The Problem With Herbicides — It’s Not What You Think

By: | August 20, 2019

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

News that a California jury awarded $2 billion to a couple who alleged the weed killer Roundup caused their cancer roiled the environmental underwriting markets. A weed killer that kills people is clearly something that carriers might not want to insure.

As dire as a cancer diagnosis is, though, there are problems with Roundup that extend beyond recent headlines.  The problems have to do with the way we produce food in the United States, how we treat our planet and a moral arithmetic that will wind up handing future generations a big fat zero if we don’t clean up our act.


Here’s the model I find so perverse: Genetically engineer a seed so that it’s the only thing that will survive if you spray your weed killer. Plant that seed. Spray your weed killer liberally. Every plant but your genetically modified seed will die.

Big plus in the food production column, say the advocates of this approach. But is it?

Our planet is undergoing a mass-species extinction. Dozens of species are dying out daily.

The science on the role of Roundup in the plight of Monarch butterflies, for example, is mixed. Some say Roundup kills milkweed, the Monarch’s primary food source, and is the cause of their decline. Others disagree.

As dire as a cancer diagnosis is, though, there are problems with Roundup that extend beyond recent headlines.

I appeal to simple human logic, supported by a high school-level science education. Does anyone think that using chemicals to wipe out thousands of square miles of native plants isn’t impacting insects, birds and higher forms of life?

One scientist can claim Roundup is the culprit in Monarch deaths. Monsanto can hire a scientist who will say the opposite. Listen to your gut. What is it saying? &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Matrix: Presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance

10 Severe Weather Risks Affecting Businesses’ Property and More

Every year, severe weather costs approximately $630 billion for the U.S. But this is not a property issue alone; several lines are feeling the strain.
By: | June 1, 2021

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]