Is glyphosate safe? This is the big debate, but evidence continues to mount that our environment and our health may be at risk. Here are 3 big problems with the Roundup chemical…
Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) has been in the news almost constantly for the past several years, and with good reason. Besides being the most widely used herbicide in history, it has also been linked to numerous environmental and public health concerns, although its widespread use continues across the globe.
Glyphosate is best known for its use on GE (genetically engineered or GMO) crops, many of which are bred to be “Roundup ready,” meaning they are resistant to the chemical. However, one of the most concerning aspects of glyphosate for human health is the fact that it is often sprayed on crops just before harvest (it speeds the drying of crops such as wheat and oats), which means that high levels of this chemical remain in the food after processing – even crops that are not GMOs. (Watch the eye-opening documentary “Poisoned Fields” to learn more.) This is why glyphosate is so commonly found in cereals, as was revealed last year in a number of news articles.
Still, many farmers continue to believe this chemical is safe for use on their crops, and as a result, glyphosate continues to pose a risk to both our health and the health of the environment.
Here are 3 of the main dangers of glyphosate use that have so far been discovered:
1.) Long-Term Damage to Crops, Roots, & Soil
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 video 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.
Numerous studies have also shown that glyphosate is contributing not only to the huge increase in Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), a serious plant disease, but also to an outbreak of some 40 different plant and crop diseases. It weakens plants, destroys soil and promotes disease in a number of ways, including:
- Acting as a chelator of vital nutrients, depriving plants of the nutrients necessary for healthy plant function
- Destroying beneficial soil organisms that suppress disease-causing organisms and help plants absorb nutrients
- Interfering with photosynthesis, reducing water use efficiency, shortening root systems and causing plants to release sugars, which changes soil pH
- Stunting and weakening plant growth
The herbicide doesn’t destroy plants directly; instead, it creates a unique “perfect storm” of conditions that activates disease-causing organisms in the soil, while at the same time wiping out plant defenses against those diseases.
2.) Sick & Deformed Livestock
The documentary mentioned above also highlights the harm glyphosate exerts on farm animals consuming glyphosate-treated feed. One German pig farmer noticed pigs giving birth to fewer piglets and an increase in stillborn and deformed piglets, which he said increased with the level of glyphosate in the feed.
With glyphosate at levels of 1.30 parts per million (ppm) in the feed, 1 out of 529 piglets were born deformed. At 2.26 ppm, 1 out of 240 piglets were born deformed, a linear increase. Higher doses of glyphosate in the feed were clearly associated with a higher number of deformities in the piglets.
When he switched to glyphosate-free feed, the problems declined. To be sure this wasn’t a coincidence, he then switched the pigs back to the glyphosate-treated feed. He noticed the pigs seemed to eat less of the feed and had more diarrhea, which required him to use more antibiotics.
This is a side effect known before, as glyphosate may disrupt the balance of gut microbes in mammals (including humans)…
3.) Tumors, Fertility Problems, & More…
Glyphosate has been found to impact fertility in animals, but it may also impact humans in a similar manner.
In 2014, a report from the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) highlighted what appears to be the perfect storm for an “infertility time-bomb,” courtesy of glyphosate.3 Average sperm counts have dropped by nearly half in the last 50 years, even among men without fertility problems.
Further, ISIS noted, 20 percent of young European men have sperm counts below the World Health Organization (WHO) reference level of 20 m/ml, and 40 percent have levels below 40 m/ml, which is associated with prolonging the time to pregnancy. Meanwhile, rates of conditions that impact semen quality and fertility are also on the rise.
There are, of course, many potential explanations for these conditions, but, as ISIS noted, it has been proposed that an environmental toxicant, especially an endocrine-disrupting chemical such as glyphosate, may be involved.
In December 2013, meanwhile, a study revealed that Roundup exposure induced cell death in Sertoli cells in prepubertal rat testis.4 Sertoli cells are required for male sexual development, including maintaining the health of sperm cells. The exposure was a low dose (36 ppm), which is well within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) food safety levels.
Some evidence suggests that glyphosate may be related to the increased incidence in autism among children in recent decades. It has also been linked to cancerous tumors in animals, and likely also in humans:
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. Previous research on animals, including rats, has led to similar findings.
In 2012, the first-ever lifetime feeding study evaluating the health risks of glyphosate and GE foods found that rats fed a type of GE corn that is prevalent in the U.S. food supply for two years developed massive mammary tumors, kidney and liver damage, and other serious health problems.