NTP Scientist: Glyphosate Formulations 'Much More Toxic' Than Chemical Itself
Amid conflicting scientific studies and growing public concern over the impacts of the world's most widely used herbicide, the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) has launched research to examine the health risks of glyphosate and glyphosate-formulations.
"Due to the 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," according to the NTP website.
Glyphosate, the star ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, is sprayed on agricultural fields around the world and helps beat back weeds in home gardens, golf courses and parks.
Gilliam noted, "Monsanto introduced its glyphosate-based Roundup brand in 1974. But it is only now, after more than 40 years of widespread use, that the government is investigating the toxicity of 'glyphosate-based herbicides' on human cells."
Jennifer Sass, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, commented to The Guardian, "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."
Glyphosate has been surrounded with controversy ever since March 2015, when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified the chemical as "probably carcinogenic to humans." The panel also concluded that there was "strong" evidence for genotoxicity both for "pure" glyphosate and for glyphosate formulations.
Later that year, the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) released its own report that rejected the IARC's classification of glyphosate as a possible carcinogen, but admitted that conclusion was just for the chemical alone.
EFSA's report stated: "The genotoxic effects observed in some glyphosate-based formulations are related to the other constituents or 'co-formulants.'"
According to a poster of the NTP's research, glyphosate formulations decreased human cell "viability" by disrupting cell membranes. Also, the concoctions "significantly altered" cell viability. (The poster does not necessarily represent any final NTP determination or policy.)
"We see the formulations are much more toxic. The formulations were killing the cells," Mike DeVito, acting chief of the National Toxicology Program Laboratory, told The Guardian. "The glyphosate really didn't do it."
Here are the specific aims of NTP:
- Evaluate whether glyphosate is genotoxic (causes DNA damage)
- Evaluate whether glyphosate induces oxidative 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.
Monsanto has adamantly defended the safety of its product. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also says that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.
Other governments have taken action on such formulations. In 2016, the European Union banned glyphosate products mixed with the adjuvant POE-tallowamine due to its perceived risks to human health.
Tallowamine, which aids the effectiveness of glyphosate, was once found in Monsanto's Roundup. The inert ingredient was found to be "more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than [glyphosate] itself," Scientific American reported in 2009, citing a French study.
French Ecology Minister Calls for Ban on #Glyphosate Formulations https://t.co/SjyDTIhsvr #Monsanto @nongmoreport https://t.co/WdOqMru4vC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1455651663.0
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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