Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, is a chemical worthy of attention, in part because no other pesticide has come even close to its “intensive and widespread use.”1 The data on just how much glyphosate is sprayed in the U.S. is mind boggling, and adds up to over 1.6 billion kilograms (3.5 billion pounds) applied since 1974.
This represents 19% of the glyphosate used globally during that time, and the majority (two-thirds of glyphosate applied from 1974 to 2014) has been applied in the last 10 years.2 Glyphosate should catch your attention because it’s turning up virtually everywhere — in breastmilk, water,3 disposable diapers4 and honey, for starters.
It caught the attention of Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), for another reason entirely.
I caught up with Seneff at an Autism event in Atlanta, Georgia, called The Autism Community in Action (TACA). She’s been a champion for helping to understand how glyphosate is an issue, and she presented some of her new findings at the conference, where I recorded the interview above.
Seneff has been studying glyphosate for years and has become hooked on determining what makes this ubiquitous chemical so toxic:
“Glyphosate is an absolutely fascinating molecule. I’ve become hooked on it so to speak. And I just love the research; I love the puzzle. And glyphosate is the mother of all puzzles in my opinion. I believe I’m zeroing in on the mechanism of toxicity, and it’s unique to glyphosate, and insidious and cumulative.
So, it’s extremely dangerous in the sense that it doesn’t bowl you over. You get small exposures to glyphosate all day long in your food, in the air, in the water, probably breathing the air from the gasoline tank. We don’t know. But it’s pervasive in the environment so we can’t avoid it. And the United States has the highest … we use the most glyphosate per person per capita in this country.”
Is glyphosate causing chronic diseases?
According to Seneff, the increase in glyphosate usage in the U.S., as well as in Canada, is extremely well correlated with the concurrent increase in the incidence of multiple diseases, including breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer and myeloid leukemia.5
“[B]oth of those countries have a lot of heart health issues, high Autism rates, lots of autoimmune diseases, food allergies; Alzheimer’s is going up dramatically.
Of course, diabetes, obesity, all these things are going up dramatically in our population,” Seneff says. “We don’t know why. We see that glyphosate is perfectly correlated with many of these diseases. It’s also going up exactly in step with these diseases, and there’s many, many plots that I’ve put together in collaboration with other people.”
Research scientist Anthony Samsel is one of Seneff’s co-authors, and together they’ve suggested that one of the ways glyphosate is harmful is via disruption of glycine homeostasis. Glyphosate has a glycine molecule as part of its structure (hence the “gly” in glyphosate). Glycine is a very common amino acid your body uses to make proteins.
Samsel and Seneff believe your body can substitute glyphosate and its metabolite aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) into peptides and proteins, which results in damaged peptides and proteins being produced….