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how safe is glyphosate?

The truth about glyphosate

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It is a globally used herbicide but the UK Soil Association is questioning its safety, writes SIMON WEBSTER.

campaign by UK charity the Soil Association is calling on bread manufacturers and retailers to stop using wheat that has been sprayed with glyphosate.

Glyphosate, the world’s most used herbicide, is commonly sprayed on wheat crops just before harvest to kill weeds and make harvesting easier, and government testing has shown the chemical to be present in up to 30 per cent of UK bread, the Soil Association says.

The bread industry says the levels are very low and the association is unfairly targeting bread. However, the Soil Association points out that the European Union’s maximum residue limits were set before April this year, when the United Nations International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. 

Glyphosate, the main ingredient of the herbicide Roundup, has been under increasing scrutiny since then, with reactions around the world including France banning the sale of Roundup in garden centres, and Colombia suspending glyphosate spraying on coca crops in its war on drugs.

Roundup manufacturer Monsanto insists glyphosate and Roundup are safe and says “IARC’s conclusion contradicted the overwhelming consensus of regulatory bodies and science organisations around the world”.

For more on glyphosate, see our feature in the September issue of Organic Gardener magazine. Following are references made in that article.

References for ‘The Glyphosate Debate’ in the September 2015 issue of Organic Gardener magazine.


[2] Long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize.

Gilles-Éric Séralini, Emilie Clair, Robin Mesnage, Steeve Gress, Nicolas Defarge, Manuela Malatesta, Didier Hennequin and Joël Spiroux de Vendômois.

[3] Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors.

S Thongprakaisang, A Thiantanawat, N Rangkadilok, T Suriyo, J Satayavivad.

[4] Differential effects of glyphosate and Roundup on human placental cells and aromatase.

S Richard, S Moslemi, H Sipahutar, N Benachour, GE Seralini.

[5] Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signaling.

A Paganelli, V Gnazzo, H Acosta, SL López, AE Carrasco .

[6] Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases.

Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff

[7] Genetically engineered crops, glyphosate and the deterioration of health in the United States of America.
Nancy L Swanson, Andre Leu, Jon Abrahamson and Bradley Wallet.

 [8] Glyphosate effects on diseases of plants.
GS Johal, DM Huber.

[9] Toxicity and effects of a glyphosate-based herbicide on the Neotropical fish Prochilodus lineatus.

C Langiano Vdo, CB Martinez.

[10] Toxicity of herbicide formulations to frogs and the implications for product registration: A case study from Western Australia.
Reinier M Mann, Joseph R Bidwell, Michael J Tyler.

[11] Glyphosate and Its Degradation Product AMPA Occur Frequently and Widely in US Soils, Surface Water, Groundwater, and Precipitation.
WA Battaglin, MT Meyer, KM Kuivila, JE Dietze.

[12] Occurrence and fate of the herbicide glyphosate and its degradate aminomethylphosphonic acid in the atmosphere.
FC Chang, MF Simcik, PD Capel.

[13] Glyphosate persistence in seawater.
Philip Mercurio, Florita Flores, Jochen F Mueller, Steve Carter, Andrew P Negri.

[14] Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka?
Channa Jayasumana, Sarath Gunatilake, Priyantha Senanayake.



[17] Ethoxylated adjuvants of glyphosate-based herbicides are active principles of human cell toxicity.
R Mesnage, B Bernay, GE Seralini.