The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims glyphosate is not likely to cause cancer in humans. However, research has repeatedly linked the pesticide to several forms of cancer. Thousands of consumers have filed lawsuits against Bayer, Roundup's current manufacturer. The lawsuits claim exposure to Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) and other cancers.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is the most common pesticide in the world. Farmers use it on so many crops that it has turned up in a variety of food products. When people consume these food products, they ingest the pesticide. Experts say more than 70% of the U.S. population has glyphosate in their bodies.
Glyphosate is currently considered safe in the United States. However, European regulators have classified it as carcinogenic. Ongoing research also raises concerns about the possibility of glyphosate having other harmful health effects.
Glyphosate has been linked to several health issues, including:
- Lethal cases of kidney toxicity in sugar cane workers
- Endocrine system effects in animals
- Negative changes in gut bacteria
Thus, consumers may be interested in minimizing their exposure to this potentially harmful pesticide. A recent study may provide one way to do this: following an organic diet.
Internal Levels of Roundup's Active Ingredient Decreased On An Organic Diet
A California-based team recently investigated the effects of diet on internal glyphosate levels. Researchers asked four racially diverse families to participate in the study.
Prior to the study, the typical diet for these families consisted of conventional food, not organic. During the study, each family ate their normal diet for five days, followed by six days of eating exclusively organic food.
The study authors measured glyphosate and the molecule it produces after breaking down in the body (AMPA). They hoped to see both glyphosate and AMPA levels decrease on the organic diet.
When glyphosate breaks down in the human body, it forms aminomethyl phosphonic acid (AMPA). AMPA is glyphosate's main metabolite. Like glyphosate, AMPA has demonstrated negative effects on laboratory animals.
After eating an organic diet, glyphosate levels in urine decreased by about 71%. AMPA levels decreased by about 77%. The authors concluded an organic diet could lead to a "rapid decrease in urinary glyphosate and AMPA." This decrease happened in a matter of days.
Children Had Higher Internal Levels of Glyphosate Than Adults
During the conventional diet phase, researchers found differences in adults and children:
- Children had an average of about 5x more glyphosate in their urine than adults.
- Children had an average of about 2.5x more AMPA in their urine than adults.
According to the authors, it is well-established that children are more vulnerable to pesticide than adults. They say the difference in glyphosate and AMPA levels in children may be due to the way their bodies process it. Some research indicates children are less efficient at processing substances like glyphosate. This may put them at higher risk of any negative health effects from the pesticide.
An Organic Diet May Minimize Glyphosate Harm
The debate about glyphosate safety may be poised to continue for years to come. Currently, scientists disagree with both the EPA and glyphosate manufacturers. Only time and further study will tell if history will remember glyphosate as a safe pesticide or a harmful chemical.
In the meantime, this study gives consumers a concrete way to play it safe. By eating an all-organic diet, consumers can substantially decrease their internal levels of glyphosate. And, by reducing exposure to the pesticide, consumers may keep its potential harms to a minimum.