Real-life infant harm from Glyphosate

May 2018
Glyphosate is the most heavily used herbicide worldwide. Where high-tech monoculture is the agricultural norm, GM glyphosate-tolerant crops account for huge and widespread use of this one herbicide.

In Argentina, for example, 65% of pesticides used are glyphosate-based. In the American mid-west, over 90% of the millions of acres of corn, soya and canola, are GM and glyphosate-tolerant.

After starting its commercial life with a 'safe as salt' ticket [1], long before modern sub-cellular and molecular safety tests had been developed, glyphosate has certainly become "one of the world's most studied chemicals" (President of The Agribusiness Council of Indiana). However, its real-life complexity is only now being recognised by scientists.

Animal studies linking glyphosate to birth defects, foetal loss, endocrine disruption and genetic damage, have caused particular concern. The experiments needed on humans to clarify the herbicide's effects are not, of course, possible, while evidence from human monitoring has been limited and inconsistent.

To address this knowledge gap, scientists in Indiana carried out a study of glyphosate exposure and pregnancy outcomes on a small sample of women (77 individuals) attending a private clinic. All were expected to have a healthy pregnancy and birth.

They found that 93% of the women had detectable glyphosate in their urine, suggesting exposure to the herbicide is now ubiquitous. As expected, women living in rural areas where glyphosate is applied to the fields around them had the highest levels of contamination.

Foetal growth indicators (birth weight and head circumference) were normal, but disturbingly, increased glyphosate exposure was found to be correlated with shortened pregnancy. All but two births in the study group fell beyond the 37 weeks of pregnancy considered "full term". However, shortened pregnancy even by one week is a factor in a lifetime risk of reduced cognitive achievement and for adult coronary disease.

It was established that there was no detectable glyphosate in the women's drinking water, leaving food and environmental contamination as the potential sources. The authors suggested in an interview that there was a need to consider factors such as contaminated air and the possibility of contaminants in imported food and drinks, and in coffee beans.

Intriguingly, women who reported high consumption of caffeine-containing beverages had higher glyphosate levels.

Note. Caffeine is a diuretic and we would have expected it to cause a dilution of the urine and lowering of glyphosate levels. Caffeine also disturbs several aspects of the physiology. The possibility of a damaging interaction of the herbicide and this commonly ingested stimulant deserves urgent attention.

OUR COMMENT


Any glyphosate we absorb is reputed to be cleared very quickly from the body. Such an apparent widespread presence of the chemical therefore suggests there must be a constant and steady source of contamination flowing through the entire population. Where is this continuous supply of the herbicide coming from?

None was found in the women's drinking water, and although the sample was too small for clear separation into dietary sub-groups which might reveal specific high-risk foods, there was no salient connection to broad food types.

This leaves contaminated air or dust as a likely contender, and recent science tends to support that theory [2].

As the glyphosate in women from towns and suburbs shows, there must be a huge amount of the herbicide in the air and it must be travelling a very long way.

Before we damage future generations any more than we probably already have, the priority is to get glyphosate and all the other agri-chemicals out of use along with the GM herbicide-tolerant monocultures which are promoting this insidious pollution.



Background

[1] GLYPHOSATE: SAFE AS SALT (Doc) - GMFS Archice, February 2009
[2] GLYPHOSATE AND AMPA IN THE AIR - May 2018


SOURCES:
  • S. Parvez, et al., 2018, Glyphosate exposure in pregnancy and shortened gestational length: a prospective Indiana birth cohort study, Environemntal Health
  • Brian Bienkowski, Glyphosate linked to shorter pregnancies in Idiana women, Environmental Health News, 16.03.18
  • Carolyn Crist, Heavily used herbicide tied to shorter pregnancies, Reuters, 2.04.18
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