I hope this finds you in good health and high spirits.
It’s been a big week with the women’s football world cup happening here in Australia. Australia is due to play England in the semi-final tonight; it will be a big night for my family! It’s been so great to see such interest in the women’s game. Matilda’s fever sure has hit Australia. Hopefully, it will do good things for our future girl stars! (edit: good win for England, disappointment for the rest of my family!)
In this issue, I want to delve into the topic of glyphosate. This is something I have been passionate about for some time. Glyphosate is a widely used herbicide and a key ingredient in many commercial weed killers. It was first introduced by Monsanto in the 1970s and is commonly known as “Roundup.” Glyphosate works by inhibiting an enzyme called EPSP synthase, which is essential for synthesising certain amino acids in plants. Without these amino acids, plants cannot grow and then eventually die.
Glyphosate is effective against a broad spectrum of weeds and is used in various agricultural, residential, and industrial settings. It’s particularly popular in agriculture because it can be applied to crops like soybeans, corn, cotton, and wheat without damaging them. This makes it easier for farmers to control weeds and improve crop yields.
Its popularity has led to its almost universal presence in our environment and, subsequently, in much of the food we consume. Glyphosate can make its way into the food system through several pathways:
Direct Application on Crops: Glyphosate is often applied directly to crops, especially those genetically modified to be glyphosate-resistant (such as Roundup Ready crops). These crops can include soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, and others. When glyphosate is sprayed on these crops, it can be absorbed by the plants and remain on the surfaces of the harvested produce.
Drift and Runoff: Glyphosate can be carried by wind drift during application, spreading beyond the target area. It can also be washed off fields by rainwater, leading to runoff that can contaminate nearby water bodies, soil, and other crops.
Residue in Soil: Glyphosate can persist in soil for varying periods, depending on factors like soil type and climate. Plants grown in soil previously treated with glyphosate may take up the residue through their roots.
Animal Feed: Glyphosate-contaminated crops can be used as feed for livestock. This can lead to glyphosate residues accumulating in animal products like meat, milk, and eggs.
Food Processing: Glyphosate residues on crops can potentially make their way into processed foods. For instance, crops may be used as ingredients in products like cereals, snacks, and processed foods, introducing glyphosate into the final product.
Contaminated Water: If glyphosate-contaminated water is used for irrigation, it can lead to the uptake of glyphosate by plants and subsequently enter the food chain.
Imported Foods: Glyphosate is used globally, and residues may be present in foods imported from countries with less stringent regulations on its use.
Glyphosate-Based Herbicides in Home Gardening: Home gardeners and landscapers may use glyphosate-based herbicides on lawns and gardens. This can lead to residues on fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown in such areas.
Glyphosate-Based Formulations: Glyphosate is often combined with other chemicals in formulated herbicides. Some studies suggest that the combined effects of glyphosate with these co-formulants might be more harmful than glyphosate alone.
Many studies show why we should be concerned about exposure to this herbicide. One of the most significant concerns is the potential link between glyphosate exposure and cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is a part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015. This classification was controversial, as other regulatory agencies reached a different conclusion. The EPA and EFSA, for example, have maintained that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans when used according to label instructions.
There are also concerns that glyphosate might interfere with the endocrine system. This is the vital system that regulates hormones in the body. Some studies have suggested that glyphosate could disrupt hormone signalling, potentially leading to reproductive and developmental problems.
Some research has suggested that glyphosate can impact the balance of gut microbiota in humans. Disruption of the gut microbiota has been linked to various health issues, including metabolic and immune system disorders.
While not directly related to the human body, the environmental impact of glyphosate use is also incredibly important. Glyphosate has been shown to contribute to the development of herbicide-resistant weeds, which in turn can lead to increased herbicide use and potential adverse effects on
Obviously, the easiest way to avoid these problems is to avoid our exposure to Glyphosate where possible. Below are some tips to help in your day-to-day.
- Choose Organic Products: Go for organic fruits, vegetables, and other products whenever possible. Organic farming practices typically avoid or limit the use of synthetic pesticides, including glyphosate.
- Gardening Practices: If you have a garden, use alternative weed control methods such as manual weeding, mulching, or natural herbicides.
- Buy Non-GMO Foods: Genetically modified (GMO) crops are often engineered to withstand glyphosate-based herbicides. Choosing non-GMO foods can help reduce your exposure to glyphosate.
- Be Cautious with Non-Agricultural Use: Glyphosate is also used in non-agricultural settings like residential lawns. If you use herbicides in your yard, look for glyphosate-free alternatives.
- Check Food Labels: When buying packaged foods, check labels for potential glyphosate-containing ingredients. While glyphosate might not be listed, looking for organic or non-GMO labels can be helpful.
- Support Regulations: Advocate for stricter regulations and transparency in the use of pesticides, including glyphosate. Encourage local and national authorities to monitor and regulate pesticide use more effectively. Your local council has their own jurisdiction about whether they use it or not in your local parks etc.; already in the UK and Australia, certain councils have banned all use.
- Education and Awareness: Stay informed about glyphosate and its potential risks. Share information with friends and family to raise awareness about the issue.
- Filter Your Water: Glyphosate has been detected in some water sources. Consider using a certified water filter to remove glyphosate if you’re concerned about its presence in your drinking water.
- Reduce Processed Foods: Processed foods may contain glyphosate residues from ingredients derived from conventionally grown crops. Consuming fewer processed foods can help reduce your exposure.
- Support Sustainable Agriculture: Support agricultural practices that focus on sustainable and regenerative farming methods. These methods often prioritise natural pest control and minimise the use of synthetic chemicals. Find local farmers and restaurants who are using these practices and support them. Zach Bush, MD, states, ‘We can revitalise this planet by reconnecting the natural carbon cycles that have long maintained balance in our soil, water and air in order for biology to thrive.’
- Promote Cover Crops: If you have a garden or agricultural land, consider using cover crops to naturally suppress weed growth and improve soil health, reducing the need for herbicides.
- Composting: Composting organic matter can improve soil structure and fertility, reducing the need for chemical inputs like glyphosate.
Whilst some governments are restricting Glyphosate use, others are doing nothing. In July, the European food safety authority reviewed data on glyphosate and found it to be safe. Environmental groups denounced EFSA’s assessment as “shocking,” saying it was primarily based on industry studies. “The deeply flawed EU pesticide authorisation system neglects a wealth of independent and peer-reviewed scientific studies that link glyphosate to severe health and environmental problems,” industry watchdog group Corporate Europe Observatory said. “Many studies prove that glyphosate is genotoxic, neurotoxic, damages the gut microbiome and causes serious damage to soil, aquatic life and biodiversity.”
I’m all for Glyphosate being banned. I feel passionate that we, as consumers, have the ability and responsibility to influence law and policymakers. Making changes to our consumption habits is a big start, and as mentioned above, local councils can often ban Glyphosate use in your local area, so please lobby them directly. I know I don’t want my children playing in areas sprayed by herbicides!
Wishing you good health and happiness.