Roundup has serious impacts in soil, water and pregnant women
Now, the actual safety and environmental effects of Roundup are the subject of some dispute. It gets into waterways and may affect aquatic plants. New research has implicated it in the catastrophic loss of amphibians. Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture has evidence, which it downplays, that Roundup may damage soil through its impact on beneficial soil microbes and interfere with the growth of plants, including Roundup Ready varieties that have been genetically engineered to resist the herbicide. And there’s the controversial claim by a Purdue University plant pathologist that Roundup has caused an increase in miscarriage and infertility in livestock. There are studies that show glyphosate is toxic to human placental cells, but you’re unlikely to run into high enough concentrations to show those effects — unless you’re a farmworker. A study of Berlin residents [PDF], meanwhile, found glyphosate levels in human urine that exceeded Germany’s safe drinking water limits [PDF]. While it’s true that glyphosate the chemical has been the subject of much scientific analysis, it’s also true that farmers don’t use pure glyphosate. They use Roundup on their fields — and Roundup is a product with other “inactive” chemical ingredients. And there is increasing evidence that Roundup as a product is far more toxic than glyphosate on its own because the ingredients interact in troubling ways. All of which is to say that there’s isn’t really a good health argument in favor of increasing Americans’ exposure to the chemical. There are, however, some pretty compelling reasons not to — and that’s where your microbiome comes into the picture. Even if we aren’t absorbing all the Roundup that’s on the food we eat, we are certainly exposing the residents of our digestive tract to it. And here’s the funny thing. While we don’t have the metabolic process that Roundup disrupts, many microbes do.
So, in short, we may be dousing our interior landscapes with a potent and effective intestinal flora herbicide. Oopsie.
Researchers are only now beginning to explore this idea. There is new research out of Germany that establishes that glyphosate kills many species of beneficial animal gut bacteria while not affecting more harmful gut bacteria, like E. coli and the bacteria that causes botulism, which is apparently at epidemic levels in cattle. And it’s not a stretch to say that it likely has a similar effect on the versions of those bacteria that have colonized us.
And, as Pollan explains, our gut bacteria play a core role in maintaining our health, although in ways that are not at all understood. The research is in its earliest days, but it’s possible that an unhealthy microbiome could contribute to obesity and other diseases, especially those caused by inflammation.
It’s all very speculative, but you can see where this is leading. While we’re just beginning to understand how our microbiome works and how it may prove essential to preventing all sorts of diseases, our governments are increasing the amounts of this anti-microbial herbicide Big Ag is allowed to leave on our food.