DEAR READERS: I wonder how many municipalities in Minnesota and other states are poisoning their communities, with various herbicides being sprayed along public walkways, roadsides and parks for purposes I find, as a veterinarian and biologist, at best highly questionable.
On May 19, 2023, while walking my dog beside Basset Creek in Golden Valley, Minnesota, I saw some flags posted with the warning: “Keep children and pets off until May 19.” As I bent down to read what had been sprayed, a Monarch butterfly landed a couple of feet away on a young milkweed plant. Both may soon be gone, one from the herbicide and the other from starvation.
The flag notation indicated that Vastlan and AquaNeat had been sprayed on the plants beside the creek.
Results of one study about Vastlan's active ingredient, triclopyr choline, suggest that it may be more difficult for dogs to excrete triclopyr compared to other animals. Always take steps to minimize your pets' exposure when using pesticides. Triclopyr is low to moderate in developmental toxicity and moderate in reproductive toxicity. Details of the risks of this herbicide are available at npic.orst.edu/factsheets/triclopyrgen.html#
AquaNeat contains 5.4 pounds per gallon of the active ingredient glyphosate, in the form of its isopropylamine salt. Many scientists have documented the worldwide public and environmental harms of Monsanto/Bayer’s glyphosate, widely marketed as Roundup.
Multimillion-dollar settlements have been reached over exposure of Roundup users who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. New research from the U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health shows that childhood exposure to the world’s most widely used weed killer, glyphosate, is linked to liver inflammation and metabolic disorder in early adulthood, which could lead to liver cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.
(See Brenda Eskenazi et al, 2023 Association of Lifetime Exposure to Glyphosate and Aminomethylphosphonic Acid (AMPA) with Liver Inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome at Young Adulthood: Findings from the CHAMACOS Study, Environmental Health Perspectives, 131:3, CID: 037001; doi.org/10.1289/EHP11721).)
Glyphosate is highly toxic to many aquatic species, and applying Vastlan and AquaNeat next to Basset Creek is an affront to common sense, sound science and public responsibility. It is notable that at the end of the road where I live is the Minneapolis Clinic of Neurology, which has its extensive lawns regularly sprayed with Roundup.
Spot-spraying these herbicides on “invasive” plants such as sting nettles should be reconsidered. Many such plants provide food for insects, and nettles have medicinal and nutritive value -- they can even be made into cloth!
Herbicides may play a significant role in the proliferation of prions in deer, causing chronic wasting disease, and are a recognized factor in the genesis of chronic neurological disorders in humans, such as Parkinson's disease.
The good news, reported by Jennifer Bjorhus (Star Tribune, May 29, 2023, "Roadsides about to get wild again"), is that, modeled on a similar prairie program in Iowa, the Minnesota Department of Transportation will rewild roadside ditches along state and interstate highways with native vegetation for birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators. All states should follow this initiative and prohibit routine weed-spraying and haymaking to help in biodiversity recovery and habitat restoration.
The widespread use of herbicides, especially by conventional agriculture and agroforestry, is decimating natural biodiversity -- plants that sustain pollinators and other beneficial insects and the reptiles, birds and bats that feed on them. These and other petrochemically derived pesticides have been found in rainwater and the waters we drink and bathe in. Time to clean up shop or ship off!
SOME DOGS’ BRAINS MAY BE GETTING LARGER
Domesticated animals' average brain size is nearly always smaller than that of their wild ancestors; the average brain volume of wolves is 24% larger than that of domestic dogs. But the average brain size of dogs that are the most genetically distinct from wolves is larger than that of ancient breeds, according to a study published in Evolution. Researchers say that dogs' brains are growing as they evolve through selective breeding, possibly driven by the demands of the complex human-made society in which they now live. (Full story: Psychology Today, June 13.)
Perhaps in a few generations, some dogs will verbally communicate more fluently with us, their word comprehension and associated attentiveness becoming even more astounding. As for our own brains, they are being “rewired" in childhood by interfacing with the internet/cyberspace, and reset therapeutically with mushrooms and herbs!
All things are connected, and I trust that artificial intelligence may expand our limited brains so we cause less harm, better serving the common good and the good of the commons as responsible planetary stewards.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)