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Glyphosate And Cancer

Glyphosate (often known by its original brand name, Roundup) is the most widely used agricultural chemical in the world. What, if anything, is it doing to people?

I bring this up because of some recent (and seemingly contradictory) news items. A group of farmers is suing Monsanto, the compound’s original developers, because they claim that the company knew of (and deliberately minimized) risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from exposure to it. At the same time, two branches of the UN, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization) have come out with a statement that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk in humans”. And this only a year after another UN agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, stated what looks like the exact opposite, that it could “probably” be a cause of cancer in humans. Later on last year, the European Food Safety Authority said that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard”.

So the situation is confused, and that confusion is compounded by the amazingly low signal/noise on this subject if you start searching for information. The list of web sites that have “glyphosate = death” articles on them is beyond numbering, because a lot of natural food advocates hate the compound and hate Monsanto. What you have to try to do, though, is figure out how good the reasons are for that hate. The problem is, most of these sites seem to be repeating the same allegations, and thus have little to add to the debate. The sources that a lot of them are using for their arguments are not helping much, either, such as the papers of Stephanie Seneff and co-authors.

I went into one of those in detail here, and after looking into the case that it makes, I am willing to dismiss out of hand anything else Seneff has to say on the subject. It’s that bad. You will hear that “MIT researchers” have “proven” that glyphosate does X and Y and Z, and that this work is “published in peer-reviewed journals”, but nothing like that is true. Seneff has done no actual studies on glyphosate; she doesn’t work in a lab. Those papers are rehashes of stuff from the literature, piles of speculation and dot-connecting, and they’re invariably published in low-quality pay-to-play journals that do little or no actual refereeing of their contents. And their content is yet another problem – as shown in that link above, the paper that goes on and on about glyphosate’s effect on gut bacteria does not manage to cite any of the papers that have studied. . .glyphosate effects on bacteria. It not only doesn’t cite them, it seems to pretend that this research does not even exist, probably because all these papers contradict the fundamental ideas that Seneff’s tower of speculation is built on. She’s going around now saying that half of all children are going to be autistic (because of glyphosate), and that it’s also a root cause of not only cancer, but Alzheimer’s and a whole list of other diseases. If your knowledge of glyphosate’s toxicology comes only from reading the Seneff papers, I feel pity for you, because you have a lot of work ahead of you if you want to actually understand anything about it.

All right, with that out of the way, what are the facts, if any? First off, let’s take a look at those two UN-based statements. This article at Wired does a good job explaining what’s going on: the difference is that the IARC is looking at the question from a “Is there any possible way, under any conditions at all, that glyphosate could be a carcinogen?”, while the FAO and WHO are giving an answer to the questions “Is glyphosate actually causing cancer in people?”. If you’re not used to thinking like a toxicologist, then these two questions might still seem to be pretty similar. In fact, if you went out and took a public opinion poll and asked everyone if we should make sure to ban anything in food that has been linked to causing cancer, you’d get a large majority of vigorous agreement. But the problem is, as long as you’re willing to allow pretty much any conditions, pretty much anything can conceivably cause cancer.

A toxicologist interviewed in the Wired article makes a great analogy to explain hazard versus risk, which is what we’re talking about here. Sharks are a hazard. They are fierce predators with sharp teeth, and they most definitely have attacked humans in the past. But for most people, sharks are not much of a risk. “Risk”, technically speaking, refers to your chances of being harmed under real-world conditions, while “hazard” refers to the potential for harm. A large shark has plenty of potential to do damage to you, but should you be worried about that happening? It depends. If you’re sitting in your car, probably not (you have other, more immediate risks to worry about). If you’re swimming off a tropical beach, though, that may be another matter. And if you’re doing so after cutting your foot and leaving a trail of blood in the water, I would seriously consider the shark possibility and act accordingly: your risk has increased to what most people would find unacceptable levels.

Fine – but what about your risk when, say, you visit an aquarium? Remember, the hazard a shark poses has not changed during all this – he’s still hungry and he still has a mouthful of teeth. The shark is the shark. Your risk of being bitten by him has, in fact, increased a great deal when you visit an aquarium – you’ve gone from a place (your home, your car) where there are (one assumes) no sharks whatsoever, and now you’re in the same room with one. True, you’re separated by a thick pane of glass, and true, it’s hard to come up with a plausible chain of events that would lead to said shark chomping on your leg, but it’s undeniable that this is much more possible than it was in the parking lot outside the aquarium or back in your bed. The odds are still vanishingly low, and not many people worry on their visit the aquarium about the chances of being bitten by a shark (nor should they) – but if you write things up from the right angle, that visit can look wildly dangerous. “RISK OF SHARK ATTACK NOW INCREASED BY FACTOR OF ONE MILLION!”

This may sound like a silly example, but that’s basically what happened recently with the IARC and its announcement on bacon being a cause of cancer. Under real-world conditions, eating a normal amount of bacon raise your risk of colorectal cancer by an amount too small to consider. But it does appear to be raising it by a reproducible, measurable amount, and therefore bacon (and other processed meats) are in the IARC’s category 1. (Here’s an article on those categories). It’s important to note that some hypothetical substance that reproducibly, in human studies, gives anyone cancer every single time they touch it would also be in category 1, the same as a hypothetical substance that reproducibly, in human studies, raises a person’s risk of cancer by one millionth of a per cent. Same category. These categories are not arranged by relative risk – they’re arranged by how good the evidence is. Glyphosate is in category 2A, which means that there is evidence from animal studies, but limited/insufficient evidence from humans as of yet. Here’s the list of everything in category 2A, and you’ll note that it’s a mixed bag, with entries that range from ethylene dibromide to shift work that disrupts circadian rhythms. So yes, by the standards of the available evidence, glyphosate is in the same cancer hazard category as working the night shift, or working as a hairdresser. (Working nights as a hairdresser is presumably worse). You will not see these comparisons made on the web sites that proclaim Roundup as a known human carcinogen, but they’re completely appropriate by IARC standards, and they’re the only agency by whose standards glyphosate is a cancer hazard.

Now to the case of those farmers. They’re suing, as mentioned, because of a putative link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, NHL. When you look into the medical literature, the best you can say is that no relationship between these forms of cancer and glyphosate exposure can be established, based on the available evidence. Some associations from meta-analysis of the literature barely reach statistical significance, but at a level that could easily be due to bias or confounding variables. If you want everyone to take numbers like this at face value, then all of medical science is going to be thrown into confusion, because we normally need a lot stronger evidence than this. Here’s the IARC’s meta-analysis for comparison. They rank the evidence for an association between glyphosate and B-cell lymphoma higher, but that 2016 analysis linked first says that “Meta-analysis is constrained by few studies and a crude exposure metric, while the overall body of literature is methodologically limited and findings are not strong or consistent“.

As mentioned earlier, the IARC and the EFSA have disagreed about whether there’s any connection at all (here’s an EFSA viewpoint, and here’s the IARC response). My own take is that if it’s possible for toxicologists at this level of expertise to be in such disagreement on the subject, then the weight of the evidence must not be very strong. There’s been a recent call for glyphosate to be prioritized in current toxicology evaluations so that new data can be obtained, and it’s hard to disagree with that. It’s such a widely used compound that we need to try to settle this question – on the other hand, it’s such a widely used compound that if there were easily quantifiable risks, you’d figure that we wouldn’t still be arguing about it at this point.

For what it’s worth, new cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma went up in the US from 1975 to about 1995, and have been more or less flat since then, while the use of glyphosate has increased steadily during this entire time period. There are a lot of confounding variables in there, but if there were the sort of clear association that the more alarmed web sites like to tout, these numbers would not look the way that they actually do. What I would wonder about, though, are agricultural workers themselves – if there is any connection at all, that’s where you’d expect to see it. A study from Saskatchewan found an association between farm work and NHL, as have many others, but this seems to have been possibly linked to several pesticides, not exposure to glyphosate (a herbicide). In general, the NHL/farming link seems to be real, although the evidence for it has been described as “markedly inconsistent” and has not been pinned down to any particular variable. The IARC itself, in their meta-analysis which led them to classify glyphosate in category 2A, noted that “the wide variety of chemical and microbial exposures that occur simultaneously in agricultural production makes disentangling the effects of these factors challenging“.

So that’s the state of the art: there is, from what I can see, nothing very clearly linking glyphosate to human cancer. There’s certainly room for more evidence to come in, though, and it looks like we’re going to need it, because this is a topic that’s never going to go away until we have more data.

92 comments on “Glyphosate And Cancer”

  1. FormerFarmer says:

    Unfortunately, it is a topic that’s never going away even after we have more data. The people making the most noise about it won’t care if the science has been settled or not.

    1. Boot the chemist says:

      You got there first…

    2. Noelle Imparato says:

      I believe this article is really bias. There are a number of scientific experiments that have been done. In particular the university of Caen in France –if I am not mistaken– has secretly (to avoid harassment and lawsuit) done an experiment on rats over a period of 2 years and concluded that glyphosate does give cancer to the rats, with huge numbers of tumors and birth defects. Monsanto’s and other tests are always done over a 3 month period, which is not long enough. The effects become only measurable after several generations, but they are there. Also one can not dissociate the glyphosate from its use on GMO products: the monoculture of corn or soy that is taking over vast stretches of land where the pesticide is being sprayed by airplanes. Children who have to cross those fields regularly contract skin disease and various other symptoms. The number of birth defects grow exponentially in those areas. And on and on… The literature is there if one cares to look. Then there is the fact that Monsanto is by de facto eradicating any other seeds on the planet besides their GMO seeds while at the same time storing original ancient seeds in silos in the arctic, preparing one supposes for the day when the GMOs will be outlawed and when they will be the near-sole owners of alternative seeds and will make a killing that way. Monsanto and the other bio engineering companies that sue small farmers all over the planet, driving them to bankruptcy or suicide, are truly evil. And anyone who does not see that becomes a passive agent of evil doing.

      1. Derek Lowe says:

        Ah, you’re talking about the Seralini studies. They were not done in secret, and they were published right out in the open, where everyone could see how poorly they had been designed and carried out. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A9ralini_affair

      2. Joan Harlin says:

        The author of this piece is a pharmaceutical guy from way back when. That is ALL you need to know about his opinion. He is like those Proctor and Gamble environmental toxicologists who sold their souls down the river for the almighty dollar.

        1. loupgarous says:

          As opposed to all those advocacy journalists and other folks who get paid for scaring people dirtless about the hazards of a compound which most people agree, handled properly, cannot be associated with cancer.

          As far as Monsanto suppressing evidence of this and that, you’d have a point on aspartame, which has a much more interesting toxicology that glyphosate – but even strongly-motivated teams of attorneys have not been able to establish a preponderance of evidence (a much weaker standard than the statistical association of proof necessary for most physicians to regard something as a cause of cancer) showing either glyphosate or aspartame has had enough of an effect on humans to win a court case.

          If we have to hang an industry out to dry here, it’s the junk science lobby, which sells billions of newspapers and ads on Web sites and network television news programs over articles proclaiming “glyphosate causes cancer,” “Florida scientist sees UFOs with concave lens telescope,” “suppressed invention allows car to run on (take your pick – water, used antifreeze, chicken manure)” and “vaccines cause autism”.

          Junk science makes billions for the electronic and print journalism industries, yet no one is prepared to day that publishers coldly, and with an eye on their bottom lines, publish garbage masquerading as science knowing that the only thing they’ll be doing is causing controversy with no real connection to facts as working scientists understand them. It poisons minds much more reliably than glyphosate poisons anything but weeds.

          So, the honesty of actual scientists with real qualifications is questioned because someone with a bee in his bonnet managed to scrape five hundred dollars together for a “processing fee” together to get an article that wouldn’t pass the peer review process in a reputable scientific journal dealing with cancer or other grave health risks published in an “open access journal” which is engaged in selling cheap journals to professional libraries until the specious nature of their articles is exposed, and providing “published, peer-reviewed articles” for the junk science industry to demand that pi be rounded down to three, vaccines, GMOs and glyphosate outlawed, and other noble causes opposed by conspiracies among those of us who demand reasonable proof of “facts” we read in the papers or on the Internet.

      3. F says:

        Just to point out that glyphosate is a herbicide, not a pesticide.

  2. Hap says:

    Isn’t at least part of the problem, though, that people don’t agree on the hazard that glyphosate poses? I didn’t think that people were certain whether glyphosate is a guppy, a jellyfish, or a man-o-war (if it were a shark or a sea snake, we’d probably know already, since the exposures people have had should be sufficient to see hazards that large). If people agree that there is a hazard, and how big it is, then they can figure out (or estimate) what exposures might be worrisome, and what measures you can take to mitigate it (e.g., if you have to play with sharks, then you wear chain mail and avoid chum).

    1. tangent says:

      I took the argument as: the hazard has uncertainty, but the risk is pretty well limited by the evidence. We’re not totally sure if it’s a lionfish or a neon tetra, but we are confident it’s contained in a tank, would be the aquarium version,

  3. Vader says:

    I wonder how much of the link between NHL and farming is due to the known immunosupressive effect of being out in the sunlight.

    Which makes me think of the local mother who wants to volunteer her kids to pull weeds in local public walkways and parks rather than have then exposed to Glyphosate. I hope she’s really planning to slather on the sunblock. Assuming it’s not more carcinogenic than Glyphosate or sunlight, of course.

  4. Barry says:

    toxicity (but not carcinogenicity) of RoundUp to amphibians has been shown to be due to the excipients rather than to the glyphosate (“active ingredient”)
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19405783

    1. Christine Kielb says:

      Yes, so called ” inert ” ingredients in pesticide formulas, comprise most of the product and are not labeled on the product package. In fact, chemicals that would be classified as toxic if they were the active ingredient are often constituents of the inert ingredients and are not required to be on the label. Elliot Spitzer initiated a lawsuit in the 1990s trying to get the EPA to label these ingredients and was joined by attorneys general n other states.

  5. Bagnar says:

    $1.8 billions.
    It’s what Monsanto earned last year, only with Glyphosate sales.

    How much could cost a real / trustworthy / unbiased, human study ? Sure that 1% or so of this could do the job.
    Basically, follow a large population of daily users of round-up over 3-5 years, compare to a random population of farmers etc.

    If it could help to solve this crisis, I’m ready to give some of my own money to find out !

    1. SirWired says:

      A definitive study to rule out effects that are extremely subtle, at best (given the ubiquity of the chemical, farm workers would be dropping like flies if the effects were dramatic) would take a LOT longer than 3-5 years, and cost a lot more than $18M. Ruling out confounders like sun exposure, exposure to all sorts of other farming chemicals like fertilizer, pesticides, local environmental conditions, etc., would be nearly impossible.

      1. Encyclops says:

        Indeed, distinguishing signal from noise may be very difficult. Even in a disaster as big as Chernobyl where everybody expects massive impact on cancer incidence, it has not been easy to detect that increased long-term risk. The increase in risk was only seen in acute cases of Thyroid cancer and Acute Radiation Sickness. http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/chernobyl/backgrounder/en/
        It seems that there are hardly any acute toxic effects of glyphosate. Good luck to trying to find them in the long term.

        1. UudonRock says:

          It is true that the number of newly diagnosed cases of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma have been flat for years the number is still around 60000 new cases each year in the US alone. The number is likely to decline over the next few decades in line with the population. In a large enough test group there will be instances over time. Environment, exposure, bad genetics, angry Mayan deities… we have some idea of what can cause lymphoma but not enough to say with absolute certainty what the root cause is. It is related to bad luck in random mutation, which is far more common than Sanger sequencing can actually detect. If somehow the control group in this study had fewer occurrences of NHL it would have to be a massive shift to be conclusive.

    2. tangent says:

      To get better-quality evidence you’d really want to run an experiment: random half of the subjects are dosed with glyphosate, other half with a placebo, wait some number of years and see what happens. For a large number of subjects, to have the statistical power to see a low risk. Doubt if you can run a “does this cause cancer” interventional study past an ethics board though. (Am I wrong, is this considered justifiable if the risk is confidently believed to be sufficiently low but suspected to be non-zero?)

      And then you hope you got a cohort of volunteers that can display the effect if there is one. What if it only happens when you’re also exposed to pyrethroids, etc.

    3. Clinical Researcher says:

      Would cost from 300 million to 800 million to do the trials. Instead of putting the 1.1 billion for Zeka research, this should have been a priority. The only problem is nearly everyone has been exposed and it would be hard to find a baseline population. It would require individuals to take high doses of a class 2a carcinogen for only the potential to develop a health risk. Any participant who was against glyphosate and had minimal exposure wouldn’t most likely not participant. Any IRB would have a huge problem passing this trial for it would need a possible sample size of 3k to 6k people per arm to increase the power from 80 to around 85 to 90%.

    4. Keith Duhaime says:

      Couple of things come to mind from your post.

      1. The $1.8 billion profit Monsanto earned. Is this a lot or not? What is the context? (return to invested capital, systemic and non-systemic risk, uncertainty, etc.) $1.8 billion is in itself meaningless. Only a simpleton would consider that number on its own.

      2. Yes, we could do a better job of assessing the risks of the use of glyphosate, but let us not forget the risks of not using glyphosate. I grew up in an era where the default herbicide in corn production was atrazine. Check it out. Do we really want to go back to that? Then there is the matter of glyphosate tolerant crops enabling zero tillage production. Do we really want to go back to using the plow and disc harrows in a big way? There are risks associated with that too.

      1. loupgarous says:

        At the same time, no one’s looking at what popular journalism “earns” in ad revenues over controversies it very deliberately fosters with irresponsible print and Internet articles or television broadcast segments, whether they be on glyphosate, police violence, the link between vaccines and autism or other popular causes. “Billions” is a reasonable aggregate figure for ads sold around all of this news coverage.

        When the journalism industry spends one percent of its revenues checking facts they print as true and actually investigating their stories from both sides of a given issue, I’d support diversion of that amount of money from glyphosate sales to investigate cancer risk. It’ll never happen, though, because the journalism industry would have to admit they are just as profit-motivated and careless of the public welfare as those they condemn in their articles.

    5. Seth Crosby says:

      The study you are proposing would be so very subtle, require such a huge population (both of farmers and statisticians) not to mention decades, that the budget you have proposed is almost laughable.

      1. Bagnar says:

        Before all, thanks to all for these answers. The design of this study is obviously more complicated than what I said. I do not pretend to know how to make this kind of study, of course, I’m a chemist beginner…

        To Seth Corsby. Of course my budget is ridiculous. But that was not the point.
        We all (actually, most human beings) are asking questions about the potential side effects of this glyphosate.
        So, find answers. Trustworthy answers.
        We always find money for wars or worst. We could find money for this kind of study.

        That was my point.

  6. watcher says:

    Just to point out that members of juries often don’t understand “what the past science indicates, and nor are they interested. The points for them are:
    1. Exposure to chemicals is bad for human health.
    2. Big companies are only interested in making money and more money.
    3. To achieve statement 2, companies will skew “science” in their favor
    4. Those affected and suffering must be compensated.
    5. The big, bad greedy companies must be punished.

    1. Derek Freyberg says:

      The saving grace for the big bad companies is the Daubert rule, which stops junk science being introduced into evidence – always assuming that the BBC can convince the judge (not the jury, who haven’t heard about it yet) that what the plaintiff wants to introduce is indeed junk science.

    2. loupgarous says:

      There’s also the issue (familiar to Big Pharma) that a judge and jury in a civil tort case in the United States must only be convinced the preponderance of the evidence (in other words, the jury or judge must simply be persuaded that a bad act was more likely to have been committed than not) shows a defendant’s guilt.

      This evidence can consist of peer-reviewed journal articles of various degrees of credence in the scientific community (everything from articles in Nature to The American Journal of Physical Science (published in the Sudan, with three of thirty-three members of its editorial board actually resident in the Western Hemisphere, and which derives most of its revenue from hefty publication and reprint fees).

      The court of working scientific opinion must consider, on the other hand, statistical measures of how likely an effect (any effect) is to have occurred. This is calculated by careful measurements of signs something happened (“clinical variables,” for example) in large numbers of people, some of whom were (say) exposed to glyphosats, some who were not.

      It’s not easy. “Confounding variables” are things that happen to the people being studies which might have the same or a greater chance of causing (say) non-Hodgkins lymphoma than (say) glyphosate. Ultraviolet radiation passing through our diminishing ozone layer is a confounding variable – it has been shown to increase risks of cancer and lower immune function (and lowered immune function can increase the risk of many cancers, because the immune system is the body’s first line of defense against cancer).

      A study to show that glyphosate’s very likely to have caused cancer has to show it’s more likely to have done so than tobacco use, exposure to lots of sunlight, diesel fumes, other herbicides or pesticides, or the family histories of cancer in those being studied. Even a large study using Latin Square or other techniques to increase statistical power is only useful if the confounding variables aren’t as likely to have caused a specific cancer as the cause (say, glyphosate) under study.

      Tobacco use is, by contrast, pretty carcinogenic and the only real clinical variables in doubt over the past eighty or so years is what in tobacco causes which cancers (say, organics in tobacco smoke versus specific radionuclides in the soil which tobacco is grown in which wind up in smokers and chewers’ bodies). Oddly, some people get much more worked up over GMOs or glyphosate that their tobacco or marijuana smoking, something that is much more likely to kill them and others exposed to their habits.

      1. loupgarous says:

        I ought to have named that wonderful Sudanese scientific journal by its proper name, The American Journal of Modern Physics.

        This journal is so profoundly American that of thirty-three scientists on its editorial board, two live in North America and one in South America. The rest live in what we used to call “the Old World”. One of them teaches high-school physics somewhere in the AfPak, while whatever eminence the others enjoy consists of being the “head of the physics department in Whateverstan they live in”.

        Since this blog’s part of Science magazine’s publishing empire, they may be interested to know that The American Journal of Modern Physics is but one of several pay-to-publish “open access journals” (which nevertheless charge hefty reprint prices, which I thought had gone the way of mailing postcards to corresponding authors for a reprint, something I was in charge of handling for my research cardiology bosses as their medical writer) published by the “Science Publishing Group” – of Sudan.

        If someone was swiping my legitimate journal’s good name and reputation to print academic schlock for fun and profit, I’d ring up my attorney. But that’s just me.

  7. Canuck Chemist says:

    Writing about “the NHL/farmwork connection” made me think something else at first, especially from studies coming out of Saskatchewan! I assure you that this alternative correlation (also strongly linked to missing teeth) is very real in the prairies.

    1. loupgarous says:

      I had the same reaction – “Roundup makes you want to play hockey? Really?”

  8. Lane Simonian says:

    The potential problem may not be with glyphosate itself but with one of the “inert” ingredients in Roundup–polyethoxylated tallowamine. The pathways/mechanisms set off by this compound are implicated in male infertility, Celiac disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Glyphosate_Roundup_and_Human_Male_Infertility.php

    Among other things, the activation of p38 MAPK by polyethoxylated tallowamine breaks down tight junctions in the intestines and breaks down the blood-brain barrier.

    People with Celiac disease are at greater risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

    The number of cases of Celiac disease has risen dramatically in recent years. How much of that (or if any of it) can be traced to the increase use of Roundup remains to be seen.

    1. The_Count says:

      The number of diagnoses of Celiac disease has increased but that does not mean that the number of cases have increased. Increased reporting is often a confounding factor.

      1. passionlessDrone says:

        There was a study on old sampled blood that tended to indicate that a true increase in prevalence has occurred, i.e.,

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2704247/

        1. Paul E Roundy says:

          The set of samples in this paper from Airforce people from the 1950s would have biased by the health requirements for entering the Airforce. Many people suffering unknowingly from Celiac disease would have had symptoms that would have prevented them from serving in the military. Thus it is no surprise that they found much lower frequencies of celiac disease in that sample. http://www.nytimes.com/1863/11/15/news/the-diseases-and-infirmities-exempting-from-the-draft.html

  9. SirWired says:

    “this is a topic that’s never going to go away until we have more data.”

    For the people that are convinced, to their very core, that Monsanto is a bunch of mustache-twirling villains, “artificial” pesticides/herbicides their tools for World Domination, etc., no amount of evidence could possibly be sufficient.

    You could have a study involving participants drinking a quart jug of straight Roundup concentrate every morning from infancy and continue for three decades to no ill effect and they’d still claim that The Jury Is Still Out, and they aren’t anti-science, they are Just Asking Questions (which they’ll never run out of.) We’ve seen the same script play out on the anti-vaxxer front…

    1. Anthony J says:

      The same can be said for your side, that no matter what studies prove actual links to cancer, endocrine disruption etc you simply will not believe or have an open mind to consider that maybe there is truth to these highly toxic chemicals (would you ingest roundup straight in a drink?) have adverse health effects. The studies that the EPA used for instance were almost all funded by Monsanto. Conflict of interest much? Yet you and everyone else here just love to buy into the narrative that anyone saying anything negative or any study against Monsanto is fueled by conspiracy theorist hippies. If you are truly open minded, then you don’t have a bias to either side of the argument and new information would sway your opinion to the other side. Based on the attitude in your response I highly doubt that possibility

  10. Anon says:

    This has nothing to do with risk, and everything to do with a culture that finds it easier to sue than do real work for a living.

  11. DCRogers says:

    “A large shark has plenty of potential to do damage to you, but should you be worried about that happening? It depends. If you’re sitting in your car, probably not.”

    Cue the SHARKNADO!

  12. Tim Bidie says:

    A related topic in the UK at the moment is the debate around levels of lead shot in game meat (birds and deer) and the potential for cognitive effects on the families of people who consume this meat as well as the environmental impacts discarded lead shot has on wildlife (particularly ducks, geese and swans). Despite an overwhelming majority of evidence for lead toxicity and any agreed safe limits a ban on the use of lead shot is some way off because of the game shooting communities intransigence in the face of this scientific evidence.

    1. Anon says:

      Her Majesty must be most concerned, but fear not ma’am, for the lead shot is in its metallic oxidation state of zero.

    2. Sigivald says:

      As anon said, “lead is toxic, thus ban lead shot” ignores that lead shot isn’t exactly super bioavailable or soluble in general.

      IIRC lead shot bans in the US (California, especially) have been proposed and enacted to “Save All The Birds” when it seems all they save are some specific waterfowl whose feeding habits greatly increase their exposure.

      This may be a fine and good reason, sufficient for such a policy (as it is not as if tungsten or steel shot doesn’t work just fine, typically) – but to make good policy the actual effects should be understood, not “lead is toxic so ban lead” or “banning lead saves all the birds and animals”.

      If we don’t understand in what circumstances something poses risks, and what level is significant risk, we’re doing policy wrong.

  13. Anonymous Adder says:

    Great post as usual, Derek. I work in this area and have a couple of things to add:

    1. Your point about the recent listing of bacon (and other processed meats) in IARC category 1 has prompted a lot of my family members to ask me (jokingly usually) if they should stop eating bacon. My (serious) reply is that the added risk to an individual of eating bacon is so small that it’s not worth changing one’s behavior. But the added risk to a population is high enough that it makes sense for, say, governments and public health officials to think about trying to get people to eat less bacon. People almost always read these kind of stories with a “what’s the bottom line for me” perspective, and often the results are just not meaningful for individuals.

    2. You seem to be taking shift work and hairdressing lightly as cancer risks. First off, the hairdressing thing is really about occupational chemical exposure (hair dyes), which is just like exposure to plant workers or dry cleaners or name your profession that uses carcinogenic chemicals. Actually, it’s probably worse because of the lack of safety equipment and training. Shift work is a bit more mysterious, but it highlights that while there is a chemical aspect to cancer, there is also a biological aspect to cancer. And apparently, shift work is stressful enough on our diurnal (not nocturnal) selves, that it weakens our defenses against chemical stressors.

    Anyway, no arguments with your main points, just a couple of things that hit close to home for me in the more peripheral parts.

    2.

  14. colintd says:

    My current job is in the telecoms industry, which along with the rest of the electronics industry have literally spent tens of billions of dollars over the last decade or so on moving from solder containing lead to solder that doesn’t. Along the way we’ve had significant reliability problems due to pooring wetting, worse mechanical properties, and the phenomenon of “tin whiskers”.

    As far as I can find out, the justification for this move was limited to a couple of fairly poor papers on leaching from landfill sites, plus a whole lot of “lead is bad for you, we have to eliminate it in all its forms”.

    I strongly suspect that if we’d spent event a fraction of that money on medical research we would have had a much greater net positive effect on health.

  15. anon says:

    People believe in god. There is at least some evidence here.

  16. Li Zhi says:

    Reminds me of the Ford Pinto case. Discussions of the cost of a chemical (whether direct, indirect, captured, etc.) without discussion of the benefit is one-sided. The questions of how far it skews to ignoring benefits and assuming any adverse effect on human health is unacceptable aren’t going to be answered anytime soon, I’d guess. It seems to me fairly obvious that the benefit is tremendous else its ubiquity would be hard to explain. It’s also reasonable to look at both epidemiological and toxicological data and determine whether sufficiently robust conclusions can be drawn or if more research ‘should’ be done and if so what priority to assign such research. IMHO, we’re rich enough to be able to afford to prioritize and quantify our exposure risks to the significant chemicals used in our technological civilization. Human nature being what it is, operating under the assumption that we can eliminate the fear of things that go bump in the night is delusional, and for some people, anything they didn’t learn about in grade school goes bump in the night. Disrespecting their fear is unlikely result in a viable solution. It’s better to respect it, implement rational ways to address it, and move on.

    1. Doc says:

      Li Zhi. Excellent point about risk versus benefit. How many drugs, like Aspirin, have adverse effects listed on the label? Yet people routinely pop them like ‘Smarties’ (a colour-varied sugar-coated chocolate confectionery popular in the UK). Oncology drugs aren’t gentle on the body. What’s worst? Death by cancer, or losing your hair and vomiting for a few months? Life isn’t risk free, although we should attempt to reduce the risks were we practically can.

      1. loupgarous says:

        Trust an oncology patient on this one, a little nausea and alopecia isn’t in the same ball park as tumors in the liver (inoperable by every surgical oncologist I’ve consulted, even the one who had a good peek inside me – exploratory surgery – with just that in mind). Puking’s vastly overrated as a drug side-effect.

  17. Li Zhi says:

    Great post, thanks!

  18. The trouble is that our scientists and our government and regulators keep doing it. Yes, yes, hazard, risk, that was then and this is now and this time we know what we’re doing.

    And then we have Flint, MI, and all the credit Scientists and Regulators have built up over the last few years since the last gigantic failure is gone, and nobody believes you any more. I’m sorry, it’s not fair, but that’s how human nature is.

    It doesn’t help that the Flint episode involved some fairly subtle effects. It isn’t like they started buying city water from defunct lead mines, no, it’s a bunch of “science this, science that, oops, and now we’re going to prosecute a couple scapegoats, so that makes it OK, right?” which sounds, to the layperson, exactly like all the science this, science that about RoundUp.

    I don’t have any answers, but I do know that the general public is in general fully justified in being deeply suspicious.

    1. John Cubanski says:

      If you’re worried about science’s consensus on the Flint water crisis, you might be interested in this article:

      http://cen.acs.org/articles/94/i7/Lead-Ended-Flints-Tap-Water.html

      Let me draw your attention to these sentences:

      “Most important, the treated Flint River water lacked one chemical that the treated Detroit water had: phosphate… The entire Flint water crisis could have been avoided if the city had just added orthophosphate, Edwards says.”

      The public may be concerned about science’s understanding of global warming or water treatment or a number of other subjects, but that is because they are misinformed. This is the result of, in Michigan’s case, a carefully thought out plan to value certain political goals over human lives, and not any appeal to scientific knowledge. Whether it is a scientist’s responsibility to do something about this is one question, but questioning the reliability of the science available to the combined knowledge of humanity, or even someone who wants to be reasonably informed and has the internet, is another thing altogether. If you want to use something as an anti-science mascot, safety measures being ignored by a corrupt government in the hopes they could get away with it seem a pretty weak front.

      1. This is precisely my point. The general public is ill equipped to distinguish between the Flint episode, Monsanto’s claims, and Derek’s blog. It all looks like ‘science this, science that, trust me’

        And it’s not that everyone is ignorant and stupid. They’ve got kids and jobs and the car needs a new water pump. They’ve haven’t got the time to sort out wheat from chaff.

        So they go with rules of thumb. And one of the most reliable rules of thumb is that people who are making a great deal of money are willing to lie, a lot, to keep making it. People in positions of authority will lie, a lot, to stay in power. These are easy rules to apply between picking the kids up at school and dropping the car off with Joe to replace the pump.

        1. loupgarous says:

          The journalism community and politicians of all parties know the average voter’s free time to research matters such as glyphosate and the Flint water system problem, and reduce everything to sound bites. So it’s “Governor Snyder’s to blame” coming from every politician of the party that would like to retake Michigan’s governor’s mansion, when every story indicates the city of Flint and its water system could have chosen to stay on safe Detroit water – nothing stopped them from doing just that.

          And as far as glyphosate toxicity in humans, advocacy journalists quote research papers from “open access journals” which place a lower priority on scientific rigor and integrity than “did the author’s processing fee check clear?”

          Anyone with a few thousand dollars and some desktop publishing acumen can set up as an “online journal.” Getting would-be authors to practice the art of citing each others’ articles in your journal (to push their Google Scholar and h-index scores high – voila, instant “impact on your field”, it has to be true because it’s on the Internet) isn’t that hard.

          As a wikipedia editor, I researched a case of this in physics (sort of) with a guy who’d set two or three of his own research journals up from his home office, then found The American Journal of Modern Physics, published by the Sudanese “Science Publishing Group,” which an incautious reader would think was affiliated with Science. Just one example of their work was reviewed by Peter Woit’s Not Even Wrong blong http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=5607

          The plagiarism and deception in the article Woit described is the tip of the iceberg. The contributing authors (who pay big money to get their stuff in The American Journal of Modern Physics,, and, yes, if you act now, you can get a 50% discount on processing fees… ) not only publish profusely, citing the profuse publications in their own work, but “log roll” with other authors from the journal, citing each other whether the citations have much to do with the article’s contents. This is apparently enough to game h-index and Google Journal into reporting that these authors swing a big intellectual stick in their field.

          I’m mentioning this because Big Media is more toxic than Big Pharma and Big Agrochemicals to America. People are checking up on big drug companies and big chemical companies, including government agencies which have increasing clout to stop abuses which hurt people. Big Media, ranging from CNN to The American Journal of Modern Physics,, can print or broadcast utter crap, and influence government policy profoundly by changing public perception of the truth, while having almost no public accountability. American libel and slander law depends on someone hurt by Big Journalism being able to prove actual malice in an untruth – so the fact of publishing a lie isn’t illegal in and of itself.

  19. Kelvin says:

    As derek notes, one of the greatest problems with our understanding of “risk” is that this one word we associate with one dimension is really associated with two dimensions: probability of downside and extent of downside. Much of the problems in R&D decision making also boil down to this misunderstanding of “risk”, as new ideas that are likely to fail are typically rejected as “too risky” even if they have huge potential upside and would cost next to nothing to test = very low risk.

    1. Kelvin says:

      PS. Coincidentally I was reading just today that the most dangerous animal on earth is not the shark or the crocodile, or even a snake or a spider … but the mosquito. I had actually heard this before, but it’s a nice relevant example to put things into perspective.

      1. Hap says:

        Hazard immediacy helps – lots of people get bitten by mosquitos, and even if one of the bites is disease-filled, the person being bitten doesn’t connect the incident to the consequence. On the other hand, if you mess up with a shark or crocodile or snake, you’re going to know it quickly and painfully.

        I don’t know that our risk perception is ever going to be well-fitted to where we are.

        1. Mandrake says:

          Every time I come across and anti-gmo/anti-glyphosate nutter I show them this and watch there head spin – http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/1998/19980625-shikimate-path.html

          1. Vader says:

            May not help. I’ve met folks who bring this up as yet another reason to oppose Roundup. The reasoning seems to be that antibiotics are inherently toxic.

  20. D says:

    I find your lack of domestic sharks disappointing, Dr. Lowe.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      Sometimes I do too!

  21. Frank says:

    Here’s a reference for the effect on bacteria:
    Kurenbach, B., Marjoshi, D., Amábile-cuevas, C. F., Ferguson, G. C., Godsoe, W., Gibson, P., & Heinemann, J. a. (2015). Sublethal Exposure to Commercial Formulations of the Herbicides Changes in Antibiotic Susceptibility in Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, 6(2), 1–9. doi:10.1128/mBio.00009-15

  22. Poul-Henning Kamp says:

    Two things.

    I have an objection to the way Monsanto tries to get RoundUp used: as an indiscriminate “kill anything but the seeds you bought from us” herbicide, for the simple reason that it will, 100% certain, cause RoundUp resistant weeds.

    I have no problem with a limited, as strictly as needed use of herbicides, RoundUp or otherwise.

    Second, a lot of researchers are starting to focus on the “non-active ingredients” in RoundUp, ie: anything but the Glyphosphate as the cause of the “noise” in the studies.

    A lot of the medical-style studies which have cleared Glyphosphate used the pure chemical, whereas most of the “real-world” numbers come from actual use where the “non-active ingredients” are part of the cocktail.

    The most recent result from over here, is that a sample of danish toddlers were found to piss glyphosphate…

  23. Allchemistry says:

    A reference describing the effects in persons attempting to commit suicide by ingesting Roundup:
    Talbot et al. Acute poisoning with a glyphosate-surfactant herbicide (‘Roundup’): a review of 93 cases. Hum Exp Toxicol. 1991; 10:1-8.

    1. Mark says:

      Since vinegar is more toxic to humans than glyphosate, what are the numbers for accidental or intentional ingestion of vinegar? I’d imagine the symptoms would be even worse.

      1. Allchemistry says:

        The surfactant in Roundup caused more harm than glyphosate: ” Intentional ingestion (80 cases) resulted in erosion of the gastrointestinal tract (66%), seen as sore throat (43%), dysphagia (31%), and gastrointestinal haemorrhage (8%). Other organs were affected less often (non-specific leucocytosis 65%, lung 23%, liver 19%, cardiovascular 18%, kidney 14%, and CNS 12%). There were seven deaths, all of which occurred within hours of ingestion, two before the patient arrived at the hospital. Deaths following ingestion of ‘Roundup’ alone were due to a syndrome that involved hypotension, unresponsive to intravenous fluids or vasopressor drugs, and sometimes pulmonary oedema…”
        Some of people took 500 ml of Roundup, but suffered only from mild symptoms. So yes, symptoms after vinegar ingestion will be worse.

        1. Vader says:

          I’m wondering whether it would be reasonable safe to stir a teaspoon of Roundup into a glass of water and drink it in front of my municipal council, in hopes of shaming them out of giving in to local activists who want them to stop spraying it on weeds in our town’s rather extensive open spaces.

  24. Hal Oberheide says:

    So, there are populations in this world with whom you don’t have to disentangle herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides from the occurrences of cancer they don’t use them in their agriculture. I think Cuba is such a place.

  25. Dave says:

    How does that other common herbicide, 2,4-D, relate?

    I once worked an accident, where 5000 gallons of Dyanap were spilled, with quite a few firemen literally swimming in the stuff. Now that was a nasty one. 🙁

    Dave

    1. loupgarous says:

      2,4-D’s an eye irritant, and a Group 2B carcinogen, along with coffee and red meat. Personally, I’ll choose a nice medium-roast Arabica over weed killer at breakfast, but that’s just me.

      2,4-D’s frequently confused with that other constituent of Agent Orange, 2,4,5-T, which made the old way had lots of dioxins in it as co-products. Even a little dioxin can go a long way, as the people of Seveso, Italy learned – when a chemical reactor at the ICMESA plant there blew up, 2.2 kilos of dioxins contaminated a large part of the surrounding town, causing severe chloracne in the local kids and some elevated cancer and birth defect issues when they grew up. US servicemen who arguably had higher exposures (spraying the stuff in “Operation Ranch Hand”) and Vietnamese civilians report worse effects.

  26. Seth Crosby says:

    We as a society want so desperately for there to be real evil in the world that we spend an inordinate amount of time and resources demonizing various individuals and organizations. If we desire to be good stewards, we must make an effort to resist this almost overwhelming temptation and keep our heads when all about us are losing theirs.

    1. Vader says:

      Seth Crosby,

      LIke there isn’t plenty of real evil to worry about.

  27. MoMo says:

    Seth,

    You sound like a Big Thinker here. What do you know about the 125M kgs of Glyphosphate used in the US ending up in the Great Lakes, causing algae blooms of Cyanobacteria and other neurotoxin producers? Go toToledo, Cleveland or other shoreline towns that rely on such waters for drinking and talk to the communities about how much they like organophosphates, then go talk to the EPA who doesnt regulate neurotoxin levels in drinking water.

    Get back to me, Ill be waiting for your corporate response.

    You all think too small on this issue and any compound at this level of use has risks.

    1. Oliver H says:

      “What do you know about the 125M kgs of Glyphosphate used in the US ending up in the Great Lakes, causing algae blooms of Cyanobacteria and other neurotoxin producers? ”

      You do know that glyphosate is easily biodegradable? Algae blooms caused by a herbicide??? Are you serious? You’re confusing glyphosate with fertilizer.

      http://www.circleofblue.org/2014/world/cause-lake-eries-harmful-algal-blooms-gains-certainty/
      http://lakeeriealgae.com/

      1. Tom Womack says:

        If it’s easily biodegradable, then it will turn into bioavailable phosphate; and algae growth rate is under some conditions limited by phosphate (they’re pretty fierce conditions, as you might imagine from the arsenic-life paper – above 30ppb you don’t get much more growth as you add more phosphate). And the Great Lakes are naturally sufficiently short of phosphate to be below 30ppb fifty years ago, whilst parts of Lake Erie are at 60ppb now.

        Just comparing the quantities applied, glyphosate would seem a minor source of agricultural phosphate compared with direct fertiliser run-off!

  28. Oliver H says:

    It’s especially ironic when people in Germany get worked up about trace amounts of glyphosate found in beer, never mind that before there’s enough of it in the body to cause any serious deleterious effects, the ethanol in the same beer would probably have caused liver failure twice over…

  29. Daen de Leon says:

    I’m interested how one goes about designing an animal study for working as a hairdresser …

  30. JT-MD says:

    While we may not currently know of a direct correlation between glyphosate and cancer, we do know of its harmful affects on the gut biome, which is an integral part of our immune and nervous systems:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4093745/

    I used to bash the anti-GMO crowd just like any other scientist for lack of holy grail RCT studies on the subject, but have since done my own research and am now extremely interested in food and environmental health. Why do you think depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer (type 3 diabetes) and obesity are so rampant in our “modern” era? It’s all in the food we eat!

    Part of this has to do with the shit they’re spraying on our food, i.e. glyphosate, which as pointed out in the above article disrupts aromatic amino acid production (phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan). As we know, tryptophan is essential for serotonin production and our gut microbes regulate our blood levels! (http://www.cell.com/cell/abstract/S0092-8674(15)00248-2). No wonder we are so “chemically imbalanced” with serotonin, and glyphosate is everywhere (even if you only eat organic foods).

    As we also know, it’s not just chemicals like glyphosate either that affect our health. It’s our omega 6:3 ratio (our cell membranes function better with a much lower ratio than the standard American diet allows; I encourage everyone to read about DHA), vitamin D deficiency (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0152441) and chronically repeated spikes in blood sugar from refined carbohydrates over a lifetime (Alzheimer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease).

    A lot of this stuff has been in our basic biochemistry textbooks for decades! The problem with waiting around for RCT’s to give us answers is that they may never happen! (Especially when you have multi-billion dollar companies like Monsanto behind their products). You also have to wade through the bullshit the scientific literature puts out (i.e. Lipitor’s 33% risk reduction in heart attacks over a 3.3 year period, where 2 people out of 100 had heart attacks while on Lipitor and 3 people had heart attacks while NOT taking Lipitor, which does equal a 33% risk reduction, but is a 1% absolute risk reduction really worth taking this drug for? Our medical views on cholesterol is another big topic of discussion).

    Same thing holds true for the WHO statement on meat! Lifetime prevalence of colorectal cancer for anyone is ~5%. Eating PROCESSED meat increases that to 6%. If you look at the relative risk that’s a whopping 17% increase! So we should stop eating meat? Really?

    Do the research yourself. Read about the biochemistry. Try not to sympathize with these companies and bash the anti-GMO crowd. Come to the conclusion yourselves and learn about our nutritional biochemistry and the paleolithic diets our bodies are designed for, and not designed for shit to be sprayed on our food, and our gut bacteria to conjugate DNA from genetically modified food to become a toxin-producing gut!

    See this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/bt-corn_b_2442072.html

    And this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21338670

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      I approved your comment, links and all, although I think you’re wrong, and that you cite very poor evidence for your positions. Your first link is to a paper by Seneff, and (as mentioned in the post), she is simply not a trustworthy or useful source. Her papers are briefs for the prosecution, make unsupported leaps of inference, cite work that does not back up what it purports to back up, and ignores citing work that directly contradicts her claims. If you lead off with Seneff, you’re starting off in a deep hole. You also get negative bonus points for the swipe at Monsanto, and for citing an article by Mercola, who is in many ways beneath contempt, and for the “paleolithic” part. Your final reference is worth following through to the comment on it at PubPeer, which raises significant questions about the authors’ methods and calls all of their conclusions into doubt.

      The problems with Seneff, Mercola and their ilk are well-known and well-documented. If you are, as you say, a scientist who does the research, you should have come across these problems very quickly.

      1. JT-MD says:

        Thanks for the response! This is exactly the problem. Quality studies are lacking in environmental toxicology as it pertains to human health. But setting aside your qualms about the cited authors (didn’t realize Seneff and Mercola were so despised), the actual point I was referring to in the first citation was the shikimate pathway. As you are an organic chemist I was wondering about your thoughts on this and glyphosates ability to disrupt this pathway, according to this paper:

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=New+Insights+on+Glyphosate+Mode+of+Action+in+Nodular+Metabolism%3A+Role+of+Shikimate+Accumulation

        Now, the one article you didn’t mention was the paper about our gut bacteria regulating our blood levels of serotonin (http://www.cell.com/cell/abstract/S0092-8674(15)00248-2). Do you think that if glyphosate can disrupt the shikimate pathway it could conceivably reduce the production of tryptophan and thus blood levels of serotonin? This would be a great study for someone to perform, wouldn’t it? However, as a new father I’d rather not wait around for such a study, as I’d like to limit any chance of harm to the little one. I think that fact may be a little easier to relate to.

        And what was the issue with the “paleolithic” part? What are your thoughts on the possibility that humans evolved to eat certain foods to function optimally physiologically?

  31. Dr. Feelgood says:

    JT-MD. Is that the same shikimate pathway that isn’t present in animals?

  32. Gordon Clark says:

    Isn’t it interesting how, like with GMOs, “more study is needed” AFTER the chemicals and processes in question have already been approved and pushed through the industrial food chain to near market saturation. Does that tell you anything, Derek Lowe?

    And while it’s not the subject of this article, I still find it to be rank scientific abuse not to point out that whatever glyphosates may or may not do to humans, the massive use of them and other pesticides (note: “-cide” means to kill living organisms), has done massive harm to the environment and as a result to other species. But who needs the environment, right?

  33. Derek’s article fails to look at a major flaw in the current license of glyphosate and its products, there has never been aggregate crop and food product testing for the herbicide by the EPA/USDA/FDA as required under federal law. Without the federal mandated aggregate testing acute and chronic risk analysis for safe maximum tolerance residue levels (MRLs) for glyphosate in crop and food products can not be established. But the EPA went ahead and established glyphosate MRLs and then increased them in 2013 without any science explanation. Please see my story for more details:
    http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/farm-ranch/is-glyphosate-legal/

    1. Anthony J says:

      Even worse was the studies that the EPA used were funded by Monsanto themselves, and many were only 3 month studies! Not near enough to be considered authentic. https://theintercept.com/2015/11/03/epa-used-monsanto-funded-research/

  34. Anthony J says:

    I’m highly surprised in the clear bias this article has in a so-called scientific magazine. Science is supposed to analyze facts from these conflicting studies and just present the information, not push agenda’s based on confirmation bias.. shame.

    First of all, the vast majority of studies that were used by the EPA were funded by Monsanto and other pesticide companies themselves: “… Only five independently funded studies were considered in the review of whether glyphosate interferes with the endocrine system. Twenty-seven out of 32 studies that looked at glyphosate’s effect on hormones and were cited in the June review — most of which are not publicly available and were obtained by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request — were either conducted or funded by industry. Most of the studies were sponsored by Monsanto or an industry group called the Joint Glyphosate Task Force. One study was by Syngenta, which sells its own glyphosate-containing herbicide, Touchdown.”(source https://theintercept.com/2015/11/03/epa-used-monsanto-funded-research/ )
    How can anyone here miss this blaring conflict of interest, including the author? Seems like journalistic negligence on a criminal scale to mislead people that “it’s all fearful conspiracy theory” when in fact there is plenty of evidence that it is more likely industry corruption.
    Anyone here can, and I invite you to, search on google scholar or other scientific research databases for “glyphosate cancer” and find many studies that directly show cancer and plenty of other negative health effects from this chemical. If you honestly believe a multi-billion dollar company like Monsanto isn’t spreading misinformation, when they literally funded the studies that “prove their products are safe”, then you are living in a naive world. Even more amazing are the people that buy into this narrative that they are just getting a bad wrap and their chemicals are totally safe! How can you call yourself a scientific thinker when you automatically dismiss any information that disagrees with your viewpoint?
    One can easily search on Google scholar or other

    1. c says:

      Happened to see that these are the most recent comments on Derek’s blog.

      First, I’m very willing to believe that glyphosate is a carcinogen and/or a toxin. I’d bet Dr Lowe is as well, really (this is an editorially independent publication, by the way). You can find on this blog lots of posts decrying poorly performed tox studies, instances of corporate/industrial corruption, and the difficulty in finding the truth within a messy sea of information.

      All that said, I don’t actually want to comment on glyphosate, I just want to let you know how you sound to educated chemists.

      I’m no linguist, but there is something about the sentence structure and tone of posts like these that immediately sets of red flashing lights in my head. I wish I could succinctly describe exactly what it is. It’s probably the combination of rhetorical devices used (hypothetical leading questions being a major one).

      Whatever the case, if you want to actually communicate with people like Derek and me (and presumably the rest of the chemistry community that reads this site and, by the nature of our jobs, are at least to some extent persuadable), you should look into how you phrase yourself. Otherwise, if you post things that read like these posts do, you’ll just set off our “loon alarms” and none of us will get any closer to the murky truth.

  35. Gary Amstutz says:

    Every spring my neighbor uses Round-up all over his yard which always looks exactly like the moon. There is NOTHING growing there ever. His children like to come over and ask me how to grow grass. I used to tell them water and sunshine plus grass seed. lately I have been yelling at them to stop buying Round-up. I have no trouble at all growing grass. But then again I do not use Round-up. I have no proof that Round-up causes cancer but it is a little bit alarming that is seems to kill absolutely everything.

    Others seem to believe Roundup causes celiacs disease which can create all kinds of health issues including cancer. Here is one study that says Roundup kills gut bacteria and causes celiacs disease among other things.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945755/

    More and more of my friends and relatives seem to be developing celiacs disease and so all I can suggest is buy organic and cook at home.

  36. alejandro gomez says:

    if you have the doi number of this article, could you please give it to me?

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