The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 12, 2005


Facts about weed killers Roundup and Burnout

Two of the herbicides mentioned in the pathway maintenance discussions [see Selectmen Create Weed Control Task Force, page 1] are Roundup and Burnout. Both are systemic, non-selective weed killers, but the two herbicides have significant differences. Roundup contains the enzyme inhibitor glyphosate, and is manufactured by the Monsanto corporation. Among the ingredients of Burnout, from St. Gabriel Laboratories, are: Acetic acid (vinegar), citric acid, clove oil, and sodium laurel sulphate. Vinegar is the largest ingredient. Glyphosate and acetic acid, citric acid and clove oil formulations are also sold under other brand names.


Glyphosate has been widely used worldwide for the last 20 years in both food and non-food crop applications. It is also applied at low levels as a plant growth regulator. Monsanto sells genetically modified corn, cotton, soybeans, wheat and canola seeds with built-in resistance to Roundup to facilitate the use of this herbicide in farming.

Registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), glyphosate is in Toxicity Category III (I being the highest and IV the lowest toxicity). While the EPA says that soil microbes "readily and completely degrade" glyphosate, the agency does list possible effects of long-term high glyphosate exposure to include "kidney damage and reproductive effects." For more information see the web site

Acetic acid

Household vinegar contains about 5% acetic acid, however stronger conentrations are more effective for weed control. Repeated applications are recommended. Acetic acid is a naturally occurring substance in all living organisms, and the EPA states that ingesting small quantities is not considered harmful, though people should protect against skin or eye irritation with accidental exposure. The acid decomposes into carbon dioxide and water.

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