A healthy diet and lifestyle depend on how well we control the toxins that surround us. Today people are trying to learn more about and opt for the best alternatives, such as pesticide-free (organic) foods. What are we unknowingly exposing ourselves to every day?
One of the latest debates surrounds the controversial use of the herbicide called Glyphosate (better known as Roundup and marketed by Monsanto). After extensive research and lengthy legal battles, conclusions of general interest have been drawn: this product may increase the risk of developing certain diseases.
Dr. Celia Gonzalo Gleyzes – Neolife Medical Team
What is glyphosate and what is it used for?
Glyphosate is a weak organic acid formed by a glycine molecule and a phosphomethyl molecule. Its empirical formula is C3H8NO5P. It is a white, odorless crystalline powder (1).
It is a non-selective herbicide used in agriculture, parks, forests, road sides, gardens, etc… It replaces the need for manual or mechanical removal of unwanted weeds. It is estimated that this substance is found in 750 different products on the market. Monsanto started selling Roundup in 1974. We are talking about no less than 25 years of use.
Glyphosate has been detected in the blood and urine of farmers; this indicates that it is absorbed. Soil bacteria degrade glyphosate into aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA). The detection of AMPA in the blood after poisoning suggests a microbial intestinal metabolism in humans.
The general population may be exposed to glyphosate through consumer products or contact with treated plants and soils. Due to its widespread use, we find low glyphosate levels in numerous food products.
In March 2015, 17 experts from 11 countries met in France at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to assess the carcinogenicity of organophosphorous pesticides such as tetrachlororvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate.
The IARC classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A).
Scientific evidence in humans is limited. Case studies and occupational exposure controls for glyphosate in the United States, Canada, and Sweden reported an increase in the number of cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), in other words, a lymph node cancer. This tissue is found in the lymph nodes, spleen, and other organs of the immune system.
The Agricultural Health Study (AHS) cohort did not find an increase in the number of NHL.
Studies conducted on animals exposed to glyphosate showed an increase in cases of renal carcinoma, hemangiosarcoma, pancreatic cancer, and skin tumors (2).
There are several mechanistic hypotheses regarding the increased risk of NHL from glyphosate exposure:
- Immunosuppression/inflammation: through the alteration of intestinal flora and the production of IFN-gamma and IL-2, which promotes chronic inflammation, contributing to the invasion by pathogens such as H.pylori.
- Endocrine disruption: altering the production of sex hormones.
- Genetic alterations: in terms of genotoxicity, we find alterations such as the rupture of DNA strands, chromosomal aberrations, oxidation of purines and pyrimidines, etc…
- Oxidative stress: low levels of reduced glutathione, increased lipid peroxidation, and overexpression of carbonic anhydrase 3. (3)
An arduous path to the truth
The agrochemical giant Monsanto has been very aggressive towards institutions such as the IARC and unpaid expert volunteers.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have gone so far as to say that glyphosate posed no public health risks (4).
The truth is that the lawsuits and legal battles are only multiplying. Bayer, the company that has bought Monsanto, would be willing to pay $7 billion to settle the lawsuits over glyphosate.
The journalist Carey Gillam discusses this topic in depth in her book Whitewash-The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science. In it, she explains that the company silenced or manipulated scientific findings so as not to interfere with the sales of its herbicide. This book won the Rachel Carson Award from the Society of Environmental Journalists (5) (6).
Other effects on nature
It has already occurred in the animal kingdom. The use of pesticides or genetically modified organisms may lead to mutations in pests. The same thing would happen here. The presence of “super weeds”, weeds that tolerate glyphosate, has already been described. Thus, the product would be ineffective, and human beings would pay the consequences.
As alternatives, experts propose more sustainable technologies for the control of unwanted weeds, such as more targeted herbicide sprays, the use of laser blades, or electricity (4).
(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25801782 Lancet Oncol.2015 May;16(5):490-1. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(15)70134-8. Epub 2015 Mar 20. Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate.
(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=10.1016%2Fj.mrrev.2019.02.001 Mutat Res.
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31486846 Scand J Work Environ Health.2019 Sep 5. pii: 3851. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.3851. Public health and evidence-informed policy-making: The case of a commonly used herbicide. Vainio H1.
(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6603483/ Am J Public Health. 2019 July; 109(7): 976–978. Published online 2019 July. doi: 2105/AJPH.2019.305131 PMCID: PMC6603483 PMID: 31166718 Expert Review Under Attack: Glyphosate, Talc, and Cancer Jonathan M. Samet, MD, MS
(6) https://careygillam.com/book WHITEWASH:The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science