For the Love of all things Natural

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Are we really Roundup ready?

After hearing wind of this issue I spent several weeks researching and diving down the rabbit hole, but it was worth it as what I have come across has opened my eyes wide. This is worth reading, although if you're here, you probably know that already. Be prepared for a game changer.

Glyphosate is a broad spectrum herbicide which was first discovered in 1950 by a Swiss chemist, but whose discovery remained unpublished. It was later independently discovered in 1970 and developed under the name Roundup by the agricultural giant Monsanto. Since then it has been heavily marketed and is now an active ingredient in most popular pesticides worldwide.8 Glyphosate has been touted as being safe for humans 9, under the general consensus that it only acted on plants.8 Really? It wrecks havoc on plants but has no effect on us? That just sounds too good to be true. And it is. Read on.

So far, no one I have asked about the term dessication had heard of it in this context. Desiccation is an agricultural process where the crop is killed right at the end of it's life cycle which sends it into shock and forces it to put all its last gasping efforts into seed production, thereby increasing the crop yield. Glyphosate is one of the most common chemicals applied to conventionally grown (i.e. not organic) wheat in the United States for the purpose of desiccation. It is estimated that approximately 90% of conventionally grown wheat is sprayed with Roundup in the days leading up to harvest. It is also used in the "ripening" of conventionally grown sugar cane and several other crops. The Healthy Home Economist blog had a great article on this last month which is how I happened to stumble down this rabbit hole in the first place.1 What is most concerning is that glyphosate residues are now showing up in human samples due to all this food contamination. So, let's look at its effects shall we?

The heart
Acute exposure (i.e. a lot of glyphosate in a short time) has been shown to prolong certain signals in the heart which can lead to arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is any heart rhythm that isn't the normal "lub-dub" that we all love to hear. The authors of this study postulated that heart rhythm abnormality may be the cause of death in acute glyphosate poisoning.4

More acute exposure
In one case report of acute glyphosate poisoning in which a woman drank 500ml of Roundup in Thailand her corpse showed hemorrhage of the stomach wall and thinned walls, erosion of the tissues of the mucous membranes of the GI tract and lungs, pulmonary congestion and edema in both lungs, and drug induced hepatic toxicity in the liver.9

The stomach, liver, kidney, brain, pancreas, and spleen
While this study was done in rats, it still bears consideration. This is especially so since the dose of glyphosate were not acutely fatal, but rather was a low chronic dose. What happened is as follows:
Stomach- the lining, muscle, and glands were degenerated
Liver- the cells around the portal vein were degenerated
Brains- neuronal degeneration
Pancreas- acinar cells degenerated
Spleen- depopulated (empty) cells in both the red and the white pulps

This study did have one thing that wasn't so degenerated… that supplementation with zinc before the exposure protected the cells from all this havoc. At least there was something positive!6

The developing brain
Again, the poor rats take the hit. This study showed that either acute exposure or chronic low amounts during pregnancy and lactation induced toxicity in a part of the brain called the hippocampus in immature rats. This study elucidated that the mechanism for this toxicity was due to excessive extracellular glutamate levels. Glutamate is our brains "on" switch which has been implicated in a broad range of brain diseases.11

More nerve damage
In 2009 there was a case report of a 26 year old teacher who suffered nerve damage to his vocal chords after using Roundup correctly. It took him 6 weeks to get his voice back. The doctors called this intermittent neuropraxia of the laryngeal nerve. I call it just plain scary.12

Oh and those NFL concussions?
A study that was published in June, 2014 noted several environmental toxins, "particularly glyphosate," which played a part in increasing the brain's susceptibility to mild brain trauma, concussion, and downstream neurodegeneration by disrupting the brain's innate switching mechanism (remember that glutamate mentioned a few paragraphs ago?), which "normally turns off the immune response to brain injury once danger has been removed." 13 Hello? Where is the lawsuit over this???

Cancer- you knew it was coming
A Systematic Review and Meta Analysis (a really big review of a lot of studies) showed a positive association between glyphosate and B cell lymphoma.14 Breast cancer was also found to have a link to glyphosate. In this study, researchers showed that glyphosate had estrogenic activity (it acted like estrogen) and altered both alpha and beta forms of the Estrogenic Receptor (ER). This study was specifically looking at concentrations that mimicked those found in the environment. Additionally, since most of the soy grown in this country is GMO (Roundup ready anyone?) it is often sprayed heavily with this pesticide. This research showed that there was an additive estrogenic effect between glyphosate and genistein, the phytoestrogen found in soybeans.17 That’s a whole lot of estrogen having a whole lot of effects.

There are probably more cancer links. These just happened to be the ones I stumbled across. It was enough for me.

If you don't remember what mitochondria are from general biology class, essentially they are the power plant of the cell. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been implicated in a broad array of diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and many other autoimmune and rheumatologic diseases. What this study showed was that epithelial (the cells that line our body- skin, GI, nose, etc) cells that were sprayed with a 450 x dilution of the level used in agriculture spraying showed membrane damage and impairment of mitochondrial function along with DNA damage. They postulated that inhalation during spraying may be enough to cause these cytotoxic effects and DNA damage. 18 And it keeps getting better.

The gut
This is the biggie. This is the one that made my jaw drop. Stay with me here.

First, the cows. In 2013 an article was published looking at the increased rates of Clostridium botulinum (the bugger that causes botulism) in cows in Germany. What they found was a disturbance in the balance of the bacteria in the gut of the cows. Namely, the good bacteria that produce lactic acid and help keep other harmful bugs away were being destroyed. Researchers proposed that ingestion of glyphosate laced crops were to blame due to glyphosate's incredible toxic effects on the these beneficial bugs.5

Next come the chickens. Another 2013 study looked at the microbiome (the bio-dome inside the birds) of poultry. What they found was astounding. All of the highly pathogenic (i.e. disease causing) bacteria such as Salmonella entridis  (the most common Salmonella found in our food supply- yes, this is the same Salmonella that makes you wish you never ate that hippy fair chicken), Salmonella gallinarum, Salmonella typhimurium, Clostridium perfringes, and Clostridium botulinum (remember the botulism?)…… ALL OF THESE bacteria were highly resistant to glyphosate. Even more concerning was that most of the beneficial bacteria (Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcus faecium, Bacillus badius, Bifidobacterium adolescentis, and Lactobacillus spp.) were found to be moderately to highly susceptible. One bad bug, Campylobacter spp. were found to be susceptible to glyphosate.7 Whew! I thought that was going to be ALL bad news! Interestingly, my first hospitalization as an infant was for Campylobacter gut infection from playing with my chickens. I guess future generations won’t have to worry as much about that one, thanks to Roundup! Obviously, I jest. Food borne illness from contaminated poultry is serious business and kills many every year. If consumption of glyphosate laced feed is killing off most of the good bugs and allowing most of the bad bugs to thrive… well… you made it this far so I will let you draw your own conclusions about how much safer our world will be.

SIBO: Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. If you have heard of this one you can skip this paragraph. SIBO is a condition which is getting increasing awareness these days. Essentially, we are meant to have good gut bugs living happily in our large intestine where they live in harmony with our gut. However, when something impairs the motility (the squeezing ability) of the gut to push things down in the right direction, it creates the perfect scenario for the bacteria to migrate up from the large intestine into the small intestine. They do not play happily with our small intestine and cause a whole host of symptoms such as cramping, bloating, chronic diarrhea or chronic constipation, and a lot of other fun things. The current treatment is essentially antibiotics to wipe out the bacteria or an herbal protocol to wipe out the bacteria, followed by intensive repopulation of the gut with good bacteria. However, many practitioners realize that this is only a band-aid and that it does not usually treat the underlying motility issues. There are some suggested herbs and medications that can help improve motility, but often SIBO sufferers have frequent relapses and usually end up with major dietary changes to essentially starve the bacteria and prevent them from colonizing the wrong area. Okay, super long winded discussion, but it will pay off next.

A study published in July of 2014 investigated whether glyphosate might have an effect on the motility (tube squeezing down) of the small intestine. This investigation was done as prior research had shown that shortly after oral exposure, glyphosate is found in the highest concentration in the small intestine. What they found was that glyphosate impairs gastrointestinal motility at concentrations that are noticed in humans exposed to non-toxic doses of glyphosate.8  This was the jaw dropper for me. Finally! Is this the answer behind why we are seeing SIBO in such high levels? It seems entirely possible from this study. Please, please, some researcher look further into this!

And there's more…

Celiac. This is the "true gluten allergy" that damages the lining of the small intestine and causes malabsorption in those plagued with this miserable malady. I have written previously on gluten and celiac so I won’t go into too many details here, but one study in 2012 put the rate of celiac at 1 in 144 of Caucasians in the United States.3

A December, 2013 article published in the journal Interdiciplinary Toxicology discussed the possible explanation of the celiac rate explosion via glyphosate.2 Obviously, we can't blame all of celiac on glyphosate as it has been around far before the invention of glyphosate. However, these findings are too interesting not to warrant further investigation.

These are their findings:
·       We know that celiac disease is associated with imbalance in gut bacteria. Recall the article about the chickens above? Boom. Gut bacteria down, celiac up.
·       Many factors in celiac disease suggest impairment of liver detoxification enzymes, specifically the cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are involved with detoxing environmental toxins, activating Vitamin D3, catabolizing vitamin A, and maintaining bile acid production and sulfate supply to the gut (makes digestion happy). Glyphosate is known to inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes.
·       Deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper, and other trace metals are common in celiac disease. Glyphosate strongly binds these metals.
·       Deficiencies in certain amino acids (building blocks of protein) such as tryptophan, tyrosine, methionine, and selenomethionine are associated with celiac disease. Glyphoshate has a known depletion effect on these amino acids.
·       Celiac disease patients have a known increased risk for developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Recall the B-cell cancer risk associated with glyphosate mentioned above?
·       Infertility, miscarriage, and birth defects found in celiac patients… yup… you guessed it. Glyphosate could explain them.

Wow. That was a lot to take in. So why are they spraying this on our food again???

So how much does it take?
One study done in 2012 showed glyphosate induced biochemical changes in the livers, kidneys, and intestines of rats at 20 fold lower doses than the oral reference dose of 2mg/kg/day set by the EPA in 1993. 10

Even more worrisome is that the commercial formulations of glyphosate (i.e. Roundup) are even more toxic than glyphosate by itself due to the other chemicals added in the toxic plant cocktail. 15,16

So, do you want to keep eating conventionally grown wheat, sugar cane, and other crops sprayed with glyphosate before harvest? For me, the answer is crystal clear.

Edit 4/24/15
Testing available to the general public!!
Feed The World, a program through the WHO, has just announced that they will be offering glyphosate testing for urine, tap water, and soon, breast milk to the public. Find out more information and order your testing here:


·       Interdiscip Toxicol. 2013 Dec;6(4):159-84. doi: 10.2478/intox-2013-0026.
Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance.

3.     Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 Oct;107(10):1538-44; quiz 1537, 1545. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2012.219. Epub 2012 Jul 31.
The prevalence of celiac disease in the United States.

4.     Cardiovasc Toxicol. 2014 Sep 23. [Epub ahead of print]
Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Potently Affect Cardiovascular System in Mammals: Review of the Literature.

5.     Anaerobe. 2013 Apr;20:74-8. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2013.01.005. Epub 2013 Feb 6.
Glyphosate suppresses the antagonistic effect of Enterococcus spp. on Clostridium botulinum.

6.     Comp Clin Path. 2014;23(5):1535-1543. Epub 2013 Oct 10.
Influence of zinc supplementation on histopathological changes in the stomach, liver, kidney, brain, pancreas and spleen during subchronic exposure of Wistar rats to glyphosate.

7.     Curr Microbiol. 2013 Apr;66(4):350-8. doi: 10.1007/s00284-012-0277-2. Epub 2012 Dec 9.
The effect of glyphosate on potential pathogens and beneficial members of poultry microbiotain vitro.

8.     Pestic Biochem Physiol. 2014 Jul;113:25-30. doi: 10.1016/j.pestbp.2014.06.005. Epub 2014 Jun 24.
Glyphosate affects the spontaneous motoric activity of intestine at very low doses - in vitro study.

9.     Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2012 Sep;33(3):234-7. doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e31824b936c.
Pathological and toxicological findings in glyphosate-surfactant herbicide fatality: a case report.

10.  Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2012 Nov;34(3):811-8. doi: 10.1016/j.etap.2012.09.005. Epub 2012 Sep 18.
Effects of sub-lethal exposure of rats to the herbicide glyphosate in drinking water: glutathione transferase enzyme activities, levels of reduced glutathione and lipid peroxidation in liver, kidneys and small intestine.

11.  Toxicology. 2014 Jun 5;320:34-45. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2014.03.001. Epub 2014 Mar 15.
Mechanisms underlying the neurotoxicity induced by glyphosate-based herbicide in immature rat hippocampus: involvement of glutamate excitotoxicity.

12.  HNO. 2009 Nov;57(11):1197-202. doi: 10.1007/s00106-009-1962-8.
[Dysphonia following glyphosate exposition].
[Article in German]

13.  Surg Neurol Int. 2014 Jun 18;5:97. doi: 10.4103/2152-7806.134731. eCollection 2014.
Diminished brain resilience syndrome: A modern day neurological pathology of increased susceptibility to mild brain trauma, concussion, and downstream neurodegeneration.

14.  Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Apr 23;11(4):4449-527. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110404449.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

15.  Med Pr. 2013;64(5):717-29.
[Glyphosate and its formulations--toxicity, occupational and environmental exposure].
[Article in Polish]

16.  Toxicology. 2013 Nov 16;313(2-3):122-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2012.09.006. Epub 2012 Sep 21.
Ethoxylated adjuvants of glyphosate-based herbicides are active principles of human celltoxicity.

17.  Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Sep;59:129-36. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2013.05.057. Epub 2013 Jun 10.
Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors.

18.  Arch Toxicol. 2012 May;86(5):805-13. doi: 10.1007/s00204-012-0804-8. Epub 2012 Feb 14.
Cytotoxic and DNA-damaging properties of glyphosate and Roundup in human-derived buccal epithelial cells.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a well-written article. I find the presence of glyphosate in our food very troubling.

    In general, we can see rates of glyphosate in grains and sugar and soybeans around 1 to 3 mg per kg. This, to me, is troubling because of many of the reasons you describe above, mainly the disturbance of the gut microbiome.

    I've worked as a microbial ecologist, and i have seen how a selective pressure can allow one species to overtake another in a community, which is exactly what our distal gut is. It is a habitat for a very diverse microbial community that is very important to our efficient and healthy functioning as an organism.

    Glyphosate exposure at the levels we see daily in a typical American diet is enough to exert a selective pressure on the microbial populations and as you say, many of the pathogenic bacteria are more resistant to glyphosate than the beneficial ones. So in effect our gut gets made more mean.

    This has *not* been studied by any of the supposed "thousands of research studies" that supposedly "prove" that glyphosate is safe. If this very simple and probable pathway to gut microbiome disruption has not been studied, then i do not see how Monsanto got off saying that this chemical is safe and can be sold to agribusiness with the intention of it entering the food stream.

    The industry supporters continue to maintain a host of lies, such as saying the glyphosate does not bioaccumulate in animals, and has no effect on animals. Well, if it has an effect on the gut microbiome then it has an effect on animals. And if it accumulates within the microbes of the gut microbiome, then it bioaccumulates in animals.

    I cannot stand weasel-type lies, especially when it comes to something as important as a chemical that is in the food of the majority of people on the planet, and especially when the lie is told for profits, for greed. I call that by it's name: Evil.

    Evil is, to me, a willful negligence of the well being of others, for personal gain. Or perhaps it can better be understood as an addiction to wealth, and addicts will often do "whatever it takes" to get their fix, even down to poisoning the humans of the Earth.

    Thank you.