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The Roundup Safety Debate. Is It Worth the Risk?

The saying is that “We are what we eat,” and in the U. S., much of what we eat contains suspicious chemicals and additives. The product, Roundup, and its additive glyphosate top the list of concerning chemicals.

The American food industry relies on government organizations such as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for guidance as to a substance’s safety. Unfortunately for those who say they’ve been harmed by numerous ingredients previously thought to be safe for use or consumption, these organizations tend to be reactive rather than proactive.

Chemical safety evaluation in the European Union and the United States differ in their approach. If there is a concern for a chemical, the EU is likely to ban it until proven safe, whereas in the US, chemicals are allowed until solid evidence proves a danger.

For example, the EU has banned or restricted nearly 1,700 chemicals from personal care products such as lotions, face creams, makeup, and deodorant, while the US has banned a mere 9. This method works best in the interest of manufacturers rather than the impact on human and planetary health.

The most confusing and controversial debate over an ingredient appears to be with the highly profitable and effective weed killer, Roundup, and its additive glyphosate, which holds billions of dollars and thousands of lives in the balance.

Roundup was developed in 1974 for the manufacturing company, Monsanto, which is now owned by Bayer, and initially intended for large-scale farming. Roundup contains the additive glyphosate, which currently is the most widely used pesticide in the world (including the European Union which has approved its use until December 15, 2023) and the second most used home and garden weed killer. The EPA estimates that nearly 290 million pounds of Roundup is sprayed on our crops each year, and the Center for Disease Control found that up to 80% of Americans have traces of Roundup in their urine.

The EPA classifies glyphosate as safe for use and states that it isn’t likely to cause cancer in humans or act as an endocrine disrupter. However, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Cancer Research classifies glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.

Thousands of plaintiffs agree with the World Health Organization and have filed suits due to claims they developed illnesses after exposure to Roundup. Additionally, plaintiffs say Monsanto/Bayer omitted public warnings of the cancer risks of glyphosate and deceived consumers about its safety. A pending class-action suit in Australia also alleges that more than 800 Australians diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma are linked to their use of the herbicide.

According to Forbes, Monsanto has settled over 100,000 lawsuits regarding Roundup and paid out about $11 billion as of May 2022. At that time 30,0000 lawsuits also were pending.

Research does show connections between glyphosate and illness such as the University of Washington study that found exposure to glyphosate increased an individual’s risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by 41%. Other studies show links between glyphosate and Leukemia, Multiple myeloma, and Parkinson’s disease as well as that the chemical destroys friendly bacteria in the gut by blocking the shikimate pathway.

Long-term high level glyphosate exposure may also adversely affect developing fetuses in pregnant women. In addition, Roundup contains other ingredients that may be more toxic than glyphosate alone.

Glyphosate can remain in the soil for months, break down, and contaminate soil and water. Waterways exposed to moderate amounts of glyphosate contain less diversity and harm birds, mammals, and other life forms such as wild bee colonies and monarch butterflies.

Regardless of the studies and settlements, Bayer/Monsanto maintains their product is safe and substantiates their findings with hundreds of their own studies. The American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cotton Council, and American Sugarbeet Growers Association agree that glyphosate is safe and does not cause cancer.

For those of us who don't want to take the risk with glyphosate, we can choose organic foods, when available and affordable. However, some glyphosate may still be in the organics due to neighboring farms using the product.

The site and organization, GeneFood, suggests looking for labels noting "Glyphosate Residue Free." And they state that buying non-GMO does not guarantee that crops haven't been treated pre-harvest with glyphosate. GeneFood also recommends taking antioxidants, probiotics, herbs, and lifestyle changes to support liver health for natural detoxification.


Unless noted otherwise, most of the research for this post was gathered from Consumer Notice, an organization dedicated to providing consumers with reliable health and safety information. See their site to learn more.


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