Toxic Alert: Herbicide Now Detected in Human Urine

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Story at-a-glance -

  • Last year, Bt toxin originating from genetically engineered Bt crops were found in 93 percent of pregnant women tested and 80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies. Now, results from a German study shows that people who have no direct contact with agriculture have significant concentrations of glyphosate in their urine. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many broad-spectrum herbicides, including Roundup
  • Urine samples collected from city dwellers in Berlin all tested positive for glyphosate, with values ranging from 0.5 to 2 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), which is five to 20 times the permissible upper limit for glyphosate in German drinking water
  • Research published in 2010 showed that the chemical causes birth defects in frogs and chicken embryos at far lower levels than used in agricultural and garden applications
  • Glyphosate has also been linked to decimation of intestinal probiotics, endocrine disruption, DNA damage, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and more

By Dr. Mercola

Last year, doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec made the disturbing discovery that Bt-toxin from genetically engineered Bt corn in fact accumulates in the human body – contrary to industry assurances. The toxin was identified in 93 percent of pregnant women tested; 80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies; and 67 percent of non-pregnant women.

The study blew a giant hole in safety claims over genetically engineered Bt crops.

Now, results from a German study shows that people who have no direct contact with agriculture have significant concentrations of glyphosate in their urine. It's becoming quite apparent that genetically engineered crops are a source of multiple toxins, in addition to having been found to contain far lower levels of nutrients. So much for saving the world from starvation.

Glyphosate Found in City Dwellers' Urine

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, which is sprayed in large quantities on genetically engineered, so-called "Roundup Ready," crops. Such crops are genetically engineered to withstand otherwise lethal applications of the herbicide.

According to the German journal Ithaka,1 every single urine sample collected from city dwellers around Berlin tested positive for glyphosate, with values ranging from 0.5 to 2 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) – that's between five and 20 times the permissible upper limit for glyphosate in German drinking water, which is set at 0.1 ng/ml. According to the featured article:2

"Glyphosate probably entered human populations over the past 10 years through its increasing presence in daily foods such as meat and dairy products, vegetable and fruit produce and grains products. Glyphosate-laced genetically modified Roundup soya which enters the animal food chain, is only one of the risk factors.

Even more dangerous now is the increasing use of herbicides in the EU over the past several years for the desiccation of entire stocks of harvestable crop.

'Spraying crops to death,' as desiccation should be more aptly called, means that herbicides are being sprayed directly on the crops shortly before they are to be harvested to facilitate the harvest by uniformly killing off all living plants (including the crops) on the field.

If crops cannot fully mature due to excessive rain, as was the case in the summer of 2011, herbicides are used to bring the crops to maturity by means of a 'death-spray.' The method facilitates the drying of the crops as well as removing all weeds for the next sowing period, and has become common for the harvest of potatoes, cereals, canola and pulses.

For potatoes, spraying herbicides on the field immediately before harvest (2.5 l / ha), hardens the skin and reduces its susceptibility to late blight and germination, which improved the potatoes shelf life. Active compounds of the herbicide directly enter the potato through the leaves; however, decomposition of the poison takes place in the body of the consumer."

"Desiccation" – Spraying the Crop to Death Before Harvesting

If you've never heard of this practice, you're probably not alone. Few besides those directly involved with large scale agriculture are likely to be aware of this practice. According to the featured article,3 Syngenta advertises desiccation among "the standard measures to assure high quality production." The end result is extensive contamination of the crop in question, much of which ends up on your plate.

The chemical works primarily by affecting plant metabolism, effectively killing virtually all green plants within a few days. Genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops are specifically designed to be able to withstand the assault of this broad-spectrum weed killer. However, this certainly does not make such crops glyphosate-free.

On the contrary, Roundup Ready crops are far more contaminated with glyphosate than other crops, due to the excessive spraying required as glyphosate-resistant super-weeds are becoming increasingly common. Add the practice of desiccation to the mix, and it's no wonder consumers are expelling significant concentrations of toxins in their urine...

"Desiccation is one of the most egregious scandals of modern agricultural history; as such, it is worth taking a minute to consider what is actually happening in the process," the article states.4 "Just before crops are harvested, threshed, and sold to bakeries, farmers soak them in broad-spectrum systemic herbicides to kill them off and give them the appearance of uniform maturity. One could just as well stir the glyphosate right into the bread dough. With protein-rich feed it is the same – the herbicide is spayed directly on the grain several days before it is sold as concentrated feed.

...There is an urgent need for action. Regardless of all the other risks associated with glyphosate, an immediate ban of desiccation must be enforced. Desiccation can be considered nothing less than negligent physical injury and is irreconcilable with current animal welfare laws."

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Health Risks of Glyphosate

According to the featured article, authorities in the EU have raised the legal limit for glyphosate in wheat and bread, now allowing such contamination to be 100 times the legal limit for vegetables, and the limit for feed grains has been raised 200-fold. This is quite disturbing when you consider the significant health hazards associated with this chemical.

Research published in 2010 showed that the chemical, which works by inhibiting an enzyme called EPSP synthase that is necessary for plants to grow, causes birth defects in frogs and chicken embryos at far lower levels than used in agricultural and garden applications.5 The malformations primarily affected the:

  • Skull
  • Face
  • Midline and developing brain
  • Spinal cord

The amount of glyphosate residue you can be exposed to through food is remarkably high, in terms of being close to the maximum residue limit (MRL) allowed. According to a report in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, the highest MRL for glyphosate in food and feed products in the EU is 20 mg/kg. Genetically engineered soybeans have been found to contain residue levels as high as 17 mg/kg, and malformations in frog and chicken embryos occurred at 2.03 mg/kg6 – that's 10 times lower than the MRL!

Other independent scientific research has also found that glyphosate has the potential to cause grave health damage, including a 2009 study that tested formulations of Roundup that were highly diluted (up to 100,000 times or more) on human cells, and even then the cells died within 24 hours.7 The researchers hailed a warning cry that still has not been heard by regulators around the world, who continue to allow massive amounts of Roundup to be sprayed into the environment:

"...the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death around residual levels to be expected, especially in food and feed derived from [Roundup] formulation-treated crops."

What's worse, when applied to crops, the glyphosate becomes systemic throughout the plant, so it cannot be washed off. And once you eat this crop, the glyphosate ends up in your gut where it can decimate your beneficial bacteria. This can wreak havoc with your health as 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gut. Separate research has also uncovered the following effects from glyphosate:

Endocrine disruption DNA damage
Developmental toxicity Neurotoxicity
Reproductive toxicity Cancer

Leading Scientists Take on Monsanto's Spin Machine

Meanwhile, Monsanto Company recently reported third quarter profits of $937 million.8 That's right, nearly a billion dollars-worth of profits in a mere three months – up 35 percent from the same quarter last year. As expressed by Karen Stillerman, a senior analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS):9

"That raging river of cash flowing in must make it easy for the company to finance a flurry of advertising and lobbying extolling the virtues its products. According to Monsanto's PR, the company is feeding a growing population, protecting natural resources, and promoting biodiversity. But the truth is decidedly less impressive, and now UCS is setting the record straight with an ad campaign of our own."

The USC has created a series of ads that address Monsanto's false claims head on. The ads will be featured on city buses and transit stations across Washington, including areas near the U.S. Department of Agriculture's headquarters, the U.S. EPA, and Capitol Hill. Here's the text of one of the three ads. For the remaining two, and links to help spread the word, please see the UCS ad campaign page:10

More Herbicide + Fewer Butterflies = Better Seeds?

Monsanto Says: "In the hands of farmers, better seeds can help meet the needs of our rapidly growing population, while protecting the earth's natural resources." In Fact: Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops, genetically engineered to tolerate the company's Roundup herbicide, increased herbicide use by an estimated 383 million pounds between 1996 and 2008. And Monarch butterflies have laid 81 percent fewer eggs thanks to habitat loss since Roundup Ready was introduced.

Congress's Big Gift to Monsanto

With profits like that, it's also no wonder that Monsanto can afford to influence virtually any legislation it wants, to increase its profits. After all, over the past few years it's become abundantly clear that our political process is run by bribes. The idea that politicians are looking out for the welfare of the public has been exposed for the pipedream that it is, and we're now faced with the truth that unbridled corruption has seeped into every last nook and cranny of our government.

One of the latest incidents in a long row of blatant industry coddling was reported in Mother Jones on July 2:11

"...while the House agriculture-appropriations subcommittee mulled a bill on ag spending for 2013, subcommittee chair Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) inserted a pro-industry provision that that has nothing to do with agriculture appropriations. The provision Kingston added – a single paragraph buried in a 90-page bill... would allow farmers to plant GM crops even during legal appeals of the USDA's approval process, and even if a federal court orders that the crops not be planted.

It addresses one of the ag-biotech industry's most persistent complaints: the USDA approval process keeps rubber-stamping its products, but an anti-GMO group called the Center for Food Safety keeps launching, and winning, lawsuits charging that the USDA didn't properly assess the environmental impact of the novel crops, thus delaying their release into farm fields... The bill, complete with its gift to the industry, sailed through the ag appropriations subcommittee and will likely be taken up by the full House soon after the July 4 recess...

Meanwhile, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has signaled he will sponsor an amendment to the ag appropriations bill that would nullify Kingston's Monsanto-friendly provision."

This legislative boon is exactly what you'd expect from a politician bought and paid for by the industry. The provision, dubbed "The Monsanto Protection Act" by Food Democracy Now, effectively strips judges of their constitutional mandate to protect consumer rights and the environment. It's a perfect example of how insidious the collusion between the biotech industry and Washington really is, and how easily and nonchalantly they undermine our most basic rights.