Glyphosate - a developmental neurotoxin?

March 2016
Glyphosate protest: CC photo credit Corporate Europe Observatory on Flickr
Even before Nancy Swanson's investigations revealed a close parallel between glyphosate weedkiller usage and deaths from Parkinson's disease in the US [1], the herbicide had been found to trigger the cellular processes leading to natural death in rat nerve cells [2].  Swanson also noted the eerily close trajectories of rising glyphosate use with spiraling nervous-system problems such as autism, senile dementia and Alzheimer's disease.  After that, a study on bees concluded glyphosate impairs memory and associated learning [3].

Another ominous facet of glyphosate nuerotoxicity has been revealed by Argentinian scientists. Their study examined the effect of the herbicide on the development of rat embryonic nerve cells.

Nerve cells produce long signal-carrying extensions ('axons') which connect up with other nerve cells.  They also produce multiple lesser branches ('dendrites') which link to many other cells to form a vast communications network.  The connections between nerve cells are highly specialised and structured for fast transmission  of vital signals to the next part of the system.

What the Argentinians found was that glyphosate exposure slowed axon growth, reduced the nerve-cells' capacity for a smooth one-way flow of signals,  and impaired development of branches.

A closer look at the connective structures on the neural extensions revealed a reduced size and a disruption of their structural proteins.  Note that the one-way flow of signals is also dependent on the integrity of these same proteins.

In tracing the underlying cause of these glyphosate-linked developmental failings, the scientists discovered significant reductions in the levels of 'Wnt' proteins which serve as signals to the nerve cells to tell them when and how to develop.

'Wnts' are known to be involved in nerve cell extension and branching, and in structural protein organisation all of which decline with exposure to glyphosate.

These proteins are also important in embryo development, including the early stages of the central nervous system.  Exceptional levels of central nervous system defects have frequently been reported by doctors in areas of high-glyphosate usage in Argentina.

Then, there's the calcium connection.  Glyphosate's interference with cellular calcium and many related processes is a recurrent theme [4,5].  Cellular calcium is important in learning processes and memory, and in the integrity of the nerve circuits and connections.  Some 'Wnts' are also involved in calcium regulation inside cells.


Even the most ardent fan of GM crops can't ignore the human, societal and financial costs of dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.  If there's any possibility at all that glyphosate accumulated by most GM crops is contributing to this burden of diseases in old age, regulators and scientists  need to stop being polite to the biotech industry and start testing as a matter of urgency.

Give your regulators some encouragement.

[3]  BEES WITH DEMENTIA - September 2015


·         Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji, Glyphosate Causes Irreversible Abnormal Growth & Delayed Development of Embryonic Rat Neuronal Cells, Institute of Science in Society Report 20.01.16

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