Glyphosate; what is it and how harmless or harmful is it?

Results of my research on Glyphosate

In preparation of an article on farming in Ghana, Northern region – with the name “License to kill” and to be published yet – I got quite deeply into research on Glyphosate, the basic ingredient of practically all chemical pesticides.Glyphosate in food chain e1424980143336As many of you know, I am not without prejudice on the use of chemicals in farming and of processed food in general. However, I tried to look at the different perspectives, including those of the producers of chemical pesticides and advocates for chemical based farming.

It is interesting to find that in March 2015 the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic in humans” (category 2A, see below) and that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in November 2015 concluded that “the substance (Glyphosate) is unlikely to be genotoxic (i.e. damaging to DNA) or to pose a carcinogenic threat to humans.

Glyphosate is widely used in farming all over the globe and there is a huge market for seeds and crops that have been altered (Genetically Modified or Genetically Engineered) to be resistant of Glyphosate. With these seeds and crops, the pesticide will kill everything except for the crops. But in most cases the crops/seeds either hold the toxic in it or have been produced in such a way that they can’t reproduce.

Not only Monsanto, but also companies like Bayern, Dow Chemicals, Wienco, Pfizer and others use Glyphosate in their pesticides and other farming products. The conclusion of the EFSA brings a huge question mark with me, knowing that Bayer is preparing to buy Monsanto.

Before my research my logical thinking was: “Why use Glyphosate; it is a chemical; a toxic that kills weeds and animals eating the farmer’s crops. It is poison that kills, so why should one use it on food crops or in food? And how can it be harmless for us humans, when it kills other organisms?” I still prefer to eat food that is not intoxicated by any form of chemicals or poison.

Glyphosate - europes-top-5-glyphosate-pesticide-toxic-countries-21728434

Below I give a summary of the reports I have found. To be honest, it has shocked me and only made my belief stronger that organic farming is the most plausible future for humanity to survive and to overcome global issues as food security, hunger and disease.

I’ve also found articles on the relationship between the use of chemicals in farming and the increasing rate of arsenic in rice. Especially rice is vulnerable for intoxication. Especially rice grown in areas where cotton is planted is highly toxic. It would be too much to take these reports into this article, but I couldn’t leave mentioning it here.

Brown rice is more toxic than cleaned white rice. Wash your rice carefully with at least 6 cups of water before cooking. And don’t use the water you washed the rice in for the cooking of it.

This article might be difficult to read because it contains a lot of information and harsh conclusions.

Draw your own conclusions.

Tamale, July 2016


Glyphosate; what is it and how harmless or harmful is it?


Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant. It is an organophosphorus compound, specifically a phosphonate. It is used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops.

It was discovered to be an herbicide by Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970. Monsanto brought it to market in 1974 under the trade name Roundup, and Monsanto’s last commercially relevant United States patent expired in 2000.

Glyphosate - chemical formula

In March 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic in humans” (category 2A) based on epidemiological studies, animal studies, and in vitro studies.

Original WHO publication:

In November 2015, the European Food Safety Authority published an updated assessment report on glyphosate, concluding that “the substance is unlikely to be genotoxic (i.e. damaging to DNA) or to pose a carcinogenic threat to humans.

Original EFSA publication:

Monsanto website:

 What is Glyphosate?

All Roundup® brand herbicides contain glyphosate as an active ingredient. Roundup® brand herbicides were developed to control a wide variety of weeds. A majority of Roundup brand herbicides contain three components – the active ingredient glyphosate, water and a soap-like surfactant blend. Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide, meaning that care must be taken to protect desirable plants and vegetation from contact with the herbicide. Apart from the three ingredients identified, some Roundup brand formulations may have additional active ingredient(s). In addition, there are many glyphosate-based products with other brand names, both from Monsanto and other manufacturers.

Is Glyphosate Safe?

Glyphosate inhibits an enzyme that is essential to plant growth; this enzyme is not found in humans or other animals, contributing to the low risk to human health. Comprehensive toxicological studies in animals have demonstrated that glyphosate does not cause cancer, birth defects, DNA damage, nervous system effects, immune system effects, endocrine disruption or reproductive problems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified the carcinogenicity potential of glyphosate as Category E: “evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans.”

EPA, which reviews extensive toxicological and environmental data before registering an active ingredient, classifies glyphosate as “practically non-toxic.” That is the most favorable acute toxicity category possible based on single–exposure oral, dermal and inhalation studies. In addition to studies with the active ingredient of herbicide products, regulatory agencies also require specific toxicological studies with the full formulation.Glyphosate - Monsanto website

National Pesticide Information Center on Glyphosate:

Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide, meaning it will kill most plants. It prevents the plants from making certain proteins that are needed for plant growth. Glyphosate stops a specific enzyme pathway, the shikimic acid pathway. The shikimic acid pathway is necessary for plants and some microorganisms.

How might I be exposed to glyphosate?

You can be exposed to glyphosate if you get it on your skin, in your eyes or breathe it in when you are using it. You might swallow some glyphosate if you eat or smoke after applying it without washing your hands first. You may also be exposed if you touch plants that are still wet with spray.

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health:

Human poisoning with this herbicide is not with the active ingredient alone but with complex and variable mixtures. Therefore, it is difficult to separate the toxicity of glyphosate from that of the formulation as a whole or to determine the contribution of surfactants to overall toxicity. Experimental studies suggest that the toxicity of the surfactant, polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), is greater than the toxicity of glyphosate alone and commercial formulations alone.

Elizabeth Grossman – National Geographic:

It’s probably in your garage and on your lawn. And it’s used on nearly every acre of corn and soy. But what risks does it pose?

Chemical pesticide - Glyphosate (Wynco)

An international agency declared glyphosate, the primary ingredient in the popular product Roundup,  a “probable human carcinogen.” The weed killer also has made recent headlines for its widespread use on genetically modified seeds and research that links it to antibiotics resistance and hormone disruption. Several national governments are planning to restrict its use, and some school districts are talking about banning it.

Its use skyrocketed after seeds were genetically engineered to tolerate the chemical. Because these seeds produce plants that are not killed by glyphosate, farmers can apply the weed killer to entire fields without worrying about destroying crops.

USGS researchers found glyphosate in the majority of rivers, streams, ditches, and wastewater treatment plant outfalls tested. Glyphosate also was found in about 70 percent of rainfall samples. It attaches pretty firmly to soil particles that are swept off farm fields then stay in the atmosphere for a relatively long time until they dissolve off into water.

Since about 2005, pre-harvest use of glyphosate results in very high residues in food crops. Traces were found in 90 percent of 300 soybean samples.

Glyphosate - GMO Soybeans

Despite its widespread use, USGS hydrologist Paul Capel said there is “a dearth of information” on what happens to it once it is used.

Glyphosate is not included in the U.S. government’s testing of food for pesticide residues or the monitoring of chemicals in human blood and tissues. As a result, there is no information on how much people are exposed to from using it in their yards, living near farms or eating foods from treated fields.

UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared in March 2015 that glyphosate probably raises the risk of cancer in people exposed. The UN agency based its decision on human, animal, and cell studies, says National Cancer Institute scientist emeritus, Aaron Blair who chaired the IARC review committee. The studies found glyphosate in farmworkers’ blood and urine, chromosomal damage in cells, increased risks of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in some people exposed, and tumor formation in some animal studies.

One study suggests that glyphosate may affect pathogens such as Salmonella in ways that can contribute to antibiotic resistance. Other recent research suggests it can interfere with hormones.

The EPA is reviewing its approved uses of glyphosate and expects to release a preliminary assessment of the human health risk later this year. This is expected to include new restrictions.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka, alarmed by suspected links to human kidney disease, has banned it. Brazil is considering a similar move. Mexico and the Netherlands have imposed new restrictions, and Canada has just begun a process to consider new rules.

Dr. Mercola – Roundup and Glyphosate Toxicity Have Been Grossly Underestimated

A study, published in the journal Ecotoxicology, (2013 March; 22(2): 251–262) found that glyphosate is toxic to water fleas (Daphnia magna) at minuscule levels that are well within the levels expected to be found in the environment.

According to regulators, glyphosate is thought to be practically nontoxic to aquatic invertebrates. The water flea is a widely accepted model for environmental toxicity, so this study throws serious doubt on glyphosate’s classification as environmentally safe. The original publication can be found here:

Back in Feb. of 2012, the journal Archives of Toxicology published a shocking study showing that Roundup is toxic to human DNA even when diluted to concentrations 450-fold lower than used in agricultural applications.

(Archives of Toxicology 2012 May;86(5):805-13 –

This effect could not have been anticipated from the known toxicological effects of glyphosate alone. The likely explanation is that the surfactant polyoxyethyleneamine within Roundup dramatically enhances the absorption of glyphosate into exposed human cells and tissue,” Sayer Ji writes:

“If this is true, it speaks to a fundamental problem associated with toxicological risk assessments of agrichemicals (and novel manmade chemicals in general), namely, these assessments do not take into account the reality of synergistic toxicologies, i.e. the amplification of harm associated with multiple chemical exposures occurring simultaneously.”

Glyphosate - spraying II

A study published in Scientific American (June 23, 2009) found that liver, embryonic and placental cell lines exposed to various herbicide formulations for 24 hours at doses as low as 1 part per million (ppm), had adverse effects. The original article “Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells“ can be found here:

Perhaps most disturbing of all, the researchers claim that cell damage and even cell death can occur at the residual levels found on Roundup-treated crops, as well as lawns and gardens where Roundup is applied for weed control. They also suspect that:

“Roundup might cause pregniony problems by interfering with hormone production, possibly leading to abnormal fetal development, low birth weights or miscarriages.”

Miscarriages, fertility problems and abnormal fetal development are all problems that are skyrocketing in Argentina, where many are exposed to massive spraying of herbicides. More than 18 million hectares in Argentina are covered by genetically engineered soy, on which more than 300 million liters of pesticides are sprayed. In the village of Malvinas Argentinas, which is surrounded by soy plantations, the rate of miscarriage is 100 times the national average, courtesy of glyphosate.

But even if you don’t live in an agricultural area where you might be exposed to Roundup directly, you’re still getting it through your diet if you’re eating non-organic foods.

The EPA standard for glyphosate in American water supplies is 0.7 ppm. In Europe, the maximum allowable level in water is 0.2 ppm. Organ damage in animals has occurred at levels as low as 0.1 ppm, and in the study on cell lines discussed above, liver, embryonic and placental cell lines were adversely affected at doses as low as 1 ppm. The fact that genetically modified corn can contain as much as 13 ppm of glyphosate has staggering implications for Americans who eat an average of 193 pounds of genetically engineered foods each year! (Source Environmental Working Group October 15, 2012)

A German study, published in 2013, looked at glyphosate’s role in the rise of toxic botulism in cattle. This used to be extremely rare, but the incidence has become increasingly common over the past 10-15 years. ( –  US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health)

As for its effects on humans, the Samsel – Seneff study, published in the journal Entropy in April 2013, suggests that glyphosate may actually be the most important factor in the development of a wide variety of chronic diseases, specifically because your gut bacteria are a key component of glyphosate’s mechanism of harm.

Dr. Stephanie Seneff has been conducting research at MIT for over three decades. She also has an undergraduate degree in biology from MIT and a minor in food and nutrition. The report argues that glyphosate residues, found in most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet courtesy of GE sugar, corn, soy and wheat, “enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.” (Original article: Entropy 2013, 15(4), 1416-1463 –

Glyphosate and autism

Glyphosate causes extreme disruption of the microbe’s function and lifecycle. What’s worse, glyphosate preferentially affects beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to overgrow and take over. At that point, your body also has to contend with the toxins produced by the pathogens. Once the chronic inflammation sets in, you’re well on your way toward chronic and potentially debilitating disease.

Dr. Seneff identified two key problems in autism that are unrelated to the brain yet clearly associated with the condition—both of which are linked with glyphosate exposure; 1:) gut dysbiosis and 2:) Disrupted sulfur metabolism / sulfur and sulfate deficiency.

Certain microbes in your body actually break down glyphosate, which is a good thing. However, a byproduct of this action is ammonia, and children with autism tend to have significantly higher levels of ammonia in their blood than the general population. This also is the case for those with Alzheimer’s disease. In your brain, ammonia causes encephalitis, i.e. brain inflammation.

Former US Navy staff scientist Dr. Nancy Swanson has meticulously collected statistics on glyphosate usage and various diseases and conditions, including autism. A more perfect match-up between the rise in glyphosate usage and incidence of autism is hard to imagine. To access her published articles and reports, please visit Sustainable Pulse, a European website dedicated to exposing the hazards of genetically engineered foods.

As discussed above, glyphosate has a number of devastating biological effects. So much so that it may very well be one of the most important factors in the development of a wide variety of modern diseases and conditions, including autism.

Glyphosate and Alzheimers-GMOIt’s important to understand that the glyphosate sprayed on conventional and genetically engineered crops actually becomes systemic throughout the plant, so it cannot be washed off. It’s inside the plant.

The answer, of course, is to avoid processed foods of all kinds, as they’re virtually guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, and center your diet around whole, organic foods as toxic pesticides are not permitted in organic farming.

Last but not least, do not confuse the “natural” label with organic standards.

People generally tend to believe that the word “natural” refers to foods grown “in a natural way,” which really amounts to organic farming methods, or close to it; sans harsh chemicals, and most definitely not something that has been genetically engineered. Unfortunately, that’s not what the “natural” label represents at all. In fact, the “natural” label is unregulated, and companies can define it as they please. The natural label is not based on any standards and is frequently misused by sellers of GE products.

Growers and manufacturers of organic products bearing the USDA seal, on the other hand, have to meet the strictest standards of any of the currently available organic labels. In order to qualify as organic, a product must be grown and processed using organic farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity. Crops must be grown without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers.

Caroline Cox. Journal of Pesticide Reform, Volume 15, Number 3, Fall 1995.

In animal studies, feeding of glyphosate for three months caused reduced weight gain, diarrhea, and salivary gland lesions. Lifetime feeding of glyphosate caused excess growth and death of liver cells, cataracts and lens degeneration, and increases in the frequency of thyroid, pancreas, and liver tumors.

Glyphosate-containing products have caused genetic damage in human blood cells, fruit flies, and onion cells.

Glyphosate causes reduced sperm counts in male rats, a lengthened estrous cycle in female rats, and an increase in fetal loss together with a decrease in birth weights in their offspring.

It is striking that laboratory studies have identified adverse effects of glyphosate or glyphosate-containing products in all standard categories of toxicological testing.

Two serious cases of fraud have occurred in laboratories conducting toxicology and residue testing for glyphosate and glyphosate-containing products.

Glyphosate in urine and organs

About Alain B. Volz

Alain Volz M.Sc. (1969) - Social Economy Entrepreneur, founder and director of ATMA - has studied Business Administration and Organizational Psychology. He started his career with Royal Dutch Ahold and has worked with IPMMC and TC&O. For 10 years Alain has been working with Twynstra Gudde Consultants and Managers as senior consultant Human Talent & Change Management. He was responsible for Competency Based Human Talent Management. He is co-founder of the Center for Human Emergence in the Netherlands (CHE), a former member of the CHE alignment circle and founding director of CHE School of Synnervation (currently Synnervate). In 2011 he held the position of partner with the RnR Group in Maarn. Alain is Strategy & Alignment Officer at Dipaliya Women's Association in Tamale, Ghana. In the Netherlands he is board member of the committee for the position of women and minorities in the Dutch Democratic Party (D66 Thema Afdeling V/M Sociale Innovatie). As such he represented D66 in the PVO; a cross party National committee consisting of represents from 6 different political parties (CDA, CU, D66, Groen Links, PvdA, VVD). The office of ATMA is located at the ImpactHub Amsterdam & the ImpactHub Accra.
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