Monsanto's Herbicide Linked To Groundwater Contamination
By: Sayer Ji
In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Analytical and
Bioanalytical Chemistry last year, evidence surfaced that glyphosate,
the active ingredient in the Monsanto's patented herbicide Roundup, is
flowing freely into the groundwater in areas where it is being
applied. (1) The researchers found that 41% of the 140 groundwater
samples taken from Catalonia, Spain had levels beyond the limit of
quantification - indicating that, despite the manufacturer's claims,
glyphosate herbicide does not break down rapidly in the environment,
and is accumulating there in concerning quantities.
Why Is Groundwater Contamination An Important Finding?
Groundwater is water located beneath the ground surface, that supplies
aquifers, wells and springs. If a chemical like glyphosate is mobile
enough to get into the groundwater and is intrinsically resistant to
being biodegraded (after all, it is being used to kill/degrade living
things - not the other way around), significant environmental
exposures to humans using the water are inevitable. After all,
according to the USGS, 88,000 tons were used in the US in 2007 alone.
Keep in mind that glyphosate is considered by the EPA as a Class III
toxic substance, fatal to an adult at 30 grams, and has been linked to
over 20 adverse health effects in the peer-reviewed, biomedical
This groundwater contamination study adds to another highly concerning
finding from March, 2011, published in the journal Environmental
Toxicology and Chemistry, where researchers found the chemical in
60-100% of all air and rain samples tested, indicating that glyphosate
pollution and exposure is now omnipresent in the US. When simply
breathing makes you susceptible to glyphosate exposure, we know we are
dealing with a problem of unprecedented scale.
In fact, glyphosate's broad spectrum toxicity has been identified to
be one potential cause for the disturbing loss of indispensable
food-starter bacteria from soils and cultured foods within certain
regions of the world, indicating that GMO farming may be depleting the
microbial biodiversity of the soil, and ultimately its ability to
Who Is Responsible For The Groundwater Contamination?
Monsanto is a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation,
presently dominating the global genetically engineered seed market,
with 90% market share in the US alone. It is also the world's largest
producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as "Roundup," among
other brand names. If you are eating corn and soy, or any of their
ten thousand plus byproducts - and it does not have a USDA organic
logo - you are getting the Monsanto "double whammy": the genetic
modification (GM) of your health (and gene expression) that follows
the consumption of GM food (because we are - literally - what we eat),
and ceaseless chemical exposure to glyphosate, as all
Monsanto-engineered foods have been designed to be
glyphosate-resistant, and therefore are saturated with it.
Is Monsanto's Herbicide A New Agent Orange?
Roundup is not Monsanto's first entry into the systemic herbicide
market. Monsanto admits it manufactured the herbicide/defoliant Agent
Orange from 1965 to 1969, which Vietnam estimated killed and maimed
400,000 people and resulted in the 500,000 children being born with
The true devastation caused by Agent Orange was covered up for many
years. We may find that Monsanto's Roundup, and its primary active
ingredient glyphosate, may be causing a similar degree of devastation
to both environmental and human health under the lidless, though not
very watchful eye (as far as business interests are concerned), of our
Indeed, glyphosate is a powerful endocrine disrupter. Exceedingly
small amounts are capable of mimicking and/or disrupting hormonal
pathways, cell receptor sites and signaling. Research culled from The
National Library of Medicine links it to 17 adverse pharmacological
actions, including carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, neurotoxicty,
hepatoxicity, and nephrotoxicity.
But what is most disturbing, and which may make its comparison to
Agent Orange all the more appropriate, is its potential
teratrogenicity, i.e. ability to cause fetal malformations.
A 2003 study of pregnant, glyphosate/Roundup-exposed rats indicated
the formulation exhibited significant tetragenicity. The researchers
commented: "We may conclude that glyphosate-Roundup is toxic to the
dams and induces developmental retardation of the fetal skeleton." (2)
A study published in 2004 revealed that glyphosate exhibits
endocrine-disruptive and embryotoxic effects. Researchers found the
chemical alters the expression of the enzyme aromatase in both fetal
and placental cells and tissue -- changes which indicate it may
contribute to birth defects and abnormal fetal development. (3)
Another study published in 2009 showed that glyphosate formulations
induce cell death and necrosis in human umbilicial, embryonic and
placental cells. (4)
Now that glyphosate has been found in the majority of air and rain
samples tested in the US, and is now likely contaminating our wells,
springs and aquifers, exposure is not only likely, its inevitable --
the difference being only a matter of degree.
Eating, Breathing, Drinking ... Dying?
The precautionary principle, which is not employed here in the US,
would require that if a company produces a novel chemical compound
like glyphosate, and would like to use it commercially, it would have
to prove its safety to humans before it is released into the
Animal and cell research clearly shows glyphosate is harmful, but
because we use a "weight of evidence standard" in this country, the
burden of proof that it is harmful to humans is on those being exposed
Had Monsanto been required to prove its safety in humans, it is
doubtful they would have been able to. There was already enough
damning animal research available, and proving a toxic chemical in
human studies would require harming them, which is unethical.
This is why the precautionary principle is so powerful and necessary
to protect us from corporations like Monsanto. We would not be eating,
drinking and breathing glyphosate today, if it had been employed
earlier. Instead, chemical companies use animal experiments to
determine a LD50 (the dose at which 50% of the animals die), from
which an "acceptable level of harm" is extrapolated and applied to
humans, in what is called a toxicological risk assessment.
An acceptable level of harm? This way of thinking is abusive,
especially when applied to the unborn and infants.
Will it take additional decades of cumulative "acceptable" exposures,
and thousands of "mysterious" miscarriages, birth defects, and
developmental problems for us to understand how serious the problem
is? Or, should we listen to Monsanto, their scientists, and the
governmental regulatory agencies that they populate with elected and
unelected officials on their payroll, who say it is relatively
References:http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/gmo-fa ... king-water
1 - Determination of glyphosate in groundwater samples using an
ultrasensitive immunoassay and confirmation by on-line solid-phase
extraction followed by liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass
spectrometry. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2011 Nov 20. Epub 2011 Nov 20. PMID:
2 - The teratogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate-Roundup in
Wistar rats. Toxicol Lett. 2003 Apr 30;142(1-2):45-52. PMID: 12765238
3 - Time- and dose-dependent effects of roundup on human embryonic and
placental cells. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2007 Jul;53(1):126-33.
Epub 2007 May 4. PMID: 17486286
4 - Glyphosate formulations induce apoptosis and necrosis in human
umbilical, embryonic, and placental cells. Chem Res Toxicol. 2009
Jan;22(1):97-105. PMID: 19105591