Glyphosate, the controversial herbicide more commonly known by the brand named RoundUp, is the most commonly used herbicide in the world and currently center of a heated debate. Stateside the glyphosate has been added to a list of substances known to cause cancer in the state of California.
This will not ban glyphosate from being used in the state, but products containing it must include Proposition 65 labeling stating that the product has been found to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.
In the EU a wild debate rages on as to whether or not to extend licensing of glyphosate for continuation of usage. Despite being listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a probable carcinogen, those in charge of making the decision state that the studies on glyphosate’s safety are conflicting. This has been met by a ground swelling of consumers against the usage of the fertilizer and even demonstrations.
So what exactly is glyphosate?
Glyphosate is both a broad spectrum plant herbicide, meaning a chemical that kills a large variety of plants, and a crop desiccant, which is a chemical applied to kill a crop right before harvest to stop further growth and over-ripening. Crop desiccants are said to make the harvest process easier on farm machinery. This particular herbicide is great at killing weeds, specifically those that compete with crops. This same compound has been found to have antimicrobial properties as well.
The same company that produces glyphosate, Monsanto, also has created genetically modified RoundUp resistant crops. That means farmers can spray the herbicide directly on their crops to kill off weeds they don’t want while the RoundUp resistant seeds they purchased are able to thrive. This has raised concerns amongst those who disagree with genetic modification of foods and furthermore the patenting of living organisms as all RoundUp resistant seeds are patented.
What is the safety concern of glyphosate?
As glyphosate is applied to foods, the concern has been raised as to whether or not it causes harm, cancer in particular, to those who consume those foods, as well as those who farm them. Additionally, there are additional concerns about this compound leaching into soils and contaminating both ground and surface waters impacting both humans and wildlife.
The large amounts of glyphosate used worldwide has lended to global research on the compound pertaining to its safety for humans and all living organisms. That research has been conflicting to say the very least.
In 2014 a review article cited a significant association between occupational exposure glyphosate and B-cell lymphoma. It has been noted that individuals harvesting crops that have been treated with glyphosate have higher rates of B-cell lymphoma than the normal rate of occurance.
IN 2015 the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer gave glyphosate a category 2A classification which means a compound that is probably carcinogenic in humans based on epidemiological studies, animals studies, as well as in vitro studies.
But then in 2016, at a joint meeting between the WHO Core Assessment Group on Pesticide Residues and the United Nations Panel of Experts on Pesticide Residues in Food and the Environment, concluded based on available evidence “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through diet.” This came across as contradictory to the 2015 WHO category 2A classification of the substance.
The debate has waged on with the studies and reviews by the European Union, German Institute for Risk Assessment, United States Environmental Protection Agency, International Agency for Research on Cancer, European Food Safety Authority, California Environmental Protection Agency, European Chemical Agency, Natural Resources Defense Council and more.
The substance has been banned for either home usage or all together in El Salvador, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Bermuda, Columbia and France. At the moment the fate of its usage is up in the air in the EU.
What does glyphosate exposure mean for you?
Chemical exposure isn’t healthy for the body regardless of what level of harm it has been assessed at. While you cannot control whether the compound is used or not, you can choose organic produce and filter your water.
To take things one step further you can have the water in your home tested for contamination and see if a complete water filtration system is within your means. There are filters for shower heads that may be of benefit to you as well to reduce your exposure to this compound as well as other chemical compounds and microbes. Keep in mind that you absorb quite a bit through your skin, as well as through your eyes, ears, nose and throat.
It is a good idea to see a health care professional for a toxicology screening, especially if you have been experiencing a host of inexplicable medical issues. By reducing your amount of glyphosate exposure via filtered water and organic produce and having a toxicology screening to what chemicals are present in your body, you can take control of your health.