Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup has been one of the most popular pesticides around the world since the 1970s; in fact, it is the most widely used pesticide ever. Roundup is used heavily in agriculture for many of the most popular crops, and also is used by millions of consumers on their gardens at home.
However, its key ingredient – glyphosate – has been at the center of a firestorm of controversy that is getting more intense by the year. More crops are genetically modified to be tolerant of glyphosate, leading to higher yields for giant agriculture companies. But the chemical has been found to cause a variety of serious health problems, including the deadly cancer Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Let’s take a dive into this report now.
- Manufactured by Monsanto, it was introduced to the market in 1974.
- The EPA classified glyphosate a potential carcinogen in 1985, but the agency later reversed its decision.
- Roundup-Ready soybeans hit the agricultural market in 1996, followed by Roundup Ready corn in 1998.
- Rates of glyphosate observed in humans then skyrockets by 500% in a period between 1993 and 2016.
- 93% of Americans were found to have glyphosate residues in their urine.
- The USDA released a study that found 99% of the food samples tested to have some level of pesticide residue.
- 250 million pounds are sprayed on our crops, lawns, and parks each year in the U.S., with 1.65 billion pounds used each year around the world.
- Glyphosate in the body prevents red blood cells from maintaining healthy levels of vitamin C, which is important not only for immunity but also for blood vessel and heart health.
- “Glyphosate formulations decreased human cell “viability”, disrupting cell membranes. Cell viability was “significantly altered” by the formulations”, says National Toxicology Program.
- World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded in 2015 that glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen” in humans.
- The term ‘probable human carcinogen’ means it may cause cancer (Cancer.org)
In an ironic twist, glyphosate has been shown to be toxic to the liver in basic, phase one detoxification processes involving the cytochrome pathways. It is alarming that one of the most toxic chemicals in the world can actually impair human detoxification processes. So, the toxic chemical glyphosate actually makes it more difficult to detox.
Before we explore the myriad of diseases and illness on the rise, let’s look at where and how it’s used.
Glyphosate Use Across the United States
Sourced directly from the United States Geological Survey, this graphic shows the estimated annual agricultural pesticide use for glyphosate for the latest reported year of 2016.
Glyphosate Use by Crop Type
The total amount of glyphosate applied to corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, vegetables and fruit, rice, orchards and grapes, alfalfa, pasture and hay and other crops. Use amounts are measured in millions of pounds. (Source ResearchGate.net)
Health Problems Correlated with Glyphosate Use
Allergies and autoimmune illnesses are becoming so common today that it is easy to forget they could be signals of immunity failure. They may affect the ability of our bodies to optimize health. The higher number of allergies being seen in the human population could be an indicator that harmful substances are invading our bodies. People who suffer from allergies, autoimmune diseases, diabetes and other serious illnesses could be a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for the rest of us. Let’s take a look at the most recently studied health problems correlated with glyphosate usage around the country.
The following associated charts are courtesy of Researchgate.net, a professional network for scientists and researchers.
In This Section
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Autism Disorder
- Attention Deficit
- Anxiety Disorder
- Breast Cancer
- Celiac Disease
- Crohn’s/Ulcerative Colitis
- Liver Disease
- Renal/Kidney Disease
- Thyroid Cancer
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Over time, people who develop this disease lose most of their memory, cannot concentrate, and can no longer perform the common daily functions of living.
- ALz.org reports that Alzheimer’s disease is the #6 leading cause of death in the US. More than 16 million people in the United States provide free car for people suffering from this type of dementia.
- An estimated 5.7 million Americans have some degree of Alzheimer’s dementia as of 2018. This includes at least 5.5 million people who are 65 or older, and 200,000 people under 65.
The following chart shows the correlation between deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease and glyphosate applications to corn and soy crops. Data discontinuity between 1998 and 1999 has been removed by subtracting a constant from 1999-2010 data points. Discontinuity arises in some data because of the ICD code change from the ninth revision to the tenth (ICD-9, ICD-10). (Source ResearchGate.net)
Autism spectrum disorder or ASD is a type of neurodevelopmental disorder that features deficits in social communication and social interaction. It also presents restricted and repetitive behaviors that make it difficult for the person to interact normally with other people.
- CDC reports that one in 59 children have autism spectrum disorder, and this disease is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
- ASD is four times more common in boys than girls, and studies in Asia, Europe and North America show that approximately 1-2% of the population develops the disorder.
- According to Stephanie Seneff, a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, said, “At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.”
The following chart shows the correlation between autism prevalence, from hospital discharge data, and glyphosate applications to corn and soy crops. (Source ResearchGate.net)
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a disorder of the brain that is marked by a regular pattern of inattention and often hyperactivity and impulsivity that can interfere with a child’s development and overall cognitive function.
- According to the CDC, it is estimated as of 2013 that 5% of children in the US have ADHD. But other studies in the US have determined the rates could be higher.
- CDC also notes that the number of children from 4-17 that were ever diagnosed with ADHD increased from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007 to 11% in 2011 and 12.
- Approximately two out of three children with ADHD have at least one other emotional, mental or behavioral disorder.
The following chart shows the correlation between ADHD prevalence and glyphosate applications to corn and soy crops. (Source ResearchGate.net)
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease that all humans feel from time to time. But anxiety disorder is a serious medical condition that can cause people to have serious physical and psychological symptoms, including sweating, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath.
- Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the US, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
- People who suffer from anxiety disorder are at least 3X more likely to go to a doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for a mental health disorder.
Breast cancer means malignant tumors are forming in the tissue of one or both breasts. Some of the common symptoms of breast cancer is a breast lump, change in the size and shape of the breast, nipple drainage, skin dimples in the breast and red patches on the breast(s).
- Breastcancer.org states one in eight women will develop some form of breast cancer in their lives.
- In 2018, it was estimated there would be 266,100 new cases of invasive breast cancer in the US. There also will be 64,000 cases of non-invasive breast cancer.
- Breast cancer rates have been decreasing since the year 2000, after going up the previous two decades. Rates declined by 7% from 2002 to 2003 alone. One theory is that the decrease was somewhat due to the lower use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
The following chart shows the Incidence of breast cancer in US hospital discharge data from 1998 to 2010 normalized to counts per 1,000,000 population each year, after subtraction of an exponential model accounting for the decline in the years up to 2006 in the Caucasian subpopulation [see text]. This includes all reports of ICD-9 codes 174 and 175. The red line shows trends in glyphosate usage on corn and soy crops over the same time period. (Source ResearchGate.net)
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can happen to people who are genetically more likely to get the condition. It occurs when ingesting gluten damages the small intestine. It is thought to affect millions of people around the world. When people with this disease eat gluten, the body attacks the small intestine in a strong immune response. Such attacks damage the villi, or tiny, fingerlike projections that line the organ.
- According to a study done by University of Maryland, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Celiac disease is associated with increased risk to non Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- On average in the US, 1 in 133 people have celiac disease.
- Celiac disease affects at least three million Americans.
The following chart shows the correlation between increase in celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and increase in use of the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup ® ) on genetically modified grain (Samsel &Seneff, 2013). (Source ResearchGate.net)
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that causes serious inflammation, including irritation, swelling, and sores on the inside lining of the small intestine. Ulcerative colitis usually begins slowly and can get worse over months and years. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Many people have long periods of remission that can last for weeks, months, or years.
- Ulcerative colitis is more prevalent in adults than children, according to IBD.net.
- More people in the Northeast and Midwest get ulcerative colitis than in other parts of the country.
- It is estimated that the total yearly cost of ulcerative colitis is $2.7 billion per year in the US.
Dementia is a general name for any disorder or disease that causes a major change in memory or cognitive abilities. Dementia is severe enough to damage the person’s daily ability to function, such as drive, shop, eat, dress, work and communicate. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, but there are other forms, such as Parkinson’s Disease dementia, Huntington’s disease and family prion disease.
- The total estimated yearly cost of dementia across the world was $818 billion in 2015, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International.
- If global dementia were a nation, it would be the 18th biggest economy in the world.
Diabetes is a metabolism disorder. Metabolism refers to the way the body digests food for energy and growth. Most foods we eat are broken down into a basic form of sugar called glucose; this is the major fuel source of the body. Insulin is produced by the pancreas to transfer glucose from blood to the cells. With diabetes, cells fail to respond properly to insulin produced by the body.
- Webmd.com finds that 23.6 million people in the US – almost 8% of the population – have diabetes.
- Each year, approximately 1.5 million people in the US 20+ years of age are diagnosed with the disorder.
The following chart shows the correlation between age-adjusted diabetes prevalence and glyphosate applications and percentage of US corn and soy crops that are GE. (Source ResearchGate.net)
Fatty liver disease is also called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, known as NASH. With the rise of the obesity epidemic, it causes scarring and inflammation leading to cirrhosis, cardiac and lung complications, cancer and death.
- The U.S. is spending $5 billion annually in health-care costs related to the disease, which include chemotherapy, transplants, tests and hospitalizations, reports the Center for Disease Analysis.
- The National Institutes of Health estimates as many as 12 percent of U.S. adults have this disease, or 30 million people and growing.
The following chart shows the correlation between age-adjusted liver cancer incidence and glyphosate applications and percentage of US corn and soy crops that are GE. (Source ResearchGate.net)
Obesity is one of the most preventable and leading causes of death in the United States. Obesity is a serious chronic disease that can seriously damage health, including heart disease, diabetes, joint problems and more.
- The CDC reports obesity affected 93 million adults in 2015 and 2016.
- The estimated cost of obesity in the US was $147 billion in 2008.
- The medical costs for people with obesity is on average $1429 higher than people who have a normal weight.
- Prevalence of obesity in the US was 35.7% among young adults from 20-39, and 42% among those from 40-59.
Kidney failure is also called end-stage renal disease or ESRD. It is the final stage of chronic kidney disease, and it is generally caused by many other serious health problems that have damaged the kidneys over the years. Early stages of kidney disease may not even be noticed by the person.
- According to the National Kidney Foundation, kidney disease causes more deaths than breast cancer or prostate cancer.
- Kidney disease affects 30 million people in the United States, and 90% of those with the disease are unaware they have it.
- Currently, kidney disease is the #9 leading cause of death in the United States and is becoming more common.
The following chart shows the correlation between age-adjusted kidney cancer incidence and glyphosate applications and percentage of US corn and soy crops that are GE. (Source ResearchGate.net)
Thyroid cancer develops in the thyroid gland. This gland has a butterfly shape in the front of the neck, under the Adam’s apple. It wraps around the front of the windpipe. This gland is part of the endocrine system and produces and controls important hormones.
- Cancer.net reports that 53,990 adults in the US will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is the #5 most common cause of cancer in women.
- The incidence rates of this type of cancer in men and women grew at a 4% rate a year between 2005 and 2014. It also is the most rapidly increasing type of cancer diagnosis in the US.
- Estimates by Cancer.net says 2060 deaths from thyroid cancer this year. Women are three times more likely to get the disease than men.
The following chart shows the plots of glyphosate usage on corn and soy crops (blue), percent of corn and soy that is genetically engineered to be “Roundup Ready” (red), and incidence of thyroid cancer (yellow bars) in the US. (Figure courtesy of Dr. Nancy Swanson) (Source ResearchGate.net)
Scientific evidence is rapidly growing that indicates glyphosate in the Roundup formulation leads to many serious health problems. Giving that this toxic chemical can cause diseases from cancer to dementia to autism, isn’t it time for more to be done to eliminate the use of glyphosate in agriculture? Where are the alternatives? Why hasn’t the EPA re-classified it as a human carcinogen?
As of this writing, at least 13 countries, including Germany and Belgium, have introduced legislation to limit or ban the use of glyphosate. More countries are considering it. However, in the US, the EPA continues to give the green light to glyphosate and Roundup use. Perhaps as more scientific evidence is revealed about the dangers of this chemical, the tide will turn against Monsanto and Roundup even in the United States, but in the meantime, we’ll have to wait and see.
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