Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’re undoubtedly aware of the controversy surrounding Monsanto’s Roundup (glyphosate) weed killer. Roundup is a principal component of Monsanto’s GMO (genetically modified organisms) policy in which crops (primarily corn and soy) are genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate toxicity, which is lethal to virtually every weed known. By planting glyphosate-resistant crops and then spraying liberal amounts of glyphosate, growers can (allegedly) grow crops more economically, burdened far less by weed growth. In addition to using glyphosate on GMO crops, some of these farmers are also using it as a “burndown” herbicide to eliminate weeds prior to planting. The use of glyphosate as a burndown agent is apparently quite prevalent when growing wheat.
Setting aside the emerging issues of glyphosate-resistant super weeds that are now appearing and doubling every two years, there has been much controversy in recent years over the toxicity of glyphosate in humans.
One glyphosate study, performed by Dr. Andreas Carrasco and a team of researchers in Argentina, analyzed birth defects in frogs and chickens exposed to glyphosate. His study revealed the same skeletal deformities in these animals as was witnessed in the children that were born to the mothers who lived in agricultural communities where large amounts of glyphosate were being aerially applied to glyphosate-resistant GMO soybeans.
A team led by Dr. Gilles Eric Seralini documented severe damage from glyphosate to umbilical cord cells from human infants. Glyphosate residue kills both the sperm and the egg at a half part per million and causes endocrine disruption to the cells at 0.2 of a part per million.
Monsanto has steadfastly held that glyphosate is harmless, even falsely claiming that glyphosate doesn’t cross the placental barrier to reach the fetus, a claim readily disproved by the journal Clinical Research in Toxicology.
Adding to the mounting pile of evidence that Monsanto’s glyphosate is harmful is MIT researcher Stephanie Seneff, who focuses primarily on the relation between nutrition and health.
In a June, 2014 slide show that is quickly becoming famous, Dr. Seneff shows disturbing correlations between the increasing use of glyphosate and a number of maladies, including autism, dementia, celiac disease, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and intestinal infection. More than just showing correlation, Dr. Seneff offers some possible mechanisms of action that explain glyphosate’s role in promoting these increasingly common diseases. For example, Monsanto argues that a principal mechanism of glyphosate’s action, the disruption of the Shikimate pathway (a biochemical process used by plants and bacteria to generate the amino acids: phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan), is harmless to humans because humans do not utilize the Shikimate pathway. What Monsanto is conveniently overlooking, however, is that human gut bacteria does use this biochemical process to produce amino acids, and other biochemical goodies, that are vital to human health, which produces a shortage of neurotransmitters and folate.
Dr. Seneff’s also points out that because glyphosate’s damaging effects increase over time, most studies are too short to show damage. (If you’ve read “The Truth About Drug Companies” by former New England Journal of Medicine editor-in-chief Dr. Marcia Angel, you’re quite familiar with the ways that drug safety trials are often carefully trimmed to avoid showing harm. If, for example, a medication being studied begins to show harm after 24 weeks of use, the drug company can publish the results of the trial, shortened to 22 weeks long, showing that the medication produced no ill effects. It’s not hard to imagine a pesticide or herbicide safety studies being manipulated in the same way.)
Perhaps most alarming is that glyphosate long-term safety studies do not include the additives (also known as adjuvants) that are mixed with commercially applied glyphosate. Why is this alarming? Because according to the journal BioMed Research International, in 100% of the cases where adjuvants are used in pesticides, they increase the toxicity of the principal ingredient, making the principal ingredient as much as 1,000 times more toxic.
To drive the point that there’s a correlation between glyphosate use and autism, Dr. Seneff shows this rather alarming graph:
While any reputable researcher will tell you that correlation is not causation (a chant that’s becoming all to familiar in the blogosphere), correlation does accomplish one thing: it points to investigative avenues that are potentially worth exploring. Dr. Seneff points out that even a casual exploration reveals that the following biomarkers for autism can all be explained as proven effects of glyphosate on biological systems:
- Disrupted gut bacteria; inflammatory bowel
- Low serum sulfate
- Methionine deficiency
- Serotonin and melatonin deficiency
- Defective aromatase
- Zinc and iron deficiency
- Urinary p-cresol
- Mitochondrial disorder
- Seizures; glutamate toxicity in the brain
And while you’re at it, consider making a donation to Food Democracy Now to aid in their fight for GMO labeling so that no matter your position on GMOs and glyphosate safety, you can make an informed purchasing decision when deciding what to feed yourself and your family.
 Paganeli, A, et al., Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signaling. Chemical Research in Toxicology 2010;23:1586–1595.
 Benachour, N, et al., Time- and dose-dependent effects of Roundup on human embryonic and placental cells. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology Journal. 2007;53:126–133.