Monthly Archives: November 2016

What’s the real risk of Monsanto’s controversial weed killer?

The latest government report on glyphosate contradicts the findings of the World Health Organization’s cancer group.

By Willy Blackmore


Over the past 30 years, the Environmental Protection Agency has considered the health risks posed by the herbicide glyphosate—best known by the Monsanto brand name Roundup—on five occasions. When it first looked at the issue in 1985, the agency determined that glyphosate was a “possible human carcinogen.” A year later, a third-party panel called into question the study that first assessment was based on, and the EPA declared glyphosate “not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity”—the jury’s still out, essentially—while promising to continue to examine the issue as new research came out. Then, in 1991, the EPA took another look and backed off further from its initial assessment, saying there was “evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans.” In 2015, that assessment was updated to the safer-sounding “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” On Friday, a new review of research published by the EPA again found that the herbicide, which is now the most widely used in agricultural history, does not cause cancer.

But there’s a bit of a problem with the agency’s three-decade drift toward declaring the herbicide as safe in stronger and stronger terms: Last year, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The announcement was major news: The declaration has put glyphosate into regulatory limbo in the European Union, where its safety approval may not be renewed, and has led to calls to ban the chemical outright in the United States. In the wake of the IARC announcement, tests of food products paid for by consumer groups have found trace levels of glyphosate in everything from beer to eggs to oatmeal.

The new EPA report—part of its ongoing risk assessment of glyphosate that is now years behind schedule and may not be completed until next spring—follows another that was published briefly on the agency’s website before being taken down. (The EPA said it was published prematurely, but the pages were marked “final.”) It too determined that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.

It has all led to growing consumer concern over glyphosate—and distrust of both Monsanto, its major producer, and the processes by which its safety is determined.

So does glyphosate cause cancer? Consumers tend to see things like carcinogenicity in black-and-white terms: something either gives people cancer or it does not. Just look at the calls for the herbicide to be banned: Armed with the “probably carcinogenic to humans” claim, petitions like one from Care2, which garnered more than 128,000 signatures, argue, “Glyphosate should not be in our consumer products in any amount. It is not safe as previously claimed.”

Reviews of scientific literature like those conducted by the IARC and the EPA are anything but black and white. The process involves sifting through piles of research data, determining what qualifies as a sound result, and making a case—carcinogenic or not carcinogenic—based on the evidence that the bulk of the data, especially the sound data, supports.

Should a weed killer that might cause cancer be banned?

In the IARC report from last year, the authors wrote, “There was limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of glyphosate.” The case-control studies the IARC scientists looked at “reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustment for other pesticides.”

But those studies predominantly looked at white men in the United States, Canada, and Sweden. Sure, in recent history in those places, white men have done a lot of farming, and what with farmers encountering glyphosate in far higher amounts than anyone ingests by eating oatmeal or honey, that seems like a reasonable place to start investigating whether exposure to an agricultural chemical might give someone cancer. But it’s not a representative sample of humanity—no women, a single ethnicity, and in a limited geographical area. The IARC authors looked at some studies on lab animals and at research done on increased blood levels of a compound associated with glyphosate, but the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma studies provided the bulk of the evidence.

In compiling the EPA review, a much broader swath of research was reviewed, and the authors also considered the studies included in the IARC report that looked at farmers exposed to glyphosate. The EPA found fault with all the studies, determining that they showed a statistically insignificant increase in risk or did not properly control for other pesticide exposures. In discussing the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma studies, the authors wrote, “There is clearly a strong potential for confounding by co-exposures to other pesticides since many are highly correlated and have been reported to be risk factors for NHL.” This means that these men may have developed cancer because they worked with pesticides, but glyphosate might not have been the culprit.

With regard to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the EPA authors concluded, “Due to study limitations and contradictory results across studies of at least equal quality, a conclusion regarding the association between glyphosate exposure and risk of NHL cannot be determined based on the available data.”

So does glyphosate cause cancer? The IARC said it’s probable and largely based that assertion on a series of studies that found “limited evidence” that it is carcinogenic to humans. That’s the group’s mandate: to determine if a chemical might, even in rare circumstances, cause cancer. The IARC review by no means says that eating foods that contain trace amounts of glyphosate is a cancer risk. While the EPA arrived at a different conclusion with regard to the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma studies, it did determine that a link between glyphosate and that type of cancer couldn’t be determined based on the existing data. Though it noted that many of the studies were conducted before 1996, when Roundup Ready crops were first introduced and glyphosate use began to skyrocket.

While it’s likely that more tests finding trace amounts of glyphosate in food products will grab headlines and that there will be continued calls for new regulations, the focus on risk to consumers may be a case of missing the forest for the trees. As Paul Towers of the Pesticide Action Network told TakePart in May, there may be health concerns, “but I think the bigger problem—and potential solution—lies with the USDA supporting a better agricultural system that doesn’t rely on these chemicals. I think our biggest concern remains the kind of system that agriculture gets stuck in—the pesticide treadmill of overuse, misuse, developing or encouraging invasive pests or invasive weeds that we then need to bring in the next chemical in order to deal with.”

Solving that problem involves asking a question more complicated than whether or not glyphosate causes cancer.

The great late pheasant season


While the opening weekend of pheasant season is a highly-anticipated tradition, it may not provide the best hunting of the year. Hunting can actually be better later when winter weather arrives and fewer hunters are in the field.


The big groups of hunters are usually gone after the second weekend of the season, leaving only dedicated bird hunters, who have Walk-in Hunting Access tracts and other public lands to themselves. And it’s often easier to get permission on private land after opening weekend, especially after the firearm deer season, which ends on Dec. 11 this year.


Colder weather and a little snow on the ground can dramatically improve hunter success because pheasants often congregate in heavy cover in these conditions. The cool air temperature and moisture will also help bird dogs find more birds.


And while it’s easier to predict where you’ll find late-season pheasants, you can’t pull up to a likely-looking weed patch and start slamming doors and hollering at dogs. Late-season birds didn’t survive a month of hunting season by being stupid, and success requires some strategy and stealth. In fact, a single hunter quietly following a close-working dog in heavy cover may have the best chance of surprising birds for close flushes. A small group of hunters will increase their odds of success if they park some distance away from the heaviest cover and approach quietly. Strategically-placed blockers will also add birds to the bag on late season hunts.


Hunting birds on a crisp morning in fresh snow is every pheasant hunter’s dream. New snow provides great tracking conditions, providing sign of not only where birds are located, but also of where other hunters have already been.


Watch the weather and make plans to hunt after the first winter storm passes through. Revisit the heavy weed patches that made you sweat on opening day and you’ll likely find your best hunting of the year.

Free entrance at Kansas State Parks on Black Friday


The best deals in stores can usually be seen on Black Friday, but the best price of all will be seen at Kansas State Parks: free. Spend Black Friday outdoors, hiking, biking, or just relaxing at a Kansas state park and you’ll not only find yourself a little happier and healthier, you’ll also be able to give your wallet a rest. That’s a win-win. Kansas state park daily vehicle permits are not required on Nov. 25, Black Friday, as Kansas joins REI in celebrating “OptOutside.” REI, a Seattle-based outdoor recreation and sporting goods giant, is going to close on Black Friday and encourages everyone to spend the time outdoors. Be a part of this movement by posting a picture of you or your family at one of the 26 Kansas state parks on Black Friday to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtags #myksstatepark and #optoutside and be entered into a drawing for a free cabin stay. Think you can find a better deal than that?


Learn more about Kansas state parks at, including information on facility updates, directions and how to make reservations. Kansas state parks are open year-around, though water is available only at camping areas with frost-free hydrants during winter.


On Black Friday, park offices will be closed, as well as over the weekend, but weekend visitors can pay user fees at any self-pay station. Hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased online at and wherever licenses are sold.

Waconda Lake to host annual youth and women’s pheasant hunt


The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) and sponsoring partners will conduct the 2016 Youth and Women’s Celebrity Pheasant Hunt at Waconda Lake (Glen Elder Reservoir) on Saturday, Dec. 10. The event will begin at 7:15 a.m. with breakfast in the Hopewell Church basement at Glen Elder State Park, followed by a pre-hunt safety program. Hunters, guides, and mentors will then spend the remainder of the morning and early afternoon hunting various limited-access refuge areas around Glen Elder Reservoir. Lunch will be provided by the Waconda Lake Association.


Youth ages 11-16 and women are eligible to apply for this hunt, which is designed to provide comfortable and positive hunting experiences for new or beginning hunters. Previous hunting experience is not required, and some shotguns and ammunition can be provided for those without equipment. Hunters must apply no later than Dec. 1 by calling the Glen Elder Area Office at (785) 545-3345 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Forty spots will be available.


A unique aspect of this event is that participants will interact with and hunt alongside a few Hero-Celebrities invited to serve as hunting mentors. Past mentors include former professional athletes, television personalities, and military personnel who have recently returned from deployment.

Participants can also visit trap shooting stations that will be set up west of the KDWPT Glen Elder Area Office. From 1:30 – 4 p.m., the public is welcome to enjoy shooting at the stations.


All participants will receive a commemorative item from the event, as well as additional prizes provided by sponsors. The hunters’ banquet and dinner will be held Saturday night. All event participants are invited to attend and will be asked to RSVP for the banquet when they sign up for the hunt.


For more information on this event, or to serve as a volunteer mentor, contact Chris Lecuyer at (785) 545-3345.

Hunters boost Kansas’ economy

On Nov. 11, sleepy little towns in western Kansas will transform into centers with crowded motel parking lots, busy streets and packed cafes. If you’re up before dawn on Nov. 12, you’ll see men and women dressed in khaki and orange looking happy, despite the hour, while feeding and watering hunting dogs or grabbing breakfast at the local “Hunters’ Pancake Feed.” Everyone is upbeat because opening day is finally here.

This year’s positive bird forecast has hunters raring to go. But there are others who anticipate this day almost as much: the business owners in these small rural communities. Hunters are good for the Kansas economy.

On the second Saturday in November, 40,000 to 50,000 hunters will be in the field pursuing pheasants and quail in Kansas. Many hunters will have traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to get here and those hunters will spend a minimum of $150 per day on lodging, food and fuel. Most will stay three or four days, and when bird populations are good, the second weekend can be just as busy. When all the revenue generated by hunters in Kansas during the year is added up, it will top $400,000,000.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, hunting is responsible for nearly 8,000 jobs in Kansas, generating $2.9 million in salaries and wages and $60 million in state and local taxes. Through the purchase of annual hunting licenses and permits, hunters generate more than $20 million and qualify Kansas to receive nearly $10 million in federal aid that is derived from excise taxes on hunting and shooting equipment. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s wildlife programs receive no general tax funding, so hunters pay for all wildlife conservation and law enforcement efforts.

For bird hunters, a good opening weekend means heavy game bags and the camaraderie of friends and family. For Kansas business owners, a good opening weekend means extra sales and a better bottom line.

Driver’s license, wildlife checkpoints planned

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) game wardens, Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) troopers and county sheriff’s officers will conduct joint highway checkpoints at various locations on Sunday, November 13, 2016. Upland bird, deer and migratory bird seasons will be underway, and these checkpoints are intended to help enforce state and federal wildlife laws, as well as the state’s driver’s licensing laws.

Depending on the location, KHP troopers or county sheriff’s officers will operate the first stage of the checkpoints to be sure drivers are properly licensed to be driving. If a driver does not have a valid license, appropriate enforcement actions will be taken. Travelers should not expect major delays from this portion of the checkpoints.

Occupants of vehicles in the first check lane will be asked if they are hunters or are transporting wildlife. Travelers answering yes in either case will be directed to a nearby KDWPT check lane where game wardens will check for required licenses and permits, count the game and gather biological, harvest, and hunter success information. This portion of the checkpoints should also cause minimal delay.

The following locations may be used if weather conditions and manpower allow:

Central Kansas – game wardens and KHP troopers

US-81 near milepost 161, Ottawa County

US-56 & K-46 intersection, McPherson County

K-156 near milepost 165, Ellsworth County

US-36 & K-14 intersection, Jewell County

K-156 & US-56 intersection, Pawnee County

US-281 & K-4 intersection, BartonCounty

Southeast Kansas – game wardens, KHP troopers, Woodson and Greenwood County sheriff’s officers

US-54 rest area near the Greenwood/Woodson county line, Greenwood County

US-400 rest area near the Greenwood/Butler county line, Greenwood County

US-75 rest area north of Yates Center, Woodson County

Western Kansas – game wardens and Ford County sheriff’s officers

US-50 near milepost 127.5, Ford County

US-400 near milepost 127.5, Ford County

US-400 near milepost 139, Ford County

US-54 near milepost 88, Ford County

US-283 near milepost 37, Ford County

Additional wildlife checkpoints will occur around the state during the fall and winter hunting seasons.