Jeff Lowenfels: This year, resolve against Roundup and other pesticides

Jeff Lowenfels

The last column of the year is usually one where I allow myself to get a bit political, something I try not to do during the rest of the year's columns. Lately, this has to do with the fact that I am now a grandfather and I am lucky enough to be able to spend the winter holidays with my grandkids. Yes, for those who are not grandparents, it is the most wonderful thing in the world. You hear it, but you never believe it.

As a grandparent, it breaks my heart to know that these wonderful children and all their friends have entered a world which continually gets more dangerous because corporations have been given the same rights as people and have been able to take over large chunks of our government. These companies clearly own the regulatory systems that should be designed to keep us safe.

Since this is a garden column, let me keep this to gardening. As you know, I am a convert to organic gardening. Sometime in the 1990s, I saw the light and the harm that my use of chemicals was causing me, my young family and well as the environment. I admitted my mistakes and these columns became devoted to gardening using organic methods. No more chemicals. Gardening is supposed to be fun, not dangerous, not even potentially dangerous.

Since then, millions of American gardeners, including tens of thousands of Alaskan gardeners, have stopped using chemicals, in particular weed-killing herbicides such as Roundup (glyphosate). Despite our conversion, every one of us most probably has Roundup in our bloodstreams unless we somehow are able to restrict our diets to entirely organic foods, a difficult feat made easier, of course, by growing as much food as possible using organic methods.

This is a direct byproduct of genetically modified foods, which were supposed to result in less use of herbicides by farmers, but have caused super resistant weeds that actually require the use of more glyphosate than before. It is also as a result of the fact that companies that manufacture and market these chemicals (glyphosate is Monsanto Corporation's product) are allowed to submit the studies used by our government to conclude their products are safe. How absurd is that?

There are countless numbers of studies that point to glyphosate as the likely cause of mysterious increases in a whole host of horrible health issues, from inflammatory bowel diseases, arthritis and other autoimmune diseases to allergies and multiple sclerosis. There should be cause for at least alarm.

When you add to this Monsanto's successful insistence that we have no right to know what is in the very food we (and our grandchildren) eat, the alarm should be ringing very loudly, loudly enough for all to become organic gardeners, not to mention throwing out the elected officials who refuse to adopt a precautionary stance on health issues that are clearly impacting our health. Instead, we are going to have to wait until thousands of people die or get sick(er!) before we take dangerous herbicides off the market. Amazingly, it has taken over 30 years to start to address antibiotic use in livestock, despite clear warnings we have been lessening their efficiency.

Of course, we gardeners don't have to wait. We can make a New Year's resolution to never use Roundup or other chemicals we know or suspect are dangerous in our yards and gardens. We can ask our nurseries, box stores, supermarkets and other outlets to not sell non-organic pesticides and herbicide products until they can be proven safe by independent, peer-reviewed studies.

We can hope Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, both parents, and Rep. Don Young, a grandpa himself, will insist on laws labeling our foods properly not taking that right away from states. We can even request our own Alaska Legislature to ban the sale of these questionable chemicals in this state. This is, after all, Alaska, a place that prides itself on being the Last Frontier, the kind of place you would want your children and grandchildren to grow up.

Jeff Lowenfels' new book is "Teaming With Nutrients: The Organic Gardener's Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition."

Jeff's Garden Calendar

Christmas Tree Recycling begins December 28: Thanks to the efforts of Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling (ALPAR) and Carrs-Safeway, the annual tree recycling program will be back from Dec. 28 to Jan. 15. You know the routine: Remove all the lights, ornaments, tinsel and the stand and bring your tree to any Carrs location in Anchorage, Eagle River or Palmer. No wreaths or plastic bags, please. Your tree will be chipped and these chips will be donated to local non-profits in part to beautify gardens and trails. Boy Scout Troop 268 will pick up trees in Anchorage and Eagle River for a small fee. Call 868-8899 or email


Jeff Lowenfels
Daily News correspondent