Glyphosphate And Human Health


Welcome to my blog ‘Glyphosphate And Human Health’.

What Is Glyphosphate?

Glyphosate, commonly known by its original trade name Roundup (manufactured by Monsanto), is the world’s most widely used herbicide (weedkiller). Glyphosate-based herbicides are manufactured by many companies in many countries.

Glyphosate is used on many crops to control weeds, including about 80% of genetically modified (GM) crops. Seeds are modified to be resistant to glyphosate so that when the herbicide is used it kills only the weeds around the crops. It is also sprayed on many crops, including cereals, such as wheat and oats, as a pre-harvest desiccant. This encourages the crops to dry quickly and evenly, allowing for earlier harvesting.

In addition, it is used by land owners, such as councils, to control weeds in our towns and cities. It is used in our parks, playgrounds, schools and on our pavements and verges. It is also readily available in many supermarkets and garden centres as an easy tool for gardeners at home and on allotments.

“Having been so heavily used, this herbicide is now found in the soil, water, air, and even in humans worldwide.” (2)

Is Glyphosphate In Our Food?

Glyphosate is found as a residue on many of the food products we eat. It has also been found in water, wine and beer. Testing has revealed that glyphosate is present in people’s urine in Europe, and in urine and breast milk in the USA.

Over 60% of wholemeal bread contains traces of glyphosate, according to PAN UK. While not necessarily toxic in small amounts, this gradual and persistent intake could create a health risk.

Glyphosphate And Human Health

In 2015, the the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) labelled glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic”.

Glyphosate can enter the human body and be excreted in unchanged form. The bioaccumulation factor for glyphosate varies significantly depending on species, time of exposure and concentration of the acting compound.  (7)

Independent scientific studies have also begun to reveal numerous acute and chronic effects of glyphosate-based herbicides. In addition, the ingredients  added to glyphosate products may be toxic. Many of these chemicals are trade secrets and we rely on the manufacturers to ensure the products have been tested to be safe.

It quickly became evident that separating science from politics and economic interests would be difficult for glyphosate.

Glyphosate typifies the problems associated with research, evaluation, and regulation of pesticides. These include serious difficulties in the conduct of human research; important gaps in post-market research into exposure and risk assessment, particularly in low and middle income countries; lack of information on environmental effects; extensive industry involvement in evaluation and regulatory processes; and the major legal implications of these evaluations.

“In fact, Swanson et al. showed that strong correlations existed between the increasing use of Roundup and the increasing rise in the number of Americans suffering from one or more of the 22 chronic illnesses in the study, which included obesity, hypertension, senile dementia, and several types of cancer.”

Studies have found that glyphosate-based herbicides can interfere with various organs and biochemical pathways in mammals. Genotoxicity and endocrine disruption also lead to chronic health and developmental effects. It causes imbalances in gut bacteria and some studies have found that glyphosate appears to accumulate in human cells. At low concentrations it damages liver, kidney and skin cells and long term effects include cancer, infertility, pregnancy problems, birth defects and respiratory diseases.

The kidneys and liver are the main targets for glyphosate; in January 2017 researchers led by Dr Michael Antoniou at King’s College London found that weed killers like Roundup cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NFLD) at doses thousands of times below permitted levels, establishing a clear causative link between the consumption of ‘real world’ levels of glyphosate (8).

Glyphosphate And The Human Gut Microbiome

Our results demonstrate that more than one-half of human microbiome are intrinsically sensitive to glyphosate.

Glyphosphate Effect Our Mitochondria

Having a wide range of effects on metabolism, cell signalling, apoptosis, dysfunction of gametogenesis and ageing, Roundup and its components appear to act through disruption of bioenergetic functions of mitochondria. (7)

Alterations in the mitochondrial bioenergetic reactivity have drastic consequences on cellular function through perturbation of the bioenergetic charge and balance of the cell.

It’s Not Just Effecting Humans!

More importantly perhaps glyphosate impacts the microbiome of the land, and the microbiome and the health of the wildlife.

Glyphosate producers claim it is rapidly inactivated in the soil. However, the chemical is very persistent in soils and sediments, and in colder, seasonal climates, such as the UK, residues have been found in the soil for up to 3 years. (6)

Research For Glyphosphate And Human Health:

  1. Does Glyphosate Affect the Human Microbiota? (click here)
  2. Glyphosate, Roundup and the Failures of Regulatory Assessment (click here)
  3. Computational modelling provides insight into the effects of glyphosate on the shikimate pathway in the human gut microbiome (click here)
  4. The effects of low-toxic herbicide Roundup and glyphosate on mitochondria (click here)
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