Toxic Herbicides Now Common in Pregnant Women’s Breast Milk, Placentas, and Umbilical Cords

Story at-a-glance

  • A recent study showed the toxic herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) in the breast milk of a significant percentage of American women, even those actively trying to avoid chemical contaminants
  • Glyphosate was also found in urine and drinking water samples at levels 10 times higher than those in the EU when tested in 2013
  • A Canadian study found Bt toxin in the umbilical cords and circulating blood of 93 percent of pregnant women tested
  • US corn and soy fields are creating an ecologic crisis, turning grasslands into lifeless, barren expanses, ruining topsoil, and decimating already endangered wildlife
  • Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo has introduced the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, and your help is needed to prevent its passage


This is an older article that may not reflect Dr. Mercola’s current view on this topic. Use our search engine to find Dr. Mercola’s latest position on any health topic.

By Dr. Mercola

Agricultural chemicals are progressively making their way into your body whether you are trying to avoid them or not, according to several recent studies in the US and Canada. A prime offender is glyphosate, the main toxic ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup. Glyphosate is both an herbicide and a pesticide.

Multiple scientific findings suggest that Monsanto and global regulatory bodies have been wrong about the lack of bioaccumulation of glyphosate-based agricultural chemicals.

If you are eating processed foods or foods from nearly any restaurant, odds are very high you are getting loads of this toxin, and if you are a pregnant woman, you may be passing them along to your unborn child via your baby's placenta, umbilical cord, and in your breast milk. This is gravely concerning as there is mounting scientific evidence that Roundup may be even more toxic than DDT.

As a result of the latest findings regarding bioaccumulation, testing commissioners have urged USDA and EPA to place a temporary ban on all use of glyphosate-based chemicals to protect public health, until more comprehensive testing is completed.

First Study to Confirm Glyphosate Levels in Breast Milk of American Moms

In the first ever testing for glyphosate in the breast milk of American women, Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse found high levels in 30 percent of the samples tested.1, 2 This strongly suggests that glyphosate levels build up in your body over time, despite claims to the contrary.

Breast milk levels were found to be 76 to 166 ug/l, which is 760 to 1,600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides.

Those levels are, however, lower than the 700 ug/l maximum contaminant level (MCL) for glyphosate in the US, set by the EPA based on the now-ridiculous premise that glyphosate does not bioaccumulate. There are currently no regulatory limits for glyphosate in breast milk.

Glyphosate has also been found in Americans' urine and drinking water. In those samples, levels were found to be more than 10 times higher than those tested in the EU in 2013. This is presumably due to the fact that the EU is now backing away from glyphosate usage and GE crops, whereas the US ignorantly races full speed ahead.

When seeking to understand this study, it is very important to note that many of the participants in this study were familiar with GMOs and had been actively trying to avoid them for several months to two years—which makes the findings even more disheartening. However, it is encouraging that expectant moms who were actively eating only organic, non-GE foods had lower levels of glyphosate in their breast milk.

In 2011, 250 million pounds of glyphosate were used in the US, and 1.3 billion pounds3 doused on fields worldwide. The EPA recently doubled the amount of glyphosate allowed in your food. Soybean oil is now allowed to contain a whopping 400 times the limit at which it can impact your health. Monsanto's sales of Roundup jumped 73 percent to $371 million in 2013 because of its increasing use on GE crops.

World GMO Expert Says Glyphosate May Be 'Even More Toxic Than DDT'

Download Interview Transcript

Dr. Don Huber is likely the leading GMO expert in the world, particularly in the area of toxicity. He is an award-winning, internationally recognized scientist and professor of plant pathology at Purdue University for the past 35 years. I strongly urge you to listen to my previous interview with Dr. Huber, at the top of this section, as well as Part 1 and Part 2 of this interview. This information will help you understand why GE foods pose such a serious risk to your health.

Epidemiological patterns show there's a rise in more than 30 human diseases in parallel with our increased usage of glyphosate and GE foods. There are no peer-reviewed scientific papers establishing the safety of GE crops. However, there are both clinical and peer-reviewed scientific papers showing the hazards of GE foods, including harmful secondary effects. Glyphosate is not "just" an herbicide/pesticide. It was originally patented as a mineral chelator. It immobilizes nutrients, making them unavailable for your body. It is also patented as a potent antibiotic that can devastate human gut bacteria. Your gut flora is critical to the proper function of your immune system, and when this is disrupted, you can develop all sorts of health problems.

Bt Toxin Found in Umbilical Cords of Pregnant Women

This is not the first time scientists have suggested that glyphosate may have damaging effects on your health, and the health of your unborn baby. A 2011 Canadian study, published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, looked at the effects of fetal and maternal glyphosate exposure, with disturbing findings. This was the first study to show the presence of circulating pesticides from GE foods in women, both pregnant and non-pregnant.4 The study found Bt toxin in the bloodstreams of 93 percent of pregnant women tested, in both their circulating blood and placentas.

Among all women tested, 80 percent of the pregnant group tested positive for Bt toxin in their babies' umbilical cords, and 69 percent of non-pregnant women tested positive for Bt toxin. Bt is an insecticide, short for Bacillus thuringiensis. Bt toxin makes crops toxic to pests, but the industry claims the toxin poses no danger to the environment or your health. Their argument is that the protein breaks down in your gut, but the fact that Bt toxin can be measured in your blood is certainly evidence that this claim is simply not true. To add insult to injury, the EPA recently approved an exemption for Bt tolerance levels in GE soy foods and feed.

Even though this exemption is specific to soy, similar exemptions have already been approved for corn, cotton, and other crops, paving the way for pesticide companies like Monsanto to incorporate as much as they want into your food. Bt crops have the Bt-toxin gene built-in, so the toxin is not broken down and cannot be washed off—you simply cannot avoid consuming it. It also has the ability to migrate over to other crops, making contamination a serious concern.

Why Breastfeeding Is Still the Healthiest Option

While all of this is disconcerting, and worthy of consideration, please do not make the mistake of thinking your baby would be better off on infant formula than breast milk. I am in no way encouraging new mothers to stop breastfeeding. On the contrary, I hope you take the issue of breastfeeding seriously enough to take the necessary steps to avoid toxins like glyphosate to the greatest extent possible, in order to safeguard your most valuable food source, namely your breast milk. Besides, infant formula is likely to contain glyphosate residues at higher levels than those found in breast milk...

Breastfeeding is really important for developing your baby's immune system and development. Breast milk is a true Whole Food—it contains all the nutrients your baby needs. Studies have shown that breastfed babies gain added protection against:

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) Eczema Respiratory and other types of infections
Heart disease Obesity Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease Asthma and allergies Necrotizing enterocolitis among premature babies

The nutritional properties of breast milk are not only good for the newborn's immune system, they are also good for the brain. Breastfed infants tend to have higher intelligence than formula-fed infants. This may be due to certain compounds found in breast milk, including omega-3 fatty acids. For instance, one study found that the verbal IQ of 7- and 8-year-old children who had been breastfed was about 10 points higher than those who were not. Another 18-year study of over 1,000 children found that those who were breastfed had higher intelligence and greater academic achievement than children who were formula-fed as babies. It is interesting to note that babies who are breastfed naturally spend more time in what is known as the "quiet alert" state, which is not only soothing for parents but also it is the state most conducive to the newborn's learning.

You May Want to Send Monsanto a Thank-You-Note for Your Gluten Allergy

As Drs. Seneff and Samsel reveal in a recent study5 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, glyphosate is probably the most harmful toxin we've ever encountered, both in our environment and on our dinner plates. Their findings show that two of the key problems caused by glyphosate in your body are nutritional deficiencies and systemic toxicity. The researchers propose that glyphosate is the most significant causal factor in today's epidemic of gluten intolerance, including full-blown celiac disease. Celiac disease and, more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe where an estimated five percent of the population now suffers from it. Drs. Seneff and Samsel mention the following as evidence of the connection between glyphosate and gluten allergies/intolerance:

  • Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems reminiscent of celiac disease; celiac is associated with imbalances in gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on these bacteria
  • Characteristics of celiac disease point to impairment of the enzymes necessary for detoxifying environmental toxins and other biological processes, and glyphosate is known to inhibit these enzymes
  • Nutritional deficiencies seen in celiac disease (minerals such as iron, cobalt, and copper, and amino acids such as tryptophan, tyrosine, and methionine) can be attributed to glyphosate's strong tendencies to chelate minerals and deplete amino acids
  • Both celiac disease and glyphosate exposure have been associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Reproductive issues associated with celiac disease, such as infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects, can also be explained by glyphosate exposure

Monsanto Attempting to Muzzle Independent Researchers

More than one study has now shown that genetic material can jump from the plant kingdom to the animal kingdom and exert "predictably unpredictable" effects. In 2011, a Chinese study6 found that mice take up RNA (ribonucleic acid, little pieces of genetic material) when they consume plants, and that RNA was found to influence gene expression in the mice—a phenomenon referred to as trans-kingdom gene regulation.7

These findings and others have the different branches of industry in a conundrum. On one hand, the medical industry could benefit if these RNA molecules could produce effects that would help treat disease... like, perhaps, lowering LDL or reducing inflammation. However, for Big Ag, trans-kingdom gene jumping is NOT good news, as they've been claiming that GE foods are safe because genetic material cannot pass from your gut into your bloodstream, then to various other cells where it can wreak havoc on your body. In other words, they like to deny the existence of this trans-kingdom gene regulation.

Private researchers are finding themselves caught in the middle. One such example is Vicki Vance, a professor at the University of South Carolina who has been doing private research in this area for many years. Vance is being hounded by phone calls from Monsanto. She believes Monsanto and other companies have a financial interest in discrediting the Chinese study (through her work), because it casts doubt on the safety of GE foods, thereby threatening their bottom line. Vance says:

"I was really surprised that Monsanto took the time and effort to try to squash my research because it's such a contrast — I'm a little old lady running a little lab in South Carolina. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I feel there's an effort from a large company with a lot of money toward discrediting the work of this other group and keeping people from publishing their work."

Converting Grasslands Into Cornfields Is Destroying Topsoil, Devastating Wildlife, and Worsening Pesticide Bioaccumulation

As severe as the threat of glyphosate-soaked foods is to your health, the threat to our environment may be even greater. Monoculture and the destructive agricultural practices required to raise GE crops ruin topsoil and rapidly turn grasslands into lifeless, barren expanses. We are moving closer to having NO viable farmland with which to grow food for our ever-increasing population.

Grassland soil is rich, and almost anything can be grown there. Grasslands once covered a quarter of the Earth, but many have now been turned into large commercial crop operations. Only five percent of the original prairie in the United States remains. A study published in February 2013 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that between 2006 and 2011, farmers in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa—the Western Corn Belt—had plowed up 1.3 million acres of native grassland in order to plant corn and soybeans. In just four years, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota lost an area of wetlands the size of Rhode Island.8

Grasslands, and the wetlands that tend to go along with them, are among the most important ecosystems on the planet. They contain disproportionately high numbers of plant and animal species. In fact, more than one-third of US endangered species live exclusively in wetlands. The Nature Conservancy has called grasslands the world's most imperiled ecosystem. Once grasslands and prairies have been destroyed, they are virtually impossible to bring back. Grasslands also play a direct role in reducing pollution from glyphosate and other environmental toxins. According to The American Prospect:9

"Grasslands provide a range of critical 'ecosystems services,' soaking up rain and snowmelt and slowly releasing water in drier seasons, thereby reducing flooding and erosion and improving water quality by filtering out fertilizers and pesticides that run off of farmland. Fewer wetlands mean more chemicals making their way into local waterways and ultimately ending up in the area in the Gulf of Mexico known as the Dead Zone, where nutrient pollution has made it challenging for marine life to survive."

Turning grasslands into croplands has also resulted in widespread loss of wildlife habitat. Compared to grassland, cropland provides few or no resources for breeding birds. In fact, a recent study found that pesticides are the leading cause of declining grassland bird populations.10, 11 Bees and monarch butterflies are also taking a serious hit as glyphosate wipes out just about every plant that makes honey production possible, as well as killing off milkweed, the monarch's sole food and breeding source. Federal policies that support an unhealthy and unsustainable food system are largely to blame for the changing face of our Western prairies.

Mike Pompeo's DARK Days in Congress

One Congressional Representative has been goat-roped by the food and biotech industry (his donors include General Mills and Koch Brothers) into introducing legislation to block state GE labeling laws. Maybe the fact that two states have already passed GE labeling bills and another 30 states are poised to consider them, has the industry scrambling for new allies.12 Most Americans want to know what's in their food—and 64 nations already require GE foods to be labeled.

Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo has introduced a bill,13 dubbed by opponents as the DARK Act ("Deny Americans the Right to Know Act") because its aim is to keep you in the DARK about whether or not your food contains GE ingredients.14 The bill would allow companies to voluntarily disclose whether their foods contain GE ingredients—which is pretty laughable, as companies have always had that choice. But guess how many have opted to do so? That's right, zero! The DARK bill would allow foods labeled as "natural" to contain GE ingredients, and prevent the FDA from requiring mandatory labeling. The number and variety of GE foods reaching grocery store shelves is accelerating, and these foods are making it to market without proper testing or labeling. It's time to take action now!

We're Donating Our Sales Today to Help Fight the Spread of GM Crops in Jackson County, Oregon

A ballot measure to prohibit GM crops in Jackson County, Oregon has been introduced by organic farmers, who are afraid that GM sugar beets will taint their organic crops through cross-pollination. Jackson County is a major source of GM sugar beet seeds, which are used to produce a significant portion of commercial sugar beet seed used across the United States.

The measure will appear before Jackson County voters on the May 20th primary ballot – so if you live in this area, please get out to vote. In the meantime, the sugar industry and other agribusiness giants have come out in droves to try to defeat the measure. Already, the opposition has donated tens of thousands of dollars to mount an pro-GMO campaign, including:

  • Monsanto ($183,294)
  • DuPont Pioneer ($129,647)
  • Syngenta ($75,000)
  • Bayer ($22,353)
  • BASF ($22,353)
  • Dow AgroSciences ($22,353)

The Center for Food Safety reported that, all in all, opponents of the measure have a total of $799,000.

To date, the organic farmers supporting the GM ban have raised roughly $100,000 in funds to defeat this corporate opposition. So as you can see we want to help them get started.

With your help, we've already raised $15,000. You can donate to this fund, and rest assured we'll donate as well. In fact, a portion of all sales on our site will go directly toward funding a $10,000 donation to Measure 15-119 against GM crops in Jackson County. If you've been meaning to make a purchase, today is the day to do so to help make a difference through this crucial campaign.

If GM crops are banned in Jackson County, it could be a turning point for the US, with other regions soon following suit. You may also make a donation directly to the Vote YES on Measure 15-119 here:

Donate Today!

And as always, I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically modified foods, and to share what you've learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GM ingredients if it contains soy, corn, or sugar from sugar beets.


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