When we talk and write about the value of choosing organic produce, we mean it. That is because we all live in a toxic soup of chemicals, and the majority of our toxic exposures come from the food we eat. The organic standards put sharp limits on chemicals farmers can use to grow produce and prevent pests. For example, they cannot be made from sewage sludge or most synthetic chemicals- instead, they must be from microorganisms, plants, or a very short list of non-toxic synthetic chemicals that mimic natural products. The no list for organics includes glyphosate, the main component of Monsanto’s weed-killer Roundup®. Currently, the only way to reduce your exposure to glyphosate in your food is to choose organic. Read on to learn more about important recent news about glyphosate, how glyphosate can affect your micronutrient sufficiency, and which food and beauty products one could easily overlook that should be on your Roundup® radar.
In a recent court case that made headlines across the world, Dewayne Johnson, a groundskeeper, sued Monsanto for damages related to his cancer. Johnson was covered with Roundup® twice during the course of his work- beyond his daily exposure. He was diagnosed in 2014 with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. We have previously shared emerging science on the dangers of Roundup® while noting the connection between non-Hodgkins lymphoma and glyphosate exposure. (There is a free download on glyphosate available here). Because Johnson is near death, his court date was expedited. And he won. The jury awarded him $289 million dollars, concluding that the particular combination of chemicals in Roundup®, which includes but is not limited to glyphosate, was responsible for causing Johnson’s cancer.
Despite alarm bells ringing for years, only recently have the dangers of Roundup® gotten their deserved public attention. Researchers like Dr. Stephanie Seneff at MIT have tried to make public and simplify the complex science behind how glyphosate could disrupt metabolism. She shows stunning graphs correlating glyphosate’s arrival in our food supply with autism, obesity, gluten intolerance, digestive disturbances, autoimmune disorders, certain cancers, and more. But, as epidemiologists love to point out, correlation is not the same as causation. The jury decided causation was clear in the case mentioned above, but what does that mean for the rest of us who are exposed to Roundup® in little bits, day in and day out? It is essential that we get to the bottom of this scientific debate. We feel the risk is too great to consume Roundup® in any quantity because it is such a potent micronutrient depleter!
This controversy is the main reason we advocate for labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). We don't like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but we currently have to. Most GMO crops are “Roundup® Ready,” and while they have been modified to survive this dangerous weed-killer, (although they still suffer) you have not been!
Why is it so hard to conclude that a compound directly causes cancer- and, in the case of glyphosate, obesity, autism, leaky gut, brain fog, gluten intolerance, diabetes, and other hotly-debated on-the-rise metabolic challenges linked to glyphosate exposure? Johnson’s exposure was severe and his cancer came on quickly, but it takes a very long time to do thorough cancer studies because cancer often takes years- even decades- to develop. Long term studies unavoidably include many other factors that affect health. When Roundup® was first unleashed on the market, studies proving its safety were short term and came from Monsanto. We take risks with many new chemicals because it is unrealistic in most cases to wait decades for a long term study on risk. We extrapolate. We compare. We do the best we can. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t apply common sense and make a course correction.
Allegations abound that Monsanto interfered with publications and/or the public’s perception of publications of many nay-saying scientists over the four decades since releasing Roundup® (whether under its direct, indirect, or non-employ). Only time will tell what legal consequences there are for Monsanto, but you may find it interesting that, at this moment, over 800 court cases are pending against Monsanto with similar cancer-causing claims.
How Glyphosate Disrupts Metabolism
As you may have noted from our previous post about this topic, glyphosate is a potent disruptor of your metabolism and micronutrient status. Problems include:
- Starving the Source. Roundup® starves plants of essential minerals by binding them and making them unavailable, which means when you eat them, your mineral intake suffers too. Not only are these foods lacking in important minerals themselves, but the same binding action can happen in your body! Essential minerals like magnesium or manganese can make or break your metabolic health in many ways, including compromising your energy levels.
- Disrupting Detoxification. Glyphosate impairs important (cytochrome P450) enzymes that you need for the first phase of liver detoxification. In short, you can’t deal with toxins quickly, metabolize drugs as expected, or generally protect yourself from cancer causing agents effectively if these enzymes are compromised. This action alone would theoretically increase your risk of cancer with glyphosate exposure. Glyphosate itself is a toxin that must be metabolized. If you are doing a double take, yes, you read that right: glyphosate can reduce your ability to detoxify glyphosate.
- Depleting your Detoxifiers. Many micronutrients are required for detoxification pathways to work. Minerals are no exception. Beyond impariring detoxification pathways and key enzymes, glyphosate is a xenoestrogenic toxin. Like many other herbicides and pesticides, it act like an estrogen in your body, which can cause weight gain, anxiety, and liver stress. That constant load takes a toll, especially if you expose yourself through food every day. Moreover, both healthy estrogen and xenoestrogens can become stored in your fat when they cannot be processed. So not only can your toxic exposure make you fat, but your fat can store toxins, perpetuating the problem (and making you feel awful if you do manage to lose weight).
- Malfunctioning Membranes. Glyphosate is hypothesized to disrupt cholesterol sulfate synthesis, which makes your cell membranes more susceptible to oxidative damage and could increase heart disease risk. Poor cell communication is a key factor in cancers taking hold and membrane damage can worsen oxidation of LDL and HDL particles, contributing to heart disease risk. Moreover, you need cholesterol sulfate and an assist from those cytochrome P450 enzymes mentioned above to make bile, which binds toxins so you can release them in stool. This is another way that glyphosate might hinder your ability to detoxify glyphosate.
- Pruning your Probiotics. Glyphosate impairs the shikimate pathway, which plants and microbes use to make the aromatic amino acids L-tryptophan, L-tyrosine, and L-phenylalanine. You cannot manufacture these amino acids in your body. And you really need them, both to make your feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin and other important compounds, such as thyroid hormone. Your probiotics also make other important nutrients, such as B vitamins (such as thiamin, riboflavin, folate, biotin, and B12), vitamin K2, and short chain fatty acids such as butyrate.
- Amplifying Anti-nutrients. Crops exposed to glyphosate have increased lectin levels. Lectin is an indigestible compound found in the skins and seeds of many fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds to help get them through your digestive tract without being digested. Higher lectin levels have been associated with gastrointestinal distress, but our main concern is your nutrient status: lectins bind important nutrients and minerals, rendering them unavailable to the eater.
Recent Roundup Reveals
Johnson was exposed to this chemical as part of his job. But what are your exposures? Whole Foods? Processed Foods? Other items? Best to choose organic. Given that many products and foods are made from common Roundup®-ready cash crops like corn, wheat, soy, and cotton, here is some recent news that might make your head spin. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently published a study of cereal and breakfast bars. They found that 43 of 45 conventionally-grown processed cereal products contained Roundup® at potentially unsafe levels, while 1 of 3 organic samples was contaminated with Roundup®- but luckily for the consumer the levels were far below the level considered to be damaging. This article notes several major food brands found to contain glyphosate after testing- of course, we always advocate for organic whole foods to more easily avoid tainted products. This is nothing new, however. In 2015, after the World Health Organization declared Roundup® to be a “probable carcinogen,” the Reuter’s Institute reported that many United States laboratories were getting requests for testing of various food, formula, and breastmilk samples. Finding potentially hazardous levels of this compound in breast milk and infant formula made the news: our most vulnerable members of society are being exposed from birth to this commonly used herbicide.
What about non-food items? Ladies, listen up. In March, a preliminary pilot study by the University of La Plata in Argentina investigated several women’s cotton hygiene products. They found glyphosate in 85 percent of their samples, and breakdown products of glyphosate in 62 percent as well. Moreover, 100 percent of the cotton and cotton gauze samples contained glyphosate. Read more about clean feminine products in our post here.
We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but we are wholly unsurprised. We have been warning you about the dangers of anti-nutrients, liver-compromisers, and obesogens for years. We aren’t about to stop. Choose organic, nourish yourself every day with a well-formulated, full spectrum multivitamin, and be very careful what you expose yourself to. We think the results of being happier, healthier, and at lower risk for deadly and debilitating diseases speak for themselves.