This is part TWO of a three-part series on glyphosate. You can read part ONE here. Please ensure you have subscribed to my newsletter receive part three.
Organic food is expensive, hard to come by and the produce is rarely as appealing or as big as it's chemical treated counterparts. Yet despite these limitations, if health, or your children's health, is a priority you need to buy and eat organically.
Why the hard line? One word - Glyphosate.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in herbicides like Roundup, is the world's most used pesticide. With the invention of GMO 'RoundUp Ready' crops in 1996, farmers now spray entire fields with this chemical. Sometimes even days before harvest.
In part 1 of my series on glyphosate, I looked at the increasing use of glyphosate around the world, humans exposure to it and the impact it has had on our environment. Some key findings included:
For more on these points, please read part 1 - Glyphosate: The Weed Killer Found In Our Food & Water - before reading the below.
So why do you want to avoid glyphosate and eat organic? And what impact does glyphosate have on our health? Read on to find out.
Glyphosate use is huge in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, so is chronic kidney disease. A 2015 paper in the Environmental Health Journal looked at occupational exposure to glyphosate and kidney health. The studies findings concluded:
The current study strongly favors the hypothesis that CKDu (Kidney Disease) epidemic among farmers in Sri Lanka is associated with spraying glyphosate and other pesticides in paddy fields. (1)
Another similar study concerned with chronic kidney disease in Southern Asian populations concluded:
(Glyphosate) seems to have acquired the ability to destroy the renal tissues of thousands of farmers when it forms complexes with a localized geo environmental factor (hardness) and nephrotoxic metals. (2)
These studies were looking at farmers exposed to large amounts of glyphosate. But other studies have shown that low-dose exposure to glyphosate (doses considered to be 'safe' for humans) show that these chemicals can induce kidney damage. (3, 4, 5, 6, 9).
As outlined in Part 1 of this series, glyphosate residues have been detected in animal tissues of cattle, pigs and poultry. Recent metabolic studies show that levels of glyphosate in the kidney and liver are 10 times (or more) higher than levels found in the muscle and fat. (7)
If your diet includes liver or kidneys be sure to source them from organic meat farms.
Glyphosate exposure is also linked to poor liver health. In fact, the low dose study mentioned above showed "irreversible damage in hepatocytes (liver cells)' (4). Including AST & ALT liver enzymes leaking into blood serum.
AST & ALT readings are common in blood panel tests. When reviewing blood panels of clients I often see elevated AST & ALT readings along with liver problems. The knee-jerk reaction to these readings is to go on a 'detox' diet, or reduce alcohol or sugar consumption. But given the findings of this study, maybe we need to look at changing our diet to be organic.
Glyphosate was also found to alter the expression of more than 4000 liver and kidney genes. Genes are simply switches, they change to their surrounding environment (the environment we live in, but also the food we ingest and even our thoughts).
Glyphosate is obviously having a massive influence on these genetic 'switches', altering the way they are being expressed. In turn causing fibrosis, necrosis, phospholipidosis, mitochondrial membrane dysfunction and ischemia - all symptoms of liver damage created by low dose exposure to the pesticide glyphosate (6).
If I were to take a guess, I would approximate that 90% of the clients I work with have some form of a gut issue - usually dysbiosis (bacterial overgrowth or imbalance).
In fact, it's gotten to the point now where I will start my coaching clients on a gut reset diet as we wait for the stool tests results, that's how prevalent gut issues seem to be in the population I work with.
There are many causes behind the widespread occurrence of gut issues today. Given the amount of research done on glyphosate and gut damage, it appears that increased glyphosate exposure should be included in this list.
Why is glyphosate so damaging on the gut? Due to the damage, it causes to our gut microbiome (the bugs that live in our gut). In fact, you may not know this but glyphosate is patented as an antibiotic or biocide.
In 2003 Monsanto applied for a patent to use glyphosate to kill parasites. In 2010 the US Patent office awarded this patent.
This may be viewed as a good thing - but just as conventional antibiotics can have negative side effects, the same applies to glyphosate.
Numerous studies have shown that glyphosate as an antibiotic can alter the gut microbiome, which in turn can support the proliferation of harmful microbes in the gut - leading to issues such as gut dysbiosis. (10, 11, 12, 13).
Worse, a 2015 New Zealand study found that roundup can cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics. (14)
Remember - glyphosate is found in our food supply and rainwater. You don't have to pop a glyphosate-laden round of antibiotics to create this destruction in your gut. Every time you eat non-organic food you're ingesting glyphosate residue.
Not only does glyphosate damage our gut microbiome leading to a growth of pathogenic microbes, but the same chemical that caused the problem also means that the typical remedies (more antibiotics) are no longer effective.
This is becoming a big concern in the scientific community. E. Coli and Salmonella Enterica have been shown to become harder to kill after being exposed to small doses of Roundup (14).
As the authors of a 2015 paper in the American Society for Microbiology remarked:
Increasingly common chemicals used in agriculture, domestic gardens, and public places can induce a multiple-antibiotic resistance phenotype in potential pathogens. The effect occurs upon simultaneous exposure to antibiotics and is faster than the lethal effect of antibiotics. The magnitude of the induced response may undermine antibiotic therapy and substantially increase the probability of spontaneous mutation to higher levels of resistance. The combination of high use of both herbicides and antibiotics in proximity to farm animals and important insects, such as honeybees, might also compromise their therapeutic effects and drive greater use of antibiotics.(14)
The widespread use of glyphosate along with haphazard antibiotic prescription is creating an escalating problem around antibiotic resistant.
But the problem with glyphosate doesn't stop at antibiotic resistance. More and more papers are showing the damaging effects of glyphosate exposure on the gut. Here are a few findings:
Highly pathogenic bacteria are highly resistant to glyphosate. Beneficial bacteria were found to be moderate to highly susceptible. A reduction of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract microbiota by ingestion of glyphosate could disturb the normal gut bacterial community. (15)
We report on the toxicity of glyphosate to the most prevalent Enterococcus spp. in the gastro-intestinal tract. Ingestion of this herbicide could be a significant predisposing factor that is associated with the increase in C. botulinum mediated diseases.(16)
Negative impact of this cytochrome is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders,obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’sdisease. We explain the documented effects of glyphosate and its ability to induce disease,and we show that glyphosate is the “textbook example” of exogenous semiotic entropy: the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins.
Glyphosate is an endocrine disrupting chemical that has a dramatic effect on sex hormone production.
Researchers from Texas Tech University found that exposure to Roundup caused a decrease in sex hormone production (17). The researchers discovered that Roundup blocked the protein that carried cholesterol to the site where hormones are synthesized. In turn, sex hormone production dropped by 90%
A 2009 study titled Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines. Looked at the effect glyphosate had on human cells. As the title suggests, the findings were dramatic. Here are some of the statements from the study:
We exposed human liver HepG2 cellsm to four different formulations and to glyphosate, which is usually tested alone in chronic in vivo regulatory studies. We measured cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, anti-estrogenic and anti-androgenic effects. We also checked androgen to estrogen conversion by aromatase activity and mRNA. All parameters were disrupted at sub-agricultural doses with all formulations within 24h.
The researchers noticed disruptions on the androgen and estrogen receptors in various cells. Also, the study revealed cell toxicity issues and DNA damage when levels reached 5ppm or higher. They concluded with:
A real impact of glyphosate-based herbicides residues in food, feed or in the environment has thus to be considered, and their classifications as carcinogens/mutagens/reprotoxics is discussed. (18)
A third study titled Potential toxic effects of glyphosate and its commercial formulations below the regulatory limit (19) reviewed the toxic effects of glyphosate-based herbicides (GlyBH). More importantly, they measured the effects when using glyphosate exposure below regulatory limits (i.e. exposure levels that regulators would deem as being safe).
We reveal a coherent body of evidence indicating that GlyBH could be toxic below the regulatory lowest observed adverse effect level for chronic toxic effects. It includes teratogenic (birth defects), tumorigenic (tumor enhancing) and hepatorenal (kidney problems) effects. They could be explained by endocrine disruption and oxidative stress, causing metabolic alterations, depending on dose and exposure time.
Neurodevelopmental, reproductive, and transgenerational effects of GlyBH must be revisited, since a growing body of knowledge suggests the predominance of endocrine disrupting mechanisms caused by environmentally relevant levels of exposure.
Continuing on from the endocrine-disrupting properties of glyphosate, we find a study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology. This 2014 study found that glyphosate increased breast cancer cells growth by altering estrogen receptors.
And men, if you think you're off the hook on this one, the researchers also noted that glyphosate increased estrogenic activity in the body (20).
In March 2015, World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) re-classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” (21).
Kathryn Guyton, a senior toxicologist at the IARC says, “Because the evidence in experimental animals was sufficient and the evidence in humans was limited, that would put the agent into group 2A (probably carcinogenic).”
Yet despite this recognition of glyphosate's potential health effects, its use continues to grow.
The links between glyphosate and cancer were established well before this 2015 report. Long term rat studies done in the 1980's indicated possible carcinogen effects from glyphosate (22). And a 2014 rat study found links between tumour sizes, mortality rates and glyphosate exposure (23).
Epidemiological human studies on pesticide and cancer have found an association between roundup and blood cancer. While a 2005 study found that those who regularly applied glyphosate were at higher risk of multiple myeloma (a cancer of bone marrow cells).
Glyphosate and Thyroid Cancer - Correlation doesn't mean causation, but the data is interesting nevertheless
But the strongest link between glyphosate and cancer in humans is with the onset of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) is the 7th most common form of cancer, being more common than thyroid cancer and leukaemia and has double the amount of deaths of skin cancer (24). Cases of NHL have doubled between 1975 and 2006.
At the time of writing, there is no direct evidence showing that glyphosate causes NHL, but there are numerous studies showing glyphosate exposure is associated with a higher incidence of NHL.
A Canadian population study on NHL cases against glyphosate use found an increased risk of NHL associated with glyphosate use. The risk increased by the number of days used per year. (25)
A 2008 study published in the International Journal of Cancer looked at a Swedish population exposed to pesticides including glyphosate. The researchers remarked:
Glyphosate was associated with a statistically significant increased (risk) for lymphoma in our study. Recent findings from other groups also associate glyphosate with different B-cell malignancies such as lymphomas and myeloma. (26)
Finally, a 2014 literature review concluded that there was an association between exposure to glyphosate and NHL. (27).
Though correlation does not imply causation, the evidence is solid that by avoiding glyphosate you are decreasing your risk of cancer like NHL.
Personally, as a male who is yet to start a family, my biggest concern with glyphosate is the evidence linking glyphosate to birth defects and reproductive issues.
This is a widely researched area and there are many studies on this topic.
A 2012 European report in the Journal of Environmental & Analytical Toxicology found congenital malformations in young pigs fed glyphosate-contaminated soybeans.
Here are a few snippets from that paper (28):
All organs or tissues had glyphosate in different concentrations. The highest concentrations were seen in the lungs and hearts.
These piglets showed different abnormalities as ear atrophy,spinal and cranial deformations, cranium hole in head and leg atrophy; in one piglet one eye was not developed, it had only a large one. Piglets without trunk, with elephant tongue, and female piglet with testes were also present.
Glyphosate and its commercial herbicides severely affect embryonic and placental cells, producing mitochondrial damage, necrosis and programmed cell death with doses far below the used agricultural concentrations.
The risk of malformation in human embryos is very high when their mothers are contaminated at 2 to 8 weeks of pregnancy
In conclusion, glyphosate could reach the animals through food and feed and is able to pass the placental barriers
Similar findings have been observed in poultry. (34).
A 2010 study looked at the glyphosates' teratogenic (malformation of embryos) properties and found that glyphosate exposure to embryos was evident. The authors concluded:
The direct effect of glyphosate on early mechanisms of morphogenesis in vertebrate embryos opens concerns about the clinical findings from human offspring in populations exposed to Glyphosate in agricultural fields. (29)
This is just the start of the literature on glyphosate and birth defects. Given a large amount of data on this topic, I have summarised key findings below:
I'm only scratching the surface on the evidence published on glyphosate and birth defects. For a detailed report on this topic. Please see the 2011 report titled - Roundup and Birth Defects: Is the public being kept in the dark (35).
Despite celiac disease only being present in a small percentage of the population, an every growing number of people are becoming intolerant to wheat products.
I know a lot of people that respond badly to gluten, but 10 years ago they ate it without trouble. Is the change all in their head or is there something else at play?
According to the published paper Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance by Dr Stephanie Seneff & Anthony the problem with gluten isn't the gluten itself. In their paper, they show how the increasing number suffering from celiac disease and gluten intolerance is due to glyphosate.
We have systematically shown how all of the features of celiac disease can be explained by glyphosate's known properties. These include (1) disrupting the shikimate pathway, (2) altering the balance between pathogens and beneficial biota in the gut, (3) chelating transition metals, as well as sulfur and selenium, and (4) inhibiting cytochrome P450 enzymes. We argue that a key system-wide pathology in celiac disease is impaired sulfate supply to the tissues, and that this is also a key component of glyphosate's toxicity to humans.Source - leahybeekeeping.com
This may also be the reason why so many Americans can happily consume wheat in European countries but suffer severe GI distress if they consume wheat products in their home country (regulations around glyphosate and GMO roundup ready crops are stricter in the EU than in the USA).
Glyphosate is similar in structure to amino acids glycine and glutamate. Glutamate is important for learning and memory functions and given that we know glyphosate is ingested orally in contaminated food there is a concern that glyphosate could interfere with this key signalling process. (38).
Rats exposed to high levels of glyphosate suffered neurotoxicity through multiple mechanisms. (39). Another rat study showed how glyphosate pesticides depleted serotonin and dopamine - important neurotransmitters in our body that transmit signals in across our brain. (40).
Glyphosate exposure has also been linked to neurobehavioral disorders in children (such as ADHD), though it should be noted this was an epidemiological study. (41)
Finally, some researchers have claimed that glyphosate could play a role in the development of Parkinson's disease. Two case studies have potentially linked high glyphosate exposure to the onset of Parkinson's disease. (43).
Further studies on rats have shown a mechanism of action for how glyphosate induced cell damage is consistent with the onset of Parkinson's disease (42).
Mitochondria are tiny organelles that live inside the cells of our body. They are the powerhouse of the majority of the bodies cells. Many health experts believe poor health is linked to poor mitochondrial health.
Studies looking at how glyphosate or glyphosate-based herbicides affect mitochondrial health show potential damage to the cell and lead the researchers to conclude: these results question the safety of Roundup on animal health.(44, 45)
Currently, there is little data on glyphosate exposure and gene damage in humans, but there are a lot of animal studies.
A fact sheet published on EastBayPesticideAlert.org (69) has a great overview of these studies:
In fruit flies, Roundup and Pondmaster (an aquatic herbicide consisting of glyphosate and a trade secret surfactant) both increased the frequency of sexlinked, recessive lethal mutations. (These are mutations that are usually visible only in males. Only a single concentration was tested in this study. (46)
A study of human lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) showed an increase in the frequency of sister chromatid exchanges following exposure to the lowest dose tested of Roundup.(47) A 1997 study of human lymphocytes found similar results with Roundup.
In Salmonella bacteria, Roundup was weakly mutagenic at two concentrations. In onion root cells, Roundup caused an increase in chromosome aberrations, also at two concentrations. (48)
In mice injected with Roundup, the frequency of DNA adducts (the binding to genetic material of reactive molecules that lead to mutations) in the liver and kidney increased at all three doses tested.(49)
In another study of mice injected with glyphosate and Roundup, the frequency of chromosome damage and DNA damage increased in bone marrow, liver, and kidney. (50).
Finally, a 2015 peer-reviewed study shows that glyphosate at levels commonly exposed to by the public, altered the gene function of over 4000 liver and kidney genes. (51). Though this study was done on rats it does raise the urgent need for future research.
As outlined earlier in this article, glyphosate is more than a simple herbicide, it is patented as an antibiotic. But that's not all. Glyphosate is also patented as a chelating agent (52, 53). In fact, it was patented as a chelating agent in 1964, before Monsanto acquired the chemical for its herbicidal properties.
Being a chelation agent means that glyphosate binds with nutrients in the soil preventing update into plants. These nutrients include iron, manganese, zinc and boron (54, 55). An obvious concern here is lower nutrient values in GMO crops or crops exposed to glyphosate-contaminated soil.
As these minerals are important enzymatic cofactors, there is potential for deleterious effects, especially with liver and kidney function (56).
Glyphosate also binds strongly with calcium. Glyphosate has been used as a descaling agent to clear out calcium and mineral deposits in hot water systems. Once bound with a metal, it can remain in the environment (including biological environments) for a long time.
Meanwhile, reports show that a significant portion of glyphosate is absorbed into the bones of mice and rats.
Dr Stephanie Seneff, a senior scientist at MIT has declared that autism rates in children are going to continue to explode, and the cause - glyphosate.
In a discussion about GMOs, Dr Seneff claimed that one in two children in the US will be autistic by 2025. Though it needs to be mentioned that this statement is not supported by any hard evidence nor have other scientists supported this claim.
Nevertheless, Dr Seneff, author of over 170 peer-reviewed studies (57), has immersed herself in studying glyphosate, and her findings continue to cause concern.
Seneff noted how the side effects of autism mimic those of glyphosate toxicity. Children with autism show zinc and iron deficiency, low serum sulphate, digestive issues and mitochondrial disorders.
Glyphosate's mechanism of action in plants is by inhibiting the shikimate pathway. This is a 7 step metabolic process in bacteria, fungi, parasites, algae and plants. Monsanto claims that Roundup is harmless to humans as we don't possess this pathway.
As Seneff points out, we do have a lot of bacteria in our gut, and gut health is linked to a lot of health issues. As we covered earlier in this article, roundup is a proven antibiotic and can kill beneficial bacteria in our gut. The flow on effect is profound - gut dysbiosis, interference in amino acid production (important for neurotransmitter synthesis) and chelation of important minerals.
Glyphosate impact on our gut isn't the only concern. Seneff and her colleagues have shown that glyphosate disrupts sulphur metabolism, causing glutathione deficiencies (our bodies potent antioxidant) and impaired methylation pathways. (58)
Acknowledging the fact that glyphosate is a powerful metal chelator, Seneff found that glyphosate strongly binds with manganese. Manganese deficiency leads to impaired mitochondrial function and glutamate toxicity in the brain. (59)
This, in turn, has been shown to reduce serum levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Seneff even points out that through glyphosate's manganese chelation properties, the reduced TSH levels could cause hypothyroidism. (60) This should be alarming to expecting mothers, as mothers with hypothyroidism have a 4 fold increased risk of autism in the fetus.
The most alarming of Seneffs findings is how glyphosate may erroneously replace glycine during protein synthesis. Glycine is a very important amino acid for human health and is found in bone broth and collagen powders.
Anthony Samsel - Dr Seneffs colleague- shares some critical points on this subject:
If Seneffs findings are backed up by future research it could prove that eating non-organic, glyphosate-contaminated foods have huge consequences to modern disease. Seneff states:
Glyphosate insertion by mistake in place of glycine during protein synthesis can easily explain the alarming correlations between glyphosate usage on crops and a long list of debilitating chronic diseases. (61)
For more of Seneffs findings on glyphosate, including links to Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, Neural Tube Defects, diabetes, obesity and adrenal insufficiency please see this presentation.
A lot of the evidence presented above looks at the harmful effects of glyphosate. However, it needs to be noted that herbicide products use a mixture of chemicals, with glyphosate simply being an active ingredient.
These herbicides - such as Roundup, Accord, Expedite and Bronco, all include additives such as surfactants.
One of these studies even found that the surfactant added to rounded - polyoxyethylene amine (POEA) accounted for more than 86% of Roundup toxicity when tested on some aquatic animals. (66)
This finding was backed up by a rat study:
The amount of Roundup (containing glyphosate and the surfactant POEA) required to kill rats is about 1/3 the amount of glyphosate alone.' Roundup is also more acutely toxic than POEA. (68)
Unfortunately, there aren't many studies on the formulas as the list of chemicals found in most commercial glyphosate herbicides is protected as 'confidential business information'.
The authors of the 2016 Environmental Health paper on Glyphosate summarise this concern below (63):
In the case of Glyphosate Herbicides (GBH), the adjuvants and surfactants, which include ethoxylated tallowamines, alkylpolyglycosides or petroleum distillates in most commonly used commercial formulations, alters both the environmental fate and residue levels of glyphosate and AMPA in harvested foodstuffs and animal feeds.
GBH-product formulations are more potent, or toxic, than glyphosate alone to a wide array of non-target organisms including mammals, aquatic insects, and fish. As a result, risk assessments of GBHs that are based on studies quantifying the impacts of glyphosate alone underestimate both toxicity and exposure, and thus risk. This all-too-common shortcoming has repeatedly led regulators to set inappropriately high exposure thresholds.
Despite all the evidence of glyphosate's impact on our health, you may be thinking 'well I don't eat organic food and I'm fine'. It is important to remember that the harmful effects of glyphosate may not emerge immediately.
Just how the ill effects of smoking don't present themselves immediately, glyphosate toxicity can take decades to manifest.
Worst is the inter-generational concern around glyphosate. We know that glyphosate exposure leads to birth defects, autism and various health issues in newborns, we also know that the environment we are living in is changing due to the increasing use of glyphosate.
Even if our children are born with perfect health, they enter the world where glyphosate contamination in food increases every year. Regulations on 'safe limits' continue to be reduced, and the widespread use of glyphosate on GMO crops, for desiccation, boosting crop yields, as an antibiotic and a chelation agent grow.
Studies have even found that the food lab rats are fed are contaminated with toxic levels of glyphosate. Scientific findings will become less reliable as control groups - fed standard rodent mash consisting of corn, and grains - will be poisoned from their diet. (64).
The authors of the 2016 paper in Environmental Health summarise it perfectly (63):
The timing, nature, and severity of [glyphosate impact on the] endocrine system will vary depending on the levels and timing of Glyphosate exposures, the tissues exposed, the age and health status of exposed organisms, and other biotic or abiotic stressors impacting the developmental stage and/or physiology of the exposed organism. Exposures can trigger a cascade of biological effects that may culminate many years later in chronic degenerative diseases or other health problems. Exposures leading to serious complications later in life might occur over just a few days to a month in short-lived animals, and over a few days to several months in humans.
Society is at a crossroads. We can admit we have made a mistake, change the rules and start repairing the damage.
Or, we can keep our head in the sand and continue as is, while health issues continue to rise.
Personally, I know what path I would prefer to take. I also know I will continue to shop organic when possible. Though I don't have the power to change society as a whole, I hope through my blog I can change individuals, who in turn can change others.
Finally, if reading part 1 and part 2 of my glyphosate series has left you feeling concerned, frustrated and scared, do not worry. In the 3rd and final part of my glyphosate series - How To Protect Yourself From Glyphosate, I share 24 tips that you can use to reduce your exposure to glyphosate.
Even better, I will show you the worst foods for glyphosate contamination, supplements to help reduce glyphosate toxicity in your body (for those times you can't eat the perfect diet) and how to detox the body from glyphosate and glyphosate products like Roundup.
All this is covered in detail in part 3 How To Protect Yourself From Glyphosate. Be sure to sign up to my newsletter below to be the first to hear when this article is live. In the mean time, be sure to check out the documentary 'Whats With Wheat?'
Print it out, share it with the family, carry it with you when you do your shop. These simple to follow tips will help you and your family minimise the negative impact this toxic chemical has on our health. To access this report, please click HERE.
This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is an ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.
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