Prolonged exposure to weed medication can cause significant damage to Keystone species

Prolonged exposure to environmental concentrations of weed-eating Roundup causes significant damage to key rock types, according to new research. University of Birmingham.

At the University’s School of Biological Sciences, a group used water, or Daphnia, to test the effects of long-term exposure to Roundup concentrations, which are considered safe by regulators.

Even at approved regulatory levels, weeds have been found to cause embryonic developmental disorders. DNA harms and at the same time interferes with the metabolism and intestinal function of animals.

These findings are important because Daphnia is at the center of water food nets. They can be used to assess the impact of environmental changes on ecosystems. The results offer a starting point for tracking these effects between different species, including the potential effects of herbicides on humans.

Leading researcher Dr. Luisa Orsini says: “Research around Roundup has been controversial since it first hit the market in the 1970s. Allegations that it causes diseases and ailments, from cancer to autism, contradict paid reports in the industry claiming that the product has no harmful effects.

“The problem is that a lot of the evidence is rooted in outdated toxicity tests to look at the number of animals that die when they are exposed to extremely high concentrations of these chemicals. These tests also do not take into account the pathological effects of long-term low doses.

“What we are proposing is that poisoning be measured by looking at what happens at the molecular and fitness level of the animal after a long-term exposure that covers the entire life of the animal.”

This ‘system biology’ approach will allow researchers to understand the changes these chemicals create over key functions such as metabolizing sugars or repairing wound tissue. Researchers can also use the similarity in molecular functions between species to determine the effects of these chemicals on humans.

The approach tested by the researchers can be applied to a large number of chemicals in the environment. In addition to herbicides, the team uses methods to investigate insecticides, anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics and heavy metals (arsenic), which are common in polluted water sources around the world.

The team is working with the UK’s Environment Agency to bring new methods to regulators to investigate chemicals and their impact on biodiversity. Scientists and the Environment Agency have a long-term goal of modernizing environmental practices to more effectively regulate the use of chemicals and reduce their impact on humans and the environment.

“Using our methods, it will be possible to identify and rank the most harmful chemicals that enter the environment,” says Dr. Orsini. “We can’t stop environmental pollution in one step, but we can work with industry partners in a more targeted and effective way by identifying the worst culprits.”

Reference: December 15, 2020, Microbiome.
DOI: 10.1186 / s40168-020-00943-5

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