Roundup and Glyphosate Toxicity Have Been Grossly Underestimated
July 30, 2013
By Dr. Mercola
The true toxicity of glyphosate—the active ingredient in Monsanto’s broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup—is becoming increasingly clear as study after study is published demonstrating its devastating effects. In June, groundbreaking research was published detailing a newfound mechanism of harm for Roundup.
This was immediately followed by tests showing that people in 18 countries across Europe have glyphosate in their bodies,1 while yet another study revealed that the chemical has estrogenic properties and drives breast cancer proliferation in the parts-per-trillion range.2
This finding might help explain why rats fed Monsanto’s maize developed massive breast tumors in the first-ever lifetime feeding study published last year. Other recently published studies demonstrate glyphosate’s toxicity to cell lines, aquatic life, food animals, and humans.
Glyphosate Toxicity Underestimated, Study Concludes
One such study, published in the journal Ecotoxicology,3 found that glyphosate is toxic to water fleas (Daphnia magna) at minuscule levels that are well within the levels expected to be found in the environment.
According to regulators, glyphosate is thought to be practically nontoxic to aquatic invertebrates. The water flea is a widely accepted model for environmental toxicity, so this study throws serious doubt on glyphosate’s classification as environmentally safe. According to the study:
“To test the acute effects of both glyphosate and a commercial formulation of Roundup (hereafter Roundup), we conducted a series of exposure experiments with different clones and age-classes of D. magna.... Roundup showed slightly lower acute toxicity than glyphosate IPA alone... However, in chronic toxicity tests spanning the whole life-cycle, Roundup was more toxic.
...Significant reduction of juvenile size was observed even in the lowest test concentrations of 0.05 mg a.i./l, for both glyphosate and Roundup. At 0.45 mg a.i./l, growth, fecundity and abortion rate was affected, but only in animals exposed to Roundup.
At 1.35 and 4.05 mg a.i./l of both glyphosate and Roundup, significant negative effects were seen on most tested parameters, including mortality. D. magna was adversely affected by a near 100% abortion rate of eggs and embryonic stages at 1.35 mg a.i./l of Roundup.
The results indicate that aquatic invertebrate ecology can be adversely affected by relevant ambient concentrations of this major herbicide. We conclude that glyphosate and Roundup toxicity to aquatic invertebrates have been underestimated and that current European Commission and US EPA toxicity classification of these chemicals need to be revised.”
Herbicide Formulations Far More Toxic Than Glyphosate Alone
An article published on Greenmedinfo.com4 last year reviewed several interesting studies relating to the profound toxicity of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup:
“Back in Feb. of 2012, the journal Archives of Toxicology5 published a shocking study showing that Roundup is toxic to human DNA even when diluted to concentrations 450-fold lower than used in agricultural applications.
This effect could not have been anticipated from the known toxicological effects of glyphosate alone. The likely explanation is that the surfactant polyoxyethyleneamine within Roundup dramatically enhances the absorption of glyphosate into exposed human cells and tissue,” Sayer Ji writes.
“If this is true, it speaks to a fundamental problem associated with toxicological risk assessments of agrichemicals (and novel manmade chemicals in general), namely, these assessments do not take into account the reality of synergistic toxicologies, i.e. the amplification of harm associated with multiple chemical exposures occurring simultaneously.”
'Inert' Ingredients Does NOT Mean They Are Inactive...
Similarly, another study published that year in the journal Toxicology6, 7 revealed that inert ingredients such as solvents, preservatives, surfactants and other added substances are anything but “inactive.” They in fact contribute to toxicity in a synergistic manner, and ethoxylated adjuvants in glyphosate-based herbicides were found to be "active principles of human cell toxicity."
(On a side note, an “ethoxylated” compound is a chemical that has been produced using the carcinogen ethylene oxide.8 The ethoxylation process also produces the carcinogenic byproduct 1,4-dioxane. It’s also worth noting here that the term “inert ingredient” does NOT actually mean that it is biologically or toxicologically harmless! When you see “inert” or “inactive ingredients” listed on the label of a pesticide or herbicide, it only means that those ingredients will not harm pests or weeds. This is how federal law classifies “inert” pesticide ingredients.)9
The study found that liver, embryonic and placental cell lines exposed to various herbicide formulations for 24 hours at doses as low as 1 part per million (ppm), had adverse effects.10 According to the authors:11
“Here we demonstrate that all formulations are more toxic than glyphosate, and we separated experimentally three groups of formulations differentially toxic according to their concentrations in ethoxylated adjuvants. Among them, POE-15 clearly appears to be the most toxic principle against human cells, even if others are not excluded. It begins to be active with negative dose-dependent effects on cellular respiration and membrane integrity between 1 and 3ppm, at environmental/occupational doses. We demonstrate in addition that POE-15 induces necrosis when its first micellization process occurs, by contrast to glyphosate which is known to promote endocrine disrupting effects after entering cells.
Altogether, these results challenge the establishment of guidance values such as the acceptable daily intake of glyphosate, when these are mostly based on a long term in vivo test of glyphosate alone. Since pesticides are always used with adjuvants that could change their toxicity, the necessity to assess their whole formulations as mixtures becomes obvious. This challenges the concept of active principle of pesticides for non-target species.” [Emphasis mine]
Perhaps most disturbing of all, the researchers claim that cell damage and even cell death can occur at the residual levels found on Roundup-treated crops, as well as lawns and gardens where Roundup is applied for weed control. They also suspect that:12
“Roundup might cause pregnancy problems by interfering with hormone production, possibly leading to abnormal fetal development, low birth weights or miscarriages.”
Birth Malformation Skyrocketing in Agricultural Centers of Argentina
Indeed, miscarriages, fertility problems and abnormal fetal development are all problems that are skyrocketing in Argentina, where many are exposed to massive spraying of herbicides. More than 18 million hectares in Argentina are covered by genetically engineered soy, on which more than 300 million liters of pesticides are sprayed. In the village of Malvinas Argentinas, which is surrounded by soy plantations, the rate of miscarriage is 100 times the national average, courtesy of glyphosate.
According to Dr. Medardo Vasquez, a neonatal specialist at the Children’s Hospital in Cordoba, featured in the documentary film People and Power — Argentina: The Bad Seeds:
“I see new-born infants, many of whom are malformed. I have to tell parents that their children are dying because of these agricultural methods. In some areas in Argentina the primary cause of death for children less than one year old is malformations.”
But even if you don’t live in an agricultural area where you might be exposed to Roundup directly, you’re still getting it through your diet if you’re eating non-organic foods. A report given to MomsAcrossAmerica13 by an employee of De Dell Seed Company (Canada's only non-GM corn seed company) shows that GM corn contains as much as 13 ppm of glyphosate, compared to zero in non-GM corn.
The EPA standard for glyphosate in American water supplies is 0.7 ppm. In Europe, the maximum allowable level in water is 0.2 ppm. Organ damage in animals has occurred at levels as low as 0.1 ppm, and in the study on cell lines discussed above, liver, embryonic and placental cell lines were adversely affected at doses as low as 1 ppm. The fact that genetically modified corn can contain as much as 13 ppm of glyphosate has staggering implications for Americans who eat an average of 193 pounds of genetically engineered foods each year!14
Glyphosate Predisposes Cattle to Botulism
A German study15 published earlier this year looked at glyphosate’s role in the rise of toxic botulism in cattle. This used to be extremely rare, but the incidence has become increasingly common over the past 10-15 years. Normal intestinal microflora is essential for keeping Clostridium botulinum and other pathogens in check, and researchers are now finding that the beneficial gut bacteria in both animals and humans is very sensitive to residual glyphosate levels. This has been discussed previously by both Dr. Don Huber and Dr. Stephanie Seneff.
In this study, the researchers explain that certain intestinal bacteria produce bacteriocines that are specifically directed against C. botulinum, as well as other dangerous pathogens. According to the authors, lactic acid producing bacteria that help defend against Clostridium pathogens are destroyed by glyphosate, suggesting that the rise in C. botulinum associated diseases may be due to glyphosate-tainted animal feed.
The Overlooked Component of Toxicity in Humans
As for its effects on humans, the Samsel - Seneff study published in June suggests that glyphosate may actually be the most important factor in the development of a wide variety of chronic diseases, specifically because your gut bacteria are a key component of glyphosate’s mechanism of harm. Monsanto has steadfastly claimed that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because the mechanism of action it uses (which allows it to kill weeds), called the shikimate pathway, is absent in all animals. However, the shikimate pathway IS present in bacteria, and that’s the key to understanding how it causes such widespread systemic harm in both humans and animals.
The bacteria in your body outnumber your cells by 10 to 1. For every cell in your body, you have 10 microbes of various kinds, and all of them have the shikimate pathway, so they will all respond to the presence of glyphosate!
Glyphosate causes extreme disruption of the microbe’s function and lifecycle. What’s worse, glyphosate preferentially affects beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to overgrow and take over. At that point, your body also has to contend with the toxins produced by the pathogens. Once the chronic inflammation sets in, you’re well on your way toward chronic and potentially debilitating disease...
The answer, of course, is to avoid processed foods of all kinds, as they’re virtually guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, and center your diet around whole, organic foods as toxic pesticides are not permitted in organic farming. Supporting GMO labeling is also important if you value your health, and that of your family and friends, in order to be able to make informed shopping decisions.
Vote with Your Pocketbook, Every Day
Remember, the food companies on the left of this graphic spent tens of millions of dollars in the last two labeling campaigns—in California and Washington State—to prevent you from knowing what's in your food. You can even the score by switching to the brands on the right; all of whom stood behind the I-522 Right to Know campaign. Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference.
As always, I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and to share what you've learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GMO ingredients if it contains sugar from sugar beet, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.
If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as organics do not permit GMOs. You can also print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. Alternatively, download their free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications. For more in-depth information, I highly recommend reading the following two books, authored by Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology:
For timely updates, join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter. Please, do your homework. Together, we have the power to stop the chemical technology industry from destroying our food supply, the future of our children, and the earth as a whole. All we need is about five percent of American shoppers to simply stop buying genetically engineered foods, and the food industry would have to reconsider their source of ingredients—regardless of whether the products bear an actual GMO label or not.