What is Glyphosate?
Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide and crop desiccant that was patented and brought to market in 1974 under the brand Roundup®. This chemical herbicide allows farmers to kill weeds without killing their crops. Homeowners also use it to kill weeds around their properties for aesthetically pleasing lawns. In addition to Roundup®, glyphosate is used in many other weed killing products. They may be found under the brands Alligare, AquaPro®, Bayer®, Compare-N-Save®, Drexel, FarmWorks, HDX, Martin’s®, Ortho®, Qualipro, Ranger Pro®, RM43, and more.
How Exactly Does Glyphosate Work?
According to the company who patented its use, Monsanto states that “glyphosate works its way through the plant, all the way down to the root” killing it completely. Once glyphosate is sprayed and dried on the plant, “not even rain” can stop it from doing its job. When on the attack, glyphosate is non-selective. All broadleaf plants and grasses will die once they are sprayed with the herbicide. This includes the weeds you don’t want, as well as the plants and grasses you do want.
Glyphosate’s goal is to specifically stop a biochemical pathway that is necessary for homeostasis within broadleaf plants and grasses. This pathway is actually called the “shikimate pathway” which is essential for plants and some microorganisms to thrive. Glyphosate disrupts the synthesis of amino acids within this pathway, thereby killing the plant.
While the developers of glyphosate declare its safety on animals and humans, scientists and health advocates raise much concern about its harmful effects on gut health.
Can Glyphosate Harm Humans?
According to scientists Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff, “glyphosate is the textbook example of exogenous semiotic entropy: the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins.” Also, in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported that “glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.”
From the experts, this sounds serious and it is. While keeping weeds out of your garden is aesthetically pleasing, it is also harming health in humans and animals. Glyphosate exposure causes DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells. In animals, the negative effects are genotoxic, hormonal, and enzymatic.
Numerous research studies have linked glyphosate to several chronic diseases:
- Celiac disease & gluten intolerance
- Inflammatory bowel syndrome (colitis & chron’s disease)
- Cancer (especially non-Hodgkin lymphoma & hematopoietic cancers)
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Birth defects
Does Glyphosate Kill Gut Bacteria?
Because the shikimate pathway is not found in animals and humans, glyphosate was originally assumed to be harmless. Therefore, its industry continues to assert the herbicide to be minimally toxic to humans, even though scientific evidence proves otherwise.
Indirect and direct effects of glyphosate have been found in gut bacteria, and humans depend on bacteria as it is a huge part of the human microbiome. Your gut microbiota helps to properly develop the immune system which in turn regulates homeostasis. Any negative interference with the biochemistry of gut bacteria predisposes you to all kinds of chronic health problems.
Glyophosate Indirectly Affects Gut Microbiome
Glyphosate indirectly harms gut microbiota through the inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes. CYP is an overlooked component of toxicity to both humans and animals as it is crucial in detoxifying xenobiotics which are foreign to the body. When xenobiotics aren’t allowed to exit the body, toxicity can occur and cause many problems for it. The digestive system, kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin are all affected.
Glyphosate Directly Affects Gut Microbiome
A 2013 study published in the Current Microbiology journal reported direct evidence of glyphosate’s harm by showing how bacteria are susceptible to its effects. Beneficial bacteria were shown to be susceptible. The colonization of four types of beneficial bacteria were greatly reduced at even low levels of the herbicide. This includes Lactobacillus, Bacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Enterococcus which are all essential for the human microbiome. Without them, disease is inevitable.
Surprisingly, glyphosate didn’t affect harmful bacteria at all. In fact, it promoted its growth. When the same levels of the herbicide were exposed, several destructive bacteria such as Salmonella grew successfully. Another 2013 study published in the Anaerobe journal found similar findings in animals. Even more, it found that glyphosate residues on cattle feed may predispose cattle to infection by Clostridium botulinum which is the bacterium that causes botulism. The thought to bear is whether glyphosate can predispose agriculture for humans in the same way.
Can Glyphosate Affect Me if I Don’t Use It?
Not only is glyphosate found in bottles labeled “Roundup” on the shelves of your favorite lawn and garden center. Unfortunately, it is found in hundreds of products that most people use on a daily basis. Since glyphosate’s registration in 1974, it has become one of the most widely adopted herbicides in the country. According to the National Pesticide Information Center of Oregon State University, “There are over 750 products containing glyphosate for sale in the U.S. [United States].”
Obviously, you can get glyphosate on your hands and body when spraying it on your lawn or garden. If you don’t wash your hands and then eat afterwards, you could swallow it from touching the foods you eat. If you walk on outdoor areas where glyphosate was sprayed and then walk throughout your home where children and pets play, they will be exposed as well. You may even breathe it in as it is sprayed by anyone in your local vicinity, especially if there is some downwind.
Glyphosate residue can be found on many foods. Most industrial farmers not only use it to tame weeds but also to keep pests away. It is used on agricultural crops such as corn and soy because it will kill the weeds but not the crops. Glyphosate is also used for pre-harvest desiccation. In other words, it is applied to crops at the end of growing season to expedite the drying and dying process so that it may be harvested sooner. This is more efficient and less costly for farmers. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has reported 70 types of crops that are affected including several vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, nuts, and potatoes. See the list below.
Keep Your Gut Safe and Healthy
Over the last four decades, health problems in the United States have increased dramatically. Critics blame glyphosate for the surge in autism, cancer, gluten allergies, “leaky gut” syndrome, and more. Numerous countries in Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Asia have banned or restricted glyphosate’s use. In 2018, a federal district court in the United States enjoined a California Proposition 65 warning requirement on First Amendment grounds. California now lists glyphosate as a chemical known to cause cancer.
You don’t have to be a victim to glyphosate. Limit your exposure to keep your gut safe and healthy. Be sure to choose certified organic foods and supplements when you can. To safeguard your health, especially your microbiome, you may want to consider adding probiotic foods and supplements to your diet.
If you want to learn more about probiotic foods, check out this article: 17 Probiotic Foods to Build a Strong Internal Army.