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Monsanto's Roundup Linked to Fatty Liver Disease

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Monsanto's Roundup Linked to Fatty Liver Disease

Glyphosate—the controversial active ingredient in Monsanto's top-selling weedkiller Roundup and other herbicides—can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats at very low, real-world doses, according to a peer-reviewed study published in Nature.

Activists have been relabelling bottles of Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller in garden centers and DIY shops across the UK.Global Justice Now

The groundbreaking research is the first to show a "causative link between an environmentally relevant level of Roundup consumption over the long-term and a serious disease," stated lead author Dr. Michael Antoniou of King's College London, who described the findings as "very worrying."

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the accumulation of extra fat in liver cells not caused by alcohol. It's a serious and common condition that affects up to 90 million people in the U.S.

For the study, the researchers used cutting-edge molecular profiling methods to examine the livers of female rats who were fed an extremely low dose of Roundup over a two-year period. The rats were administered an ultra-low dose of only 4 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per day, which is 75,000 times below EU and 437,500 below U.S. permitted levels—basically thousands of times below the amount allowed by regulators around the world.

As King's research associate Dr. Robin Mesnage explained to the Daily Mail, "the concentration of glyphosate that was added to the drinking water of the rats corresponds to a concentration found in tap water for human consumption."

"It is also lower than the contamination of some foodstuffs," Mesnage added.

The team found evidence that consumption of low doses of glyphosate over time can cause cell damage, serious fatty liver disease and areas of dead tissue or necrosis in the livers, as the Daily Mail reported from the study.

The researchers concluded:

"The results of the study presented here imply that chronic consumption of extremely low levels of a GBH formulation (Roundup), at admissible glyphosate-equivalent concentrations, are associated with marked alterations of the liver proteome and metabolome. These changes in molecular profile overlap substantially with biomarkers of [non-alcoholic fatty liver disease] and its progression to [non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a serious liver disease]."

"Our results also suggest that regulators should reconsider the safety evaluation of glyphosate-based herbicides," Dr. Antoniou said.

According to the American Liver Association, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may cause the liver to swell and cause cirrhosis over time and may even lead to liver cancer or liver failure. People who are overweight, obese, or have diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides are at risk of developing the condition although rapid weight loss and poor eating habits also may lead to the disease.

"Regulators worldwide accept toxicity studies in rats as indicators of human health risks. Therefore, the results of this latest study may have serious consequences for human health," the King's researchers said.

Glyphosate is the most widely applied weedkiller worldwide, especially in the U.S. Glyphosate is used on Monsanto's line of "Roundup Ready" crops such as soy, corn, canola, alfalfa and cotton that are genetically altered to withstand direct applications of the herbicide, as the product kills only the weeds.

A recent analysis revealed that since 1974, when Roundup was first commercially sold, more than 1.6 billion kilograms (or 3.5 billion pounds) of glyphosate has been used in the U.S., making up 19 percent of the 8.6 billion kilograms (or 18.9 billion pounds) of glyphosate used around the world.

The chemical is so ubiquitous that it can now be detected in common food items from breakfast cereals, wine and even childhood vaccines.

In March 2015, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that glyphosate is a "probable human carcinogen," touching off an international row on the health and safety of the widely applied herbicide. However, other regulatory agencies such as the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization said the ingredient is "unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet." Monsanto and other chemical companies have maintained the safety of their glyphosate-based products.

The Crop Protection Association, which speaks for Monsanto and other chemical companies, questioned the validity of the new study in a statement to the Daily Mail.

"Glyphosate is amongst the most thoroughly tested herbicides on the market, and those studies by expert regulators have consistently concluded that glyphosate does not pose a risk to public health," the association said. "Glyphosate is a crucial tool in a farmers' armory. To put things in perspective, glyphosate is less toxic than baking soda, table salt, the caffeine in our coffee and many other products we all use or consume regularly."

Monsanto also told Farmers Weekly that the results of the study should be questioned, claiming that its researchers, including Mesnage and Gilles-Eric Seralini, published similar past studies that "have been widely rejected by the international science community due to faulty science."

However, Peter Melchett, policy director at the UK's Soil Association, told Farmers Weekly, "This research is the first evidence of a clear causative link between consumption of Roundup at levels that are found in the real world and a serious disease."

The Health and Environment Alliance, a European non-profit which addresses how the environment affects health in the European Union, has also urged for a ban on glyphosate in response to the study.

"Glyphosate is already classified by IARC as a 'probable carcinogen' ... It is also described as a 'potential endocrine disrupting chemical.' This new study adds to evidence about the likely harm to human health from Roundup and other glyphosate based herbicides. Given people's unavoidable exposures from the massive increase in the use of these weed killers over the past 30 years, surely it is time to ban it on precautionary grounds?" said Génon K. Jensen, the alliance's executive director.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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