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Glyphosate: A Closer Look At America’s Favorite Pesticide

What is glyphosate?

More commonly referred to as Roundup, glyphosate was first patented by Monsanto in 1964 as a pipe cleaner. It is  now the most widely used herbicide in the world. Glyphosate is mostly used to kill weeds on genetically engineered crops like soy, corn, and canola. It is also commonly applied to grain and beans just prior to harvest. Numerous studies show that even small doses of glyphosate are responsible for alarming health and environmental impacts.

By The Numbers

glyphosate pounds applied

Source: Food Democracy Now! “Glyphosate: Unsafe On Any Plate”


Glyphosate Is In Your Food

Right now, no government agency regularly tests for glyphosate residues in our food supply. A recent study by The Detox Project comparing over two dozen common processed foods found that all of them had some level of glyphosate residues. The highest foods tended to be those that used cereal crops, presumably because they were treated with glyphosate just before harvest. Some of the foods with alarmingly high residue levels were:

foods with alarmingly high levels of glyphosate

Glyphosate Is In Your Body

Contrary to what Monsanto wants us to think, glyphosate does not break down rapidly in the environment or in the human body. Recent tests have found glyphosate residues in lakes, rivers, rain, soil, human urine, and even in breast milk.

“Chronically ill humans showed significantly higher glyphosate residues in urine than healthy populations. The presence of glyphosate residues in both humans and animals could haul the entire population toward numerous health hazards….Global regulations for the use of glyphosate may have to be re-evaluated.”


Glyphosate’s Impact On Your Health

Endocrine Disruptor: Glyphosate interferes with the proper functioning and production of hormones. This can lead to a host of health issues including reproductive problems, miscarriages, early onset of puberty, obesity, diabetes, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impaired immune function and certain types of cancers.

Cancer: In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate to be a “probable carcinogen.” Although Monsanto vehemently contests this finding, many scientists, including many at the EPA, have concurred with this assessment. As a result, glyphosate now carries a cancer warning in California.

Gut Biome Disruptor: Miniscule amounts of glyphosate have been found to inhibit certain essential gut microbes that help us maintain healthy digestion. Not nearly enough research has been done in this realm, but even Monsanto has patented glyphosate as an antibiotic, clearly demonstrating that they are well aware of its impacts on bacterial life.

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A recent study showed that even in very small doses, glyphosate can cause the liver to swell up and develop Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). Symptoms of NAFLD include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, spider-like blood vessels, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), itching, fluid buildup and swelling of the legs and abdomen, and mental confusion. 

Nutrient Chelator: Glyphosate is known to bind with minerals including zinc and manganese, which are essential for animal and human nutrition and mineral absorption.  Therefore, crops sprayed with glyphosate consistently test at lower mineral concentrations.

glyphosate roundup damage

How Can You Avoid Glyphosate?

Reducing glyphosate exposure is not that hard if you look closely at food labels or buy from trusted producers. The easiest ways to avoid the pesticide are to:

Buy Certified Organic

usda organicSince most of us don’t have the time or the opportunity to buy most of our food directly from farmers, the easiest way to avoid glyphosate is to look for the “Certified Organic” label when shopping. It’s worth noting that Organic food is not guaranteed to be 100% glyphosate-free because foods are only tested on the farm, not after processing.

Certified Glyphosate Residue Free

glyphosate FreeYou can also look for a new label that certifies a food to be glyphosate-free. This label guarantees an even lower glyphosate threshold than the Organic label.

Buy Direct From A Glyphosate-Free Farm

Many farmers are happy to tell you if they use glyphosate or other pesticides. Next time you go to a farmers market or farm stand, just ask! By supporting farmers who are looking out for our health, we can push the industry towards a safer future.

Find Alternatives To Glyphosate On Your Property

There are numerous non-toxic alternatives you can use to control weeds around your home. Consider flame weeding, steaming, spraying organic herbicides, or renting goats before making the decision to use glyphosate. If you work with a landscaper, make sure you ask them about their practices before enlisting their services.


A Path Forward

Advocacy works! Many citizens and countries refuse to be silent as we learn about the deleterious effects of glyphosate. In 2017, several European countries- including Italy and France- vowed to phase out glyphosate within the next decade, and the European parliament voted to phase out all use of glyphosate in Europe by 2022.

Citizens from all over the U.S., including in towns and cities like South Portland, Chicago, and Warwick, MA, have enacted ordinances that ban glyphosate specifically or synthetic pesticides more generally.

We cannot wait for the EPA to wake up and take action on our behalf. We must educate and organize within our communities. Start by talking with friends and family. Organize a town speaking forum on pesticides. Connect with like-minded people and set up meetings with your state reps and senators to discuss your concerns. Opportunities for change are significant, and the cost of doing nothing is too great. 


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