You don’t need a scientist to tell you that Roundup and similar weedkillers are bad. Even people who use it on a daily basis know to cover their mouths and hold their breaths when spraying it. We’re told to keep children and pets away from newly sprayed patches, and those who work with it regularly are cautioned against forgetting the safety measures associated with its use.
Obviously, Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate are by no means “healthy,” but in what way? As it turns out, glyphosate can actually change the structure of your DNA – the genetic code that controls and influences every part of your metabolism, appearance and health.
There’s a difference between learning that something is harmful and understanding the mechanisms behind it, though. Today’s post is geared toward imparting the knowledge needed to make better choices regarding Roundup’s use. The truth is, you could be doing far more damage to yourself and your family than you realize, and it’s time to learn why that matters today.
What is DNA Exactly?
Many people have an inkling about how deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, works, but aren’t quite sure what function it serves in directing our physical makeup. Simply put, it is a code that tells your body how to manufacture proteins in your body. These proteins build our tissues, form our blood and comprise many of the structures needed for survival, from the cellular level on up.
Here’s how it works:
DNA is formed of “base pairs,” which are pairings of two molecules: cytosine and guanine, adenine and thymine. One side of the DNA strand carries the genetic code, while the other side merely completes the pair. Groups of molecules along the code strand make up genes, which control how we look, act, move, feel and more. Long strands of DNA coil densely into chromosomes, which pair up as well.
To copy DNA, enzymes cause a chromosome to uncoil, then “unzip” the DNA strand so that each side is separate from its partner. Then an enzyme known as DNA polymerase moves in to copy the strand, which contains instructions for building the proteins that do most of the important work in the body. With each new cell, DNA gets copied and replicated, existing in every healthy cell in the entire body.
Naturally the process is far more complex than this, but that’s the essential rundown. The problem is, DNA is delicate.
How Disruption of DNA Leads to Cancer and Aging
DNA tends to degrade over time, losing integrity from the ends inward. The body has a natural protective mechanism that caps the ends of DNA, called a telomere, but this shortens as we age. Basically, as telomeres degrade, we get older. In fact, telomere length and aging are closely correlated. Environmental toxins unfortunately hasten this process considerably. (1)
Toxins also cause mutations in DNA, which lead to cancer. These toxins are known as carcinogens, a category that includes any substance or radiation that causes cancer. Carcinogens work by causing mutations in the genetic code, so that cells and proteins work incorrectly, growing out of control in the body and causing damage to organs, blood and bone, the brain and other structures. Cancers typically result from built-up mutations over time rather than a single instance.
“Some carcinogens do not affect DNA directly, but lead to cancer in other ways,” points out the American Cancer Society. “For example, they may cause cells to divide at a faster than normal rate, which could increase the chances that DNA changes will occur.” (2)
Additionally, “Carcinogens do not cause cancer in every case, all the time. Substances labeled as carcinogens may have different levels of cancer-causing potential. Some may cause cancer only after prolonged, high levels of exposure.” Unfortunately, the levels of exposure don’t necessarily have to be that high.
Effects of Glyphosate Exposure on DNA
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently labeled glyphosate a probable carcinogen. Despite the fact that U.S. politicians have leveled every accusation they can think of against the international NGO, the WHO has remained firm in its beliefs and message. (3) This is born out in literature.
Some studies have shown that glyphosate can disrupt hormones and change metabolism, making breast cancer more likely in women. (4) Others demonstrate a positive correlation between long-term pesticide exposure and glioma, a devastating type of brain cancer. (5)
That’s not all. “Pesticide applicators have shortened telomeres, chromosomal markers that very accurately predict life expectancy,” says Truthout. Again, we’re not talking particularly high doses: “Proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death around residual levels to be expected in home garden use.” (6)
Cancer and telomere shortening don’t round out the list. According to a 2016 study, “glyphosate acts as a glycine [a DNA molecule] analogue that incorporates into peptides during protein synthesis. In this process, it alters a number of proteins that depend on conserved glycine for proper function.” This can result in proteins that don’t fold at the proper places, leading them to take the wrong shape and function improperly in metabolic processes.
This can lead to a wide variety of fatal diseases, including “diabetes, obesity, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson’s disease, among others.” (7)
Additional Cytotoxic and DNA-Damaging Effects of Glyphosate
In addition to causing DNA and cancer in humans, glyphosate can also cause DNA migration, which is when it moves at different rates to different places, effectively breaking strands of DNA. For obvious reasons, the proper replication of the genetic code and building of proteins, as well as the normal function of cells and systems, suffers because of this. This makes glyphosate a “cytotoxin,” something that is poisonous to cell health. Other cytotoxic effects include membrane damage and aberrations in DNA which might or might not lead to cancer. (8)
Nor is glyphosate the only potentially damaging substance in Roundup. The formulation includes several “inert” substances that don’t act on their surroundings but are needed for Roundup to function. However, studies like the one above increasingly demonstrate that these substances and Roundup as a whole can wreak acute cytotoxic effects and even cause cell death.
A Widespread Problem
Glyphosate exposure is not restricted to those who apply it regularly, either. Many studies indicate that as a population, we are all exposed to it on an increasing basis. As we’ve covered before, glyphosate exposure has risen at a rate of 500 percent since genetically modified organisms – many of which comprise our food – were introduced. (9)
It often feels as though individuals have little wherewithal in the face of giant corporations that have the land, money and power to disenfranchise the population whom their choices affect. Education, however, is an excellent first step toward reducing or eliminating this carcinogenic, potentially deadly chemical from everyday use – and thereby reduce or eliminate the DNA damage associated with it.
It’s time to do just that: educate ourselves about harms and stand up in defense of our health and the health of our families. Start by sharing this information with the people you care about today.
- (1) Telomeres, Lifestyle, Cancer, and Aging. (2011). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3370421/
- (2) Known and Probable Human Carcinogens. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/general-info/known-and-probable-human-carcinogens.html
- (3) Under Fire by U.S. Politicians, World Health Organization Defends Its Claims That an Herbicide Causes Cancer. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/02/who-rebuts-house-committee-criticisms-about-glyphosate-cancer-warning
- (4) Glyphosate Induces Human Breast Cancer Cells Growth Via Estrogen Receptors. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691513003633
- (5) Agricultural Pesticide Use and Risk of Glioma in Nebraska, United States. (2018). Retrieved from https://oem.bmj.com/content/62/11/786
- (6) Rounding Us Up and Exposing Us All to Cancer. (2015). Retrieved from https://truthout.org/articles/rounding-us-up-and-exposing-us-all-to-cancer/
- (7) Glyphosate Causes Chances to DNA Function Resulting in Chronic Disease, According to Study. (2016). Retrieved from https://globaljusticeecology.org/glyphosate-causes-changes-to-dna-function-resulting-in-chronic-disease-according-to-study/
- (8) Cytotoxic and DNA-Damaging Properties of Glyphosate and Roundup in Human-Derived Buccal Epithelial Cells. (2012). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22331240
- (9) Glyphosate Exposure Skyrockets 500% in Humans Since GMOs Introduced. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.weedkillercrisis.com/news/glyphosate-exposure-in-humans-skyrockets-500-since-gmos-introduced/