The nation’s most widely used herbicide — and one of its most controversial — has the highest concentration in the Midwest, parts of the South and Colorado, according to a new analysis.
NBC News analyzed 2019 data from the U.S. Geological Survey to determine where glyphosate, the chemical found in popular products such as the weed killer Roundup, was used the most.
It found that most of Iowa, Indiana and Illinois, as well as parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota and North and South Dakota, had high concentrations. The parts of Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi that border the Mississippi River were also found to have a high amount of the herbicide.
The single highest glyphosate usage rate among U.S counties was found in Lake County, Colorado, which had almost 2,000 pounds sprayed per square mile, NBC reported. Iowa and Illinois, known as major producers of soy and corn products, accounted for 15% of the nation’s glyphosate usage.
Glyphosate was first introduced to the U.S. agricultural scene in the 1970s by Monsanto. It has been the most widely used herbicide since 2001, five years after Monsanto introduced genetically modified seeds that could withstand higher amounts of the chemical.
The chemical has been scrutinized due to its association with cancer, critics have said. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said in 2015 that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans. The Environmental Protection Agency found a “compelling” link between the pesticide’s usage and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2019, according to NBC.
Sen. Cory A. Booker, New Jersey Democrat, pushed the EPA to give a thorough review of glyphosate’s health risks during a review last month.
He mentioned independent research that has linked the pesticide’s usage to other health issues, including kidney disease, shortened pregnancies and lowered birth weight. Mr. Booker said those concerns have prompted 11 countries to ban the use of the chemical and 13 others to restrict its use.
NBC reported that the EPA’s safety limits for glyphosate exposure from food are twice the levels allowed in the European Union.
Monsanto has reached settlements in nearly 100,000 Roundup lawsuits and paid out $11 billion to complainants who’ve alleged the product is associated with their cancer diagnosis, according to the Lawsuit Information Center. German pharmaceutical company Bayer bought Monsanto in 2018.
The EPA said it will complete its registration review for glyphosate in 2026, according to food and farm policy news site Agri-Pulse.