(Beyond Pesticides, May 9, 2013) A review of the scientific literature of the toxic effects of glyphosate, one of the most popular weed killers in the U.S. and the active ingredient in Roundup, links the herbicide to a wide range of diseases and suggests that more research is needed. The review, conducted by a scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), looks at the mechanisms through which the adverse effects may be happening and points to the chemical’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes, which plays the crucial role of detoxifying xenobiotics. Thus, glyphosate can enhance the negative effects of other environmental toxicants on the body. Authors argue that this has been a critically overlooked component in research on glyphosates’ toxicity to mammals.
We “have hit upon something very important that needs to be taken seriously and further investigated,” Stephanie Seneff, PhD, lead author and research scientist at MIT, told Reuters.
Not surprisingly, Monsanto, the developer of Roundup, the leading product containing glyphosate, has attempted to discredit the study, claiming that its product has a long track record of being safe – read Another Bogus “Study.” However, Beyond Pesticides has assembled extensive documentation on the human health and environmental risks of glyphosate. It has been linked to a number of serious human health effects, including increased cancer risk, neurotoxicity, and birth defects, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. One of the inert ingredients in product formulations of Roundup, polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), has also been shown to kill human embryonic cells. In 2009, Beyond Pesticides, submitted comments to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) showing new and emerging science which illustrates that glyphosate and its formulated products pose unreasonable risk to human and environmental health, and as such should not be considered eligible for continued registration.
Glyphosate is used in almost all agricultural and urban areas of the U.S. Overall, agricultural use of glyphosate has increased from less than 11,000 tons in 1992 to more than 88,000 tons in 2007. The greatest glyphosate use is in the Mississippi River basin, where most applications are for weed control on genetically-modified corn, soybeans, and cotton. Additionally, glyphosate persists in streams throughout the growing season in Iowa and Mississippi, but is generally not observed during other times of the year. The pervasiveness of glyphosate in our food supply, and the general myth that it is “essentially nontoxic,” the researchers argue, may make glyphosate one of the most dangerous chemicals in the environment.
The paper concludes: “Given the known toxic effects of glyphosate reviewed here and the plausibility that they are negatively impacting health worldwide, it is imperative for more independent research to take place to validate the ideas presented here, and to take immediate action, if they are verified, to drastically curtail the use of glyphosate in agriculture.”
The peer-reviewed paper, “Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases,” is published in the April 2013 journal Entropy.
To see more scientific research on the effects of pesticides on human health, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, which supports the clear need for strategic action to shift away from pesticide dependency. Public policy must advance this shift, rather than continue to allow unnecessary reliance on pesticides.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.