THIRD WORLD NETWORK INFORMATION SERVICE ON BIOSAFETY, SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
Dear Friends and Colleagues
Organic Diets Can Rapidly Reduce Glyphosate Levels in the Body
Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide in the United States and globally. A study investigated the impact of an organic diet on levels of glyphosate and its main metabolite, AMPA (aminomethyl phosphonic acid) in the urine of adults and children (Item 1). The researchers found glyphosate in every participant, including children as young as four. Children had significantly higher levels of glyphosate and AMPA in their urine than adults during both the conventional and organic diet phases of the study.
The researchers tested participants’ urine for glyphosate and AMPA over six days on a conventional diet, followed by six days on an all-organic diet, and found average reductions of more than 70 percent in both the adults and children after just three days on the organic diet.
The study is the second of a two-part series analyzing the impact of an organic diet intervention on pesticide levels in urine. The first study, published last year, tested for organophosphates, pyrethroids and neonicotinoids, and the herbicide 2,4-D and found similar results. Both add to a growing body of research demonstrating that an organic diet is an effective way to reduce exposure to pesticides. (Item 2)
Glyphosate use has risen dramatically since 1996 when the first genetically-modified (GM) “Roundup Ready” crops were introduced. Its use as a desiccant for drying oats, wheat, garbanzos and other grains and beans just prior to harvesting results in the largest residues on food products. Glyphosate has also been approved for many vegetables and fruit crops and has also been found in orange juice, wine and honey. Research shows that the percentage of the US population with detectable levels of glyphosate in their bodies increased from 12% in the mid-1970s to 70% by 2014. (Item 3)
With best wishes,
Third World Network
ORGANIC DIET INTERVENTION SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCES URINARY GLYPHOSATE LEVELS IN U.S. CHILDREN AND ADULTS
A growing set of studies show that an organic diet is associated with reduced levels of urinary pesticide analytes. However, with the exception of one pilot study of two individuals, diet intervention studies to date have not analyzed glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide in the United States and globally.
To investigate the impact of an organic diet intervention on levels of glyphosate and its main metabolite, AMPA (aminomethyl phosphonic acid), in urine collected from adults and children.
We analyzed urine samples from four racially and geographically diverse families in the United States for five days on a completely non-organic diet and for five days on a completely organic diet (n = 16 participants and a total of 158 urine samples).
Mean urinary glyphosate levels for all subjects decreased 70.93% (95% CI -77.96, −61.65, p<0.010) while mean AMPA levels decreased by 76.71% (95% CI -81.54, −70.62, p < 0.010) within six days on an organic diet. Similar decreases in urinary levels of glyphosate and AMPA were observed when data for adults were examined alone, 71.59% (95% CI -82.87, −52.86, p < 0.01) and 83.53% (95% CI -88.42, −76.56, p < 0.01) and when data for children were examined alone, 70.85% (95% CI -78.52, −60.42, p < 0.01) and 69.85% (95% CI -77.56, −59.48, p < 0.01).
An organic diet was associated with significantly reduced urinary levels of glyphosate and AMPA. The reduction in glyphosate and AMPA levels was rapid, dropping to baseline within three days. This study demonstrates that diet is a primary source of glyphosate exposure and that shifting to an organic diet is an effective way to reduce body burden of glyphosate and its main metabolite, AMPA. This research adds to a growing body of literature indicating that an organic diet may reduce exposure to a range of pesticides in children and adults.
ORGANIC DIETS QUICKLY REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF GLYPHOSATE IN PEOPLE’S BODIES
A new study found levels of the widespread herbicide and its breakdown products reduced, on average, more than 70 percent in both adults and children after just six days of eating organic.
Eating an organic diet rapidly and significantly reduces exposure to glyphosate—the world’s most widely-used weed killer, which has been linked to cancer, hormone disruption and other harmful impacts, according to a new study.
Authored by researchers at the Health Research Institute and the nonprofit organizations Commonweal Institute and Friends of the Earth, the study measured glyphosate and its main breakdown product, aminomethyl phosphonic acid (AMPA) in the urine of 16 people (seven adults and nine children) from four demographically and geographically diverse families. Researchers tested participants’ urine for glyphosate and AMPA over six days on a conventional diet, followed by six days on an all-organic diet, and found average reductions of more than 70 percent in both the adults and children.
These reductions were achieved after just three days on the organic diet, which is in line with animal studies showing most glyphosate leaves the body after five to seven days, though a smaller amount remains in and is eliminated more slowly from bone and bone marrow.
Published today in Environmental Research, the paper is the most robust examination of glyphosate levels in people after a dietary switch and provides important information about how people can avoid exposure to the herbicide, the main ingredient in Bayer’s weed killer Roundup. The findings are timely as Bayer, which purchased Roundup-maker Monsanto in 2016, recently agreed to a $10 billion payout to tens of thousands of current and potential future lawsuits from groundskeepers and farmers claiming they contracted non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup.
While other studies have tested for glyphosate in cereals and other foods on grocery shelves, few have measured the pesticide in human bodies related to diet.
“Despite glyphosate being in such widespread use in agriculture, in our yards, on school playgrounds and in city parks worldwide…the U.S. government has done so little to understand our exposure,” Kendra Klein, study author and senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth, told EHN.
Glyphosate use has risen dramatically since 1996 when the first genetically-modified (GMO) “Roundup Ready” crops were introduced. Some 280 million pounds of glyphosate are sprayed each year in the U.S., on approximately 298 million acres of cropland, largely for GMO corn, cotton and soybeans. Another 26 million pounds are sprayed on public parks, rights of way and in gardens.
The researchers found glyphosate and AMPA in 94 and 97 percent, respectively, of the urine samples tested. A total of 158 urine samples were collected, which allowed the researchers to find statistical significance in the results even though the study group was small.
Children had significantly higher levels of glyphosate and AMPA in their urine than adults during both the conventional and organic diet phases of the study.
Glyphosate levels in children were about five times higher (1.27 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) versus 0.26 ng/ml in adults during the conventional phase, and 0.46 ng/ml in children versus 0.09 ng/ml in adults during the organic phase).
Klein said she’s uncertain why the children had higher exposures. “Maybe they’re exposed at schools, or they’re rolling around in the grass at city parks” where glyphosate is commonly used, she said. Kids also have more exposure per pound of body weight, and they might metabolize the herbicide differently than adults, she said.
“Growing up with this kind of chemical in their body will harm them,” Sharyle Patton, director of Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center and a study author, told EHN. “It’s a tragedy,” she said.
Emerging science links glyphosate to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, hormone disruption, kidney disease, changes in the gut biome, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, and an international group of scientists later concurred with that finding. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, however, continues to assert the herbicide poses no public health risk.
Meanwhile, Bayer has been negotiating settlements with several plaintiffs who alleged they developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma from exposure to Roundup and other herbicides made with glyphosate.
“It’s egregious that our government is allowing pesticide corporations to profit off of poisoning us when we know that organic farming works. These are chemicals that do not need to be in our bodies,” Klein said. “An entire system is invested in continuing pesticide intensive agriculture, while our farmers are fighting for pennies to do the research they need to support them to expand organic farming.”
Organic works — but doesn’t mean zero exposure
The study is the second of a two-part series analyzing the impact of an organic diet intervention on pesticide levels in urine. The first study, published last year, tested for organophosphates, pyrethroids and neonicotinoids, and the herbicide 2,4-D and found similar results. Both add to a growing body of research demonstrating that an organic diet is an effective way to reduce exposure to pesticides.
To be able to say, “this chemical in just a few days will leave your body if you change your diet, so you can do something about it, that’s great info for people to have,” said Patton.
Glyphosate’s use as a desiccant for drying oats, wheat, garbanzos and other grains and beans just prior to harvesting results in the largest residues on food products, according to Charles Benbrook, coordinator for the Heartland Study, a hospital-based research project investigating the potential link between U.S. midwestern herbicide use and harmful reproductive outcomes. Glyphosate has been approved for many vegetables and fruit crops and has also been found in orange juice, wine and honey.
“One of the interesting questions this research raises, is why were the study participants still eliminating glyphosate in their urine six days after a 100 percent organic diet?” Benbrook, who was not involved in the study, told EHN.
Benbrook said there is so much glyphosate in the ambient environment, soil and water, as well as in grain bins, trucks and food production lines, that it’s likely “impossible to keep organic grains and beans sufficiently separate from parts of the conventional food supply chain.”
Organic crops can also pick up some glyphosate residue, he said, from wind erosion blowing soil particles off a nearby conventionally-managed field.
Study participants may also have had other exposures to glyphosate, such as from spraying in public parks. Animal studies also show that a small amount of the weed killer is excreted more slowly from bones.
Regardless, “this paper serves as a wakeup call for regulators, public health scientists, the food industry and farmers—that whenever a pesticide comes to be used as frequently and as heavily as glyphosate-based herbicides, they’re going to get into all sorts of hidden corners of the environment, and because of that they’re going to show up in the food supply in all kinds of ways that no one ever really anticipated,” said Benbrook.
YOU HAVE PESTICIDES IN YOUR BODY. BUT AN ORGANIC DIET CAN REDUCE THEM BY 70%
A new study shows that US families consume cancer-linked glyphosate in their food. The good news: going organic rapidly reduces levels
Never before have we sprayed so much of a chemical on our food, on our yards, on our children’s playgrounds. So it’s no surprise that Roundup – the world’s most widely used weedkiller – shows up in our bodies. What is perhaps surprising is how easy it is to get it out. A new peer-reviewed study, co-authored by one of us, studied pesticide levels in four American families for six days on a non-organic diet and six days on a completely organic diet. Switching to an organic diet decreased levels of Roundup’s toxic main ingredient, glyphosate, by 70% in just six days.
“If my kids have this much of a change in their numbers, what would other families have?” asked Scott Hersrud of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a father of three who participated in the study. The answer to that question is increasingly clear: a big one. This study is part of a comprehensive scientific analysis showing that switching to an organic diet rapidly and dramatically reduces exposure to pesticides.
That’s good news, but it raises a grave question: why do we have to be supermarket detectives, searching for organic labels to ensure we’re not eating food grown with glyphosate or hundreds of other toxic pesticides?
Glyphosate was flagged as a potential carcinogen as far back as 1983 by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), yet use of the chemical has grown exponentially since, with the chemical giant Monsanto – purchased by Bayer in 2018 – dominating the market. Numerous reports have covered the internal company documents showing how Monsanto’s influence over the EPA succeeded in suppressing health concerns.
In fact, rather than restricting the use of glyphosate, the EPA has raised the legal threshold for residues on some foods up to 300-fold above levels deemed safe in the 1990s. And unlike with other commonly used pesticides, the government has turned a blind eye for decades when it comes to monitoring glyphosate – failing to test for it on food and in our bodies.
The agency’s slipshod regulation has led to a dramatic increase in exposure. Research shows that the percentage of the US population with detectable levels of glyphosate in their bodies increased from 12% in the mid-1970s to 70% by 2014.
The new study paints an even more concerning picture. Researchers found glyphosate in every participant, including children as young as four. “I would love to get those pesticides out of my body and my family’s bodies,” said Andreina Febres of Oakland, California, a participant and mother of two.
Parents have sound reasons to be concerned about their children’s exposure to glyphosate and other pesticides. While food residues often fall within levels that regulators consider safe, even government scientists have made it clear that US regulations have not kept pace with the latest science. For one, they ignore the compounding effects of our daily exposures to a toxic soup of pesticides and other industrial chemicals. Nor do they reflect that we can have higher risks at different times in our lives and in different conditions: a developing fetus, for instance, is particularly vulnerable to toxic exposures, as are children and the immunocompromised. Instead, US regulators set one “safe” level for all of us. New research also shows that chemicals called “endocrine disruptors” can increase risk of cancers, learning disabilities, birth defects, obesity, diabetes and reproductive disorders, even at incredibly small levels. (Think the equivalent of one drop in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.)
Research has linked glyphosate to high rates of kidney disease in farming communities and to shortened pregnancy in a cohort of women in the midwest. Animal studies and bioassays link it to endocrine disruption, DNA damage, decreased sperm function, disruption of the gut microbiome and fatty liver disease.
The pesticide industry’s success in keeping a chemical with known toxicity on the market is emblematic of a fundamental system failure. The US allows more than 70 pesticides banned in the European Union. And in just the last few years, the EPA has approved more than 100 new pesticide products containing ingredients deemed to be highly hazardous.
Yet last year, it looked like glyphosate was going to be a success story of another kind – the kind where science wins. In the wake of the World Health Organization determination that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, thousands of farmers, pesticide applicators and home gardeners filed lawsuits linking their cancer to Roundup. The first three cases were settled in favor of the plaintiffs, saddling Bayer with $2bn in damages (later reduced by judges). But this summer, while Bayer agreed to pay $10bn to settle an additional 95,000 cases out of court, the company again evaded responsibility: under the terms of the settlement, Roundup will continue to be sold for use on yards, school grounds, public parks and farms without any safety warning.
Pesticide companies’ ability to keep profiting from products that poison us is particularly egregious given that we have a solution. Organic works. And not just for our health – research shows that a shift away from pesticide-intensive agriculture leads to significant improvements for biodiversity and other environmental benchmarks while also yielding enough to ensure a well-fed planet.
We can look to the European Union for some hope. This summer the EU announced plans to halve use of pesticides by 2030 and transition at least 25% of agriculture to organic. But in the US, despite ever-growing demand for organic food, the government continues to favor the profits of the pesticide industry over our health, spending billions of our taxpayer dollars to prop up pesticide-intensive farming while organic programs and research are woefully underfunded.
As this study shows, the end result is toxic chemicals in our bodies that don’t need to be there. A growing number of people are responding by buying organic, but what about the many who don’t have access to organic or can’t afford it? As long as we treat organic food as if it’s a shopping preference instead of a public good, we will miss the opportunity to fight for a desperately needed shift in how we farm – one that would ensure that no one is exposed to toxic pesticides from the food they eat.