticides that are dangerous (toxic) must be registered with the EPA. Harmless things don't have to be registered - toxic chemicals do.

And yes, a few years ago I contacted Costco management about this issue, but their response was to pooh-pooh my concerns, and that I must "be sensitive". And they continued as before. The following are some photos from 2012 to 2015 at 2 Costco warehouse stores.

Next to refrigerated foods

Contains 2,4-D and Mecoprop-p

Next to bakery goods

By the meat

2,4-D (or 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid is a systemic herbicide (broadleaf weed-killer). It is linked to several cancers, especially non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and soft tissue sarcoma, and can have other serious health effects including endocrine disruption (disruption of hormones), thyroid effects, neurotoxicity (nervous system damage), and developmental and reproductive effects.

As the post of Oct.19, 2015 indicated, a person's exposure to 2,4-D can be measured in a person's urine. There is much still unknown about what constant low-level exposure to 2,4-D does to a fetus, developing child, or adult of any age.

Of big concern is that the use of 2,4-D is increasing in the USA because of the development of new genetically modified soybean and corn strains that are resistant to 2,4-D. Thus farmers are using increasingly large amounts of 2,4-D on these corn and soybean crops in an attempt to control weeds. And yes, this means consumers are eating more foods with 2,4-D residues. (Note: long-term effects unknown.)

Mecoprop-p is a chlorophenoxy herbicide that is used to control a variety of weeds. It is not as toxic as 2,4-D, but it also has various health effects.

Go to the excellent Beyond Pesticides site for more information about all sorts of pesticides, resources, up-to-date information on pesticide laws, and more.