Health impacts of herbicides and pesticides: bridging the gap from correlation to causation with more low‐cost environmental data

Lead PI: Dr. Alexander F. Van Geen , Beizhan Yan , , Rodrigo Soares

Unit Affiliation: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

January 2021 - December 2022
South America
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Even though glyphosate is worldwide by far the most widely used herbicide, data on its distribution, reactivity, and transport in the real‐world environment are surprisingly limited. The reason is that measuring glyphosate and its degradation products is both difficult and expensive. We propose to address what has been referred to as this “glyphosate paradox” by building on the capabilities of a new handheld Fourier‐transform infrared spectrometer to develop a field‐based method for quantifying not only glyphosate in soil and water but eventually other widely‐used herbicides and pesticides such as chlorpyrifos or atrazine. The laboratory development will be complemented by a deployment in the field after consultation with a team of development economists. Geoscientists and economists will together select a site where this new capability could strengthen the link between glyphosate application and human health already established by economists, following a methodology that is distinct from more traditional toxicological and epidemiological studies. One possibility would be coca‐growing fields in remote parts of Colombia that have been sprayed with glyphosate from the air for more than a decade by US‐funded contractors. Glyphosate‐resistant soybean growing areas of Brazil are another possibility.