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Glyphosate has likely caused more damage to human health than any other chemical ever produced. Indeed, it is probably a cause of the explosion in chronic diseases. Surely civilization cannot be maintained when the average person is irrevocably ill. This trajectory of human misery must come to an end.
by Heidi Stevenson
This is Part 3 of a three-part series:
Ubiquity of Glyphosate
Glyphosate was first introduced in 1974 and has become the world's most dominant herbicide. It's now generic, so there are many brands and formulations. As a result, it's virtually ubiquitous, found nearly everywhere on earth. Further driving its use are genetically modified (GM) crops, which were first developed for the purpose of creating glyphosate-tolerant plants, usually known as Roundup Ready. These have resulted in ever-more blatant and free use, especially in the wake of glyphosate-resistant superweeds. Estimates put glyphosate-tolerant GM crops at 90% of all transgene crops.
In the United States alone, the amount and increase in glyphosate's use is stunning. The following table gives estimated figures in millions of pounds of glyphosate for one year:
Notice that the amount of use has doubled in just six years.
Exposure to Glyphosate
Samsel & Seneff state:
The Western diet is a delivery system for toxic chemicals used in industrial agriculture. It consists primarily of processed foods based on corn, wheat, soy and sugar, and they're consumed in high quantities. Chemical residues of insecticides, fungicides and herbicides like glyphosate contaminate the entire diet.
Roundup Ready GM crops have become the mainstay of Agribusiness. These include soy, beet sugar, and corn—which supply the bulk of the processed food industry. High fructose corn syrup, implicated in the diabetes epidemic, is produced mostly with GM corn. Cotton is genetically engineered and its oil has entered the food supply.
Glyphosate is systemic in plants, so it cannot be washed off. If it's used on a crop, it will be in the food produced from it. All the soy, sugar, cotton, and corn that ends up in packaged foods is carrying glyphosate into our bodies.
Food and dairy animals are raised in concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs). The bulk of their diets consists of GM grain crops. Grain and sugar crops take up higher levels of glyphosate than other crops. Therefore, the flesh, eggs, and milk of CAFO-raised animals are contaminated with glyphosate, which enters the food pipeline.
Glyphosate is used not only on Roundup Ready crops, but also on glyphosate-sensitive sugar cane and wheat shortly before harvest, when it acts as a dessicant. It's also used as a dessicant on Roundup Ready sugar beets, canola, and cottonseed for oils, among others.
The perception that glyphosate is not toxic in humans results in difficulty obtaining figures on how much glyphosate ends up in the food supply. The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Pesticide Data Program is voluntary. Searching for information on residues for the year 2010, the most recent year for which data is provided, shows residue levels for all pesticides except glyphosate and another organophosphate, glufosinate. The USDA has simply not monitored residue levels for either of these herbicides, though they will this year (2013), but only for a small sampling of glyphosate residues in soy.
Increasing Limits on Glyphosate Use
Governments have failed to control use of glyphosate. The precautionary principle has not been in evidence anywhere. The drive to use it has increased as the use of glyphosate on Roundup Ready crops, which has driven development of noxious superweeds. Therefore, Agribusiness in the forms of chemical and biotech industries have demanded increased limits on glyphosate residue.
In 1999, the EU and UK, where no GM crops are currently grown for human consumption, increased the limit for soy from 0.1 parts per million to 20 ppm—a 200-fold increase! The US limit for soy is currently the same.
Pressure is now on to increase levels even more. In the EU, industry is pressing for an increase of at least 100 times current residue levels in lentils from 0.1 ppm to 10 ppm, or even 15 ppm. Safety isn't factored in. Approval levels are based solely on anticipated use, and glyphosate use is being driven massively higher by the noxious superweeds that exist only because of it.
The residue limits for food animals are even worse, and by a huge amount. Animal-feed grass is allowed glyphosate residues of 300 ppm, and animal-feed corn can have glyphosate residues of 400 ppm!
It should come as no surprise that sickness is becoming the normal state of health. Chronic diseases, once fairly rare, are now how we live and die. Diseases once seen almost exclusively in the elderly are now being seen in children. Autoimmune and neurological disorders are becoming common.
There are many potentially causative and contributory factors, but glyphosate has generally gotten a pass because it was considered "generally recognized as safe"—GRAS—for its apparently low toxicity. Indeed, short term studies appeared to confirm its innocence. However, long term studies of its effects on health weren't done until recently. The most insidious factor in glyphosate's toxicity has been the slow expression of harmful effects. Because of it, studies demonstrating glyphosate's insidious action inside the body—like those Samsel & Seneff reviewed—have been systematically ignored.
So glyphosate is now the most popular herbicide on earth, and that factor is driving the extent of harm it produces. It isn't just the fact of its toxicity that's at issue, it's the sheer volume of usage.
Samsel & Seneff's research is blowing away the smokescreen around the harmful effects of this monstrous product. They have provided specifics for how glyphosate can destroy health and produce the modern plague of chronic diseases.
Glyphosate: A Trajectory of Human Misery
The proven and probable effects of glyphosate are manifold. The meteoric rise in chronic diseases and metabolic disorders has occurred during the same time period that glyphosate was introduced, and has followed a trajectory much like that of the herbicide's massive increase in use.
At some point, officials in power must take their heads out of the sand and address the evidence that ties glyphosate to the epidemic of chronic diseases. Samsel and Seneff have now collected, sorted, and logically extrapolated on evidence from studies, and they leave little question that there must be an association between the herbicide and the phenomenon of mass ill health.
Samsel and Seneff do not oversell their findings. They clarify that glyphosate is not the only toxin in today's world. Nonetheless, its known effects on some of the human body's most basic functions—disruption of gut bacteria, impairment of sulphate transport, and interference with CYP enzyme activity—indicate that, at the very least, glyphosate must have a synergistic effect with other environmental toxins.
It is, therefore, imperative that—at the very least—a moratorium be declared on the use of glyphosate until and unless it can be demonstrated to be safe. Surely it's long past time to apply the precautionary principle to glyphosate and its partner in synergy, Roundup. The toll in human suffering, not to mention costs to society and economic losses, cannot be allowed to continue.
Surely civilization cannot be maintained when the average person is irrevocably ill. This trajectory of human misery must come to an end.
- Samsel, Anthony; Seneff, Stephanie. 2013. "Glyphosate's Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases." Entropy 15, no. 4: 1416-1463; doi:10.3390/e15041416