By Dr. Mercola
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, has earned the ominous distinction of being the most heavily used agricultural chemical of all time.1 Use skyrocketed starting in 1996, when Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-tolerant crops (soy, corn and cotton) were introduced. The GE crops are impervious to Roundup's toxic effects, which allows farmers to spray the chemical onto their crops with abandon.
As such, use increased nearly 15-fold since 1996.2 The chemical is now so ubiquitous in the environment that over a period of 23 years — from 1993 to 2016 — levels in humans increased by more than 1,200 percent.3 We're now set to find out what the results of this giant human experiment pan out to be, whether we like it or not, as glyphosate has been detected in blood, breast milk and urine samples, as well as numerous foods such as oatmeal, bagels, coffee creamer, organic bread and honey.
In short, Americans are already being exposed, and if what's happening in the environment serves as a form of bellwether, there's cause for serious concern. Two recent studies have raised red flags, including one indicating that glyphosate may be contributing to antibiotic resistant and another showing Roundup may be harming beneficial fungi in soil.
Glyphosate Linked to Antibiotic Resistance
In 2015, researchers first found that commonly used herbicides promote antibiotic resistance by priming pathogens to more readily become resistant to antibiotics.4 This includes Roundup (the actual formulation of Roundup, not just glyphosate in isolation), which was shown to increase the antibiotic-resistant prowess of E. coli and salmonella, along with dicamba and 2,4-D. Rodale News reported:5
"The way Roundup causes this effect is likely by causing the bacteria to turn on a set of genes that are normally off, [study author] Heinemann says. 'These genes are for 'pumps' or 'porins,' proteins that pump out toxic compounds or reduce the rate at which they get inside of the bacteria...'
Once these genes are turned on by the herbicide, then the bacteria can also resist antibiotics. If bacteria were to encounter only the antibiotic, they would instead have been killed. In a sense, the herbicide is 'immunizing' the bacteria to the antibiotic ... This change occurs at levels commonly used on farm field crops, lawns, gardens, and parks."
The new study, published in the journal Microbiology, set out to determine what ingredients of the commercial formulations caused this effect, with results showing the active ingredients are to blame.6 "Active ingredients induced changes in antibiotic responses similar to those caused by complete formulations. This occurred at or below recommended application concentrations," the researchers noted.
It's important to note that dicamba was also found to promote antibiotic resistance, especially in light of Monsanto's new GE Roundup Ready Xtend soy and cotton, which are resistant not only to Roundup but also dicamba (this means dicamaba usage is set to increase).
Could Glyphosate Residues on Food Promote Antibiotic Resistance in Humans?
While the concentration of glyphosate necessary to induce antibiotic resistance is lower than that typically found as residue on food, adults could probably reach the level that causes antibiotic resistance by eating large amounts of food with low levels of residue, while children could also be at risk, according to the researchers.7 Siouxsie Wiles, microbiologist and senior lecturer at the University of Auckland, told Scoop news:8
"This paper by Professor Jack Heinemann and his colleagues builds on their earlier work looking at the impact of pesticides on bacteria. Now they have shown that exposure of two common gut bacteria to commercial pesticide formulations and some of their active ingredients can change how much antibiotic is needed to kill the bacteria. The bacteria they have examined [salmonella and E.coli] are both able to infect humans and other animals, including farm animals."
Heather Hendrickson, senior lecturer in molecular bioscience at Massey University told the Genetic Literacy Project, "The message from the paper is clear, we need to reconsider our use of herbicides in light of the effect that they are having on the microbial world."9 Already, at least 2 million Americans are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and at least 23,000 die as a result every year.10
Unless the underlying causes are properly addressed, it's estimated that by 2050 antibiotic-resistant disease will claim the lives of 10 million people around the world each year.11
Roundup Disturbs Beneficial Soil Fungus
A separate study published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research revealed that Roundup also causes disturbances to a soil fungus called Aspergillus nidulans.12 The disturbances occurred at the cellular level after exposure to glyphosate doses far below the recommended agricultural application rate, and without causing any visible effects. Speaking with GM Watch, the study's lead author, Christian Vélot, said:13
"The results show that even at this low dose, Roundup causes a modulation of about 6 [percent] of the detected proteins, mainly affecting the process of cellular detoxification and stress response, protein synthesis, protein and amino acids metabolism, and energy and respiratory metabolism … metabolic disturbances due to pesticide residues may occur at exposure doses for which there are no visible toxic effects, such as the agricultural doses used on Roundup-tolerant genetically modified crops."
Importantly, the researchers said the findings "are likely to challenge the concept of 'substantial equivalence' when applied to herbicide-tolerant plants."14 From a regulatory perspective, GE crops are considered "substantially equivalent" to their non-GE counterparts. This means, in essence, that they are essentially the same, with no meaningful differences for your health or the environment.
Yet, the problem, and it's a major one, is that research is increasingly showing GE crops are notsubstantially equivalent to their conventionally grown counterparts, and they're already being unleashed into the environment. It is also due to substantial equivalence that no oversight or long-term safety testing has been required of GE crops.
The researchers noted, "Our study reveals the need to undergo detailed molecular and metabolic studies of these genetically modified plants prior to any decision to keep or place them on the market."
Not Just Antibacterial and Antifungal, Glyphosate May Technically Be Anti-Life
Glyphosate is in fact patented as an antibiotic, and when broken down, the word antibiotic actually means "anti-life." It's increasingly appearing that this chemical is detrimental to life. Even as farmers continue spraying GE crops with the chemical, which appear to be impervious to it, changes are occurring.
For instance, a 2012 nutritional analysis of GE versus non-GE corn showed non-GE corn contains 437 times more calcium, 56 times more magnesium and seven times more manganese than GE corn. GE crops and glyphosate also impact soil ecology and biology, as the fungi study showed.
After farm fields are treated with glyphosate for years, you can see the physical damage that glyphosate causes. After two years, the fields are still green but after 11 years, the documentary, "Poisoned Fields: Glyphosate, the Underrated Risk?" shows drone footage of brown, burned-out fields that the farmers reported as mysterious damage. The fine roots of plants are responsible for taking in nutrients from the soil, but if they're damaged the plant cannot do so efficiently.
Not surprisingly, researchers found severely restricted root growth, with far fewer fine roots, among plants growing in the fields treated with glyphosate for more than a decade. Robert Kremer, Ph.D., coauthor of the book "Principles in Weed Management" and retired microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), found that glyphosate disrupts plant growth. Glyphosate's primary mode of action is that it shuts down amino acid synthesis, followed by inhibition of protein synthesis necessary for plant growth.
A complementary mode of action is that when this happens, it causes the plant to be more susceptible to the microbes (and any pathogens) in the soil. The reason for this is because the amino acids are also building blocks for other compounds that have defensive functions against soil pathogens.
As a result, the plant becomes more susceptible to attack and infection by many microorganisms in the soil. Glyphosate also acts as a mineral chelator, and minerals such as zinc, copper and manganese are essential cofactors in many plant and human enzymes.
Chelating or removing these minerals from the plants is largely responsible for impairing their protein synthesis, as the enzymes involved in syntheses require the minerals to function. This then opens the plant up to attack. By impairing soil biology and disrupting plant growth, glyphosate is threatening the very essence of life. As Hendrickson noted, "We are living in a microbial world and we have been affecting that world in ways that we have not fully grasped for much of the industrial era."
Will Toxic Roundup Usage Cease?
The studies once again linking glyphosate to antibiotic resistance as well as causing harm to soil fungi are the latest nails in the coffin for Roundup, which was also deemed a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015. Monsanto continues to contest the determination, even as it's become clear that they may have worked with a U.S. EPA official to stop glyphosate investigations.
As of July 2017, California's Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) also listed glyphosate as a chemical known to cause cancer under Proposition 65, which requires consumer products with potential cancer-causing ingredients to bear warning labels.
Meanwhile, in the EU, European Commission leaders met in March 2016 to vote on whether to renew a 15-year license for glyphosate, which was set to expire in June of that year. The decision was tabled amid mounting opposition, as more than 180,000 Europeans signed a petition calling for glyphosate to be banned outright. Ultimately, more than 2 million signatures were collected against relicensing the chemical.
In June 2016, however, the European Commission granted an 18-month extension to glyphosate while they continued the review. In October 2017, the European Parliament voted in favor of phasing out glyphosate over the next five years and immediately banning it for household use.
How to Lower Your Exposure to Toxic Herbicides Like Roundup
In addition to avoiding the use of Roundup in your backyard, eating organic as much as possible and investing in a good water filtration system for your home are among the best ways to lower your exposure to glyphosate and other pesticides. In the case of glyphosate, it's also wise to avoid desiccated crops like wheat and oats.
Purchasing organic, grass fed, antibiotic-free meats will also help to stop the spread of antibiotic resistance. If you'd like to know your personal glyphosate levels, you can now find out, while also participating in a worldwide study on environmental glyphosate exposures.
The Health Research Institute (HRI) in Iowa developed the glyphosate urine test kit, which will allow you to determine your own exposure to this toxic herbicide. Ordering this kit automatically allows you to participate in the study and help HRI better understand the extent of glyphosate exposure and contamination.
In a few weeks, you will receive your results, along with information on how your results compare with others and what to do to help reduce your exposure. We are providing these kits to you at no profit in order for you to participate in this environmental study.