“Is this gluten-sensitivity business just the latest fad among food fanatics?” An older man shopping at the local health food store recently asked me this question, knowing that I was a doctor.
When I first began to practice medicine in 1983, I rarely encountered patients with serious gastrointestinal problems or food allergies and sensitivities.
Since the early 1990s, various gastrointestinal conditions have become increasingly common. In recent times, about half of the patients in my medical practice have one or more abdominal symptoms, ranging in severity from chronic diarrhea or constipation, chronic gas and bloating, and gastro-esophageal reflux, to multiple food allergies and sensitivities, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and colon cancer.
Since the mid-1990s, I noted that a growing number of patients told me that they felt bad after they ate wheat-containing foods, complaining of headaches, eczema, fatigue, brain fog, and bloating. Even more puzzling is that some of those same patients said that when they ate bread and pasta in some parts of Europe, they had no symptoms whatsoever.
I wracked my brain trying to think why this would be the case. I came up with a few hypotheses, one of which was the hybridization of the grains in the US, a process that raised the protein content in the grain, thereby causing more allergic reactions. The grains in most of the European countries in the early 1990s had not been hybridized and were the same type of grain that people had eaten for many hundreds of years.
When I explored this mystery in more depth, I discovered that the rise in gut problems in the US coincided closely with the widespread use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) that were bred to resist the herbicides that farmers used to kill weeds.
History of Glyphosate
Stauffer Chemical first patented glyphosate in 1964 as a metal chelator, a chemical that binds and removes minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. Plumbers used the chemical to remove scale buildup in commercial boilers and pipes.
By 1970, an organic chemist working for Monsanto discovered that glyphosate is a powerful herbicide. When glyphosate spilled onto the ground, the plants in contact with the chemical died within a few hours. Taking advantage of this deadly trait, Monsanto filed a patent for glyphosate as an herbicide in 1974 and brought it to market under the trade name Roundup.
Farmers quickly adopted glyphosate-containing Roundup for weed control.
Between 1992-1996, Monsanto began introducing glyphosate-resistant Roundup Ready crops, enabling farmers to kill weeds without killing their crops. The crops were genetically engineered to withstand heavy spraying of Roundup and other glyphosate-containing herbicides onto the weeds.
At that time, the genetic engineering focused mostly on crops in high demand, such as corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, and cotton.
Monsanto claimed that genetically engineering crops to be glyphosate-resistant would reduce the need for herbicides. Contrary to Monsanto’s claims, usage of herbicides has risen dramatically since the introduction of GE seeds.
By 2016 there was a 100-fold increase from the late 1970s in the frequency of applications and volumes of glyphosate-based herbicides applied, with further increases expected in the future. Since 1974, 19 billion pounds have been sprayed on our crops.
In 2007, glyphosate was the most used herbicide in the US agricultural sector, and the second-most used in home and garden—2,4-D being the most used—also made by Monsanto. (2,4-D is one of the two ingredients in Agent Orange, the infamous defoliant used in Vietnam.)
The rapid emergence of super weeds that are resistant to glyphosate has led to the development of even more toxic herbicides, like Dicamba.
Health Effects of GM Feed on Animals
Some of the tests that have been done on the health effects of GMOs by independent researchers—not connected to or funded by industry—have revealed some disturbing results. Rats grew enormous mammary tumors and developed liver damage when fed genetically modified corn. Cows had more frequent spontaneous abortions, rashes, loss of fur, and abnormal behavior from GM feed.
As of this writing, genetically engineered wheat has not been sold commercially. That means that we cannot pin the blame for the rapidly rising rate of wheat intolerance on genetic engineering. Or can we?
With a deeper look into the cause of the growing wheat sensitivity problem, I discovered a seriously dangerous suspect.
Although the original use of glyphosate was to kill weeds, what is not so well know is that farmers also use the glyphosate on non-genetically modified crops, such as wheat and oats, right before harvest. The practice of pre-harvest spraying of glyphosate directly onto the crops, known as crop desiccation, became common in the past two decades. Farmers saturate the crops with glyphosate a few days before harvest. The glyphosate dries up the plants and kills them, allowing combines to more easily harvest the grain crop. As the plants begin to die from the toxic exposure, they release more seeds, giving the farmers a slightly larger yield.
Wheat and cane sugar are the two crops most often treated in this manner—the foods most commonly consumed in the US.
Glyphosate is used to desiccate a wide range of other crops besides wheat and oats. These include barley, rye, buckwheat, millet, lentils, peas, potatoes, sunflowers and flax. Non-GMO soybeans, corn, canola, and sugar beets are also exposed to pre-harvest glyphosate.
Is Glyphosate Safe?
Monsanto has done such an effective job marketing glyphosate as “safe” and “biodegradable” that farmers and consumers still believe this to be true, even when independent research shows that the heavy use of glyphosate has had tremendous health repercussions.
Glyphosate kills plants by disrupting a vital metabolic pathway called shikimate that is used in the biosynthesis of folates and certain amino acids, including tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylalanine. Monsanto claims that glyphosate has no effect on humans because the shikimate pathway is not found in mammals. However, the bacteria that live in the microbiome of mammals and in our soils, including the beneficial bacteria that we rely on for good health, use the shikimate pathway.
The same mechanism used for killing weeds is also killing the microbiome in our gastrointestinal tracts and elsewhere on our bodies when we eat glyphosate-contaminated food. If the shikimate pathways in our beneficial bacteria are disrupted, the bacteria are not able to produce the precursors for neurotransmitters such as dopamine, melatonin, serotonin, and adrenaline—vital components of healthy brain and immune function. Nor are they able to produce folate that is vital for the health and repair of our DNA. Eventually the glyphosate will kill the beneficial bacteria that we depend upon for maintaining our health.
Nancy Swanson, Ph.D., former US Navy staff scientist and author of over 30 scientific publications, has meticulously collected statistics on the rates of occurrence of various diseases over the past three decades, including inflammatory bowel conditions, colon cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, autism, birth defects, infertility, celiac disease and many other chronic conditions. She overlaid the graph of each of these chronic conditions with a graph of the usage of glyphosate. The results are very disturbing.
Although any good scientist would say that correlation does not equal causation, there is an almost perfect match-up between the rise in glyphosate usage and the incidence of cancers and other chronic diseases.
I urge you to read her article “Genetically Engineered Crops, Glyphosate and the Deterioration of Health in the United States of America.”
Several years ago, Swanson herself became seriously ill with a number of complaints. She discovered that after she switched to an exclusively organically grown diet, her symptoms dramatically improved. Her personal experience caused her to ponder the cause of the multiple symptoms that she had suffered. As a well-trained scientist, she looked at the statistics on the skyrocketing rates of chronic conditions and saw a startling trend that coincided with the skyrocketing use of herbicides and genetically modified crops.
Below are two example of her many graphs. The first one shows the correlation between the rise in celiac disease and the use of glyphosate on wheat. The second graph shows the correlation between thyroid cancer and the use of genetically modified corn and soy.
Celiac, or sprue, is an autoimmune disease, characterized by gluten intolerance along with autoantibodies to the protein, transglutaminase, found in the intestinal wall. The symptoms are usually severe and include chronic diarrhea, pain, weight loss, and malnutrition. The only treatment is strict avoidance of all gluten-containing grains.
Gluten intolerance, on the other hand, refers to a condition in which ingestion of gluten-containing foods creates a constellation of symptoms, but does not involve autoimmunity. The symptoms can occur in organs other than the gut, such as the brain, skin, joints, and respiratory tract.
Last year, the U.S. Wheat Quality Council that tests flour samples from the U.S. and Canada found that all had traces of glyphosate.
The green line on the graph above clearly shows where the rates of thyroid cancer were heading before the use of glyphosate and genetically modified crops were introduced into agriculture.
Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Anthony Samsel, Ph.D., a research scientist and environmental and public health consultant, have published papers explaining the mechanisms by which glyphosate destroys health and contributes to chronic disease, cancer, and brain disorders such as autism. They have demonstrated how glyphosate preferentially destroys beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, allowing pathogens to take over. The negative impact is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body, ultimately leading to disease.
The researchers also show that glyphosate inhibits cytochrome P450, a large set of enzymes that metabolize chemicals, including toxins. By inhibiting your body’s ability to detoxify foreign chemical compounds, glyphosate increases your risk of getting chronic diseases, including neurological diseases such as autism in children and Parkinson’s disease and dementia in adults.
Glyphosate interrupts folate production by the bacteria in the gut. Folate is crucial in the repair and synthesis of DNA. Damaged DNA can lead to an assortment of pathologies, including cancer and birth defects such as spina bifida and microcephaly (babies born with small heads).
Glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor and can cause hormonal problems, hormone-related cancers, and infertility.
Glyphosate chelates (binds and removes) the minerals out of the plants. Chelation is one of the mechanisms by which the plants are killed during pre-harvest crop dessication. The glyphosate-contaminated food we eat is deficient of minerals.
Widespread application of glyphosate is also damaging our soils by killing the beneficial microbes in the soil and chelating the minerals that both we and the plants need for maintaining good health. Here is a study by Cornell University that shows how glyphosate destroys the beneficial bacteria in the soil. http://sustainablepulse.com/2017/10/07/cornell-university-research-shows-glyphosate-damages-soil-friendly-bacteria/
If you would like to read a more detailed and comprehensive account of the devastating health impacts of glyphosate, I suggest that you read Seneff and Samsel’s excellent review article called “Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance.”
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research arm of the World Health Organization, found that glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world, is a “probable carcinogen.”
As of July 2017, glyphosate has been listed as a known carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65. Products containing glyphosate must carry a cancer-warning label.
France, along with other members of the EU, intends to phase out the use of glyphosate over the next five years due to health concerns. http://sustainablepulse.com/2017/09/25/france-set-to-phase-out-glyphosate-herbicides-over-next-5-years/
Europe does not permit the use of glyphosate to dessicate wheat and other crops pre-harvest.
Here is a link to a list of the countries that have banned glyphosate entirely due to health concerns: http://news.backtotheroots.com/2016/08/28/glyphosate-a-complete-list-of-all-countries-that-have-banned-it/
How Prevalent is Glyphosate in our Bodies?
Tests by the Organic Consumers Association show that 93% of Americans have glyphosate in their urine.
The average level of glyphosate in the urine in the U.S. population is 3.3 parts per billion (ppb), significantly higher than the average of 0.2 ppb found in Europeans.
Laboratory testing commissioned by the two organizations, Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse, revealed that glyphosate is now showing up virtually everywhere—even in the air we breathe and the water we drink.
A breast milk analysis revealed glyphosate levels of 76 μg/L to 166 μg/L. As reported by The Detox Project, this is 760 to 1,600 times higher than the EU-permitted level in drinking water
This dose of glyphosate in breast-fed babies’ every meal is only the beginning. A study also found that glyphosate crosses the placental barrier. In the study, 15 percent of the administered glyphosate reached the fetus. Glyphosate has also been detected in a number of popular foods, including oatmeal, coffee creamer, eggs and popular cereals, including Cheerios. Here is a link to the testing results. https://detoxproject.org/glyphosate/glyphosate-is-everywhere
There are approximately 3,000 plaintiffs in the US who believe that exposure to glyphosate caused their cancer while Monsanto knew it was toxic and covered up the evidence. More than 800 farmers and backyard gardeners have initiated a class action lawsuit against Monsanto, claiming that Roundup caused or contributed to their non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer originating in the lymphatic system, and multiple myeloma, a cancer originating in the bone marrow. The litigants claim that the company engaged in fraudulent activity and deceptive advertising of its weed killer.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, the litigation has brought to light evidence showing how the EPA has been colluding with Monsanto to protect the company’s interests. For example, email correspondence revealed that Jess Rowland, former associate director of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, helped stop a glyphosate investigation by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) on Monsanto’s behalf.
That there are revolving doors between government agencies and Monsanto is well known. To read in more depth about the collusion between the EPA and Monsanto, click here. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-14/monsanto-accused-of-ghost-writing-papers-on-roundup-cancer-risk
The class action lawsuit has also brought to light Monsanto’s malfeasance in generating fake science through ghost-writing scientific papers for scientists on their payroll. Monsanto has known for nearly twenty years that glyphosate causes cancer and has tried every tactic to cover up the information.
These morally criminal actions are rarely reported in the mass media. Most media outlets are heavily funded by industry, creating a conflict of interest when it comes to telling the truth.
What Can We Do About This Problem?
The short answer is to avoid glyphosate. The only way to do that is by buying certified organic food, or food from a local farmer you know who isn’t using herbicides or other synthetic chemicals; by avoiding processed foods; and by installing a good water filtration system that can remove herbicides from your drinking water.
If a label says “non GMO soy” or “non GMO corn,” that does not mean it is free of glyphosate, unless the label also says “certified organic.”
Avoiding genetically modified foods—like corn, soy, canola, and sugar beets—is very important, but does not address the problem of crop dessication where the glyphosate is heavily applied during pre-harvest to non GMO crops like wheat, oats, rye, barley, along with a growing list of many other conventionally-grown crops.
Although many organically-grown foods are also contaminated with glyphosate due to drift from wind currents, the amount is significantly less than that found in conventionally grown foods.
Labels that say “natural” or “all natural” do not mean much. Those products are not regulated and could possibly contain GMO and glyphosate-contaminated food.
If you eat meat, look for meat that has been both grass fed AND grass finished. It’s important to avoid eating animals that have been fattened up with glyphosate-contaminated grains at the end of their lives. Factory-farmed animals are raised on GMO feed that bio-accumulates in their tissues.
If the cost of eating exclusively organically grown foods is prohibitive, then you could still make a difference to your health by avoiding conventionally-grown beet and cane sugar, all grains—especially wheat and oats—soy, corn, canola, and all processed foods. That would be a place to start.
You could also join a community supported agricultural program (CSA) that allows you to buy a “share” of the produce grown by a local farm, providing you with a regular supply of fresh food.
If you aren’t gluten sensitive and would like to consume ancestral wheat that is low in gluten and has not been hybridized, you could source organic Einkorn wheat for bread making.
Avoiding glyphosate-contaminated foods in restaurants can be challenging. Many restaurants cook with GMO corn or canola oil. The produce is rarely organically grown. I usually eat mostly vegetables when I eat out. There are a few restaurants that take pride in offering their customers more health-conscious menus with organic, locally grown vegetables and 100% grass-fed meat. One chef here in Santa Fe cooks with a blend of butter and olive oil. (Joseph’s)
Eating glyphosate-contaminated foods puts us at risk of having low levels of vitamin D and inadequate levels of minerals. There might also be a deficiency of certain amino acids. Be sure to have your blood levels checked.
It’s possible that we not only have a deficiency of folic acid from the glyphosate, but also an inability to convert the folic acid to its biologically active form, L-5 methyltretrahydrafolate ( L-5-MTHF). Half the population has this conversion defect. Getting sufficient folate, along with the rest of the B vitamins, helps prevent birth defects and lowers the risk of pesticide-related autism, and is also important for the prevention of depression and dementia.
Glyphosate also impairs sulfur transport, contributing to chronic illness. Dr. Seneff recommends soaking in magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) baths so that the sulfur can be absorbed through the skin and bypass the gut.
Given that glyphosate kills our beneficial bacteria similar to antibiotics, it’s important to take probiotics as part of your daily regimen.
Over the past three decades, the microbiology of our soils used for growing food has become so depleted from the overuse of herbicides and other synthetic chemicals that the natural nutritional level of our food has been drastically diminished. Unlike our parents and grandparents, we have to make a real effort to get the nutrients that we need in order to maintain good health.
If you’d like to know your personal glyphosate levels, you can order a kit for testing at the Detox Project https://detoxproject.org/glyphosate-testing-test-yourself
If you’d like to become actively involved in a non-profit advocacy group for organic agriculture, consider supporting Organic Consumers’ Association.
Gluten has been in wheat since it was first grown. There has always been a small percentage of people who have had difficulty digesting wheat or other gluten-containing grains. Over the last couple of decades, however, there has been an explosion of gluten-intolerance.
Is this really gluten-intolerance or is it glyphosate poisoning?
“We are told these glyphosate residues are too small to matter but can we believe that?” a Saskatchewan farmer asked. “I think everyone, even farmers who use and love glyphosate, would rather not eat a loaf of bread with glyphosate in it.”
Even if you don’t have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, it’s important to avoid conventionally grown wheat and other glyphosate-saturated grains in the United States in order to maintain good health.
By buying organically grown food, we have the power to make a difference in stopping the biotech industry from contaminating all of our food supply.
Bernie Sanders said the following:
“Real change always comes from our communities and the grassroots. That’s what the history of America is all about. It’s the story of the trade union movement, the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement and it’s why we have $15 minimum wage movement happening all over the country. Because when people get organized and fight for real change, the people win. But when we are silent, the powerful almost always prevail.”
I spoke briefly to the man in the health food store who implied that the rise in gluten sensitivities was just a fad. I explained how wheat has become heavily contaminated with toxic herbicides used right before harvesting the grain. He responded by asking, “Do you really believe that the government would intentionally allow something on the market that would hurt us?”