by Sayer Ji
Glyphosate, the most well-known ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, has recently been the focus of an intense debate over whether or not it is dangerous, even carcinogenic, to those exposed to it through food and the environment.
Monsanto, the original creator and patent-holder of glyphosate, and of the most famous glyphosate formulation Roundup, has funded research denying the emerging glyphosate-cancer link, but the latest (and only known) long-term feeding study from an industry independent research group out of France indicates that the transgenic material within Roundup-Ready Monsanto corn, as well as Roundup itself, are highly carcinogenic, and should be banned to protect the millions who are already consuming it on a daily basis.
Glyphosate, however, is only one dimension of a complex toxicological problem. What is often overlooked is the role of adjuvants in glyphosate formulations like Roundup, which while being labeled "inert" or "non-active," are in no way neutral, and which amplify glyphosate toxicity far beyond what toxicological risk assessments presently are designed to ascertain.
Glyphosate-Formulations Dramatically More Toxic Than Glyphosate Alone
Back in Feb. of 2012, the journal Archives of Toxicology published a shocking study showing that Roundup is toxic to human DNA even when diluted to concentrations 450-fold lower than used in agricultural applications.[i] This effect could not have been anticipated from the known toxicological effects of glyphosate alone. The likely explanation is that the surfactant polyoxyethyleneamine within Roundup dramatically enhances the absorption of glyphosate into exposed human cells and tissue.
If this is true, it speaks to a fundamental problem associated with toxicological risk assessments of agrichemicals (and novel manmade chemicals in general), namely, these assessments do not take into account the reality of synergistic toxicologies, i.e. the amplification of harm associated with multiple chemical exposures occurring simultaneously.
"Inactive Ingredients" In Herbicide Formulations Are Actively Poisoning Us
But adjuvants in glyphosate formulations do not just increase the toxicity of glyphosate -- they are themselves highly toxic. Indeed, a study published in the journal Toxicology September, 2011 titled "Ethoxylated adjuvants of glyphosate-based herbicides are active principles of human cell toxicity," found 24 hour exposures on liver, embryonic and placental cell lines at concentrations as low as 1 ppm – a dose well within "acceptable" environmental and occupational doses – resulted in negative effects on cellular respiration and membrane integrity.[ii] The authors reported their findings as such:
Altogether, these results challenge the establishment of guidance values such as the acceptable daily intake of glyphosate, when these are mostly based on a long term in vivo test of glyphosate alone. Since pesticides are always used with adjuvants that could change their toxicity, the necessity to assess their whole formulations as mixtures becomes obvious. This challenges the concept of active principle of pesticides for non-target species.
What the consumer of GM-contaminated food must understand is that glyphosate, and the many insufficiently tested "inactive" ingredients sprayed on these foods, enter the body and have real, adverse effects that are cumulative, even if mostly subclinical. The only way we can be sure to reduce our exposure to these agrichemicals is through consciously refraining from consuming them. And how do we do that? Get the stuff labeled, and give the consumer a choice not to eat it.
Please lend your support to California's Proposition 37, and vote with your fork as well, by buying only organic food, whenever possible.