Compeche, Mexico, in the Yucatan peninsula, grows more soybeans than any other state in Mexico. Hopelchen municipality is the largest producer in the state, and annual production is growing. The largest producers are commercial, with some subsistence farmers. The main criticism of the current systems of agriculture is that they lead to: (1) excessive deforestation, (2) excessive use of chemicals, (3) excessive use of genetically modified (GM) seeds from Monsanto, and (4) use of glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide.
Deforestation in Hopelchen results mainly from industrial agriculture, accounting for 68% of lost forest. Some years have very heavy rainfall, so the workers dig wells to prevent flooding of the fields by funneling water into the ground. The soils in Yucatan are very permeable. Thus, groundwater becomes contaminated with pesticides. The wells are not legal and are said to lead to desertification because of the loss of runoff water.
Pesticide contamination of groundwater is high because Roundup is so highly soluble in water. It can persist in groundwater for 170 to 315 days under certain conditions common in the Yucatan. Roundup has been found in the groundwater of protected areas in Mexico. Towns which get their drinking water from these protected areas are likely to be exposed to Roundup.
Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide that is used around the world. It was introduced in 1970 for weed control. GM plants have been created from soybeans and corn (maize) so they will not be killed by applications of the herbicide.
Bee mortality has been a problem in Campeche in areas close to glyphosate contamination. The International Agency for Cancer Research has classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Some studies have linked glyphosate to gene, hormonal, reproductive, and neurologic risks. Humans are exposed as agricultural workers, local residents, as passers-by, through the food chain, or through drinking water. Glyphosate passes unchanged through the body as urine where it can be measured.
The present study tested Roundup in the groundwater, bottled drinking water, and in urine of subsistence farmers in Campeche state. The control group was made up of fishermen. Drinking water is extracted from the groundwater, subjected to reverse osmosis, and bottled. Groundwater levels of glyphosate were high in agricultural areas from 1.25 microg/L to 1.47 microg/L. The lowest levels were in the town of Campeche at 0.44 micro/L. The European Glyphosate Task Force haz set the threshold for groundwater safety at 0.1 microg/L.
Glyphosate was found in bottled drinking water from several communities, as well as in commercial bottled water from Merida, Mexico. The highest community bottled water was 0.65 microg/L of glyphosate, and the bottled commercial water from Merida was 0.35 microg/L. The highest urine level of glyphosate from subsistence farmers was in Mujica at 0.47 microg/L, and the highest level in fishermen was only 0.22 microg/L.
CONCLUSION: Human health is at risk in view of widespread presence of glyphosate in water systems in agricultural areas of the state of Campeche, Mexico. “Almost all bottled drinking water samples in this study exceeded the acceptable limits of glyphosate for human consumption in the European Union.” Since glyphosate concentrates in urine, nearly all farmers tested positive for urinary glyphosate, and people living in cities had lower glyphosate urine levels.
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