You’ve probably seen the TV ads for Roundup, the popular pesticide/herbicide, with a Mr. All-American homeowner mowing down weeds like a killer who’s stepped out of the Wild West. That’s actually a pretty apt image because the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is in my opinion one of the most dangerous killers out there – of our health!
Consider that in the past year or so, in two separate cases in federal court, two plaintiffs have successfully sued Monsanto, the product’s maker, for millions of dollars in damages, persuading juries that their regular use of Roundup was at least partially responsible for their being diagnosed with cancer, specifically Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. And this is just the tip of the iceberg – there are currently thousands of similar cases working their way through the courts, driven in part by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer’s determination that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans,” listed at one rung below IARC’s highest level of health alarm. Yes, this is scary stuff – and here are the basics of what you need to know about it – and how to avoid it:
1.) Glyphosate/Roundup is a two-headed monster.
You can’t talk about glyphosate without talking about genetically modified (GMO) crops. Monsanto patented this chemical back in the ‘70s, which was originally formulated to scrub mineral deposits out of boiler pipes! The company then repurposed it for the lucrative herbicide market – within certain limits. You could only spray so much toxic crap on crops in order to kill off pests before you began to kill the crops. The work-around, which emerged in the ‘90s, was to tinker with the genes in soy, wheat and corn, so they could tolerate more glyphosate, a lot more. The relatively small amount of the stuff that your less informed neighbor squirts on his lawn weeds, though awful for polluting/poisoning your neighborhood, is the least of your problems. More concerning is the five hundred billion pounds of the stuff that’s sprayed on crops globally, with 300 million pounds in the U.S. where it’s used, not just on GMO grains, but on some 70 different food crops! A study of human exposure that looked at the amount of the glyphosate excreted in urine found that the amount of chemical that passed through us had increased 1,200% between 1993 to 2016. Monsanto has hooked the world’s food supply on toxic levels of a dangerous chemical! Maybe the most insidious thing about glyphosate? It’s taken up by the cells of the plant so you can’t get rid of it by washing off the food you eat. So, in effect, the chemical is ‘baked in.’
2.) The devastation Wreaked by Glyphosate is ecological as well as medical.
Likely, we won’t know the true cost of putting corporate profits before public safety for years to come. But the early reports are scary, both from a planetary and an individual health perspective. Glyphosate contamination has made its way into the water systems of 38 U.S. states. European rain samples reveal similarly worrying concentrations. A 2014 study fingered the chemical as possibly contributing to epidemic levels of kidney disease in agricultural regions in Central America, India and Sri Lanka. Maybe not surprising that a team of international researchers found that glyphosate caused kidney and liver damage in rats at very low doses, a lot lower than what the EPA regards as “safe” in the U.S. water supply. And, in Argentina, where large swaths of the country have been handed over to glyphosate-soaked GMO soy, the chemical has been linked with birth defects and cancer.
3.) Glyphosate is an ‘antibiotic’ that messes with the microbiome.
Besides promoting potentially cancerous mutations at the cellular level, the chemical is also messing with your microbiota, the trillions of bacteria that live in your gut and mediate your health in all sorts of ways. I’m convinced that the increasing number of gut problems I’m seeing in my patients is connected to glyphosate exposure. This much we know for sure: European livestock has suffered an onslaught of digestive problems when the animals began feeding on Roundup-rich soy. So it’s hardly a leap to point the finger at the GMO soy, or the glyphosate, or an interaction between them, or a bunch of different chemicals in the herbicide that we can only guess at. It truly is a case of “pick your poison.” And when we eat GMO crops, or the animals that eat them, we’re inadvertently dumping loads of this dangerous chemical directly into our bodies three times a day or more.
4.) Kids are likely at highest risk, but grown-ups are quite vulnerable too.
It should get your attention when recently, the Environmental Working Group looked at breakfast cereals and found that all but two of the 28 oat-based cereal and breakfast products they studied contained levels of glyphosate the EWG considered potentially harmful for children. There was more of the chemical in Honey Nut Cheerios than added vitamins D and B12! Remember, it’s easier to limit your kids’ exposure to glyphosate than to try to reverse any damage once it’s done, so, for starters, I highly recommend rethinking Junior’s breakfast ingredients. From there, there are several other steps you can take to limit glyphosate exposure for yourself and for your family, and to buffer all your bodies against the stuff that can slip through.
Here’s where to start:
- The only foolproof way to eliminate it is to avoid conventionally grown and processed foods — go organic, and consider growing your own vegetable garden, using healthy, clean, pesticide-free soil.
- Buy grass-fed meat, to ensure that the animal was raised on a diet of grasses and not on GMO grains.
- Take activated charcoal or rice bran powder to aid in the elimination of glyphosate and other toxic chemicals.
- Keep your body topped off with protective minerals by taking a multi-mineral supplement that includes trace minerals.
- Support your body’s production of the key antioxidant glutathione, with N-acetylcysteine, glycine and glutamine or oral liposomal glutathione with supplementation.
- Be kind to your liver by avoiding alcohol and taking a liver-supporting supplement, like silymarin or lipoid acid.