The herbicide Roundup has been in the news recently for its potential to cause cancer. Last week, Island Home Center & Lumber created news of its own when it announced it would stop carrying Roundup or any other product containing glyphosate, the active ingredient in the well-known weed killer.
The store’s garden manager, Tanner Yelken, said store owner Earl Van Buskirk asked him what he thought the store should do after a California jury ruled in August that Roundup caused a former school groundskeeper’s terminal cancer.
“I recommended that it was in everyone’s best interest to do it,’ Yelken said, speaking about discontinuing the product.
He added that he has spent a lot of time researching Roundup and found compelling evidence that it is cancer-causing as well “a ton of reports” that say it is not. While it was difficult to come to a definitive conclusion, he said he believes the science that says it is harmful is strong enough to warrant its removal, and there has been community support for doing so.
Among the community members who have been encouraging Yelken and other business owners to discontinue Roundup are the husband-wife duo of Michael Laurie and Diane Emerson. Laurie, a longtime sustainability consultant, said he was pleased with the news last week.
“Why risk our health and the health of the island by using products like Roundup?” he said.
He added that it is not just glyphosate that is a concern, but also the other ingredients in Roundup that are not listed on the label — and how that combination works altogether.
“The science is imperfect,” he added, noting there are potential effects for bees, humans and the soil itself. “How far and wide do these impacts go?”
Yelken said to stop stocking Roundup, he needed to find an alternative that worked. Many organic products he had tried would weaken weeds, he said, but not kill them. Emerson recommended agricultural vinegar, which the store now has a large amount of on the shelves. He tried it out.
“Sure enough, in a day it had killed the weeds,” he said. “I now have it, an organic alternative that is effective.”
Late last week, the community response to the store’s decision had been nearly all positive.
“I am really happy with the initial reaction,” Yelken said.
More quietly than at Island Home Center & Lumber, Thriftway also stopped selling Roundup last week. Floral Manager Nichole Ivaska said the decision was based on the store’s sales, and she noted the store had not ordered any of the product for the last year.
“It was not selling, so we got rid of it,” she said.
Meanwhile at Ace, owner John Yates said people at that store have been evaluating Roundup for a long time, and he noted that Ace carries three or four alternatives to the product and tries to educate people about them.
“At the moment, we are trying to decide what to do,” he said, speaking about Roundup. “We know it is a hot point for the island.”
Finally, Laurie says that while shifting away from Roundup is a good idea, there are many other problematic pesticides and herbicides that people still use. It is important that people adopt different practices, and like Yelken, he stressed the importance of effective options.
“We must come up with good alternatives that work,” he said.