Is glyphosate toxic to humans?

posted in: Science | 185

Of course glyphosate is toxic! It is a herbicide after all – the whole point of glyphosate (G for short in this post) is to kill unwanted plants. Like all chemicals, including water and salt, G is going to be toxic to animals (including humans) at some dose. Compared to other herbicides, though, G is a pretty safe option for killing weeds. Don’t take my word for it, check out the Glyphosate Technical Fact Sheet from the National Pesticide Information Center at Oregon State. G’s relative safety is one reason why it’s become so popular.

Wheat being harvested. Image by NDSU Ag Comm.
Wheat being harvested. Image by NDSU Ag Comm.

One interesting use of G is to dry wheat before harvest. To help reduce levels of toxic fusarium fungus on wheat, it is good to harvest the wheat as early as possible but you can’t harvest it until it’s dry. So G is used to dry (aka kill) the wheat plants so the grain can be harvested. As long as the G  is sprayed after the plants have fully matured, the G won’t be moved from the plant into the seeds. Here, G is actually helping farmers prevent a legitimately scary toxin from getting into the food supply. Want to learn more? Check out this video: Wheat School- Timing Pre Harvest Glyphosate Application In Wheat.

With G being used not only as a herbicide but also as a drying agent, and not just in our lawns but on our food, should we worry about our safety? In short, no. When used properly, G is quite safe for humans.

The EPA sets maximum safe levels of pesticide residues for crops (called tolerances), based on the latest science. These tolerances are hundreds of times higher than estimated toxic values, and they consider a person’s total exposure to pesticides (with a wide margin of error to protect children and others who may be vulnerable). The USDA tests crops each year to make sure they don’t go above the tolerances. Very few pesticides are found above the tolerance levels (despite what the Dirty Dozen list claims). If the USDA finds any pesticides above the set tolerance, or finds pesticides on crops where they aren’t supposed to be, they report that information to the FDA. The FDA puts the teeth in this whole system. They have the regulatory power to start recalls, levy fines, turn back foods at the ports, and so on (see page 5).

You can find the specific tolerance information for G in the US Code of Federal Regulations, 40 CFR, part 180, subpart C, section 180.364. Some of the tolerances for G were recently increased in the May 1, 2013 Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 84.

EPA has reviewed the available scientific data and other relevant information in support of this action. EPA has sufficient data to assess the hazards of and to make a determination on aggregate exposure for glyphosate including exposure resulting from the tolerances established by this action. EPA’s assessment of exposures and risks associated with glyphosate follows.

Check out Vol. 78, No. 84 for a full explanation of EPA’s decision as well as insights into the safety of G in general. Scientific documents supporting this decision can be found in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2012-0132.

Tolerances don’t set your mind at ease? Happily there’s a lot of research to peruse.

If you don’t want to dig through these dense EPA documents, you can take a look at three recent reviews that summarize the literature on glyphosate and humans: Epidemiologic studies of glyphosate and non-cancer health outcomesEpidemiologic studies of glyphosate and cancer, and Developmental and reproductive outcomes in humans and animals after glyphosate exposure. These reviews looked at epidemiological studies, ones that look at disease incidence in large numbers of humans with varying levels of exposure to G or that look at exposure to G in a population that has a disease.

Now, epidemiology isn’t perfect, but with carefully designed studies it can be a powerful way to look for connections in real human populations. Even better when we can look at reviews that put multiple studies all in one place. These reviews cover a lot of studies that find there is no correlation between glyphosate exposure and cancer or non-cancer diseases. Unfortunately these reviews are behind paywalls and I don’t know the funding source behind the reviews, but the EPA documents have summaries of many of the studies within the reviews and more.

There are occasionally alarm-inducing papers like Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors. This paper, and others like it, tend to use human cells in a petri dish rather than whole animals. I had the misfortune to do some research on cultured human cells myself and let me tell you, those are some tricky buggers to work with. Even when everything is working perfectly, it’s still very hard to tell if the results you are getting will hold true when repeated in a whole animal model. Something that causes a reaction in naked cells may not react the same when applied to your skin or taken in through your digestive system (both of which have evolved to keep you safe from many things).

Only a combination of animal models and cell studies can give us the full picture (even better if we can pair these up with some epidemiology). The third review above includes some animal studies as do the EPA reports. While I am cautious about cell studies in general, the majority of such studies have not found any cause for concern, as described in Review of genotoxicity studies of glyphosate and glyphosate-based formulations (open access) as well as in the EPA reports.

In any subject there will be a few studies that find something totally different from what is found in the majority of similar studies. In closing, I leave you with this recent strangeness: Glyphosate and AMPA inhibit cancer cell growth through inhibiting intracellular glycine synthesis. This obviously tongue-in-cheek meme plays on so many scaremongering memes created about single studies. As interesting as a single study may be, we must look at the totality of evidence. And so far, the evidence does not show that that glyphosate causes – or cures- cancer.

This obviously tongue in cheek meme plays on

Review Citations

Mink P.J., Mandel J.S., Lundin J.I. & Sceurman B.K. (2011). Epidemiologic studies of glyphosate and non-cancer health outcomes: a review., Regulatory toxicology and pharmacology : RTP, PMID:

Mink P.J., Mandel J.S., Sceurman B.K. & Lundin J.I. (2012). Epidemiologic studies of glyphosate and cancer: a review., Regulatory toxicology and pharmacology : RTP, PMID:

Williams A.L., Watson R.E. & DeSesso J.M. Developmental and reproductive outcomes in humans and animals after glyphosate exposure: a critical analysis., Journal of toxicology and environmental health. Part B, Critical reviews, PMID:

Kier L.D. & Kirkland D.J. (2013). Review of genotoxicity studies of glyphosate and glyphosate-based formulations., Critical reviews in toxicology, PMID:

  • Steve

    Tell us more about Glyphosate as a chelator and how it “binds” minerals in the soil and doesn’t allow plants (good or bad) to access them;
    And how Glyphosate destroys beneficial micro-organisms in the soil as well (that also provide nutrients to the plant);
    And how Glyphosate promotes pathogenic organisms in the soil that have the potential of over-running the plant (the “weeds”) – eventually creating weaker plants and promoting stronger plant disease;
    And then comment on the resulting negative effects of the nutrient content of the plants (ie, nutrient deficient plants)… and then those effects on the mammals that eat those plants and whether that is sustainable?
    thx

    • http://about.me/geneticmaize Anastasia Bodnar

      Hello Steve, this post is about toxicity of glyphosate in humans. If you have reliable citations for any of your claims, I would be happy to look at them.

      I have previously written about the claim that glyphosate promotes some new pathogen: Extraordinary claims… require extraordinary evidence and I addressed the concern that glyphosate is chelating minerals in Does glyphosate restrict crop mineral uptake?

    • Chris Preston

      Steve, there is a good discussion of the issues you raise in this recent review http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3479986/ including why glyphosate is unlikely to make a difference to the amount of available minerals in the soil.

      • Rickinreallife

        The same article is also available here[http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/jf302436u]. As you can see, the paper examines recent studies that have suggested reduced mineral nutrition and increased disease susceptibility in glyphosate resistant and treated crops in context with the larger accumulation of data and understanding on this topic that both precedes and and is contemporary with this new research. The matter of whether glysophate is a sufficient chelating agent that can have consistent, persistent or significant effects on availability of micronutrients or nutrient metabolism by plants is a worthwhile and important topic, and this recent body of research is a welcome addition, provided the research was well done.

        In reality, as the document we cited makes abundantly clear, the binding qualities of glysophate, its fate in the soil and interaction with plant metabolism have been investigated extensively, and the weight of the evidence, even incorporating recent research that the biotech skeptics are championing, indicates that glysophate use and glysophate resistant traits have have very little impact on plant productivity. We are not on the verge of an agricultural collapse or an environmental armageddon. I think the author’s conclusion is a sensible and accurate one.

        “Scientific accounts about increased plant disease and mineral nutrition problems in GR crops are based on publications from a limited number of researchers. In the context of the entire body of relevant science, the significance of these reports is
        questionable. . . . Nevertheless, there might be effects of glyphosate in GR crops on mineral nutrition and/or disease under particular but uncommon conditions (e.g., specific soil, environmental conditions, particular GR crop cultivars, and/or glyphosate formulations).”

        As is typical, unfortunately, the GMO [Greenpeace manufactured outrage]literature latches on to a small segment of research and represents it as the totality of what is known on the topic. Then, this is further twisted into a narrative that science, regulators and industry have heretofore overlooked, incompetently assessed, or just plain swept a potential problem under the rug, hoping no one would find out. The last step is to embellish, overinterpret and exaggerate and amplify into a scary, doomsday scenario, i.e. were all gonna die unless citizens unite to stop science in its tracks right now. So, again, it is taking a little excerpt of truth and turning it into an X-files episode.

    • Luke Weston

      If glyphosate really was significant as a metal-chelating ligand, you would probably see tinfoil-hat Infowars / Mercola readers happily pumping children with autism full of IV bags of the stuff.

  • Daryl

    So Steve, since glyphosate is bad, tell us which chemical, or arsenal of chemicals, you would recommend to farmers as its replacement?

  • First Officer

    @Steve, Tell us how with all that binding, the crops are able to provide ever increasing yields and tell us hwo glyphosate is able to differentiate which microbes are beneficial and which are pathogenic. Do they carry signs? Then tell us how all those toxicology studies on gyphosate have answered your question about effects on mammals.

    • Stefan

      Crops yields haven’t increased because of GMO and glyphosate use: they’re lower than European yields that don’t use such things. They’ve increased by using larger and larger quantities of fertilizer, which makes the plants grow faster, but out of balance. The minerals and nutrition taken in is out of balance which weakens the plants and reduces their nutritionous value.

      It’s not that glyphosate selects beneficial or pathogenic microbes. It simply destroys the majority of microbes. But pathogenic microbes develop faster in a disturbed environment, that’s the way they survive: quick ‘n dirty. Beneficial microbes stabalize an environment and will compete the pathogenics out over the long run; slow and steady. But before they can stabalize the environment another round of spraying occurs and the pathogenic microbes get the advantage again. By repeatedly destroying the majority, you’re maintaining conditions that favor the pathogens; with any kind of poison, but glyphosates are particularily effective and thus give a bigger advantage to the pathogens.

      Independent toxicology studies over longer periods (instead of the Monsanto funded studies that last a few days) consistently show disterbances in digestive systems and cancer growth in mice, etc. There are fewer of these because they don’t get the same funding the biased studies get. It’s also well known that any scientist that publishes a too negative study quickly finds himself fired for some ad hoc created reason.

      • http://about.me/geneticmaize Anastasia Bodnar

        Thanks for this information. Do you have any citations to back up your claims? I’m particularly interested in the mechanism by which glyphosate selects for “bad” bacteria and kills the “good” ones.

        • Sjoerd

          I don’t ready anywhere in Stefan’s writings that he claims that glyphosate is selective… But that is the problem: it does not! It kills just about every plant and micro-organism. The fact that bacteria are so incredibly important to soil fertility and therefore yields, is nicely illustrated by an interesting article in Science (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6158/621) about bacteria found in fertile Prairie grounds. Simply adding more artificial fertilizers doesn’t help at all, because the plants need more then N, K & P. Eventually, one could expect a point at which more fertilizer and toxins like G do not recover yields anymore…

          • http://about.me/geneticmaize Anastasia Bodnar

            oh sorry you are right! that’s what I get for trying to read and comment on my phone!
            Still, I would be interested in some citations about glyphosate’s toxicity to microorganisms.

            Like most ag inputs, glyphosate does have an effect on soil microbiota but it is fairly benign. For example, see Relative Effect of Glyphosate on Glyphosate-Tolerant Maize Rhizobacterial Communities is Not Altered by Soil Properties which says “both herbicides affected the structure of the maize rhizobacterial community, but glyphosate was environmentally less aggressive.”

            Soil microbiota seem to be affected by tillage practices and fertilizer as well, unfortunately tilling seems to help the bacteria while fertilizer does not. Cropping practices modulate the impact of glyphosate on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and rhizosphere bacteria in agroecosystems of the semiarid prairie

            One thing we need to be careful of is to look at soil studies and not at research where free bacteria are exposed to glyphosate. Glyphosate toxicity and the effects of long-term vegetation control on soil microbial communities found that glyphosate killed soil bacteria in a petri dish but was the bacteria were fine when the glyphosate was applied in the environment.

            Anyway, that’s just what I found in a few minutes googling. I’m curious to see what you two have to prove glyphosate’s total toxicity to soil bacteria. :)

          • Luke Weston

            “It kills just about every plant and micro-organism.”

            Where is the evidence for this?

            Glyphosate kills plants by inhibiting the enzyme EPSP Synthase, interfering with the synthesis of the aromatic amino acids phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan. This synthesis mechanism is only found in plants and bacteria, not in animals, who must obtain those amino acids as essential dietary amino acids.

            The enzyme is not the same in all bacteria as it is in plants, and in some bacteria a different version of EPSPS is found which is resistant to glyphosate inhibition – in fact, such bacteria is where the recombinant gene for the different version of EPSPS which is added to plants to make engineered glyphosate resistant crops comes from.

            If all bacteria were susceptible then the creation of recombinant glyphosate-resistant plants would be impossible.

      • EJ Blom

        Stefan, could you please provide reliable citations backing up your claim that “Independent toxicology studies over longer periods consistently show disturbances in digestive systems and cancer growth in mice, etc”

        Most people quickly come up with the paper of Séralini (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691512005637), I hope your citations are trustworthy…

      • William Petersen

        Stefan,
        How do you explain the benefit of soil solarization, if death of beneficial organisms in the soil is critical to plant health? See http://link.springer.com/article/10.1051/agro:2007053#page-1 for one example of sterilizing soil with solar heating and the increase in crop yield. The most obvious effect is the reduction in nematodes. I am assuming other microbial biota were also affected by the sterilization process, and yet after multiple treatments, yields increased. This result seems counter to your premise that there are beneficial microorganisms that are critical for plant growth and that messing with the balance of the soil microbial populations, be it glyphosate or solarization treatments, will have a negative impact on plant growth. Care to explain which microbes are beneficial to which crops and how their elimination by glyphosate has an impact (cause and effect)? Are all “beneficial” microorganisms glyphosate sensitive and heat tolerant?

        Farmers in Wisconsin do not grow gmo crops for yield increase. They grow them because of the efficiencies in farming that they gain, and in avoiding the application of insecticides. See a review by Lauer at http://www.news.wisc.edu/21505

  • Ute Lehmann

    No medicine without sideeffects! If round up really stops cancer it should have sideeffects to normal growing cells. But whats about Dioxine in Round up? Agent Orange was full with dioxine..
    and round up is said to have dioxine contents too…Dioxine on food, no thanks!

    • http://about.me/geneticmaize Anastasia Bodnar

      do you have a reliable citation for your claim that there is dioxin in Roundup? which formulation(s)?

    • Luke Weston

      Dioxin can be formed when the organochlorine phenoxy herbicide 2,4,5-T is improperly synthesised with excessive temperatures and improper control of temperature and other reaction conditions during the synthesis process. 2,4,5-T, with such dioxin contamination for this reason, was one of the components of Agent Orange defoliants.

      Glyphosate is a completely different class of molecule, chemically, it’s synthesis is completely different and it doesn’t contain any chlorine. There isn’t any chlorine or anything aromatic introduced into the synthesis, so even under the wrong process conditions there’s no possible way dioxin could be formed.

  • Rick

    Oh my god, Steve has discovered the dirty little secret. Chelation, the gotcha theory of doom of the week. And chelation, what a suitably sinister sounding word. Wow, science incompetently overlooked that glysophate had chelating qualities, the ability to bind with soil minerals, or it was swept under the rug hoping no one would notice.. Actually Steve, the topic of the extent to which glysophate could conceivably lock availability of nutrients to plants is a serious one. But wouldn’t this horrible armageddon be obvious by now. I mean glysophate has been a herbicide choice since long before roundup ready crops came along, did you know that? Of course you did. Wouldn’t we by now be seeing dropoffs in yield and livestock owners noting poor performance in livestock growth. Producers monitor nutrient content closely since it is necessary to balance rations. A serious dropoff in nutrient composition of feed crops would be noticed.

    One of the advantages of glysophate is that it does bind tightly with soil minerals and surface crop residuel. This reduces opportunity for runoff as well as limits uptake through the roots. One of the reasons glysophate has been popular to producers is its low residual presence because of its relative quick degradation in the soil, thus being less limiting to crop rotation choices.

    Not sure why its taken Dr Huber’s letter alerting to issues similar to Steve’s allegations to make its way into the foodie literature, but now that it is, we can look forward to all kinds of embellishment, doomsday scaremongering. In his letter, Dr. Huber promised data and evidence. Actually, I would welcome him publishing something since it would be something to take seriously if there is anything to it. I’m surprised, Dr. Huber’s letter was two years ago and if this is the crisis that Steve in his superior ethic and intellect has so eloquently chastised the author about, one would think that the information would have been presented by now. I don’t think he has published anything yet since if the alarming concerns he raised were verified, it wouls have been the top ag story of the year. Has Dr. Huber produced anything yet.

    Meanwhile, farmers are harvesting again, so plants seemed to have suvived another year of chelation. Steve, you bring up what would be a serious topic if there was compelling evidenceit that glysophates binding qualities did indeed have the consequences you list. But at this point, it is only a theory, and one which appears to contradict real world evidence of increasing crop yields and increasing efficiency in livestock rates of gain.
    Its unfortunate you chose not to raise it in a serious manner. If you feel I am disrespectful of you, you reaped what you sowed.

    • Stefan

      A serious dropoff in nutrient composition has been noticed. Nutriotional values are now 40% of what they were before WW2. Yields have been continually dropping as well, compared to how much input is used: the bulk has increased, efficiency has decreased. GMO crops, glyphosates and having to use expensive fertilizer to get anything to grow when being forced to use them has driven thousands of farmes to commit suicide because they couldn’t get a decent yield and saw no way of going on.

      It’s also been shown that -unlike claimed- glysophates don’t degrade quickly; in reality they are still found in groundwater months later, while it’s being claimed they couldn’t even get into groundwater because they degrade so fast.

      The information has been presented but has to compete with intens lobbying from glyphosate and GMO producing companies. It is not a theory, it has been proven repeatedly for years. Just because you can get a yield by putting more and more energy in doesn’t mean that yield contradicts the fact that it’s harder to grow it. We are currently putting 10 calories of energy in the form of tilling and fertelizers into the growth of crops for each calory we get out. It’s all driven by oil.

  • Sjoerd

    Hi Anastasia, it seems that you really like glysophate. That’s a good thing, especially for the producer… However besides that whole soil ecosystems are affected, next to plants (bacteria, fungi), G also affects our own gut microbiota. The bacteria in our system represent 10x more cells and 100x more genes. Without these bacteria, our immune system malfunctions and a lot of food cannot be processed by ourselves. Because these bacteria share the same shikimate pathway that is targeted by G, it would be very interesting to see the effect on our gut populations, especially long term. Since a lot of diseases (like diabetes, Crowns disease, obesities, etc.) are recently correlated with specific types of bacteria in our gut for example, I would not be surprised if the intake of G severely influences our little friends.
    Editor’s Note: the last sentence of this comment was removed to restore civility.

    • EJ Blom

      @Sjoerd,

      Do you have a reliable citation for your claim that G affects gut microbes? Seems to me that the concentration of G in your gut will not reach a concentration that is high enough to have an effect. There is only “paper” that I could find on this subject: http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews
      However, this paper doesn’t contain any actual research, just a bunch of speculative ideas and thoughts.

    • http://about.me/geneticmaize Anastasia Bodnar

      I wouldn’t say I “really like glyphosate”. I do think, based on the available evidence, that glyphosate is far more environmentally benign than other herbicides, and that herbicides can be really important in increasing yields so that we don’t need to use more land to produce the same amount of food. However, glyphosate, like all other pesticides should be used in moderation as part of an Integrated Pest Management plan.

      If you have any research showing the effect of glyphosate on gut bacteria, or an association between glyphosate and any diseases, I’d be happy to read it – but you have to keep in mind that there is very very little glyphosate in our food. It may be detectable, but that’s only because we have some amazingly sensitive detection methods.

      • Sjoerd

        Little glyphosate in our food is not a guarantee that we are little exposed! Ground water pollutions with G can also cause a major intake via our drinking water. Water companies in NL only spend millions per year trying to remove only G and its degradation products. And since G is not only used as a weed killer for food production, there are other routes with which we can take up G. A recent study covering 182 urine samples (all city-dwellers) from 18 EU countries has shown that concentrations up to 1,8 ug/L glyphosate and 2,6 ug/L AMPA have been found (see https://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/glyphosate_studyresults_june12.pdf). It may not be a lot, but it can be higher in other parts of our body, and we cannot exclude that little concentration have significant effects on our delicate gut populations. Since only very recently the importance and the total composition of our microbial gut communities have been shown, and I would be surprised if researchers have specifically focused on G. However, I do think that we should investigate this further and I hope that the reviews that you have cited in this article (although most of the authors of these papers have worked for/at Monsanto, which does sound a bit suspicious), reflect the truth about G…

  • Tom

    Hey man, all this talk of chelation just gave me a groovy idea. Chelation therapy using glyphosate! (Yeah, chelation therapy is a real thing… in alternative medicine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelation_therapy).

  • Mlema

    here’s an interesting article on “The fate of transgenes in the human gut”

    http://www.biosafety-info.net/file_dir/697848857c49a7da2.pdf

    apparently our friendly microbes are capable of acquiring and harboring DNA sequences
    from GM plants. Trans-kingdom gene flow!

    I know this post is about glycosphate, but continuing on the subject of safety: Chinese scientists have found environmental microbes (in rivers) contaminated with synthetic plasmid vector-sourced antibiotic resistance genes. These synthetic plasmid vectors are tools used in genetic engineering. And the scientists traced genetic engineering as the source of these contaminants. So: looks like GMOs are helping to create antibiotic resistance bacteria.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23215020

    • Tom

      Oh crap! So that means that our gut bacteria are busy picking up all kinds of genes from all the food we eat. And each other. Shock horror!

      Um, plasmids and the antibiotic resistance genes they (sometimes) contain originally come from bacteria. As long as you’re using a natural antibiotic (or a closely related synthetic analog), there will be a bacterium out there with the resistance gene to match it. And that Chinese paper is a mess generally. Selection pressure through antibiotic use by human – or microbes (I’m looking at you, Penicillium) is what causes antibiotic resistance. Nothing to see here.

      • Mlema

        is this the same as increasing resistance by proliferation through genetic engineering?

      • Mlema

        isn’t it true that genetic engineering can produce unintended, unpredictable and unwanted consequences in the new species?

    • http://about.me/geneticmaize Anastasia Bodnar

      I’ve looked at the issue of antibiotic resistant gene flow from GE plants to bacteria before (http://www.biofortified.org/2010/03/gmos-antibiotics/), and there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that this is happening at any detectable level. Antibiotic resistance genes are widespread in the environment already in many different types of bacteria (after all, most antibiotics are produced by bacteria to kill other bacteria so the “victims” evolve resistance), and it’s way easier for two bacteria to swap genes than to get a gene from a plant. And the antibiotics used in plant transformation (in my experience, kanamycin is most often used) are not used in human medicine. Nonetheless, researchers are moving away from using antibiotic resistance markers to other markers, and/or breeding the markers out so they aren’t present in the final product.

      The first paper you cite (actually you cite a letter about the paper, the actual paper is here http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v22/n2/full/nbt934.html) may show that bacteria in our guts can pick up DNA from GE foods (although this is contradicted by a lot of other research, as mentioned in the letter you shared), but if that is true, it means the bacteria could pick up non GE DNA too. Since many plants have virus DNA in their own genomes, and our food can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, insects, and parasites, I’m much more concerned about naturally occurring genes than one EPSPS gene. But, since we’ve been eating food since we crawled out of the primordial soup, I’m honestly not worried about it. When there’s evidence of actual harm, let’s talk. Until then, this is just mildly interesting.

      The second paper you cite is about bacteria picking up genes from plasmids in GE bacteria, not genes from GE plants. I agree that bioreactors should be closed from the environment to prevent escape of bacteria (but that’s true whether they are GE or not).

      Your other questions are interesting, but diverge waaayyy from the topic of this post. So I’d appreciate it if you’d ask them in the Forum (http://www.biofortified.org/community/forum/) so this conversation doesn’t get too mixed up to follow.

      • Mlema

        Thanks Anastasia! I will do the reading. :)

  • Mlema

    re: the safety of glyphosate in particular, since it’s so widely used, and since farmers seem to be putting a lot more of it on their crops than they’re supposed to, and since it’s an endocrine disrupter – I think I’ll just eat organic in hopes of avoiding it :)

    • EJ Blom

      Well, you might want to reconsider that, organic farming doesn’t necessary imply that they don’t use pesticides. You might want to read some more: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/2011/08/15/organic_myths_revisited/

    • http://about.me/geneticmaize Anastasia Bodnar

      The use of pesticides is regulated by the EPA, and there can be fines if someone is found to be misusing or using too much. Still, we know that the EPA can’t be everywhere so maybe there is overuse happening. But then we can rely on post-harvest monitoring of pesticide residues (mentioned in this post) that find the grand majority of products to be well under the science-based tolerance set by the EPA. So, no worries, your food does not contain harmful amounts of pesticides (well, at least if it’s conventional, I haven’t seen much testing of organic foods or organic pesticides).

      As for the status of glyphosate as an endocrine disrupter, there have been a few studies claiming such, but as I mentioned in this post we can find studies claiming just about anything. There are far more studies that have not found such an effect.

      • Mlema

        Sorry, I must be confused. I saw Pamela Ronalds’s post here:
        http://www.biofortified.org/2013/10/20-points-of-broad-scientific-consensus-on-ge-crops/
        saying:
        “#16 The liberal use of glyphosate without proper management has spurred the evolution of weeds resistant to that herbicide.”
        which linked to this:
        http://www.nature.com/news/case-studies-a-hard-look-at-gm-crops-1.12907

        Knowing also that RR pigweed has become a serious problem in the south, and having read that farmers were increasing their use due to resistance in general, I figured that overuse must be happening.

        Also, A meta-study out of Newcastle University concluded that organic food has less pesticide residue. True, no way to know if the ones that were used were more or less toxic. Biofortified should look into that! It would be something useful to know for those with compromised health, who might be sensitive or negatively affected by pesticide residue of either kind on their food. Thanks!

        • Rickinreallife

          The issue is the overreliance on glysophate/roundup as a weed management tool that amplified selection pressure for weeds resistant to glysophate. Overuse in terms of application rates is an entirely different issue. Too low of rates of application in individual applications can also contribute to the speed at which weed populations resistant to the treatment emerge. I suspect that has been a contributing factor with glysophate as well.

          You will find a lot of agreement among farmers and agronomists that the mistake is not incorporating glysophate tolerant crops as a component of an integrated weed management strategy, but rather the overreliance on glysophate in too many situations as a substitute for integrated weed management. Again, it is not the concept of herbicide tolerance, it is how it is utilized. I know it is a favorite theme of anti-gmo literature to claim that biotech traits commercially available thus far encourage monoculture, i.e. an abandonment of crop rotations and diversity of plantings, particularly when it leads to extreme concentration of production of one type of crop in a region over time. I dispute that the introduction of crops with traits added by genetic engineering contributes in any significant amount to monoculture practices. That issue preceded introduction of biotech traits, and factors that contribute to that phenomenon would likely continue if ge technology was abandoned. That production of certain crops tend to have regional concentrations and that individual farms tend to specialize in certain crops has as much to do with availability of markets and transportation and storage technologies that enable foodstuffs to be moved long distance efficiently has encouraged concentrations of production in areas most suitable for production of particular crops. The versatility of uses for certain crops like corn and soybeans for non food uses also has created greater market signals encouraging production of those crops. One of the potential benefits of biotech is that it may be one development that actually helps reverse the trend of monoculture by making greater crop diversity even more feasilble. Here are some examples of how glysophate tolerance has encouraged and facilitated expanding cropping rotations. [http://www.smallgrains.org/springwh/Apr07/expert/expert.html; http://cornandsoybeandigest.com/soybeans-bolster-wheat-rotations; http://www.uwex.edu/ces/crops/WheatRotate07.htm; http://www.land-and-livestock.com/2012/03/28/corn-acres-on-the-rise-in-w…, http://www.btny.purdue.edu/weedscience/2009/GlyTillage09.pdf; http://southwestfarmpress.com/grains/grain-no-till-production-improves-fhttp://westernfarmpress.com/no-till-rotation-play-key-roles-texan-keeps-…]

          It would also be a mistake to assume abandonment of glysophate and herbicide tolerant genetics inherently or necessarily means a return or transition to some utopian ideal. There will be tradeoffs as Pam Ronald notes in the article you cited: —

          “Still, glyphosate-tolerant plants could be considered victims of their own success. Farmers had historically used multiple herbicides, which slowed the development of resistance. They also controlled weeds through ploughing and tilling — practices that deplete topsoil and release carbon dioxide, but do not encourage resistance. The GM crops allowed growers to rely almost entirely on glyphosate, which is less toxic than many other chemicals and kills a broad range of weeds without ploughing.”

          • Mlema

            thanks Rickinreallife, I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. We have to keep in mind that the way farming is done in this country is driven also by the structure of federal subsidies, which tend to support monoculture. in order for farmers to shift to more diverse plantings and integrated pest management, they might need financial support because they won’t immediately see return and it’s more labor intensive. The reason I personally would support this shift is that without it we just see a continuing increase in the toxicity of pesticides. And, as I said, there are those who wish to avoid this as much as possible for health reasons. We know these pesticides are contra-indicated for the healthy development of children.

            • Mlema

              Did you know that technology contracts (like those signed by farmers who buy seeds from Monsanto) can restrict the kind of planting done?
              They include things like:
              “To use seeds containing Monsanto Technologies solely for planting a single commercial crop.”
              http://thefarmerslife.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/scan_doc0004.pdf

              • Charles M. Rader

                Mlema, the agreement you posted doesn’t prevent the farmer from planting a mixture of several different crops. It doesn’t promote monoculture. The only way I see the agreement controlling the farmer’s methodology is in requiring the farmer to use the refuge strategy to delay or prevent the evolution of resistance to Bt. Most of the agreement is about protecting the patent rights.

                • Mlema

                  thank you

              • http://blog.openhelix.com/ MaryM

                Have you read more from that farmer who actually posted that tech agreement? Brian talks a lot about his farm–where he plants many kinds of seeds. Some of them are GMO, some are not. Because he can.

                http://thefarmerslife.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/i-occupy-our-food-supply-everyday/

                If you need to talk with him about his options he’s available quite a lot on his blog and on twitter. I’m glad you’ve found his site though, maybe you can learn something.

                • Mlema

                  Yes Mary! I have enjoyed Brian’s site more than once. There was a discussion on peanut butter that was fun. I hope you’ll find a place to learn something too. :)

              • Ewan R

                I’m pretty sure that the pharse “to use seeds containign Monsanto Technologies solely for planting a single commercial crop.” in this instance means – you may only use this bag of seed to plant a crop this year, you may not save this bag of seed across multiple plantings.

                The reasoning behind this, as far as I recall, is that the value of a given trait varies season to season, and seed is priced accordingly (based on a value share model) – thus in a year/area with spectacularly low insect pressure IR traits will cost less than in years/areas with high insect pressure, thus, in order to do a fair value share you are restricted to planting the bag of seed you buy specifically for the area/time you bought it.

                It’s a pretty convoluted system, but one that works out being pretty fair (it basically allows the value share system to operate at all – without such clauses all traits would cost the same regardless of geography) while sadly, at the same time, appearing scary from a legal stance.

                • Mlema

                  I think you’re right Ewan. Thanks.

              • Luke Weston

                We all use technology use agreements every day, most commonly when we install or use computer software, or use websites and web services – and increasingly, when we use all kinds of different biotechnology – in medical research and diagnostics, in the laboratory, and in the field.

  • Mlema

    Hi EJ,

    do you know if they use endocrine disruptors?
    I know large, industrial organic farms have many of the same problems as non-organic ones. The practices that allow for long-term reduction in pesticides aren’t encouraged in big farms.

    So, gotta go organic AND local. Wow, gets hard to avoid the poison! :)
    Too bad the US farm subsidies don’t support better agro-science. It’s really expensive and laborious to have a non-industrial organic farm. And that makes the food cost more!

  • Jaime Costa

    Very good review, but on the tolerance issue, instead of “These tolerances are hundreds of times higher than estimated toxic values” I think you meant “These tolerances are hundreds of times lower than estimated toxic values”.

  • greg meyerson

    I’d like to compliment Mlema. M is skeptical (in the best sense of the word) of some of the claims made around glyphosate and GE and when good arguments are made in response to M’s skepticism, M listens and seems to accept the counterarguments.

    Is big necessarily bad, M? or are you confusing size with the profit imperative often accompanying big farms?

    I like Rick’s post above. Herbicide tolerance does not favor monoculture necessarily. in the same way, it seems that monoculture and size are not necessarily connected.

    • Mlema

      greg meyerson. Thank you and I agree with your viewpoint on size. Big isn’t necessarily bad. Small isn’t necessarily good. I believe that agricultural scientists have a good understanding of the best ways to manage pests, but that science isn’t as sexy or profitable as transgenics. The USDA has determined that, for farmers overall, the returns on the RR and bt technology are mixed:

      “Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of GE crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative. Both herbicide-tolerant cotton and Bt cotton showed positive economic results, so rapid growth in adoption is not surprising in these cases. However, since adoption of herbicide-tolerant corn appears to improve farm financial performance among specialized corn farms, why is its adoption relatively low? Even more puzzling, the adoption of herbicide-tolerant soybeans and Bt corn has been rapid, even though we could not find positive financial impacts in either the field-level nor the whole-farm analysis.”
      http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCsQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ers.usda.gov%2FersDownloadHandler.ashx%3Ffile%3D%2Fmedia%2F759229%2Faer810g_1_.pdf&ei=HbGuUp-pAoX4yAGSwYDwAw&usg=AFQjCNH1NL-gzxtvU8sYBxp5U4WMCgB4Cg&bvm=bv.57967247,d.aWc

      That study is a bit old, and what we see is that the GE crop that proved the most financially successful for farmers (bt cotton)is now contending with glyphosate resistant pigweed – a very difficult problem due to the plants prodigious reproductive capabilities.

      IMHO, we must implement those integrated pest management systems that have proven to be effective and relatively safe. They tend to be more labor intensive. My hope is that our federal budget will transform in recognition of the importance of sustainability. Right now the bulk of taxpayer-funded subsidies go to commodity corn, soy and cotton (hence the development of bt and RR traits in these crops to capitalize on the patented technology)

      • William Petersen

        For why farmers in Wisconsin use gmo corn, see http://www.news.wisc.edu/21505
        The traits are used more as an insurance policy against losses than as a gain. Also, those that have switched to no-tillage or low tillage have reduced the need for large horsepower tractors and the fuel and time to make multiple tillage passes. Ease of operation is a plus. I know a farmer that works full time off the farm. He takes 2 weeks off in the spring to plant and 2 weeks off in the fall to harvest. 483 acres, run part time, in what used to be run by his father and the three sons. The full time job provides health benefits and stable income while the part time farm operation, depending on the year, provides profit or tax breaks.

        • Mlema

          Interesting! I think it does continue to be the case (as is noted in the USDA paper) that these crops are used best in regions where their cost is appropriate to the benefit (the “insurance” use is discussed). Unfortunately, resistance inevitably develops, and the expense of continually developing new transgenics (and the unknown environmental effects of each new round) mean increasing dependency on a model that can’t be sustained. With a shift in what we economically support, this farmer could hire many people and his land could be diversified and more likely to produce without increasing inputs in perpetuity. Did the farmer desire to work separate from his farm? The farm provides “profit or tax breaks” – I can’t tell from this whether or not this farmer is able to simply live by being a farmer, or make profit by being a farmer. As I mentioned in my remark above, currently our federal farm bill supports large-scale monocropping of corn, soy and cotton. This isn’t necessarily bad for an individual farmer as long as he can sustain his farm in this way. But there are questions about whether sustainability is promoted with transgenics.

  • Paul

    If glyphosate can kill certain plant diseases isn’t it also true that it can promote certain plant diseases as well?

    • Luke Weston

      Glyphosate doesn’t “kill certain plant diseases”. It’s a non-selective herbicide. It kills plants, except where recombinant glyphosate resistance is used. That’s what it’s used for, marketed for, and designed to do.

  • http://scientificgoals.com Duff

    Forgive me if this has already been addressed in a previous comment as I haven’t read them all.

    I agree that glyphosate is toxic, and also not usually present in high enough doses to be a problem as a typical toxin, as “the dose makes the poison.”

    What does scare me is the potential for glyphosate to be an endocrine disruptor. The paper you cited “Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors” seems to indicate a potential mechanism for glyphosate to operate as a xenoestrogen in very low concentrations. Now it could be that this is bad science, as you seemed to indicate. But I think it is reasonable to be concerned about the possibility and at least be interested in further studies. Xenoestrogens are certainly a problem in our environment and may be contributing to breast cancer growth as well as various health problems having to do with hormone disruption, and pose a novel challenge due to violating the standard dose/response curves of toxicology (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22419778 ).

    That is a very interesting counter study though about inhibiting cancer growth, although since it doesn’t appear to cover the topic of glyphosate possibly functioning as a xenoestrogen, it doesn’t allay my concerns so much as simply present different evidence.

  • William Petersen

    Duff, What evidence is there that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor? At what levels compared to the Maximum Residue level allowed in crops and food, or the expected level of exposure?

    Soybeans have estrogen like compounds and the story is still being figured out for their association with cancer. See http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/expertvoices/post/2012/08/02/the-bottom-line-on-soy-and-breast-cancer-risk.aspx

    Opponents to gmos and the use of glyphosate used to like to cite the now withdrawn Seralini paper. If one looks carefully at the data presented, one will see that the male rats which drank glyphosate, had less cancer than the control group of rats not exposed to glyphosate. I would say that trying to link glyphosate to being an endocrine disruptor, and that the levels of exposure are some how harmful, without real evidence is just speculation at best, and a scare tactic at worse.

  • Michael

    Nice article Anastasia,

    Always refreshing to read from someone who is well versed in the scientific method. Considering the title of your article, I am surprised to see that there is no reference to the studies that may indicate that G may be teratogenic. For example:
    http://ddococktailhour.com/files/0/8/7/4/3/244299-234780/Carrasco_research_paper.pdf

    But of course we all know that the dose makes the toxin and the amounts they used (around a 1:5,000 ratio) I assume correlates to 0.2 mg/L, which is many magnitude more than the levels found in human urine according to an above linked study in the comments (1.8 ug/L = about 1,000 x less concentrated).

    Just wondering if you have come across any studies addressing this issue as it is a hot topic in many parts of latin America.

    • Chris Preston

      Michael, not only are the concentrations use unrealistic in terms of exposure, the researchers injected formulated herbicide into chicken eggs. Mammalian embryos will never be exposed to formulated herbicide, which contains surfactants as well as the active ingredient. Frog embryos might be exposed, but not to the herbicide formulation used because that formulation cannot be used near waterways.

      • Michael

        Cheers for your input Chris,

        I am just wondering why you are able to state that mammalian embryos will never be exposed to formulated herbicide, or what the difference is between formulate herbicide and glyphosphate.

        Also you say the concentrations used in the above study are unrealistic. Not saying that I doubt you but my healthy skepticism would appreciate some documentation/studies that have looked at serum levels of glyphosphate in agricultural farmers/fruit consumers etc (all my search results have only found patients that have tried to overdose on it). I assume you have some applicable information due to your claim and am wondering if you could be kind enough to share it.

        Also worth noting that glyphosphate is able to penetrate human placentas (albeit quite weakly at around 15% penetration) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01932690801934513#.U0t9buaSwmY

        Some minor epidemiological studies have shown higher levels of birth defects in children of pesticide sprayers which is probably at the very least worth further investigation.
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241196/

        Unfortunately I have been unable to come across enough information that generates a significant concern (a few isolated studies IMO are not enough hard evidence to generate significant concern). Hence why I am here as I figured that people like yourself may be more well versed in the current scientific studies and therefore could direct me to them!

        Cheers for your time!

        • Chris Preston

          Michael, formulated glyphosate herbicide contains the active ingredient (glyphosate) as well as other compounds. The most important of these for toxicity are the surfactants (polyoxyethyleneamine). These are best compared to detergents and at high enough concentrations they will damage cells. Once the herbicide has been sprayed, the herbicide is taken up by the plant, but the surfactant remains on the leaf surface.

          So considering exposures, the only way that internal tissues will be exposed to the surfactant is if someone swallows the formulated herbicide. Even then, most of the surfactant is quickly removed in urine and faeces. Therefore, the chances of embyos being exposed to formulated herbicides is virtually nil, unless the formulate dherbicide was to be injected into the embryo – as was done here.

          Information about serum concentrations of glyphosate is hard to find, because of its short residence time. This paper http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1570023208007447 measured serum concentrations in someone who swallowed 400 mL of formulated product and had 6 mg/L of glyphosate. Another paper here where someone swallowed about 500 mL of a formulated product http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0039914007005334 and had 5 mmol/L glyphosate.

          This paper will give you an idea of concentrations likely in farmers and their families http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241861/pdf/ehp0112-000321 It only measures in urine, but you can see the concentrations are orders of magnitude smaller.

          And some more summarised here http://www.inchem.org/documents/ehc/ehc/ehc159.htm

  • Joel Starr
    • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

      Mercola.com is not a good source of information. Much of it is wrong, twisted, or outright fabricated. In the video on that page, skip to the 28 minute mark and you will see that Seneff has declared her belief that glyphosate is so powerful that it causes school shootings and the Boston Bombing. We just passed the 1 year anniversary of that horrific event. Think about how callous and utterly wrong it is to use an event like that for political purposes and to misrepresent science in that process. The same evidence led her to conclude that Glyphosate caused the Boston Bombings as it did to her conclusion that glyphosate causes every major human disease – and that would be zero evidence.

  • Joel Starr
    • Chris Preston

      It seems they used an ELISA assay tests developed for glyphosate in water that is not suitable for fluids like blood and milk. So there is nothing to be made of the results.

      • Ben Hadd

        Chris
        If you were credible you would have checked out your facts before you spoke. May I suggest you call Ben and ask him how he did the test so that you don’t flub up again. I saw these type of posters and web forums during the election, and as soon as Obama got elected they were gone. From the looks of this website, I’d say there is someones finanical interest at stake.

        • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

          Please see our About page and Financial Information page before you assume financial interests.

        • Chris Preston

          Ben, I am just a mere research scientist who has from time to time run various antibody-based detection systems; including as part of my Ph.D. 30 years ago. So of course I know nothing about ELISA.

  • Joel Starr

    There is an interview with Dr. Stephanie Seneff about a peer-reviewed report by retired scientist Anthony Samsel (a consultant and retired scientist). The report is entitled Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide May Be the Most Important Factor in Development of Autism and Other Chronic Diseases.

    • Chris Preston

      Joel, Stephanie Seneff is a computer scientist. Sadly she doesn’t understand the first thing about human diseases, but that doesn’t stop her publishing on them in her own special issue of the journal Entropy. Anthony Samsel was not an active scientist. He worked for the management consultancy firm Arthur D. Little. His background is in chemistry. He also knows nothing about human diseases. But yet again that doesn’t stop him publishing papers in Entropy with Stephanie Seneff on diseases.

      One interesting aspect of this whole charade is that Seneff has published a paper claiming autism is caused by vaccines (something that was well and truely debunked years ago) and almost immediately publishes one with Samsel claiming autism (and every other human disease) is caused by glyphosate. Both papers cannot be true.

      If you are interested in a debunk of Samsel and Seneff’s effort, I am happy to put the work in.

      • Ben Hadd

        Chris
        I saw how you brushed off Stephanie as a “computer scientist” to discredit her from knowing anything about diseases. You might want to include all of her credentials. I see a common theme by the board members to quickly douse the fire, so that they can demeanor anyone with credible evidence against GMO’s.

        • Chris Preston

          Ben, I mentioned that Stephanie Seneff was a computer scientist, because she was described as Dr Seneff and people might have confused her as a medical doctor. That doesn’t discredit her from knowning anything about human diseases: it is her own writings that do that. I could go into a long description of her cherry-picking evidence, confusing correlation with causation and a host of other errors she makes, including getting the main symptoms of diseases wrong, but the best evidence for her lack of knowledge is she published several papers in the same journal issue claiming variously that aluminium, cholesterol sulfate deficiency, vaccines, acetaminophen and glyphosate were the main cause for autism. A quick review of the literature would have identified the fact that autism has a strong heritability component.

          • Ben Hadd

            So all in the people in the US that have the autism gene must have got together and mated to get the autism rates up to 1 in 88 kids from 1 in 10,000. lol Sounds like hereditary to me. So how much roundup in breast milk is save for infants and how did it get there. Pull one of your studies out and show me.

  • Joel Starr

    Chris, I just now talked to Ben Winkler at Microbe Inotech Laboratories that did the testing for glyphosate in breast milk. He said their test is valid on breast milk and “you can take that to the bank” he said. They have also found glyphosate in urine samples in the USA. Maybe you were thinking about another test. This can’t be good news.

    • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

      Only if you use a standard curve with the same medium. Was their standard curve made using breastmilk spiked with known amounts of glyphosate?

    • Chris Preston

      Joel, the ELISA test would be suitable for finding glyphosate in water and urine, but unsuitable for fluids like blood and breast milk. The latter contain antibodies and other compounds that can interfere with ELISA tests. As the test is not designed for use with fluids other than water and urine (and even then it is known to produce false positives see Byer et al. 2008) it needs to be validated for other fluids. The ELISA test is designed more to remove below level of detects from sample collection so fewer samples need testing by GC-MS. All ELISA positives should be further tested by GC-MS before confirming presence of glyphosate.

      It is my opinion that Ben Winkler is being a little bullish about how valid this test is.

  • Ben Hadd

    I’m curious why Chris Preston would lie about the test. It always seems people that promote GMO’s have a financial interest in them. I’ve been in the seed business all my life and farmers are starting to realize that they were duped with promises from the chemical industry. Their interest now seem to be about non-gmo crops and getting premiums for them. Their starting to learn that roundup doesn’t dissapear when it hits the ground and its showing up in everything we eat and drink. And worst yet its it womens breast milk. How you “in the know” people can cover up something like that for your personal gain is beyond me. The word is getting around the ag community, and I think its long over due.

    • http://about.me/geneticmaize Anastasia Bodnar

      As Karl stated above, please refrain from making claims about financial interests of people when you have no proof. You can find Biology Fortified’s financial information on our about pages.

      If you would like to contribute to the conversation, please provide reliable science-based citations to back up your claims.

  • Tom

    The glyphosate also shows up in high levels in city sludge. Allot of times its over the EPA limits. Basically it comes in the food and gets passed down the sewer. Its not surprising that it shows up in breast milk and urine.

  • Ben Hadd

    Anastasia
    At what levels is G safe for infants? and how did it get in the milk?
    Thanks
    Ben

    • http://about.me/geneticmaize Anastasia Bodnar

      We first have to show that it actually did get into breast milk, which hasn’t happened yet. Unfortunately the group who had the testing done is not reliable, and their methods, results, and conclusions haven’t been scientifically vetted at all.
      As for safety, that’s what this post was about and you are welcome to read the post and follow the links for more information.

      • Ben Hadd

        Anastasia thats pure ass bull shit and you know it. You call that lab that did it. Talk to Ben. He would love your call.

  • Joel Starr

    How will high levels of roundup in breast milk affect the developing infants brain. Where are the studies? DDT was considered totally safe by the same people saying Roundup is safe. Microbe Inotech Laboratories have their own beliefs on what the results will be.

  • Joel Starr

    Applause and tears of joy erupted on the floor of the Vermont House yesterday http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XmQ0smfKOmw&feature=youtu.be .

  • Ray Kinney

    Where are the inhalation route studies? Most toxicants inhaled are far more readily taken up into the physiology. Millions of people are exposed repeatedly.Perhaps breastmilk glyphosate (and don’t forget all of the degradates from glyphosate and from formulations. When you see someone spraying and you smell it, some uptake is happening. When skin gets exposed, what is the uptake percutaneously? Should these chemical exposure scenarios not be carefull tested as mixtures that would in reality likely become additive, and even sometimes synergistic? Or, perhaps sometimes antagonistic. NOT ENOUGH science has been done! In western Oregon forest and rural lands aerial spraying is well known to move off site and cause chemical trespass onto people, animals, and organic gardens and crops. I’m quite sure that AG land applications similarly are frought with unintended exposures as well, it is not just the food content that is in question. And, no… really… the dose of a certain chemical is not ‘what makes the poison’, that is long past credibility in the real world. In the lab, yes, such a statement is reasonable, but in the real world it is far from correct assumption. The multiple chemical exposures and toxicologic interactions, often accumulative, repetative, and chronically low dose in all their complexity IS WHAT makes the ‘poison’. The real world rules, and we know not what we do, and that is a sad legacy to leave our great grandchildren to face. We had better get our act together fast. Pointedly investigative environmental assessment is essential and will save health, lives, and MONEY. The politic that sees environmental investigation and assessment as being inherently politically subversive, and not something to support, is criminal and will be our downfall. we no very little about all this yet, and dangers abound. Epigenetics is just begining to be studied, and already there is substantial concern about public health and environmental health risks. We could SAVE money and public health, but we are doing so little.

  • Patricia

    Does anyone know if glysophate applied in lakes as an herbicide to keep weed growth down changes the toxicity to swimmers? In other words, I read that it dries out on crops, but what about when it’s used for weed control and never dries, does that make it toxic to humans? ( I am not a scientist).

  • Chris Preston

    Hi Patricia, the most toxic thing about glyphosate formulations are the detergents they add to the formulation to get the product to stick to leaves and be absorbed. Even then, they are not very toxic. Similar to table salt.

    It is illegal to apply normal glyphosate formulations to water bodies, because the detergents are long lasting and cause damage to aquatic organisms. Special formulations have to be used around water that have shorter-lived detergents in them. Their lower persistence is likely to make them even less toxic to swimmers, because they will be out of the environment more quickly and there will be less exposure.

    • Patricia McPherson

      Thank you Chris for the good info. They put Adjuvant in with the stronger herbicides, but yesterday they used diquat dibromide instead of glysophate. (This is a lake where there are riparian owners of which I am one.) The lake is spring fed on one side (the side I’m on), and then there’s a small canal where there’s another lake that is essentially backed-up farmland, and it is silty and weedy. But it’s called by the same name, and they insist on treating the lakes “as one” even though you cannot swim on the farmland side.
      My concern now is the diquat dibromide. I am on one of the only sandbars, so I have a small beach, and a sandy swim area, and I’ve asked them not to spray in front of my house (but they do it anyhow). Not that it matters, but every single lily pad is gone, a lot of fish died on the “farmland-filled” side (due to lack of oxygen caused by harsh winter and all they had to eat were burned plants because last year they used an Agent Orange chemical, 24D4, which they have stopped using), and I am concerned now about the diquat dibromide. From what I’ve read, it doesn’t break down and go out of the environment, and in fact stays in the soil (or sand, in my case).
      Thanks very much for the post. I feel more at ease about the glysophate. I am not sure how they are using it as far as strength, but I can find that out.
      So this is why I was asking about glysophate because I swim in the water, and so do a lot of children.
      Patricia

      • Chris Preston

        Patricia, diquat is considerably more toxic to humans than is glyphosate. Diquat is registered for use around water bodies because it is quickly and tightly bound to clay particles in the sediments. Once it is bound to the clay it is inactive and non-toxic. Therefore, it will kill the vegetation it is applied to and probably some algae, but generally nothing else. It can be harmful to aquatic life if it is directly applied to them. There can also be issues with particularly clean water bodies, as in the absence of clay the herbicide will stay in the water longer.

        This fact sheet from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will give you more information.

        http://dnr.wi.gov/lakes/plants/factsheets/DiquatFactsheet.pdf.

        • Patricia

          Chris, thanks for the Wisconsin link. Our lake is sand and silt, of which I’m on shoreline sandbar so it’s a small beach with sandy bottom for swimming, and my objection is this stuff just keeps accumulating in the sand, there is no clay for the Diquat to bind to.
          I will use this Wisconsin data to make my individual request to the township not to allow the aqua herbicide company to not drop the stuff on my area.
          I know that seems futile; but I will try and get them to ban it for our lake.
          Thanks again for the helpful info. I am totally unscientific.

  • Ray Kinney

    Patricia,
    One toxic potential to look out for, with glyphosate in surface waters, is the possibility that cyanobacteria toxins could be produced at elevated levels if the algae die. Once the cells sink to the bottom, the water could clear up considerably. It would be easy to decide to then go swimming, however, harmful algal bloom toxins can actually increase into the water as the toxins on the bottom of the waterbody degrade and release the toxins episodically. I’m not sure how long to advise waiting, but I would wait several weeks as a precaution.
    Also, for another insight on this potential route of exposure, Google ‘BMAA, cyanobacteria, lake concentrations, neuropathology’ to find sutdies that concern this mechanism as associated with neurologic diseases and perhaps showing need for pointed investigation of potential for causative influence as well as just associative.

  • Ray Kinney

    Uptake of glyphosate formulation chemicals through skin, eyes,and lungs has probably been greatly understudied. Applicators in the field often have no safety equipment designed to protect from these potential exposure routes. Where are the studies, and where are the funds to ensure that applicators are safe breathing the the chemical mists from direct spray particles or the volitalization off of the vegetation? Forestry use applications often use very high levels of application, often using helicopters. The hundred mile per hour rotor wash, plus the highly variable airflow patterns in the mountainous microenvironments routinely cause offsite drift and subsequent chemical trespass onto neighboring properties, often exposing people and wildlife to these understudied exposure routes. Organic farm crops are often exposed.
    Salmon streams receive direct spray, indirect volitalization, and wet transport from mountain mists, and direct application to small flowing waters in the small creeks that drain the slopes seasonally. Salmon streams are at risk. These understudied application risks are unacceptable. Label requirements are inadequate, and underenforced often. Someone should ask the salmon, however, very little water quality monitoring is authorized or funded due to head in sand attitudes.

    • Chris Preston

      Ray, these routes of exposure have in fact been well studied. Firstly in toxicity testing prior to release of the herbicide, but subsequently in studies of exposure of users and workers in manufacturing plants.

      There is a summary available here http://www.inchem.org/documents/pds/pds/pest91_e.htm and a review of the studies here http://www.ask-force.org/web/HerbizideTol/Williams-Safety-Evaluation-Risk-Assessment-RR-2000.pdf

      There are numerous other reviews, but I won’t link to them as it will put my post into moderation.

      Apart from harm that arose due to attempted suicide, the only reports of harm in those who are occupationally exposed are periorbital edema and skin irritation, both caused by the surfactant in the product and both transient reactions to exposure.

  • Mlema

    AS the discussion turned to glyphosate formulations, I’m assuming that’s Roundup? The entire discussion on the safety of glyphosate becomes somewhat irrelevant when what we’re interested in is the toxicity of Roundup – the preparation of which many millions of pounds has been sprayed in the US. I think Anastasia has shown that glyphosate is fairly benign (when used properly and not over-used). But Roundup presents a different set of problems and needs to be studied as itself imo. (as I say – I see the discussion seems to have turned that way to a certain degree)
    thnks

  • Ray Kinney

    To study gyphosate fate in the environment and physiology is one thing that is itself very important, very complicated, and very necessary, however, the formulations need to be very well studied in totality. Not only these studies need to be very well accomplished, but then all of the degradation products need scientific study and confirmation from multiple sources for quality assurance, including potential funding biases. After all that assessment detail, additional pointedly investigative experimentation of questions brought up by all of these additional studies need to be done. Mixtures need toxicologic asessment in the most vulnerable life stages of organisms that are exposed. The science is only as good as the questioning that goes into it. We have not asked enough good quality questions yet, let alone answered them with scientific and existential integrity.

    • Chris Preston

      Ray, formulated herbicide has been studied in the environment and its impact on human health. You can find a review here http://www.ask-force.org/web/HerbizideTol/Williams-Safety-Evaluation-Risk-Assessment-RR-2000.pdf The only degradation product that has any lifetime in the environment is AMPA, which has also been studied.

      Why are you concerned about potential funding biases? Surely it is the methodology that is important and whether the conclusions are supported by the data? If funding biases are a means of evaluating research papers, then I could quickly dismiss everything that Seralini’s group has ever published on herbicides, insecticides of GM crops. After all his work has been funded by Greenpeace and Sevene, an organic preparation company, both of which have a vested interest. Instead, I prefer to point out the weaknesses in the work and dismiss it for that reason.

    • Forrest Evans

      I love to hear intelligent dialogue on important questions. On several points, I strongly agree with Ray Kinney-we need to study the effects of (all) chemicals in totality, we need to consider the funding, we need to consider our perspective and what questions we are asking. then, in when the overall context is more established, ask the detailed questions as you say, Chris. Without asking the broader questions first, methodology is irrelevant. For instance, with the bee question that is being asked today. One side says, bees are disappearing and i have seen research indicating neonicotinoids are the culprit. Now, I have not read enough to know, but I do know that society should put every effort into asking all the questions needed, and not surrendering to short sighted profit motives. Personally, I think the goal of humanity should be to learn how to grow the food we need, with as little impact on the environment as possible. It’s our own survival at stake. Currently, it is hard to even assign blame for individual symptoms, because we have released so many different chemicals into our environment. We simply do not know what happens when all of these things are released en masse, as we have done over the past hundred years. There is every reason to slow down and understand the consequences of our actions. I have a friend who is a geochemist, he works for a company who is hired when toxic situations need to be resolved, when various chemicals have been found in ground water or in the soil,and need to be cleaned up. These situation require skilled expertise and science to solve. Science is vital, methodology is vital, shrill voices on either side do not help. Science however needs to be in the service of the entire human race, and the entire species living on the earth, not solely in the interest of those who pay scientists and engineers the best.

      • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

        Good comment… all except the last line.

  • Ray Kinney

    Chris,
    I’m not claiming that Seralini, Greenpeace, or Sevene are any better at reducing bias. I’m calling for INDEPENDENT funding research. I’m also talking about tankmixes of multiple formulations of herbicides, that actually happen out in the real world beyond the labs. All of the adjuvants, chealators, manufacturing contaminants, new molecules produced by the mixing,how all of these resultant compounds interact additively and synergistically with other environmental pollutants and lifeforms, including entirely newly created GMO combinations. I’m talking about effects on ecology and human physiology of newborns with less than well completed biodefences. If you really do want to talk about the weaknesses of vested interest research, start talking about the data GAPS, or are you saying there are no data gaps?
    The gaps are the problem. A vested interest research moves the research in the direction it wants to go, often that includes moving away from completing the full scientific method that calls for as much effort to be used to try to disprove a hypothesis as is used to ‘prove’ the hypothesis. Funding very often does not go equally toward supporting knowledge of the negative potentials of new product as it does toward the desired characteristics of the new product. Data gaps and erroneous assessment are the problem.I’m saying that not enough of the data gaps have been adequately covered for intellectual integrity, and higest quality risk determinations.

  • Chris Preston

    Ray, there are a few things I don’t fully understand in your comment.

    The first is the desire independent funding of research. Who is this independent funder and why would they be interested? Surely it is the data that is important regardless of who provided the funding?

    I am pretty comfortable with the current system where the proponent of the registration has to demonstrate the safety of their product. This means the proponent has to pay for the minimum testing required by the regulator and then the data is independently reviewed. Otherwise, all that testing will have to be done by the government and paid for out of my taxes. It will also lead to companies bringing forward a huge number of potential molecules for testing (many of which would be likely to fail registration), because the government would be taking on all the risk.

    Regulators are requiring more and more data for registration of pesticides, not less.

    Secondly, is your comments about all the other things added in and the new molecules created by mixing. What new molecules are created?

    Testing has to be conducted on the formulation as well as the active ingredient, so that is already covered.

    Thirdly is your comments about synergy with environmental pollutants and other compounds. What is the evidence there is synergy? Without a reasonable hypothesis you are requesting a very large number of animals be killed for no good reason. The EPA currently monitors some 189 air pollutants and 177 water pollutants. To deal with each one of those alone would require more than 30,000 tests involving hundreds of thousands of animals for no good reason.

    Where synergy between compounds is likely, regulators already require synergy tests.

    Fourthly, is data gaps. There will always be data gaps, but the important question is not that there are gaps in the data, but whether there are gaps that should be a concern. None of these products have ever been tested on Mars. That is a data gap, but an irrelevant one. So the first thing that needs to be determined is what are the data gaps for glyphosate and why should these gaps be a concern?

  • Ray Kinney

    IMHO: all corporations should pay into a fund that creates an independent testing lab network. Yes, we would all be paying into it in reality because corporations would turn right around and charge consumers to cover the costs, but at least the results would stand a better chance of being more free of biases that were disadvantageous for societal wellbeing.
    When a soup of chemicals(organic and inorganic) are tankmixed and then sprayed out onto the extremely complex terrestrial and aquatic ecologic environments, the possibilties for unintended adverse reactions are many, mostly understudied,and underappreciated.You say “what is the evidence for synergy”, but really the question should be what is the synergy we have not yet identified and risk managed for?
    What are the harms that are happening that we are blind to and that are limiting our health and wellbeing? Or, are you claiming that there is no such thing as synergy?
    It seems less than adequate to belive that we know it all already.
    And, killing animals and plants should not be the primary investigatory tools that we rely on in modern toxicology. Subtle, but health limiting metabolic indicators of adverse effects potentials on chronic low dose long term determinations are far more likely to educate us about how we are affected by these exposures than the rather coarse ‘belly up’ predominance of acute shorterm (shortcuts) to toxic assessment that are not very diagnostic of the levels of harm implicit in our rate of creation of eightyfive thousand novel chemicals we have released into the world without adequate testing. We are exposed to these pollutants, often for our whole lives,without anybody or any institution understanding the complexity to any adequate degree.
    The ‘testing’ you say is already adequate is ‘baby babble’ compared to what is needed to have intellectual integrity and a societal responsibility. I’m saying, that rather than me asking for killing vast numbers of additional lab animals, you are advocating that we should not look into these issues with adequate study, thereby spreading far more harm around the world already, and more harm into the future.
    Since you keep narrowing the issue back to only glyphosate(which is not my point), I’ll serve up a slow pitch for you to hit out of the park: If you say that AMPA is the only degradation product from glyphosate much worthy of even noticing, what about the degradation product of AMPA, that is sarcosine. When the environment acts on sarcosine to nitrosate it, and one result is increased N-nitroso-sarcosine (which is carcinogenic)should we not ask if it is possible that N-nitroso-sarcosine might possibly get into human breasts and milk at higher levels than normal, potentially raising the breast cancer rates when residues of RR GMO crops are increasing in humans??? Maybe this is not a valid question or maybe it has been thoroughly vetted by current research already… but perhaps it has not. Anyway take a swing at just this one question to see if you can hit it out of the park. How many such questions could an independently funded group of toxicologists, medical practitioners, and experts from all fields come up with.. would not some of their pitches produce strike three?
    My point is, is that we are infants in the field of toxicology, and epigenetics is just begining our growth into toddlers, should we risk our future on dependence of such little understanding of our biome world?

    • Patricia McPherson

      Your comments are compelling and speak to those of us that fear the toxicity even though everyone is convinced and the studies prove glyphosate is safe for humans and fish and frogs and turtles, we reluctantly are still skeptical.
      I have found that residents around our spring-fed lake are mostly in favor of herbicide treatment and even sent me a Detroit News article stating that Friends of the Detroit River received a federal grant for $470,000 to treat invasive weed species near Belle Isle to pretty much say, “Look, here’s what others are doing, so it’s good we are doing this too, ” but everyone seems to agree glyphosate is safe because there are no studies to say otherwise.
      Yes, the chemical reactions with the surfactants must be taken into account as well as acknowledgement that we don’t know everything.
      After chemical herbicide treatment, I always wait until after a good rain before I swim, but I see a lot of kids swimming a day later.

    • Chris Preston

      Ray, a fund that all potential registrants have to pay into fund testing? There are certain dangers associated with such a set-up. For example, if I was running a chemical company, I would be tempted to submit large numbers of molecules for testing so that my competitors would have to pay for some of my testing. There may be ways to manage the fairness issues, but undoubtedly such an arrangement would result in an increase in cost in registration and price all but the biggest players out of the market, for no clear gain as far as I can see. But I am happy to be convinced how this would lead to better testing outcomes.

      Animal-based toxicity assessments are the regulatory requirement the world over. There are certainly cases where alternative approaches make more sense and they are used. However, there remains the situation that political pressure is brought to bear on governments for more animal testing rather than less. Low-dose chronic toxicity testing is already conducted and measurements of metabolic processes made. However, it is an ethical requirement that all animals used in such testing are sacrificed at the end of the tests.

      You keep saying that all this additional testing needs to be done, but so far, as far as I can tell, have not provided any evidence that the things to be tested might be a problem. You describe the current testing as “baby babble”, but my impression is that you don’t really understand what current testing does get done and why. The argument seems to be along the lines “there are tests I can think of that are not done, therefore they should be done”. Which is why I keep asking for specifics as to the testing required and the evidence that such testing will illuminate hazards.

      I keep coming back to glyphosate, because the topic of this blog post is the toxicity of glyphosate. If you don’t want to discuss that, perhaps you need to find an appropriate blog post for the things you do want to discuss.

      For your last example, sarcosine is not a metabolite of AMPA. Sarcosine is a product of an alternative glyphosate degradation pathway using an uncommon C-P lyase reaction that is found in a small number of microorganisms. Sarcosine is also a key metabolite of the amino acid biosynthetic pathways and has low persistence in the environment. As it does not hang around very long in the environment, it is of minimal concern to humans.

    • Tom

      Ray, I caught up on your musings on sarcosine (and apologies if someone already corrected this downstream) but you have your biochemical pathways mixed up. I study microbial metabolism and the degradation of glyphosate produces either AMPA or sarcosine depending on where along the glyphosate molecule it is cleaved. Sarcosine (or N-methylglycine) is not toxic and occurs naturally in nearly all cells. Plants produce it as an intermediate in glycine betaine synthesis while our own bodies produce it breaking down glycine betaine. Microorganisms typically recognize sarcosine as a source of metabolic nitrogen and demethylate it into glycine, which is one of the 20 universal amino acids that make up all proteins. There are some crazy theories out there that this demethylation reaction poses an environmental hazard because the methyl group is released as formaldehyde but what all these theories fail to recognize is that all cellular systems have formaldehyde detoxification mechanisms that turn the formaldehyde into carbon dioxide.

      • Ray Kinney

        Tom,
        Thanks for pointing that out. I had read (a number of years ago) a Russian paper on the nitrosation of sarcosine to N-nitroso sarcosine and subsequent increased carcinogenicity. I no longer can find that paper, but it was offered as one the possible sources of bay clams in Maine having high incidence of tumors in waters associated with AG runoff glyphosate.

  • William Petersen

    Ray,

    Keep in mind that those companies you do not trust, employ real people. People with parents, sisters, brothers, children of their own, some even with grand children. I have not met anyone yet at these companies that I think would take profit over the safety of their friends and family. Might there be some bias, sure, but not to the point of overlooking the obvious, and asking tough questions about the not so obvious.

    Your final question, “should we risk our future on dependence of such little understanding of our biome world?” Reminds me of a monster in a closet. One may have lived in a house for years, completely unaware there is a monster in the closet, ignorance being bliss. Then one day, they discover the monster and panic and fret and are consumed with fear over the monster in the closet, completely ignoring the fact that the monster had been there all along and had not caused any harm.

    Modern humans have been on this planet for 200,000 years. They spent the first 190,000 years living off of plants and animals of which they had no knowledge of besides taste and aroma clues and perhaps observation of other animals eating or avoiding plants and animals. It was not until 10,000 years ago that they started tinkering with agriculture, selecting plants for various traits, without knowing if they were increasing or decreasing toxicity levels in the plants (recall basic biology that non-mobile plants are among the greatest biochemistry factories in the world, some of them toxins designed to protect the plant). In the past couple of hundred years, humans have started to apply knowledge of chemistry to combine with agriculture. Certainly we are capable of creating compounds that are deadly to man, but these are just a fraction of the chemicals in nature that can cause harm. We have evolved, in my opinion, with the innate ability to taste or smell, sometimes at even subconscious levels, those compounds in food items that can cause us harm if eaten in large quantities. We in fact eat many things that if we ate too much of, can make us sick or kill us. Just because we are becoming aware of the biome, doesn’t mean that there is now more threats. The threats were always there, we evolved in this world of threats, and for the most part, we can eat a wide range of foods in reasonable quantities in reasonably good health.

    Also keep in mind, dose makes the toxin. You undoubtedly used a chemical toxin in your food recently, that is more toxic than glyphosate, and it is known to cause all sorts of health issues at sub toxic levels. The chemical is salt, NaCl. Look up the MSDS for salt and do a google search on salt and health issues and it reads similar to, or worse than the toxicology report for glyphosate.

    Eat a wide range of food in moderation seems to be a tried and true survival method for our species. I think I will trust that method instead of worrying over chemicals that are less toxic than those I encounter on a daily basis in nature.

  • Ray Kinney

    Chris, William,
    Thank you, you make some good points. However, my sense of understanding of toxicology suggests that ‘the dose’ does NOT ‘make the poison’. We should not interpret a single analyte from the real world as if it were always just in a lab setting. In the real world, as William points out, clearly there is a vast interaction of chemicals all around us that we have to adjust to given enough time, we are very good at that. the problem is one of scale of time for these adjustment to evolve. We have greatly accelerated the time available compared to the number and complexity of new risks created.
    In order to deal with these increasing risks, we need to quickly evolve better assessment capability in order to adjust more adequately. The rapidity of creation of new products for rapid global dispersal is likely to spread some dangers around the globe far faster and more completely than at anytime in the past. Yes, testing is very extensive in many of these products (such as for glyphosate), but our abilities to understand the physiologic details within the complexities of our bodies are increasing exponentially with medical science. We are becoming more able to comprehend just how many more ways there are of creating adverse effects in our bodies we are being exposed to. Testing protocols, and our testing backlog, lag far behind our abilities to design them and complete them adequately. The resultant data gaps are critical for risk. My use of the term ‘baby babble’ was not to omit appreciation of all the testing that has been done, but to indicate a sense of time scale for the process of filling the data gaps. Thirty years from now, we will likely have gained such a better capability of assessing these risks that our current understanding will seem like ‘baby babble’. Human medical diagnostic testing is advancing rapidly, so it is increasingly possible to utilize testing that is not typically ‘killing animals’ but is largely even non-invasive, or minimally invasive (as in biopsies. That is why I say our current reliance on acute tox testing with its outright killing of animals is becoming more antiquated rapidly. Even remote sensing techniques are contributing amazing new knowledge and hope for more humane toxicologic assessment. Funding for these new capabilities are essential, and that funding needs to be as true to scientific method as possible, by weeding out bias as much as possible. We are at the ‘baby babble’ stage of that as well. My point is that we have to ask better questions each day, our great grandchildren all depend on our questioning attitude to become adequate, I don’t feel that we are doing enough to assess glyphosate and glyphosate formulations in real world dispersal settings yet to be sure we are not screwing up. Do these chemicals alter bacterial assemblages in the gut, or not??? Not enough assessment has been done to definitively clarify this important question…IMHO.
    Chris, you hit a nice solid double on the sarcosine question, as far as I can figure.
    Thanks for the thoughtful dialogue.

  • Ray Kinney

    “Prepubertal exposure to commercial formulation of the herbicide glyphosate alters testosterone levels and testicular morphology
    • R. M. Romano, 2010
    These results suggest that commercial formulation of glyphosate is a potent endocrine disruptor in vivo, causing disturbances in the reproductive development of rats when the exposure was performed during the puberty period.”

    This is a rat study, but children are being exposed in many home use, AG use, and forestry use scenarios. Are we sure that no such adverse effect is taking place in these children?

    And:
    Complex Interaction and Adsorption of Glyphosate and Lead in Soil
    Authors: Si, You-Bin1; Xiang, Yan1; Tian, Chao1; Si, Xiong-Yuan1; Zhou, Jing2; Zhou, Dong-Mei2
    Source: Soil and Sediment Contamination: An International Journal, Volume 22, Number 1, 1 January 2013 , pp. 72-84(13)

    I am concerned that since many industrial entities, years ago,were required to dispose of the toxic waste from their smokestacks (at significant toxic waste disposal cost) found that they could qualify for their waste to be reclassified as a soil ammendment that could be sold at profit to be spread widely across agricultural land. EPA eventually put a stop to this loophole but not before vast areas of cropland were treated as toxic disposal sites. The highly elevated levels of the toxic metal lead added to these soils is a toxic exposure risk. Glyphosate formulations, if they do as this research suggests, alter the mobility of both lead and glyphosate, for offsite transport via air and water, both become increased as pollutants to expose increased numbers of organisms. Below is some of the paper abstract:

    “Glyphosate [N-(phosphonomethyl)-glycine] is a herbicide widely used in large quantities in agricultural applications. It is also known to form complexes with metal ions, although its influence on metal behavior, such as lead (Pb) in soil, is not well understood. In this study, the adsorption and co-adsorption of Pb and glyphosate were determined on two soils [a red (RS) soil, Udic Ferrisol, and a yellow-brown (YB) soil, Udic Luvisol] of distinctly different chemical characteristics at varying pH conditions. Results indicate that the adsorption of lead and glyphosate strongly depends on soil types: the RS soil, characterized by a relatively high iron/aluminum content but a low pH and organic matter content, shows a much lower adsorption capacity for Pb but a higher sorption for glyphosate than the YB soil. The co-existence of Pb and glyphosate in soils resulted in complex interactions among Pb, glyphosate, Pb-glyphosate complexes, and soil minerals. The presence of glyphosate decreased Pb adsorption on the two soils, which was attributed primarily to the formation of soluble Pb-glyphosate complexes having relatively low affinities to soil surfaces. On the other hand, addition of Pb increased the adsorption of glyphosate on both soils, which was attributed to: (1) a decreased solution pH due to the ion exchange between Pb2+ and H+ on soil surfaces; and (2) increased sorption sites where Pb was adsorbed and acted as a bridge between glyphosate and the soil. The present study illustrates that the complex interactions among glyphosate, Pb, and soil may have important implications for the mobility and bioavailability of Pb in soil and should thus be considered in future environmental risk assessments.”

    My concern is largely for aquatic species decline (which is five time faster than terrestrial species cuurently), but there are plently of scenarios where human exposures to both toxins might be problematic without our being very able to properly evaluate subsequent public health implications. Glyphosate itself is a chealator of metals, if it alters the availability of soil essential metal nutrients, is any crop quality adversely affected?

    • Chris Preston

      Ray, did you read that paper “Prepubertal exposure to commercial formulation of the herbicide glyphosate alters testosterone levels and testicular morphology”?

      A few things about it. Firstly, they fed formulated herbicide. Such a mode of application is only informative about ingestion of the formulated herbicide. The authors consistently confuse glyphosate and Roundup Transorb throughout the paper.

      Secondly, they administered 5, 50 and 250 mg/kg body wt/d. The ADI (acceptable daily intake) for glyphosate from all sources in the diet is 0.3 mg/kg body wt/day. So they were administering much more than anyone would ever consume from their food.

      Thirdly, most of the effects only occurred at 250 mg/kg body wt/day. So an extreme amount compared to likely normal exposure.

      Fourthly, there were large numbers of comparisons separated typically at p=0.05. I counted 15 shown, but there were others mentioned that were not shown. This leads to a statistical problem called multiple comparisons. If you make a lot of comparisons, some will turn out to be significant purely by chance. Correcting for the number of comparisons means the p value should have been about 0.004.

      As a result the evidence in this paper is at best weak.

  • Ray Kinney

    Yes, I agree about most of your points, but I am also concerned about exposures ABOVE normal. People, in their own yards working and playing with children, have had their families sprayed, their spring system areas sprayed,their pets sprayed, and their garden food sprayed. These were tankmixes of several formulations. So, the real world has to deal with abnormal exposures of applications of herbicides, not just ‘normal’.Perhaps pregnant mothers should not be so concerned from many peoples point of view, but if it were me being pregnant, I’d be irrate.

  • Freeballer

    has anyone there read, “Ethoxylated adjuvants of glyphosate-based herbicides”..? is there any evidence to support the conclusions in that paper?

    • Tom

      Seralini is the senior author so I would proceed with caution even if he’s managed to publish it in a seemingly legit journal. One thing that stands out is that he’s adding formulated glyphosate (which include surfactants) directly onto cell cultures. Not surprisingly he finds that the cells die at very low concentrations – which is exactly the same effect you would get if add ANY product containing surfactants including dish detergent, shampoo, toothpaste etc. Enbryonic stem cells cultured in a dish is not the same as a living animal. Our bodies do not dissolve when we spray herbicides, do the dishes, wash our hair or brush our teeth. It’s highly dubious work and frankly misleading and very dishonest. I can’t understand how he’s still able to publish this kind of stuff.

      • Ewan R

        Indeed.

        The ethoxylated adjuvants are, in fact, surfactants.

        “Stuff that kills naked cells found to kill naked cells, more news at 11, but first our headline story – giant ball of fire again appears to rise in the sky in morning, planet likely doomed”

    • Chris Preston

      Hi Freeballer, this is more of Seralini’s “Let’s grow cells in a dish and soak them in detergents for 24 h to see if they will die” papers. Yes the cells will die if you apply enough detergents to them. There is no rocket science here, just useless experiments done over and over again in different combinations and then promoted as Glyphosate is harmful.

      I agree with Tom, it is essentially dishonest as the reader is not told all the known background.

  • Mlema

    Why is the discussion about the toxicity of glyphosate, not Roundup? Is glyphosate ever used on crops except in Roundup?

    • Chris Preston

      Yes.

      There are numerous other formulations and so long as they have a label registration they can be used on crops.

      There are registered products from at least 4 different companies in Australia that can be used on Roundup Ready crops. There are several hundred registered glyphosate products permitted to be used in fallow situations, as crop desiccants or in orchards and vineyards.

  • Eric Bjerregaard

    Mlema, Yes, round up’s patent expired a while ago and glyphosate is now available in generic formulations. This means surfactants and inert ingredients can vary. When I was a kid converse shoes were cool and expensive. The cheap families [mine] bought Sears b-ball shoes as we knew that they were made by Converse with a Sears label stamped on and were cheaper. How many folks actually make their own generic types. I do not know.

  • Mlema

    I was wondering because from what I know the surfactant in Roundup is contaminated with 1,4 dioxane. Are these other formulations contaminated as well (as I understand it’s a result of the manufacturing process)

    • Chris Preston

      1,4-Dioxane is a byproduct of the ethoxylation process and is common at low levels in many surfactants. It is present in Roundup formulations at roughly the same concentration as in shampoos. In agriculturally-relevant glyphosate concentrations (about 2% in water) it would occur at much lower concentrations than in shampoo. Even for the formulated product, the concentration of 1,4-dioxane is toxicologically insignificant.

  • Mlema

    Wouldn’t toxicological insignificance depend on the amount used/consumed?

    • Ewan R

      It would. Quick perusal of the literature on Dioxane suggests that it is toxic at doses of 94-148mg/kg/day to rats (in a 2 year study) but shows no evidence of toxicity at 10% of this value. (9.4-14.8mg/kg/day)

      Thus one may begin to be concerned if levels of dioxane exposure reached levels where one might expect to see somewhere between 10mg and 100mg / kg / day

      http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/cleared_reviews/csr_PC-103601_12-Aug-91_264.pdf

      is from 1981 and indicates that the only folk even expected to be exposed at levels worth looking in to are applciators and mixers of tank mixes of roundup – the data appear to indicate spectacularly low risk, although the EPA did appear to want this quantified (I haven’t the time to dig deeper and see if that was done at present, and as my next paragraph will indicate, this’d be rather pointless now anyway)

      However, a bit more digging turned up the following

      http://www.whitemoose.com/Forestry/Herbicide/6-Dost-Glyphosate.pdf

      Which suggests that by 1991 there was no detectable dioxane in roundup formulations, which as far as I can tell makes it a rather moot point. (the piece also highlights that the USEPA did not consider the levels to be a noteworthy risk)

      So…

      1. The levels in roundup originally (~300ppm) were too low to be of any concern.
      2. There is no detectable dioxane in current formulations (one wonders if this has changed since 1991 as our detection rates have got better – although this still wouldn’t be cause for concern as the levels would still be significantly lower than they were originally)

    • Chris Preston

      Yes it would. But as the NOAEL is 9.6 mg/kg.day that would require consumption of a bit over 2 L of formulated original Roundup per day for a lifetime or more than 100 L of diluted spray solution every day.

      • Mlema

        Of course, if a person drank 2 liters of Roundup they wouldn’t be worried about the dioxane, nor drinking another 2 liters the next day.

  • Mlema

    Thanks guys! My concern in these matters is for a young girl on dialysis. I found the EPA paper. I appreciate the info.

  • Mlema

    So dioxane = 2,4D – the pesticide we are now using on GM crops engineered for resistance? Duh, I just figured that out. So I guess the toxicity becomes more of an issue now. I live in the Midwest – so it’s definitely a concern here.

    Thanks again.

    • Chris Preston

      No 1,4-dioxane and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) are two entirely different chemicals with entirely different behaviors.

      • Ray Kinney

        Chris,
        Does glyphosate residue in foods, or from chemical trespass drift from application, alter the gut assemblage in humans and other animals… or not?

        • Tom

          Do you mean the microbial flora or the gut epithelium? Either way you would require quite high concentrations in both cases to observe an effect.

          • Ray Kinney

            The gut flora are very important to organism health. Digestion and nutrient uptake are aided, or altered by gut environment conditions. Humans have more bacterial cells in bodies that ‘human cells’. If glyphosate is known for specificity of toxic effect on the shikamate pathway disruption in plants, and animals are not using this pathway, is this an erroneous assumption? Do most of the gut bacteria utilize the shikamate pathway? Glyphosate might possibly still affect changes in gut bacteria assemblages that are then impairing gut function in significant ways? Are we so confident that this not happening, that we are not funding research to really check out this possibility?
            what if we are wrong?

            • Tom

              I work in a microbiology department. Most of my coworkers are microbial ecologists. Some even study the gut flora and how it can be improved with probiotics and even “fecal transplants”. So I’m not a novice to the field.

              Do bacteria use the the shikimate pathway? Yes they do – but ONLY if there isn’t an external source of the amino acids phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan. If you were to eat a low-protein diet then maybe your gut flora would be more susceptible to glyphosate. But the overall protein deficiency would already be so detrimental to your health that whether or not your gut flora is thriving becomes secondary.

              In order for gut bacteria to be affected by glyphosate there would first have to be a deficiency in at least one of the three amino acids produced by the shikimate pathway as described above. Second, the concentration of glyphosate would have to be quite high in order to cause any significant inhibition of growth. To reach these concentrations, you would basically have to drink a fairly concentrated solution of glyphosate. Glyphosate residues in food are insignificant. And if you were to drink a glyphosate solution, the gut flora would still return after the glyphosate has left your system just as it does after a course of antibiotics.

              And even if you were to consume elevated levels of glyphosate for a longer period of time, your flora would adapt. Single DNA base changes in the ESPS gene can render a bacterium resistant to glyphosate and with that many bacteria in your gut constantly dividing, the probability of such an event is quite high. (You can do a similar experiment in the lab. You spread out a couple of million E. coli cells on a petri dish with glyphosate in it. After a day at 37 C, chances are that you will see one or more bacterial colonies forming on the plate originating from single cells with these kinds of mutations that have become glyphosate-resistant.)

              • Ray Kinney

                Tom,
                Thanks, It is good to get your persective. When the industry went to the EPA to up the allowable glyphosate content in food, I became concerned. If industry does a lot of preharvest conditioning of food crops just ahead of making the food products, I wanted to understand more about the gut bacteria and the shikamate pathway.

                • Tom

                  Sure, no problem.

        • Chris Preston

          There is no evidence that I am aware of that suggests glyphosate residues in food would have any impact on gut flora.

          Of course I should point out that assessing the impact of any change would be complex. Microbial flora populations are notoriously variable and a host of environmental factors (including changes to diet) will affect them.

  • Mlema

    Chris – glad I came back, thanks again.

  • http://www.earthnews.com Queen Bee

    Anastasia, instead of asking for proof that round up is killing our gut microbe and depleting nutrients in the soil, etc. Show me proof it isn’t. Show me a study where it is proven it is NOT in beast milk. show me proof where it is NOT in rain.

    • William Petersen

      Queen Bee, Do you compost? Does rain land on your compost pile? Did composting completely stop? My compost pile works just fine. My neighbor uses round up ready crops and sprays glyphosate. Without looking for “proof”, I can make the observation that my compost is still churning away. Microbes are surviving and converting raw organic matter into humus. If there is any glyphosate in rain, it is not hurting the microbes in my compost pile. Do you have commercial dairy operations in your area? Are the dairy cattle still able to digest roughage, thrive and produce milk? Dairy cattle in Wisconsin are probably exposed to more glyphosate treated gmo crops than just about any other animal (besides perhaps pigs?) As a ruminant, their fermentation factories contained in their four stomachs and their small intestines rely on a healthy population of microbes. Have dairy farmers, that take weekly or daily notes on animal health and production, have they witnessed a huge decrease in milk production? Have they traced it back to abnormal intestinal flora due to glyphosate? Do you not think that farmers would not look for solutions and drop gmo crops and glyphosate if the health of their cattle, their money makers, was in serious decline? We can use the scientific process to demonstrate a result within tightly defined parameters, we can also just look and make observations that are so obvious, that we can draw some conclusions from them. My wife occasionally uses roundup in our gardens. I can smell the good earthy smell of soil rich in microbes. I can count the earthworms. Is glyphosate in rain? Who cares, there is no observable effect. I can see compost being produced. Is it in “beast” milk? Not sure, I have never had milk from a “beast” (wink). Is glyphosate killing my gut microbes? My health does not feel any different now than before gmo crops and glyphosate. Why seek out a ‘study” when you can observe.

  • Zinc

    GMOs may be perfectly safe, but if you’re confident they are you have no reason to oppose labelling. People want to know what goes into their food, period. What is there to hide? Why confirm the suspicions of the tinfoil hat patrol by trying to pull a fast one and not providing information people want to know? If the Mercola’s of the world want to advise people to boycott GMOs, trying to keep the information hidden is not the solution– people will only then presume that EVERYTHING is GMO. On the other hand, another issue with Monsanto is not food safety but food diversity. GMOs provide the company patentable organisms in an environment where cross-contamination is unavoidable and small farmers have been adversely affected. So there may be a reason to boycott GMOs that has nothing to so with food safety.

    • Eric Bjerregaard

      Zinc, Nothing is hidden. Some may not bother to do any research, and so remain knowledge free. That does not mean hidden. There are already non gmo and organic labels. There is plenty of food diversity. Monsanto has plenty of competitors in the seed business. Further reasons for not labeling are found in the aggressive way that some want to phrase the labeling and some leaders in the anti g.e. camp want to use labels as a step toward banning. Further there would be costs in testing at various stages of storage and processing to comply with tolerances. Also there will need to be modifications to facilities to ensure segregation. Such things will not be free. and the non g.e. products are likely to bear the brunt of the increases as some processors decide to switch to non g.e. sources to avoid your warning labels. The resulting demand increase will be reflected by rising prices.

  • https://plus.google.com/117867111029888045391 John Fryer

    Sorry to come here late but glyphosate is an ORGANOPHOSPHORUS compound and such compounds are not just an integral part of our biochemistry but OP chemistry is what makes us tick, stay alive and think.

    To state an OP biocide affects one biochemical pathway only out of thousands in animals and plants is not just simplistic but pathetic.

    In the good old days it was cholinesterase that was attacked by the OP’s. Then it was some mysterious enzyme that caused delayed health effects.

    Today if you study the literature we are finding more and more enzyme pathways affected with the realisation that we will never know all the pathways affected.

    Organisms have honed their OP chemistry over the millenia and today in 70 or so years we have challenged organisms with man made or natural OP’s that are far from benign.

    Maybe totally unrelated is the fact that today one child in three has lifetime health issues. This only applies to those countries using new fangled technologies.

    Our childrens and probably our own immune systems are under attack as never before.

    OP chemicals are a start point for causation even if as suggested above man will never be clever enough to figure out why.

    Going back to my above suggestion that industry talks of just one pathway out of thousands. As people investigate they find other pathways involved too that they hadnt thought of before.

    The thought of actually pouring this stuff onto wheat and then realising that this same food is fed to babies who magically then get allergies to wheat (gluten is blamed) and wondering why babies today cant take wheat products is just another example of simple mindedness?

    And do farmers really wait until the plant is 100 per cent dead before putting this product on the wheat as suggested by the author? I sinserely doubt it and it is not rocket science to investigate?

    Here in France this one herbicide appears not once twice on the list of a few unwanted products turning up in our water supply. Simple chemistry and metabolic change is something we do know a little about.

  • https://plus.google.com/117867111029888045391 John Fryer

    Regulators are in a bind. If they were to accept the work of Seralini et al as good work then they would be looking to implement bans on glyphosate.

    And in law, even if there was a problem, you cant just ban things but have to give time, often five years or so to stop dangerous products. Exceptionally there are instanteous bans.

    Diazinon (another organophosphorus chemical) attracted a worldwide ban in 2000 after years after struggle to get its danger recognised. Rather like thalidomide, it has crept back into commercial use with promises that this time round we know better.

    People look for no effect levels and think all is well. In fact that is the problem, as all is well up to the time when all is not well.

    We know the effect of these things at high concentrations and we assume wrongly the same effect will not occur but more slowly at lower levels called no effect levels.

    The chemical killers kill by stopping the normal life processes and while stuff like VX (an organophosphorus killer) does it very remarkably and quickly it is likely that given time the weaker OP killers will do the same for us eventually.

    Typically for MS for example to develop, people drink their poison whatever the cause for their MS is over a five to eight year period.

    Autism is sometimes a birth problem but for many it takes until the age of three before certainty comes that this child is one of the 70 million such that face or cant face life without up to 5 adults to support them.

    Again we are not blaming neurotoxic OPs or neurotoxic organomercury compounds nor formaldehyde but something, somewhere is causing harm to our children and instead of explaining to the unscientific what it is we are all in DENIAL of HARM.

    Pinks Disease took over 100 years to identify the cause. This cause was found, the illness all but disappeared but today we deny or try to deny the mercury cause.

    Much worse any textbook trying to write about this killer illness for babies gets lambasted for reminding us where to look for todays harm. Disorders from chemicals thought to be PROTECTIVE of our health but destroying us for decades while doctors insist this mercury product is the very thing you need to save your child!

    • Chris Preston

      John Fryer, your posts are just full of the usual misinformation you post about thiomersal in vaccines causing autism.

      Glyphosate is a compound that contains a phosphate group linked to a glycine moiety. In the broadest possible sense it can be described as an organic phosphate molecule. But it is totally different chemically and in its behaviour to organophosphate insecticides. ATP is also an organic phosphate molecule.

      The work of Seralini et al. should not be accepted by anyone as ‘good work’, because it is fundamentally flawed. The flaws are massive and start with the experimental design, through to the statistical treatment and finally to the conclusions they drew. All three were completely inappropriate. In fact it is one of the worst pieces of research I have ever seen.

  • Ray Kinney

    How much importance should we consider on this paper and on associated research?

    See PubMed:
    Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Sep;59:129-36. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2013.05.057. Epub 2013 Jun 10.
    Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors.
    Thongprakaisang S1, Thiantanawat A, Rangkadilok N, Suriyo T, Satayavivad J.

  • http://autismvsnootropics.wordpress.com Lazzeia

    Oh dear. This Ms. Bodnar is going to feel really stupid and guilty when unbiased findings are finally published and glyphosate’s toxicity is finally exposed. Glyphosate cures cancer — really? This is the most naive, ill-conceived and dangerous article about glyphosate I’ve ever read. Really insidious. You poor woman.

    • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

      Making claims without evidence is more insidious than citing repeated and confirmed peer-reviewed research. If you think the research is in error, point out the gaps, and design a study. We can all do the study together and become famous for upending a huge amount of data and theory. You can share the Nobel Prize with Dr. Bodnar.

    • http://geneticmaize.wordpress.com/ Anastasia

      That’s Dr. Bodnar to you. This post is based on the scientific literature. What do you have to back up your claims? I agree with Karl, if you have some ideas for new research, let’s discuss!

  • http://autismvsnootropics.wordpress.com Lazzeia

    Thank you for your sarcasm. Meta-analyses are not actual analyses. They just are used to confirm past hypotheses and flood the web with misinformation. There is far more money involved in disproving facts that show how glyphosate is harmful to humans than there is in disproving that glyphosate is harmless and generally safe. Seriously — this page is claiming that glyphosate is _good_ for you if you have cancer. And _I’m_ the one making claims without research? Seriously?

    • Chris Preston

      Maybe we should start with some misconceptions. Meta-analyses are in fact analyses. The reason that meta-analyses are used is because individual studies might cone to different conclusions. Meta-analyses can both resolve that problem, but also tease out small effects that may be missed.

      I will briefly digress into statistics, because it is important to understand this in the context of meta-analyses. Usually, researchers use a statistical cut-off to decide whether the treatment has an effect. Most often this is at 0.05. It is possible to think about this in terms of a bet: the researchers are betting that the result is real, because it is only likely to occur once in every 20 experiments by chance. But what happens if you do the experiment 20 times? In that case, you expect to have at least one wrong answer purely through chance. A result that looks real, but is not. This is a problem in statistics known as the problem of multiple comparisons. It is possible to manage for this statistically, but in the case of 20 different people doing the experiment that correction doesn’t happen. If the single statistically significant experiment was the only experiment people focussed on, they would have the completely wrong impression of what happens.

      But meta-analyses are more than just dealing with the statistical quirks. They also rate the research studies for quality and give more weight to studies of higher quality than those of lower quality. Factors used include number of individuals, whether the measurements are objective or not, randomisation and blinding.

      So back to the point. A meta-analysis should get rid of the noise (small, poor-quality studies that have a confounding outcome) to identify the real trend.

      So what Anastasia points out in this piece is that the vast bulk of studies of glyphosate toxicology show low toxicology to mammals and low effect on humans when used as intended. She also points out that while there are some small, low quality studies that conclude glyphosate may induce cancer, the vast bulk of studies don’t and that it is possible to find data that suggest glyphosate will reduce cancer growth. Because that is exactly what you should expect if enough experiments are conducted. However, like the studies that conclude glyphosate induces cancer, these are likely to be a statistical anomaly.

    • Ewan R

      Seriously — this page is claiming that glyphosate is _good_ for you if you have cancer.

      last line of the OP shows:-

      And so far, the evidence does not show that that glyphosate causes – or cures- cancer.

      So it appears a bit of a logical leap to suggest this page is claiming glyphopsate is good for you if you have cancer. The word cure only appears twice (more now that I’ve posted this) in this entire article and subsequent discussion. First when Anastasia points out that the evidence doesn’t show glyphosate causes – or cures- cancer, and second when you accuse Anastasia of suggesting that glyphosate cures cancer.

    • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

      A meta-analysis gathers data from multiple studies to combine them into a larger analysis. They are in fact analyses. You cannot dismiss them by saying that they aren’t what they are. You also misread the post, so I would caution you against saying such things and then claiming that everyone else is making claims without research.

  • Mlema

    All the meta-studies referenced in the OP are from the industry. Some individual researchers whose work was reviewed in the studies have claimed that their research was misrepresented / misinterpreted. It would be nice to see an independent meta-study.

    I don’t think we know at this time what the environmental effects will be of this ever-increasing use of glyphosate-based herbicides. I think it’s hard for independent researchers and the regulators at the EPA to keep up with the actuality of their use and the science on their effects.

    U.S. Geological Survey
    http://toxics.usgs.gov/highlights/glyphosate02.html
    note – the results are from 2002. Do you think the presence of glyphosate in the environment has decreased since then? From Reuters: “The USGS said more than 88,0000 tons of glyphosate were used in the United States in 2007, up from 11,000 tons in 1992.”
    I’m willing to bet that usage since 2007 has again increased exponentially.

    and the AWRA:
    Journal of the American Water Resources Association
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jawr.12159/abstract

    I made a detailed comment on the meta-studies here:
    http://www.biofortified.org/2015/01/medical-doctors-weigh-in-on-glyphosate-claims/#comment-1340055

    • http://about.me/geneticmaize Anastasia Bodnar

      Karl discussed why your complaint about the meta analyses is an ad hom in the other thread so I won’t belabor the point here.

      The total amount of glyphosate sounds like a lot… but how much farmland is there in the US? In 2014 there were 84 million acres each of soy and corn planted. Glyphosate is used on many other crops than just corn and soy and it is also used on lawns, golf courses, etc. IMHO patterns of use are far more important than the volume, and we have pretty solid evidence that glyphosate has displaced more toxic herbicides.

      I find the runoff numbers very interesting because of the way the majority of glyphosate is used. Glyphosate enables no/reduced tillage and reduced tillage means less runoff. So it makes sense that we’d see less glyphosate (and it’s breakdown products) in runoff than we see for other herbicides, especially those that are used as residual herbicides.

      I think that is why we get results like this (from 2011 Shipitalo and Owens) In runoff, max atrazine (MCL=3 μg/L) was 41.3 μg/L and max alachlor (MCL=2 μg/L) was as 11.2 μg/L. But for glyphosate (MCL=700 μg/L) there was only one one runoff event in 18 watershed-years that the MCL was exceeded and the highest, annual, flow-weighted concentration was 3.9 μg/L. The authors conclude “Planting glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybean and using glyphosate in lieu of some residual herbicides should reduce the impact of the production of these crops on surface water quality.”

      From your 2nd link, the conclusion is “Concentrations of glyphosate were below the levels of concern for humans or wildlife; however, pesticides are often detected in mixtures. Ecosystem effects of chronic low-level exposures to pesticide mixtures are uncertain. The environmental health risk of low-level detections of glyphosate, AMPA, and associated adjuvants and mixtures remain to be determined.” Of course more data is always better, though the amount of toxicology studies that have found no effect, and the fact that glyphosate interacts with a plant enzyme, not animal enzymes, leaves us without a risk hypothesis as to how any harm might come about.

      IMHO the biggest problem with glyphosate is that it is so damn good, so farmers relied on it overmuch and now we have weed resistance – although it is important to note that we can’t blame resistance on GM.

      • Mlema

        Dr. Bodnar, my reply is below. The site isn’t posting where I’m “replying”.

  • Duke Richards
    • Chris Preston

      Load of rubbish is the short answer.

      Have a look of the citations:

      Mercola.com
      Greenmedinfo.com
      gmwatch.org
      i-sis.org.uk
      anh-usa.org

      A bunch of crank sites. If the writer cannot accurately cite the literature and gives a biased one-sided picture from untrustworthy sources, they are not worth dealing with.

      Most of the arguments made in this piece have been debunked and I don’t want to explain them, only for you to pick another one out. So why don’t you select the most convincing argument made in the article and I will explain what the research literature says?

      • Duke Richards

        Thank you for the responses….I’m merely new to this whole debate and really just wanted to know if that article is bogus.

  • Pingback: How to spot anti-science nonsense | Tyson Adams()

    • Mlema

      Tyson Adams, I agree with what you’re saying as far as the autism link being nonsense, but the rest of your reasoning, although amusing, doesn’t necessarily follow.

      “Similarly when someone claims that the most extensively tested herbicide of all time, the safest agrichemical ever made, the most widely used agrichemical on the market, is responsible for [insert health consequence here, in this case autism] then you should be a tad suspicious. ”

      You have to consider: if it’s the most widely used then it has the potential to cause a wide-spread effect. Note: I am NOT saying that’s the case with glyphosate, I’m just pointing out that it would definitely be possible for a popular product, even one declared to be safe and extensively tested, to cause health problems. The key is in what’s tested and by whom, and in how and how much the product is used. If a product has a tiny bit of toxicity but is widely and improperly used, or if there are effects not initially investigated, or the effects investigated were for only one component of the product, then considerations of accepted exposure need to be re-evaluated.

      • Mlema

        It’s really annoying when replies don’t post where they’re made.

  • Mlema

    Anastasia, it’s not really an ad hominem to point out that the meta-studies you’ve referenced (in fact the only studies you’ve referenced) are all from the industry. It’s naive to believe that there’s no conflict of interest here that might be likely to bias the interpretations of the research. In fact, looking at the responses of some of the scientists whose work was reviewed seems to indicate that misinterpretation or misrepresentation probably occurred.

    “…leaves us without a risk hypothesis as to how any harm might come about.”

    “The environmental health risk of low-level detections of glyphosate, AMPA, and associated adjuvants and mixtures remain to be determined.”

    Of course, once glyphosate resistance is engineered into every commodity and resistant weeds have taken over as they have in cotton, then all commodities will be stacked with resistance to more toxic herbicides (as some already are) and any safety benefit of the first round of agricultural GMOs will give way to increasing amounts of more toxic chemicals (as it already has).

    Why is the safety of a pesticide being defended on a site meant to promote understanding of the science of GMOs?

    • Ewan R

      Why is the safety of a pesticide being defended on a site meant to promote understanding of the science of GMOs?

      One assumes because the alleged non-safety of glyphosate is raised in nearly every discussion about the safety of GMOs.

      Odd question really. If glyphosate were toxic to humans then surely it’d be pertinent to discuss this when discussing the safety of GMOs – given that a high percentage of commercially available GMOs are glyphosate resistant. One would assume that for any GMO which is reliant on another product (herbicide, expression regulator (pipe dream!) or what have you) a discussion about the safety or not of the other product would, indeed, be of value.

      A less charitable mind might wonder as to how much mud you require to stick before you stop flinging it.

      • Ray Kinney

        Chris, this is the age of computers. we should be entirely capable of putting into place a very informative system of labeling wherein they could be just a code color dot ( or many color shade dots to add detailed specificity)that references a key database to compare what is known about a food biochemically and be able to keep the reference up to date easily… say to stream known contaminant assessments in a particular food as the content changes through time with changes in the processing lines, or the ground the crop is sourced from, etc. But maybe that sort of database would be just too much of a threat to producers… too much info to confuse the mind of the purchaser?? Such a database could automatically screen for and warn of ingredients that related specifically to your need for cocoa-specificity, or for ongoing assessments of aflatoxin contents. Such a database could get out warnings of sudden discovery of food contaminant emergencies as well, to minimize the time lost to inform the public etc.
        Your quote:”Labeling is only useful when it provides health related information that is really important. ” would then have vast public health cost SAVING benefit. IMHO

      • Mlema

        Why don’t my replies post where I reply?

  • Ray Kinney

    No matter what food I eat, I want to know (to the best of my ability) just what I am putting into my body. GMO, non-GMO, organic… whatever, I want assurance (as best we can) that I know what is in the food… so that I can be basing my food habits as I see fit. That means, that I am all for GMO labeling… but that also means that that alone is NOT enough. Some system needs to be put in place for people to have far better knowledge than the current system practices. That means that our abilities at analytical assessment of chemical constituents that make up foods needs to become very much based upon pointedly investigative, ongoing, and pervasive monitoring. The problem seems to be that industry would oppose or obfuscate such knowledge base effort…why???

    • Chris Preston

      Ray, do you get all the biochemicals present in every food you eat identified? If not, why not?

      That would be the only way to know what is in your food. Otherwise, you are just picking on a few things that you have convinced yourself are scary.

      There are many compounds that occur naturally in food that are highly toxic to humans. Aflatoxins for example. The way we as humans traditionally managed these natural toxins was to consume small amounts of them or die when they are in too high a concentration. We can better identify these now and manage their content in food through appropriate agricultural practices and testing.

      Labeling is only useful when it provides health related information that is really important. Otherwise you get thousands of labels on the product and the information you need to know gets buried. I am not against labeling of GM food (it is after all the law where I live), but I find it pretty useless. When I buy foods I have to make sure there are no cocoa products in them – for health reasons. The more things on the label, the smaller the text and the longer it takes me to find out whether the product will be worth consuming.

  • Derek Bickerton

    In all of this so far I have seen no discussion of the work by Vandenberg et al. (2009, 2012) on NMDRCs and low-dose effects, which effectively nullifies any claims of “safe dose levels” that do not take this work into account. Nor have I seen any discussion of the Swanson et al. 2014, a large-scale epidemiological study linking glyphosate to several deteriorating health conditions in the US (all three papers are discussed at length in my blog at smokinggmogun.blogspot.com. As a newcomer to Biofortified I may well have missed such discussion in other threads, so I would greatly appreciate directions to these.

    • Chris Preston

      Swanson et al. 2014 was not a large scale epidemiological study. It was an exercise in matching curves in Excel. It is junk science.

      • Ray Kinney

        “you are just picking on a few things that you have convinced yourself are scary.”

        Chris, of course I would select mainly the types of ingredients in foods that seem to have the most datagaps involved in their use justification or previous testing… to more intensively quantify in foods I would eat… only logical. Probably never reach testing for all the complexity logistically (or financially)… but more data provides better basis for safety decisions. We could do a whole lot better filling data gaps, informing public, and finding some of the hidden dangers in our food system. The data gaps seem excessive to me, but perhaps not to you.

      • Derek Bickerton

        “It is junk science” is not discussion. so I still haven’t seen any. Please feel free to answer the arguments in my blog post “Causation IS Correlation”. I welcome real discussion, but I don’t appreciate being fobbed off with with a routine mantra.

  • Mlema

    “A less charitable mind might wonder as to how much mud you require to stick before you stop flinging it.”

    So I got some to stick? :)

    This site is: “…devoted to providing factual information and fostering discussion about issues in biology, with a particular emphasis on plant genetics and genetic engineering in agriculture.”

    “If glyphosate were toxic to humans then surely it’d be pertinent to discuss this when discussing the safety of GMOs – given that a high percentage of commercially available GMOs are glyphosate resistant.”

    Thank you! Why is such straightforwardness so hard to come by in this discussion? Why are we pretending that the crux of the GMO debate isn’t about American commodity crops, the food supply and pesticides? We’re not discussing the engineering of more toxic tolerances (the Mad Moms don’t seem to be aware of those yet), nor are we discussing the comeback of “pharming” (surely a greater health and environmental risk than ag GMOs – although they are a part of agricultural production). Instead we’re discussing the hope for humanitarian and environmental benefits, disease resistance, etc. – anything to cast the technology in a better public light.

    This is about business and economics. We want people to accept GMOs because GMOs make money. More precisely, we want them to feel safe about the GMOs they’re aware of. If it’s not on their radar, we don’t need to talk about it. Mad Moms are up in arms about glyphosate, so let’s show them it’s safe. I agree as far as comparisons to other pesticides. But I don’t agree with the overall approach – seriously: glyphosate resistant Kentucky Bluegrass? Multiple Cry proteins in our biggest commodities?

    I think glyphosate-tolerant crops have done their service. I don’t think it was ever a good idea to engineer crops to produce Cry toxins. Now glyphosate resistance has been engineered into alfalfa, sugar beets, and is sprayed on crops to “dry” them. Legislative success. Marketing success. Shareholder success. Environmental and food failure.

    My non-expert personal opinion of course.

    Thanks for your straightforward comment.

    • Mlema

      Ewan, sorry, that was a reply to you. My replies only occasionally post where I make them

      • http://about.me/geneticmaize Anastasia Bodnar

        Editor’s note: If you always click “Reply” on the post you want to reply to, it should appear as a reply. If that is not happening, then feel free to contact us via the link in the navigation bar at the top to get that worked out.

        • Ray Kinney

          I have also been frustrated when replies do not appear under what they refer to.

        • Mlema

          Thank you – let’s see where this posts.

    • Chris Preston

      Dear Mlema, all Cry proteins are safe to humans, so I don’t see a problem with multiple proteins in corn or cotton. In fact for resistance management purposes it is better to have multiple proteins. It is also necessary to remember that sprayed on Bt contains many insecticidal protiens, not all of which are completely safe to mammals.

      As for glyphosate resistant Kentucky bluegrass, I can’t get excited about it. I think glyphosate is far too valuable a herbicide to be wasted on golf courses.

      • Mlema

        Chris, thanks.
        I don’t think it’s ecologically sound to engineer multiple Cry toxins into many millions of acres of crops. They bind tightly to certain types of soil, and remain active for several months. They kills some non-target insects, and have already helped generate resistance. We need more research to learn about it’s effects on soil and crop health.
        http://www.amjbot.org/content/99/4/700.full.pdf+html
        Engineered bt is expressed throughout the plant and throughout the growing cycle. This is counter to the principles of integrated pest management. No pesticide is perfect, but bt sprays can have a lower impact, although they’re more difficult to use.

        I’m not excited about RR Kentucky Bluegrass either. But here in the US we apparently need to be able to spray everything with glyphosate.

  • Mlema

    Just out:
    Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate
    http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045%2815%2970134-8/fulltext

  • http://www.biofortified.org/2013/10/glyphosate-toxic/ julia

    im doing a report on herbicides this was very helpful. but do you have any other information specifically on roundup? is it true it kills the skin cells?

  • http://truehealthsource.blogspot.ca Word to the Wise

    I am not a scientist; but I am a PR expert and Communications Specialist; which means, I know how the public perceive any threat to their lives, health or well beings…UNFAVOURABLY! When any company or organization claims something is good for you and isn’t, you get a backlash; when an organization produces, publishes or makes false statements, false claims, or uses contrived data, to bolster the ‘safety’ effects of its findings, the public losses confidence in the producer or manufacturer of these products!

    I need to ask, if Glyphosate is so safe, and Roundup, is so benign, why all the lies Monsanto? Why all the tens of millions spent in lobbying-efforts, and Counter-PR measures to silence your products critics? And why, in 2009, did a French court find Monsanto guilty of lying; falsely advertising its Roundup herbicide as “biodegradable,” “environmentally friendly” and claiming it “left the soil clean.”? Surely, if you want public acceptance of any product, you need to create confidence and trust first; and nothing destroys this trust faster and more permanently than outright lies to your consumers! Monsanto, you’ve got some explaining to do!

    • http://www.inoculatedmind.com Karl Haro von Mogel

      You do realize that we’re not Monsanto, right?