If the toxic herbicide glyphosate had not provided enough reasons to justify a ban, a new study published in Scientific Reports is doing just that.
This study has revealed that Roundup, of which glyphosate is the main ingredient, has the potential to cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The study involved a test on rats that showed that even at extremely low levels of exposure, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) was produced.
This peer-reviewed study showed that Roundup caused NAFLD at a concentration far below that which is found in the bodies of most Americans.
Indeed, the research showed that exposing the rats to Roundup in concentrations a thousand times lower than allowable limits in food and drinking water or even lower than concentrations found in the urine of most Americans caused changes in the liver which contained the molecular signature of NAFLD.
Around a third of U.S. residents are affected by NAFLD which generally causes no symptoms in most people but can lead to liver cirrhosis and cancer. There are known risk factors but these factors do not explain the increase of cases of NAFLD and why it is much more common in young people in the past. It is also worth noting that liver cancer has increased among Americans almost three-fold since the 1980s.
In the world of drug development, in which I am a participant, before a drug is allowed into the clinic, it must be carefully screened in animals such as rats to determine if it shows toxic effects at the exposure levels where it is expected to be effective in humans. If any toxicity is observed, the drug is not allowed. In addition, once approved, signs of toxicity in patients must be monitored and reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). One would hope that this would also be the case with prevalent agricultural chemicals, but it is not.
In theory, all agricultural chemicals in the US are tested for safety under the guidance of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, the testing is done under the supervision of the manufacturer, not the government agency; it is not made public; and in essentially all cases animal exposure is only to the active ingredient, not the mixture of chemicals that are in the formulation and required for its effective application.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, is not only used to kill weeds, but it is essential for the successful cultivation of most genetically modified (GM) crops that are in our food supply. Another major source of human exposure is from cereal grains, for glyphosate-based herbicides are sprayed on these crops to kill and desiccate them before harvest. As with GM soy and corn, glyphosate is incorporated into the grain and cannot be washed off. The World Health Organization’s cancer research agency IARC has determined that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, and there are many published manuscripts by independent academic scientists suggesting its toxicity.
Glyphosate is now found in most, if not all, non-organic food products. It is readily detected in the blood and urine of most Americans. From a public health perspective, the question has always been whether or not the amounts found in people are a cause for concern. The data in this new study in Scientific Reports suggests that the answer is a definitive yes.