The Weed Killer Glyphosate – Harmless Herbicide or Health Hazard?
Are you concerned about the Weed Killer Glyphosate?
- It’s used to kill weeds, and it’s sprayed in local parks
- It’s used on the grains we eat
- It’s found in cotton sanitary products
- It was classified by The World Health Organisation’s team as a likely carcinogen.
- It may disrupt the endocrine and reproductive system and
- It’s associated with diabetes, changes to the gut microbiota and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Even so, this environmental chemical is still legal and being used in many countries around the world, including the USA and Australia.
What is Glyphosate?
Glyphosate is a popular herbicide or weed killer produced by the biotech conglomerate Monsanto. Glyphosate is the crucial ingredient in the weed killer named ‘Roundup’ however it’s also used in many other herbicides. Roundup will kill most plants it comes in contact with, making it a non-selective herbicide. Roundup itself has been linked to many adverse effects but is still considered safe by many organizations. Not only that, it contains many other ingredients that may be more toxic than glyphosate alone. Because of it now being the most widely spread herbicide in the world, it has found itself at the centre of considerable scientific debate regarding its impact on health, safety and the environment.
Where is the Weed Killer Glyphosate Used?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) commissioned tests in October 2018 finding glyphosate in every sample of popular oat-based food products marketed for children. Almost all of the samples tested by EWG had glyphosate levels higher than what their internal scientists consider safe for children’s health. Here is a list of some of the products that were included in EWG’s testing from the past 12 months, found to have exceeded tolerable levels of the Weed Killer Glyphosate:
- Back to Nature Granola
- Nature Valley Granola and granola bars
- Giant Instant Oatmeal, Original Flavor
- Umpqua Oats, Maple Pecan
- Market Pantry Instant Oatmeal, Strawberries & Cream
- Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal
- Barbara’s Multigrain Spoonfuls, Original Cereal
- Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran Oat Cereal
- Quaker instant, steel cut and mixed oat products
- Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats
As well as oats, the Weed Killer Glyphosate is most commonly used on soy, corn, wheat, barley and bean crops.
It was also found, by researchers at the University of La Plata in Argentina, that 85 per cent of feminine hygiene products sold in Argentina were contaminated with glyphosate. An additional 62 per cent of products were found to contain derivatives of glyphosate.
Local councils across Australia also use the weed killer glyphosate in sensitive, child populated areas like playgrounds. Until Australian authorities change their assessment procedure, councils and schools can continue to do this. Councils are also not obligated to tell the public when and where they are spraying.
Is There Enough Evidence to Support Concern?
The safety profile of the weed killer glyphosate is controversial. Nevertheless, there is substantial research to support The World Health Organisation’s claim of it being potentially carcinogenic.
In 2018 a jury verdict ordered Monsanto to pay US$289 million in damages to a school groundskeeper who developed Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (LHC) after years of exposure to Roundup. Although an exact causal relationship was not established during the trial, research has depicted glyphosate weedkiller as a potential risk factor.
Animal Study Results
- According to The Lancet’s paper on the carcinogenicity of the weed killer glyphosate, animal studies have produced sufficient evidence to support a link between Roundup and LHC (7).
- A 2016 meta-analysis also supported the hypothesis that glyphosate exposure decreased sperm concentration in rodents. Therefore, it was concluded that glyphosate is toxic to male rodent’s reproductive system (9).
- A 2018 study observed the effect of glyphosate on oxidative stress via assessing reactive oxygen species (ROS), glutathione (GSH) level and the activity of glutathione peroxidase and found it to be detrimental. Glyphosate intervention also resulted in significantly higher primary DNA damage in the liver cells and leukocytes (10).
- Also in animal studies, the weed killer glyphosate has been found to disrupt beneficial gut bacteria. Not only that, it was found to block the shikimate pathway. The shikimate pathway is a crucial player in the synthesis of the ever-so-important amino acids phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan. Considering these amino acids are critical for the proper functioning of our immune, digestive, neurological systems and more, it is crucial that there is no interference with their synthesis. (11)(12).
- A glyphosate altered gut microbiome has also been shown to induce behavioural impairments in a 2018 study, such as an increased likelihood of anxiety and depression. There is an extensive amount of literature now linking the gastrointestinal tract and the brain via the gut-brain axis. Thus, the researchers involved in this study are hypothesising the mechanism of action as the microbiota’s role in mediating neurological health (13).
These regulatory, epidemiological and animal studies show that the weed killer glyphosate has great potential to cause serious adverse effects and points to a need to change the approach to risk assessment.
Where it concerns children’s health, it should be a great priority. An EWG toxicologist, Alexis Temkin, stated that “parents shouldn’t (have to) worry about whether feeding their children healthy oat foods will also expose them to a chemical linked to cancer”. It is now up to the government and regulatory bodies to take action to protect our most vulnerable populations.