Spotlight on glyphosate – the gamble on our food choices

A brief history of Glyphosate

Glyphosate is quickly becoming a well-known cancer causing chemical. Public opinion was fuelled by the recent law suit victory in 2018 for a couple in California USA who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This was due to chronic exposure of the spray. The lawsuit win is great, because it helps pave the way for change. Currently the Northern Beaches Council are reviewing their usage policy of ‘Roundup’, fuelled by council workers’ refusal to use it. Power to the people (yay!)

Roundup is a chemical cocktail of which glyphosate is one. As the main active, it is the most studied. Developed by corporate giant ‘Monsanto’ in the 1970’s (recently acquired by Bayer) roundup was introduced to farmers as a broad-spectrum herbicide.

My memories of the spray

I was exposed to roundup on the primary produce farm where I grew up. I know the smell implicitly. The regulations and risks about round up were only just starting to come out back then. Luckily my dad (third generation primary producer) took precautions (suits and masks), but essentially was part of his generation that trusted what he was told about roundup. He had to control the weeds, so was happy with it. He grew up with Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). This insecticide has been banned in Australia since 1987.

We can only make a decision based on what we know?

Here’s the thing. We can only make decisions when we get the information. It can be difficult to make a decision when we are not aware of the consequences. Low grade chronic exposure to chemicals such as glyphosate (and the remaining cocktail within roundup) have become a normal part of our lives. Conventionally farmed produce such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, meat and dairy exposes us to some amount of roundup. Additionally, the residue particles film the recreational spaces and waterways we inhabit. Therefore, it’s easy to be unaware of the level of low grade chronic exposure.

We only know what we know to be true. I grew up on a vegetable farm (turned avocado plantation in the late 80’s) were a combination of traditional (crop rotation) and conventional (spray) practices were used. There was always a gap of several days between the last spray and the harvest. I don’t remember seeing or tasting the residue. Once the farm became 100% avocado plantation, dad rarely used the sprays, because he noticed the trees doing so well without it.

Round up is used ubiquitously in Australia and world-wide and is the predominant herbicide on the market. Do we know the inside practices of the farmers from which our produce comes from? How could we ever know? So hence, how are we equipped to make decisions about the produce we buy?

Farm to plate produce

Whilst I have the memory of the smell of spray days etched into my mind, more-so I remember the freshness on the plate. The taste of two-hour old freshly picked broccoli, the super crunch and mustardy warmth of freshly picked radish, and the velvety feel on the surface of green beans newly plucked from their stalks.

I remember having at least 7 vegetables on my plate, seasonal, all grown fresh from the farm. They were second grade produce (lol) i.e. worm holes, funny shaped or blotchy bits…but still was tasty!

I am very grateful for my upbringing because it instilled into my psyche the importance of eating vegetables daily, in abundance, and best freshly picked with the skins on. I remember dad saying … “a bit of dirt won’t hurt you”. To be honest, on the whole he was right. We now know that our plethora of good guy gut bugs need a bit of good honest farm dirt to thrive.

But is the dirt that speckles the fresh farm produce free from spray residue? 

Glyphosate kills everything, and it travels

The soils are overcultivated and under nourished worldwide. This creates a breeding ground for disease, which leads to further usage of spray like roundup. Glyphosate kills everything it touches… including the necessary fungi, bacteria and worms required to cultivate good quality top soil. It is water soluble, which means it travels via the river networks across every country. Particles end up everywhere. Studies have shown evidence of residue in the drinking water supplies in Mexico,  including the ground water (Rendon-von Osten, Dzul-Caamal, 2017).

The farmers footprint video story

I urge you to have a look at this intriguing 20- minute video. It explains the knock-on effect of glyphosate usage. The effect of agricultural practices impact every living creature right down to the microbiome. This is why change is so important. This beautiful story has a silver lining and offers hope for the future of our food supply.

Watch video

Megan Taslaman practices naturopathy in Dee Why on the Northern Beaches, Sydney. Part of Megan’s naturopathic role is to inform and mentor clients as information comes through in the science. The purpose of this blog is to inform, not to scare. We need to make informed decisions on the foods we choose to buy, because ultimately it’s up to us!

My current opinion

I feel, that with the plethora of chemicals within our environment that contribute to chronic exposure, I need to make changes where I can. I can’t change the air I breathe from the particulate matter (e.g. vehicle exhaust), but I can change what I choose to buy.
So… to be sure… here is my priority list for fruit, vegetable, grain, meat, and dairy shopping. You may find this useful, and I’m happy to answer any questions on the matter.

Priority list

1. 100% Certified Organic, or known local farmer who practices ‘organic’ or biodynamic farming. Includes grains, meats, eggs, dairy in addition to fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
2. Conventional for ‘the clean 15’ and opt for certified organic for ‘the dirty dozen’  Review the list here  Organic for grains, meats or at least ‘grass fed’ for meat.
3. Wash all your fruit in vegetables in a vegetable wash solution. I use Adobe vegetable wash. It’s a bit of a pain, and another ‘kitchen’ job, but like all habits will stick eventually.
4. Peel the skin – yep that’s where all the vitamins are, but it’s way too risky with conventional. I’d keep the skin on with the organic vegetables and fruit.

A bit more information about health implications

In reading research articles on Glyphosate (Samsel, Seneff 2013) here is a summary of issues that they have found exposure to be associated with: Obesity, Thyroid issues, Coeliac disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Infertility, Depression, Autism spectrum disorders, And cancer (other ones).

What exactly does glyphosate do?

Glyphosate suppresses the 5-enolpyruvylshikimic acid-3-phosphate synthase pathway that operates to form essential amino acids in bacteria, archaea and plants (Samsel, Saneff 2013). Humans do not have a shikimate pathway so historically it was deemed that we are safe. However, we rely on our gut microbes to provide essential amino acids. Therefore, sprayed foods that we ingest compromise the health of our gut microbiome. Gut issues are the source of many other system defect and diseases such as; immune system issues, autoimmune diseases, chronic diseases and the list goes on. All health starts with the gut.

It kills our good bugs and binds to important minerals

Unfortunately, the chemical preferentially kills the good bugs and interferes with our detoxification system (Samsel, Saneff 2013). Furthermore, it binds to and chelates minerals such as iron, calcium, zinc, and Manganese (Mertens, Hoss, Neumann, Afzal, Reichenbecher, 2018).
As you may imagine this is a broad topic, and evidence will continue to unfold probably for decades. I’ve decided I’m not waiting. It’s time for change.

References

1. Samel, Seneff, 2013 ‘Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance’, Independent Scientist and Consultant, Deerfield, NH 03037, USA Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA ITX060413R01.
2. Mertens, Hoss, Afzal, Reichenbecher 2017 ‘Glyphosate, a chelating agent—relevant for ecological risk assessment? Published online: 2 January 2018

3. Farmer’s Footprint 2019, https://farmersfootprint.us/, a non-profit organization under the IRS Code Section 501(c)(3) with an EIN of: 46-4507696.

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