What You Need to Know about Glyphosate

By Sarah Garcia - August 24, 2018

What is Glyphosate?

Glyphosate (GHB) — the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer and one of the most heavily applied herbicides in the United States — has been identified in potentially dangerous amounts in popular breakfast foods such as oat cereals, oatmeal and granola. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has evaluated glyphosate and identified the substance as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

How much is too much?

Dr. Nagi Kumar, director for Cancer Chemoprevention and researcher in Population Science at Moffitt Cancer Center, says GHB use has increased almost 100-fold since its introduction in the ’70s. “With the increasing resistance of plants to GHB and subsequent increased use or use of multiple mixtures of herbicides, including those with relatively greater toxicity, greater harm to humans and the environment is anticipated.”

Dr. Nagi Kumar, Director for Cancer Chemoprevention

Kumar notes that the recent finding of elevated glyphosate levels in oat-based products isn’t the only cause for concern. The testing for this particular study was limited to certain foods, but contamination of food products and produce is a global public health issue. The FDA, USDA and other groups continue to work toward a resolution for this systemic problem.

How dangerous is it?

Most studies to date have only looked at toxicology endpoints and not disease endpoints, says Kumar. Early studies on occupational exposure to GHB show links to adverse effects on the liver and kidney; disruption of hormonal or endocrine systems impacting growth and development, including birth defects; and certain cancers. 

What about the food?

Kumar says more research is needed, particularly when it comes to the dynamic complexities of exposure from foods and environmental sources, farming practices, soil and livestock, and safety in children and adults.

 “The current safety guidelines for human consumption of GHB should be used only as an interim step,” Kumar adds, “until a thorough evaluation of a dose that is reasonably safe and will produce no harm is established.”

In the meantime, Kumar recommends:

  • Washing all produce well before eating
  • Being savvy and questioning the source of the food you eat and the water you drink
  • Urging local and federal authorities to resolve this issue on permissible levels of GBH and find alternative and safer herbicides
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