Glyphosate is an herbicide and is used in over 750 products for sale in the United States including Monsanto’s herbicide, Roundup. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) altered its position on Glyphosate, labelling it “probably carcinogenic to humans” a part of the Group 2A classification. Despite the World Health Organization’s findings, Glyphosate is still considered to have overall low toxicity for humans via normal exposure levels, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In the wake of the “probably carcinogenic” finding, the WHO issued clarifying information regarding safe maximum levels of pesticide and herbicide residue in food sold to consumers. The WHO indicated that when regulations were in place and followed, and food did not exceed the caps on maximum pesticide and herbicide residue in food, the same carcinogenic risks did not apply. While this could provide comfort to those whose only exposure is via residue in food consumption, and who have the luxury of confidence in their country’s regulatory agencies, it is of little comfort to farmers, their children, and consumers residing in countries were trust in regulatory agencies may not be warranted.
In 2018, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determined that the science on glyphosate, and the science on products like Roundup with glyphosate as a part of a larger formulation, has not adequately determined safety. The NTP states that “Due to multiple interpretations of evidence on the potential health risks of glyphosate exposure, major public concern about exposure risks, and reported differences in the toxicity of different glyphosate products, NTP is conducting more research on glyphosate and its formulations. We are testing the potential genetic and mechanistic toxicity and will also examine the published scientific literature for data on the effects of glyphosate on non-cancer outcomes.”
The NTP is actively working to do the following:
Evaluate whether glyphosate is genotoxic (causes DNA damage)
Compare the effects of glyphosate on measures of genotoxicity, oxidative stress, and cell viability to the effects of glyphosate-based formulations
Identify data gaps on the effects of glyphosate and glyphosate-based formulations on human health outcomes other than cancer
Some of the NTP’s findings have already been released determining that the formulations of weed killers containing glyphosate as an ingredient, showed enhanced toxicity and the destruction of human cells. However, the NTP did find lower oxidative stress than previous studies, which is one of the pathways to cancer.
As reported in The Guardian, Jennifer Sass, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council stated “This testing is important, because the EPA has only been looking at the active ingredient. But it’s the formulations that people are exposed to on their lawns and gardens, where they play and in their food.”
For the tobacco farmers and residents of nearby soybean farms in a country like Argentina, the exposure is immeasurably more significant. It is in the food they eat, but it also contaminates the water they drink and the air they breathe at levels poorly regulated and blatantly ignored by their government.