IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, has determined that the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, glyphosate, is a potential human carcinogen.
However, this potentially toxic ingredient is not the only one of its kind in Roundup and other products based on glyphosate. They include numerous “inert” ingredients which have largely avoided investigation as they were being hidden as proprietary “trade secretes”.
Certain people who used Roundup are now suing Monsanto because they have developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma right after using this product. The suits blame glyphosate and the inert ingredients in the herbicide, claiming that the combination of these chemicals is way more hazardous than isolated glyphosate.
One of the lawsuits reported that Monsanto was either aware or should have assumed that this herbicide is more toxic than isolated glyphosate, and that necessary studies had to be conducted for the safety of Roundup, its ‘inert’ ingredients, and its adjuvants (1).
GBH’s Inert Ingredients Toxic to Living Cells
Majority of the studies investigating the toxicity of glyphosate have only analyzed glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), its toxic breakdown product, although the present “inert” compounds are probably increasing the toxic effects of glyphosate.
According to a study in 2012, ingredients like surfactants, preservatives, solvents, and other added substances are definitely not “inactive”. Not only that they can, but they do often contribute to the toxicity of a product in a synergistic way – although not-toxic in isolation. Some adjuvants in herbicides based on glyphosate were also determined to be active principles of toxicity in human cells, contributing to the dangers of glyphosate.
As researchers believe, this cell damage (and sometimes even cell death) can appear at the remains located on crops treated with Roundup, as well as gardens and lawns where this herbicide has been used for control of weed (2).
The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health writes that official active ingredients and co-formulants in formulations of pesticides are presented as confidential and inert compounds. Test were made on the endocrine disruption of 6 herbicides’s co-formulants based on glyphosate, and it was discovered that the formulations and co-formulants were significantly toxic to living cells (cytotoxic) a lot less than the agricultural dilution of 1% (8 to 141 times for formulations, 18 to 2000 times for co-formulations).
For the first time, it was shown that endocrine disruption by glyphosate-based herbicides can caused by both, official active ingredient and co-formulants.
These discoveries can explain number of in vivo results with glyphosate-based herbicides, which aren’t seen with isolated glyphosate. Also, they question the value of ADI (the acceptable daily intake) for exposures on glyphosate-based herbicides, which is determined only by the toxicity tests of the official active ingredient (3).
(POEA) Polyethoxylated Tallowamine – The ’Inert’ Ingredient 2,000 Times More Toxic than Glyphosate
The adjuvant surfactant in Roundup, polyethoxylated tallow amine (POEA), was discovered to be toxic to cells (cytotoxic) at way lower doses than glyphosate itself. However, POEA is regarded as inert by most regulatory bodies, and thus as no potential risk for our health.
POEA was discovered to be more toxic than isolated glyphosate by 1,200 to 2,000 times according to the study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. This highlights the issues with allowing the “inert” ingredients avoid regulatory investigation (4).
According to the Institute of Science in Society the most cytotoxic ingredient in glyphosate Roundup formulations for human cells is POEA, even more than glyphosate and its metabolite. The main target of the POEA surfactant in Roundup is most likely mitochondria, which is crucial in the creation of sperm cells and motility. What’s more, damages from Reactive Oxygen Species to mitochondrial DNA can cause male infertility (5).
Researchers Prove that Roundup is More Hazardous than Glyphosate Alone
After a German forestry worker developed lung inflammation after exposure to POEA-containing herbicides, in 2014, Germany removed these products from the market. The national health and safety agency in France, ANSES, started a method to ban this herbicide earlier this year. The European Commission has as well suggested banning POEA.
FDA (the Food and Drug Administration) in the U.S has reported to have plans about analyzing foods for glyphosate residue, however not for polyethoxylated tallow amine (POEA). Also, U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) won’t investigate POEA, as it’s not a declared active ingredient. According to researches, the sum of Roundup parts might be more toxic than glyphosate. For example:
- 2002 and 2004 studies have shown that herbicides containing glyphosate have higher chances to cause changes connected to cancer (like cell-cycle dysregulation) than isolated glyphosate (6) (7)
- A research in 2005 has demonstrated that Roundup is more toxic to livers of rats than isolated glyphosate (8).
- In 2009, it was found that different Roundup formulations are more toxic to human embryonic, umbilical and placental cells than isolated glyphosate (9). According to the researcher, the ingredients considered as inert in Roundup formulations are anything but inert. Nowadays proprietary mixtures can cause damage of human cells and even death at the residual levels (10).
New NAS Study on GE Crops
A 400-page report about the GMOs assessment (genetically modified organisms)was released by NAS (The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) (11). A lack of transparency is cited in the report that is causing distrust in consumers (12).
For example, although the U.S. General Accounting Office suggested that the FDA confirm raw test data from a random GMO developer in 2002, FDA doesn’t follow this suggestion. The committee reported for the Huffington Post that most of the information which wait for approval of the new GMO products, submitted to regulatory agencies is kept secret, and seen as ‘confidential business information’.
The committee said that the distrust is created as the there’s insufficient public access to safety and health data submitted by producers.
No Proof that GE Crops Altered the Yields’ Rate of Increase
Another important thing to note is that NAS report didn’t find any proof that GE crops led to general raise in yields of corn, cotton, or soybeans, a benefit long repeated by the industry as a reason why GMO crops are essential to “feed the world”.
Another discussed topic was the spread of resistant insects and weeds due to GE crops. Charles Benbrook from Washington State University who has PhD in agricultural economic, suggested 3 methods that could drastically decrease our exposure to glyphosate at very low cost (however, these strategies were omitted in the NAS report) (13).
He hopes that both, America and Europe will soon accept these 3 strategies – prohibiting all pre-harvest glyphosate uses on edible beans, small grains, and other non-GE human food crops.
Second, lowering the extremely high tolerances on GE crops which companies like Monsanto were able to use it over the past decade in America, as well as internationally through Codex. And the third is prohibiting the use of surfactants with high risk and other ‘inert’ ingredients in ready-to-use, formulated herbicides.
Residues of Roundup in Some Foods
Most processed foods are produced with GE crops which are heavily treated with Roundup. There are some surprising foods that contain Roundup residues.
The analysis of ANH (Alliance for Natural Health) discovered the highest glyphosate levels in non-GE crops like bread, bagels, and wheat cereal. According to them, this is probably a consequence of the usual application of glyphosate as a desiccant right before harvest.
The ANH’s analysis showed that 10 out of 24 foods for breakfast had noticeable glyphosate levels. This included bagels, oatmeal, organic bread, coffee creamer, and even organic, antibiotic-free, and cage-free eggs. Moreover, 10 wine samples sent by the advocacy group Moms Across America were tested for glyphosate, and all of them were positive, even organic ones but with lower levels (14).
Grapes in vineyard aren’t directly sprayed with Roundup, but the ground on both sides of the grape wines. A Munich Environmental Institute study discovered that 14 best-selling beers in Germany include small levels of glyphosate (15), about 0.1 microgram above the allowed limit in drinking water. Despite that the “inert” ingredients in Roundup weren’t tested in these studies, it is likely that they accompany the present glyphosate.
Avoid Residues of Roundup by Consuming Organic Foods
The best wat to minimize the health risk from both, active and “inactive” ingredients in pesticides and herbicides is to avoid them by consuming organic foods and getting a good water filtration system. In case you know you have been exposed to pesticides and herbicides, your body can break them down with the help of lactic acid created during kimchi fermentation.
Therefore, adding kimchi and other fermented foods in your diet can be a good way to help detox the entered pesticides in your body. Consuming organic foods means foods without GE ingredients, which is the most important part to avoid being exposed to the toxic ingredients of Roundup.
Consuming local organic food will support the health of your entire family, at the same time protecting the environment from dangerous chemicals and the unintentional spreading of GE seeds, and pests and weeds resistant to chemicals.
Via Real Farmacy