QI had someone tell me that Roundup kills earthworms. Is this true or false?

I had someone tell me that Roundup kills earthworms. Is this true or false?

AExpert Answer

Earthworms, along with other soil macroorganisms, provide essential ecosystem services. In the most important book written on earthworms in the last 100 years, Edwards and Bohlen (Biology and Ecology of Earthworms, 1996) examined the potential impact of many agricultural products on earthworms. The authors rank the toxicity of active ingredients to earthworms using a scale of 0 (relatively nontoxic) to 3 (extremely toxic). Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup formulations, is ranked 0.
Monsanto has conducted several laboratory toxicity studies that demonstrate that glyphosate and the original Roundup herbicide are not harmful to earthworms at soil concentrations that greatly exceed levels expected by normal applications (Giesy et al., 2000). This testing was done with the earthworm species Eisenia foetida, which is a common surrogate and has shown comparable sensitivity to pesticides as other earthworms (Edwards and Bohlen, 1996). In these studies,
Roundup herbicide was incorporated uniformly into the soil to ensure exposure of the worms throughout the study. There was no mortality of earthworms observed at the highest test concentration of 5,000 parts per million (ppm and equivalent to mg/kg dry soil) of Roundup herbicide, and no adverse effect of any kind was seen at the level of 500 ppm. For comparison, glyphosate concentrations in soil immediately after application of a glyphosate herbicide are typically less than a few ppm in the top centimeters of soil and are dependent on the amount of herbicide intercepted by target plant material. Consequently, there is a large margin of safety between the no-effect level and environmentally relevant soil concentrations. These studies have been reviewed by the World Health Organization (WHO, 1994) and several governmental regulatory agencies around the world.
Furthermore, the effects of glyphosate and its primary soil degradate, AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid), on earthworm reproduction have been investigated (EU Glyphosate DAR, 2014). No effects on earthworm (Eisenia foetida) growth or reproduction were observed at soil concentrations of 473 and 132 ppm glyphosate or AMPA. For glyphosate and AMPA, these no-effect concentrations provide a large margin of safety (Giesy et al., 2000). All of the studies discussed above were conducted according to standard protocol developed under the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the studies were performed under quality and compliance measures.
Edwards C.A., Bohlen P.J. (1996). Biology and Ecology of Earthworms, Ed. 3. Chapman & Hall Ltd., London.
EU Glyphosate Drat Assessment Report (DAR) (2014). http://dar.efsa.europa.eu/dar-web/provision
Giesy J.P., Dobson S., Solomon K.R. (2000). Ecotoxicological Risk Assessment for Roundup Herbicide. Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 167: 35-120.
WHO (World Health Organization) (1994). Glyphosate: Environmental Health Criteria 159. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.

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