Roundup Roundup everywhere, but is it safe?

is roundup safe

A reader wrote to me alarmed about the use of weedkiller Roundup around the kids’ veggie patches at school.

Roundup is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. It’s sprayed on commercial farms, public gardens, roadsides and private lawns. But is Roundup safe to use in vegetable gardens?

Considering so many of the world’s crops are liberally doused with the stuff, you’d hope so. The formula has been around for decades and has long been viewed as a reasonably benign weedkiller (which puts the moron in oxymoron, if you ask me).

But in recent years studies have popped up here and there that say otherwise. And the longer Roundup is in use, the more evidence there is to the contrary.

While it may be fab at whacking weeds,  the key ingredient in Roundup has some big question marks over it. Australian consumer watchdog Choice says:

“Glyphosate, the active chemical in Roundup, has been implicated as a potential endocrine disruptor in concentrations 100 times lower than those used in agriculture. However, it’s highly promoted for use in the garden.”

Crops such as soy, corn and canola have been genetically modified to resist the effects of Roundup, meaning farmers can spray the weedkiller directly onto the crops without losing yield.What this means is that we are seeing higher concentrations of glyphosate in food and consequently in people.

Other concerns over glyphosate and one of the other so-called “inert” ingredients in Roundup include:

  • Harmful to gut bacteria, which is so important for human health.
  • Long-term exposure to glyphosate via residue on foods can cause chronic inflammation.
  • May actually enhance the effect of other toxic chemicals in your system.
  • Can interfere with nutritional uptake.
  • Implicated in kidney disease and non-hodgkins lymphoma
  • Linked to autism and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

The Argentinian government banned the use of Roundup in heavily populated areas after reported increases in cancer and birth defects. Meanwhile, in Holland, Roundup has been banned for non-commercial use, meaning people can no-longer spray it on their lawns.

Keep it away from kids

Kids are so much more vulnerable to the effects of chemicals. Not only are they closer to the ground and more likely to have their hands in their mouths, they have an undeveloped blood-brain barrier and their metabolisms aren’t quite ready to deal with toxic onslaughts.

To reduce your children’s exposure to Roundup, stop using it to weed the backyard or driveway and encourage everyone to leave their shoes at the door so you don’t track it in to your home from the park or pavement. Avoid GM ingredients in food and buy organic produce where you can.

As for the question of whether Roundup is safe to use in vegetable gardens, I would say no. And it certainly should not be used in or around gardens where children will be handling and eating the produce. If your school has a vegetable garden scheme, find out how weeds are managed not only in the patch, but also around it. Ask if there is a better way.

Safe alternatives to Roundup

Depending on the weed being targeted and area of use, there are several alternatives to Roundup. In the case of a veggie garden, the safest way to address weeds is to pull them out by hand. As someone who spends  hours hauling out nutgrass, I know this is a pain in the rear. But knowing the effects of weedkillers, I’m happy to keep on digging.

The area around a vegetable patch should be considered a chemical-free zone. At the moment, we have weeds growing all around our raised bed, so my plan is to eventually fill the area with a 30cm border of gravel. This is known as “designing out” the weeds.

For paths and driveways, try pouring boiling water directly onto the weeds, or a spray of vinegar mixed with dishwashing liquid. There are recipes out there that include salt, but this has the potential to be damaging to the soil beneath.

No matter what method you use, remember that even “natural” weedkillers will kill other plants and the creatures that live in the soil.

Finally, if you can’t persuade yourself, your school or your partner to stop using Roundup or another glyphosate weedkiller, ask them to be vigilant about mixing it together correctly, as it is only deemed “safe” when prepared as instructed on the bottle; make sure they never use it on windy days and ask them to consider switching to a “weed wand” that dabs the chemical directly onto the weed rather than spraying it around.

A range of sources for this article is listed below:


Dr Mercola

The Washington Post

The Healthy Home Economist

Greenpeace report: herbicide tolerance and GM crops

Huffington Post


  1. Cath says

    I agree that using Roundup is a bad idea, but it concerns me that you’ve used Dr Mercola as a source. Was it just the bit about autism that you got from his website?

    • (dt)em says

      Hi Cath, the sources aren’t listed in any order, but I actually found the section on the Seneff and Samsel study in the Dr Mercola article helpful, which I then verified with other sources. Hope that helps.

  2. Narelle says

    Hormone disrupters, effecting our thyroid.
    Next we need to look at fluoride in the water which is inhaled directly into our bodies when we have a shower. Hormone disrupting, effecting our thyroid. This directly effects our vitality for life and if we really care and do something about it, or it’s just all too hard and we let it happen.

  3. Liz says

    Hi, just found you today, love your blog and found this post interesting. I do use Roundup in the garden (the wand stuff finally killed off an elderflower growing through a shrub I wanted to keep- great for bees – so it does have it’s uses!) but I’m shocked people use it round veg beds!!

    Just a word of caution for your gravel idea though … we have that round our beds but when you spill soil on the gravel (inevitable) it’s impossible to sweep it all up, so you just end up with weeds growing in soil-y gravel! Admittedly our chooks free ranging over the beds in winter made the problem far worse, but we’d have still come to the same conclusion without their destructive tendencies ;)

  4. John A. Lafon says

    Hey Buddy,
    Nice Post!!

    It is found that the additives within the “Round Up” weed killer served the purpose of increasing the harmful effects of Glyphosate on placental cells. There are many harmful effects of this weed killer. Recently many lawsuits came forward for the help of the farmers and families that are affected by the “Round Up” weed killer. Specifically, you may qualify to file a Roundup lawsuit if you or a loved one have been diagnosed with leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or multiple myeloma.

    Thanks for sharing such an informative post !!!!!


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