A world awash with Glyphosate

April 2014

Image of two containers of Roundup herbicide
Glyphosate is marketed as Roundup herbicide. Photo Creative Commons
The world's most popular herbicide, glyphosate, seems to have become insidiously ubiquitous in our environment [1].

In urban areas, the herbicide is used to control weeds on garden paths, playgrounds and roadways.  

In agriculture, glyphosate is used for stubble management, pre-sowing ground clearance, and pre-harvest desiccation. In the Americas and elsewhere, huge and increasing quantities of it are sprayed on GM glyphosate-tolerant crops where it accumulates inside the plants.

There is glyphosate in the air, in rain, in waterways, ground-water and drinking water, in the soil, in animal feed and in our food.
“Glyphosate residues cannot be removed by washing and they are not broken down by cooking. Glyphosate residues can remain stable in foods for a year or more, even if the foods are frozen, dried or processed.” (Krüger)
Regulators seem to be dealing with our exponential exposure to this herbicide by legalising ever-increasing levels of contamination. 

Scientists in Germany have now asked and investigated an obvious question which should have been clarified long ago: is all that glyphosate in the environment ending up in wildlife, in livestock and inside us? If so, there is a chronic, life-long exposure to a substance which has been pronounced 'safe' without the appropriate long-term or clinical trials.

Glyphosate is highly soluble in water and would be expected to disperse easily throughout body fluids.

Previous studies on rats have indicated that about 35-40 percent of dietary glyphsate is absorbed into the body from the gut. However, in practical use, glyphosate is applied as various 'Roundup' formulae in which it is in combination with other chemicals to aid penetration into plant cells and speed up plant death. It's unclear whether 'Roundup' also increases absorption of glyphosate into animals.

The German scientists detected the herbicide at similar levels in the urine, intestine, liver, muscles, spleen and kidney of cows fed GM feed. There seems no reason not to assume that all tissues (including reproductive, nervous and skin tissues) are similarly exposed.

Like the cows, humans eating a conventional diet were found to have glyphosate in their urine.

In contrast, cows from GM-free zones and humans whose diet favoured organic produce excreted significantly less glyphosate.

A worrying additional finding was that the level of glyphosate in the urine of a generally healthy human population was significantly lower than levels in a chronically diseased comparator population. Official figures in the US have also reporteded chronic disease increasing in step with expanding use of GM glyphosate-tolerant crops there [2].

Glyphosate levels in hares, which are the first wild animals to feed in fields of stubble and which were expected to suffer significant exposure, were found to have surprisingly low levels of the herbicide in their urine.

Domesticated rabbits, unexpectedly, had the highest levels of urinary glyphosate measured.

OUR COMMENT


The hare and rabbit gyphosate excretion could reflect differences in physiology, although there seems no indication that the herbicide is subject to metabolism or control in any animal. Another intriguing possibility is that domesticated rabbits have a lower instinctive avoidance of tainted foods while the wild hares are avoiding glyphosate-contaminated plants.

Widespread whole-body tissue exposure to glyphosate seems now to be the 'normal' human condition. Regular readers of GM-free Scotland will be aware of the mounting evidence of a host of health problems linked to glyphosate, for example birth defects [3], kidney failure [4], and in particular cancer [5,6] (watch out for a major new article on this coming next).

The evidence we have here is that eating organic seems the only way to reduce your exposure to glyphosate.

Be aware, however, that this option could end if the Westminster government gets its way and makes Britain go GM [7]. In America, a third of organic farmers have experienced problems in their fields due to the nearby use of GM crops and over a half have had their grain rejected as non-organic due to unwitting GM contamination.  

If a huge land-mass like the US can't make GM and non-GM co-existence a reality, what hope has cramped little Britain? Point this out to the pro-GM forces in our Government.

Background:

[1] GM PESTICIDES INSIDE YOU - April 2011

[2] US PUBLIC HEALTH TRENDS AFTER GM - October 2013

[3] ROUNDUP CAUSES BIRTH-DEFECTS - GMFS ARCHIVE (ONLINE DOCUMENT LINK) October 2010

[4] GLYPHOSATE AND KIDNEY DISEASE - April 2014

[5] HOW GLYPHOSATE COULD BE LINKED TO CANCER - January 2014

[6] GLYPHOSATE AND CANCER - September 2013

[7]  WESTMINSTER ROLLING OUT THE RED CARPET FOR GM - July 2013


SOURCES:
Monika Krüger, et al., 2014, Detection of Glyphosate Residues in Animals and Humans, Environmental and Analytical Toxicology 4:2

Carey L. Biron, US Farmers Report Widespread GM Crop Contamination, IPS News, 3.03.14

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