• Toxicity Concern: Renews Roundup ‘Weedkiller’

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    Monsanto pesticide to be sprayed on food crops.

    Used in yards, farms and parks throughout the world, Roundup has long been a top-selling weed killer. But now researchers have found that one of Roundup’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. The new findings intensify a debate about so-called “inerts” — the solvents, preservatives, surfactants and other substances that manufacturers add to pesticides. Nearly 4,000 inert ingredients are approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    A new study published in the January issue of International Journal of Toxicology titled, “GlyphosateCommercial Formulation Causes Cytotoxicity, Oxidative Effects, and Apoptosis on Human Cells: Differences With its Active Ingredient,” raises renewed concern that formulations of the world's most popular herbicide glyphosate (e.g. Roundup), used primarily in the production of GM food, represent a serious human health threat.

    Researchers studied the effects of a glyphosate-based formulation on human cells, at dilutions far below agricultural applications. The researchers discovered that while glyphosate and its amino acid metabolite, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), showed little to no observable toxic effects in isolation, a glyphosate-based formulation containing adjuvants produced a variety of adverse effects on cellular oxidative balance, including the following signs of oxidative stress:

    • Increases in reactive oxygen species
    • Increases in nitrotyrosine formation
    • Increases in superoxide dismutase activity
    • Increases in glutathione levels

    The glyphosate formulation studied also triggered two ‘death proteins' in human cells known as caspase …

    Altogether, these results challenge the establishment of guidance values such as the acceptable daily intake of glyphosate, when these are mostly based on a long term in vivo test of glyphosate alone. Since pesticides are always used with adjuvants that could change their toxicity, the necessity to assess their whole formulations as mixtures becomes obvious. This challenges the concept of active principle of pesticides for non-target species.

    The issue with glyphosate and/or glyphosate formulations doing grave harm to the human body and the environment is at the crux of the argument that GM foods, many of which were bioengineered to be exposed and contaminated with glyphosate, should be at the very least labeled, and perhaps altogether banned. We encourage our readers to examine our argument that the extreme toxicity of Roundup destroys the argument that GM and non-GM food are substantially equivalent. The ‘substantial equivalency' argument underpins the regulatory approval of glyphosate-resistant crops. Without it, most of the GM foods being consumed today would not have been released into the human food supply without proper safety testing.

    We also believe this latest study, while seemingly minimizing the toxicological issue with glyphosate in isolation by finding it is not directly cytotoxic within the experimental conditions tested, needs to be balanced out with recent findings that glyphosate in isolation has extreme carcinogenic potential, having been shown to disrupt and/or mimic estrogen at concentrations as low as the parts-per-trillion range. This disturbing finding also calls into question the most basic tenet of conventional toxicology: that the lower the concentration of a toxic chemical to which one is exposed the lower the risk for adverse health effects. To the contrary, in some cases, a lower concentration results in greaterendocrine disruption and resultant harm.

    For additional research on the harms associated with agrichemicals like glyphosate, glyphosate formulations and/or Roundup herbicide, click these hyperlinks. Also, we have a resource on that aggregates both the first hand biomedical citations, as well as our articles reporting on the research: Health Guide: GMO Research.

    Most research has examined glyphosate alone, rather than combined with Roundup’s inert ingredients. Researchers who have studied Roundup formulations have drawn conclusions similar to the Seralini group’s. For example, in 2005, University of Pittsburg ecologists added Roundup at the manufacturer’s recommended dose to ponds filled with frog and toad tadpoles. When they returned two weeks later, they found that 50 to 100 percent of the populations of several species of tadpoles had been killed. A group of over 250 environmental, health and labor organizations has petitioned the EPA to change requirements for identifying pesticides’ inert ingredients. The agency’s decision is due this fall.

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