Glyphosate is the world's bestselling weed killer; it was patented by Monsanto for use in their Roundup brand, which became more popular when they introduced "Roundup Ready" crops -- genetically modified (GM) plants that can withstand applications of normally deadly Roundup.
But the herbicide doesn't destroy plants directly; instead, it creates a unique perfect storm of conditions that activates disease-causing organisms in the soil, while at the same time wiping out plant defenses against those diseases.
The Institute for Responsible Technology reports:
"By weakening plants and promoting disease, glyphosate opens the door for lots of problems in the field. According to Don [Huber, a plant pathologist], 'There are more than 40 diseases of crop plants that are reported to increase with the use of glyphosate …'
Some of the fungi promoted by glyphosate produce dangerous toxins that can end up in food and feed ... They've 'been linked to the plague epidemics' of medieval Europe, 'large-scale human toxicosis in Eastern Europe,' esophageal cancer in southern Africa and parts of China, joint diseases in Asia and southern Africa, and a blood disorder in Russia."
- 75 percent of soybeans
- 65 percent of cotton
- 10 percent of corn grown in the United States
… contain the genetically modified (GM) Roundup Ready gene, which allows farmers to spray Monsanto's Roundup herbicide directly onto their fields, killing weeds without harming the crops … theoretically.
However, this convenience comes at a steep price, as evidence shows that Roundup's active ingredient, glyphosate, is actually devastating crops and human and animal health around the world, even when the exposure is restricted to residues leftover in the soil.
"The Perfect Storm" for Plant Devastation
Glyphosate is the world's bestselling weed killer, and it's found in more than 30 percent of all herbicides. While Roundup Ready crops can withstand the toxin because of GM genetic material from viruses and bacteria, the weed killer is thought to be contributing to Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), a deadly plant disease that causes plants to turn yellow and die.
As reported by GM expert Jeffrey Smith, numerous studies have linked glyphosate to increases in SDS, including in crops that have never been sprayed with the herbicide but were planted in a field that received an application the previous season.
"The herbicide doesn't destroy plants directly. It rather cooks up a unique perfect storm of conditions that revs up disease-causing organisms in the soil, and at the same time wipes out plant defenses against those diseases. The mechanisms are well-documented but rarely cited."
In fact, Roundup herbicide weakens plants and promotes disease in a number of ways, including:
- Acting as a chelator of vital nutrients, depriving plants of the nutrients necessary for healthy plant function
- Destroying beneficial soil organisms that suppress disease-causing organisms and help plants absorb nutrients
- Interfering with photosynthesis, reducing water use efficiency, shortening root systems and causing plants to release sugars, which changes soil pH
- Stunting and weakening plant growth
- Promoting disease-causing organisms in soil, which then overtake the weakened crops
So the glyphosate in Roundup is not only weakening plants, it's changing the makeup of soil and boosting the number of disease-causing organisms, a deadly recipe for crops around the globe.
"There are more than 40 diseases of crop plants that are reported to increase with the use of glyphosate, and that number keeps growing as people recognize the association between glyphosate and disease."
As the use of Roundup has increased, so too has the prevalence of potentially devastating plant diseases, which could threaten future food crops and the food chain that depends on them.
Dangers for People and Animals Too
It's not only plant life that's threatened by the use of Roundup -- human and animal toxins are created too. As Smith reported, glyphosate promotes the formation of certain types of fungi that are dangerous to people and contaminate food and animal feed. One such fungi, the Fusarium fungus, has been linked to plague epidemics, cancer, infertility and animal diseases.
Residues of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide found in GM food and feed have also been linked to cell damage and even death, even at very low levels. Researchers have also found it causes membrane and DNA damage, and inhibits cell respiration.
It's also possible that glyphosate is significantly altering the nutrient content of our food, through its chelating mechanism, leading to widespread mineral deficiencies in animals and humans. Smith writes:
"The same nutrients that glyphosate chelates and deprives plants are also vital for human and animal health. These include iron, zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium, calcium, boron, and others. Deficiencies of these elements in our diets, alone or in combination, are known to interfere with vital enzyme systems and cause a long list of disorders and diseases …
Glyphosate-induced mineral deficiencies can easily go unidentified and untreated. Even when laboratory tests are done, they can sometimes detect adequate mineral levels, but miss the fact that glyphosate has already rendered them unusable.
Glyphosate can tie up minerals for years and years, essentially removing them from the pool of nutrients available for plants, animals, and humans. If we combine the more than 135 million pounds of glyphosate-based herbicides applied in the US in 2010 with total applications over the past 30 years, we may have already eliminated millions of pounds of nutrients from our food supply."
Roundup in the Environment
Monsanto long used the slogans, "It's Safer than Mowing," "Biodegradable," and "Environmentally Friendly" to describe Roundup -- until the real effects of this toxic herbicide were revealed and they were forced to discontinue their deceptive advertising.
The truth is Monsanto's own tests showed that only 2 percent of the herbicide broke down after 28 days, which means it readily persists in the environment. Glyphosate is actually the most commonly reported cause of pesticide illness among landscape maintenance workers in California. Additionally:
- The surfactant ingredient in Roundup is more acutely toxic than glyphosate itself, and the combination of the two is even more toxic.
- Glyphosate is suspected of causing genetic damage.
- Glyphosate is acutely toxic to fish and birds and can kill beneficial insects and soil organisms that maintain ecological balance.
- Laboratory studies have identified adverse effects of glyphosate-containing products in all standard categories of toxicological testing.
In one animal study, rats given 1,000 mg/kg of glyphosate resulted in a 50 percent mortality rate, and skeletal alterations were observed in over 57 percent of fetuses!
And just so you understand, GM crops that are resistant to Roundup are the most widely sold GM varieties. So if you eat GM foods, there is a very good chance those foods contain Roundup residues -- and possibly hefty amounts of them.
According to Smith, by 2004 farmers used an estimated 86 percent more herbicide on GM soy fields compared to non-GM. Higher levels of herbicide residue in this GM soy might cause health problems, and many symptoms identified in one UK soy allergy study are also related to glyphosate exposure.
The allergy study identified irritable bowel syndrome, digestion problems, chronic fatigue, headaches, lethargy, and skin complaints including acne and eczema, all related to soy consumption.
Symptoms of glyphosate exposure include nausea, headaches, lethargy, skin rashes, and burning or itchy skin. It is also possible that glyphosate's breakdown product AMPA, which accumulates in GM soybeans after each spray, might contribute to allergies.
Again, the use of Roundup herbicide has increased dramatically since the GM Roundup Ready crops were introduced. In the first 13 years, American farmers sprayed an additional 383 million pounds of herbicide due to these herbicide-tolerant crops. And now the repeated exposures have given Mother Nature all she needs to stage her comeback in the form of devastating superweeds.
How Can You Avoid Roundup and Roundup Ready Crops?
Did you know that genetically modified foods are so prevalent in the United States that if you randomly pick an item off your grocery store's shelves, you have a 75 percent chance of picking a food with GM ingredients?
It's true. At least seven out of every 10 processed food items have been genetically modified, and there's more to come.
The potential health ramifications of these world-wide experiments with our food supply are frightening to say the least. If you care about the health and future of your family, I strongly urge you to refuse to participate in this destructive trend.
It's actually simpler than you might think... By buying only non-GM foods.
The True Food Shopping Guide is a great tool for helping you determine which brands and products contain GM ingredients. It lists 20 different food categories that include everything from baby food to chocolate.
Additionally, here are four simple steps to decrease your consumption of GM foods as much as possible:
- Reduce or eliminate processed foods in your diet. The fact that 75 percent of processed foods contain GM ingredients is only one of the many reasons to stick to a whole foods diet.
- Read produce and food labels. Conventionally raised soybeans and corn make up the largest portion of genetically modified crops. Ingredients made from these foods include high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn flour and meal, dextrin, starch, soy sauce, margarine, and tofu.
- Buy organic produce. By definition, food that is certified organic must be free from all GM organisms, produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs. Additionally, grass-fed beef will not have been fed GM corn feed.
You can also get involved in helping to defeat GM crops at the regulatory level. Right now the USDA is considering the approval of Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa, which would lead to the application of millions more pounds of Roundup herbicide each year.
You can urge U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to NOT approve Roundup Ready alfalfa, which would lead to the addition of more Roundup on U.S. fields and in our food, by using this action form from the Institute for Responsible Technology