The active ingredients of the commonly used herbicides, RoundUp, Kamba and 2,4-D (glyphosate, dicamba and 2,4-D, respectively), each alone cause antibiotic resistance at concentrations well below label application rates, a new study led by researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand has found. Professor Jack Heinemann of the School of Biological Sciences in UC’s College of Science said the key finding of the research was that “bacteria respond to exposure to the herbicides by changing how susceptible they are to antibiotics used in human and animal medicine.” The herbicides studied are three of the most widely used in the world, Prof Heinemann said. They are also used on crops that have been genetically modified to tolerate them. Prof Heinemann said, “They are among the most common manufactured chemical products to which people, pets and livestock in both rural and urban environments are exposed. These products are sold in the local hardware store and may be used without training, and there are no controls that prevent children and pets from being exposed in home gardens or parks. Despite their ubiquitous use, this University of Canterbury research is the first in the world to demonstrate that herbicides may be undermining the use of a fundamental medicine - antibiotics.”

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