Roundup harms human cells

April 2014

Image of two containers of Roundup herbicide
Photo from Creative Commons
Several experiments have now indicated direct harm to humans from Roundup herbicide, widely sprayed on GM crops.

For example, risks to blood-, testicular-, umbilical-, embryonic- and placental-cells have been demonstrated.  Effects of Roundup on cells of the liver and kidney (our major organs of detoxification), and endocrine disruption have been indicated.  And the list continues to grow.

Glyphosate, the active herbicidal ingredient of Roundup, has undergone extensive safety testing, and has been declared safer than other such agri-chemicals.

However, Roundup formulations, in which glyphosate is quantitatively a minor constituent, have not been tested.  This is despite Roundup containing a variety of (sometimes secret) ingredients designed to increase glyphosate's ability to penetrate into cells and kill them.

Experiments designed to distinguish between the effects of glyphosate and Roundup are in good agreement that Roundup is much more harmful than its herbicidal component alone [1].

To try to clarify just how Roundup could be inflicting harm, a research team in Argentina had a look at what was going on inside the cells exposed to it.

Like others before them, the Argentinean scientists used a well-established human cell-culture model.  This approach isolates the effects of the substance being tested from bodily processes, such as digestion, tissue distribution, metabolism and excretion, which complicate the picture.  The cells chosen for the study were derived from human liver as this organ plays a key role in dealing with dietary toxins.

The team found no ill-effects from a 24-hour exposure to glyphosate at concentrations of one-hundredth of recommended agricultural usage levels.  Exposure to glyphosate's main break-down product, 'AMPA', triggered an increase in one biomarker for detoxification.  In contrast, Roundup formula caused the cells to generate 'reactive oxygen species' which are known damage proteins, DNA and fats.  Roundup also induced increases in biomarkers for oxidative stress, nitrosative stress, detoxification, and programmed cell death (a protective mechanism).

The authors concluded that they had “clearly demonstrated” toxic reactions in their liver cells at sub-agricultural concentrations of Roundup.  A risk to agricultural workers and rural populations is inescapable, and further investigation of the effects of chronic exposure to Roundup is needed.


Long-term health effects in habitual consumers of GM foods designed to accumulate Roundup can't be ruled out, except by doing the science.

How many worrisome preliminary studies like this one have to be published before further, more sophisticated and targeted, investigations of Roundup's effect on human health are carried out?

Ask for more GM food safety testing.


  • Gabriela Chaufan, et al., 2014, Glyphosate Commercial Formulation Causes /Cytotoxicity, Oxidative Effects, and Apoptosis on Human Cells: Differences With its Active Ingredient, International Journal of Toxicology
  • Céline Gasnier, et al., 2011, defined plant extracts can protect human cells against combined xenobiotic effects, Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 6:3
  • A. Martínez, et al., 2007, Cytotoxicity of the herbicide glyphosate in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, Biomedica 27(4)
  • Glyphosate/Roundup & Human Male Infertility, Institute of Science in Society Report, 19.03.14

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