The Monsanto Company is well known as the creator of Roundup, genetically engineered food, and other “technologies” in the agricultural industry.
But what most people don’t realize about the company is that it has a long history as a major polluter in many other areas, ranging from its production of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War to its role in the creation of several “superfund” sites: parts of the country that have been horrifically cotnaminated by chemicals such as PCBs and many others.
The town of Soda Springs, Idaho is one such example, having been named a superfund site more than two decades ago because of the extreme pollution it suffered at the hands of Monsanto.
Most people have never heard of the tiny town with a population of less than 3,000 people, but it provides a cautionary tale about what Monsanto’s own vision of a so-called “sustainable” future.
Monsanto’s Dirty Secret: Collateral Damage of How Roundup is Made
“I stood just beyond a barbed-wire fence at about nine o’clock at night and watched as trucks dumped molten red heaps of radioactive refuse over the edge of what is fast becoming a mountain of waste,” said author Bart Elmore, assistant professor of environmental history at the Ohio State University and a Carnegie Fellow at New America in a new article published on the Dissent Magazine website.
Elmore’s visit to Soda Springs was made in order to find out the truth behind how Roundup, Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide that has been linked to cancer by the World Health Organization and others, is really made.
“The sustainable future Monsanto hawks remains tied to a toxic Superfund past that is not even past,” Elmore concludes at the end of the article.
Prior to that line, he recants tales of his visit to Soda Springs, where plumes of harmful chemicals, elevated levels of “contaminants of concern” in the groundwater, mercury emissions, and large amounts of radioactive byproducts from the mining of elemental phosphorous for glyphosate to be used in its flagship Roundup product were all observed.
Leading up to his visit to Soda Springs, where glyphosate’s constituents are mined, Elmore obtained documents from the EPA via a Freedom of Information Act request that tell the story of Roundup’s origins at a superfund hazardous waste site, he writes. The documents show “disturbing” environmental and human health concerns at the beginning of Roundup’s life cycle, not just the end (when it is sprayed on food crops), he continues.
His writing paints a harsh picture about how the controversial herbicide is created:
“Monsanto’s weedkiller comes from beneath the soil,” Elmore wrote. “The active ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate, which is ultimately derived from elemental phosphorous extracted from phosphate rock buried below ground. Monsanto gets its phosphate from mines in Southeast Idaho near the town of Soda Springs, a small community of about 3,000 people. The company has been operating there since the 1950s.”
“I went to visit last summer, and what I found was startling…”
For more on what Elmore saw and how Monsanto’s mining has led to the widespread poisoning of the town, check out the full article by clicking here.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Beebe/Flickr