“For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals from the moment of conception until death…. These chemicals are now stored in the bodies of the vast majority of human beings, regardless of age. They occur in the mother’s milk, and probably in the tissues of the unborn child.” — Rachel Carson, “Silent Spring”

Do you eat Cheerios, Corn Flakes, or Raisin Bran in the morning? How about Ritz crackers, Oreos, Stacy’s Pita Chips, Lay’s Kettle Cooked chips, or Doritos at snack time? According to a report released two years ago by Food Democracy Now! and the Detox Project, these foods, and many, many others, tested extremely high in glyphosate, the presumed active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer. The use of glyphosate has skyrocketed in the last decade, and evidence is mounting that this herbicide has harmful effects on health, including increasing risk of cancer, endocrine disruption, binding of vital nutrients, and the killing of beneficial microorganisms in the human and animal gut. Until the government acts to protect the public by banning the use of this toxic chemical, we can take matters into our own hands by carefully choosing which foods we will and will not consume. Luckily, by avoiding certain foods, you can drastically decrease glyphosate levels in your body.

Glyphosate was originally patented in the 1960s as a chelator to remove mineral deposits in hot water heaters. It was later acquired by Monsanto in the 1970s, who patented it as a systemic herbicide, meaning it is taken up inside the entire plant and cannot be washed off. Commercial farmers use herbicides like Roundup to kill weeds, which would otherwise compete with their crops. Monsanto also produces Genetically Engineered (GE) crops, or “Roundup Ready.” These crops, including soybean, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, and sugar beets, are engineered to resist the glyphosate which is applied to them and which they can also absorb from the soil. The crops live, while the weeds die. Roundup is often sprayed several times over the course of the growing season.

Use of glyphosate has increased dramatically since the advent of GE crops in the mid-1990s. In the late ’80s, 6 to 8 million pounds of glyphosate were applied in the US. By 2007, about 180 million pounds were used, more than double the next most heavily used herbicide. By 2014, annual use reached around 240 million pounds. This upswing follows the increased use of GE crops; the emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds in these crops, necessitating more frequent and heavier applications; and using glyphosate as a desiccating agent. Glyphosate is used as a “browning” agent in non-GE crops to speed up the ripening of certain crops pre-harvest, which is especially used in wetter, more humid areas. Crops affected include wheat, barley, oats, dried beans, peas, and lentils, as well as some vegetable crops. These late-season applications often happen within one to two weeks of harvest. Unfortunately, this results in much higher residues in the crop.

An increasing number of studies are finding negative health effects of glyphosate, despite Monsanto’s claims that it is perfectly safe. For one, the World Health Organization declared glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015. There is a correlation between the increase in glyphosate usage in the US and several cancers, including thyroid, liver, bladder, pancreatic, kidney, and myeloid leukemia. Rodent studies reveal adverse effects including mammary tumors and liver and kidney damage in males. An increase in chronic kidney disease has been observed in male agricultural workers in parts of the world where there is heavy use of glyphosate and hard water; glyphosate can contaminate the air and water supplies near areas of heavy use. It also binds to the minerals in hard water.

A growing body of research is pointing to glyphosate as an endocrine disruptor. Rat models have shown reproductive impairment, and there is an increased risk of severe birth defects in Argentina and Paraguay where Roundup is heavily used. Experiments in certain fish reveal interference with normal sexual development and reproduction. The developing fetus, infants, and children are most susceptible to endocrine disruptors.

Glyphosate also binds vital nutrients. It can bind or chelate nutrients like iron, manganese, zinc, and boron in the soil. This makes them less available not only for plants, but also for the people, farm animals, and pets who eat these foods. Glyphosate also can act as an antibiotic, killing beneficial microorganisms in the guts of people and animals. Some believe this is the cause of the dramatic increase in celiac disease seen over the last several decades. It may also lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which could be potential human pathogens.

No matter where you live, everyone can take steps to avoid glyphosate. First, it is important to avoid all processed foods, which usually contain GE crops like soy and corn, especially in the form of high fructose corn syrup. These are nutrient-poor convenience foods (chips, pretzels, cookies, and pastries, etc.) found in boxes and fast food restaurants. Next, eating an organic diet is extremely helpful. According to Food Democracy Now!, eating organic foods for just one week can reduce pesticide exposure by 90%. Don’t forget beverages — commercial beer is just as likely to contain glyphosate as commercial grains. If you wish to go even one step further, you may consider reducing your grain intake altogether; even organic grains can potentially contain some amount of glyphosate. Why? Air and water in heavy-use agricultural areas can be contaminated. Buying locally sourced, organic grains and legumes that are not grown near conventional grains are a safer bet. These are steps we can all take to reduce not only our own exposure, but to hopefully reduce the prevalence of this toxic chemical in our environment and the entire ecosystem as well.

The information provided in this article is intended for general use only and is not to be used in place of medical advice from a licensed health professional.