By Dr. Mercola
The public’s appreciation of the toxicity of glyphosate—the active ingredient in Monsanto’s broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup—is still limited, despite highly damning research being published.
The fact that Monsanto marketed Roundup as “environmentally friendly” and “biodegradable” probably has a lot to do with this general lack of insight.
More people are apt to remember the Roundup commercial than recall the fact that Monsanto was twice found guilty of false advertising of this herbicide. In 2009, a French court again upheld these earlier convictions.
Mounting evidence shows that glyphosate is FAR more toxic than anyone previously suspected, both alone and in combination with other additives (as in the case of Roundup), or in combination with other agricultural chemicals and/or heavy metals.
Dr. Donald Huber, one of the premier plant pathologists in the US, views it far more toxic than DDT. They are spraying nearly 1 billion pounds every year on our food crops. That is enough glyphosate to fill 4,000 Olympic sized swimming pools.
Most recently, what’s being referred to as “an epidemic” of chronic kidney disease—a mysterious form of toxic nephropathy—striking down farmers in Sri Lanka, India, and Central America’s Pacific coastline (El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica), has now been traced back to Roundup in combination with contaminated fertilizer.
As reported by Lanka Business Online1: “Chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu) first appeared in Sri Lanka’s rice growing areas in the north central province in the 1990s and has been spreading into other areas including the South, with more than 20,000 estimated deaths so far.” According to estimates by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some 20,000 American farm workers are also being poisoned on the job each year2.
Lethal Kidney Disease Linked to Roundup and Phosphate Fertilizer Combo
According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, glyphosate may carry heavy metals and minerals, whether naturally-occurring or originating from agricultural chemicals, into your kidneys, courtesy of its chelating properties.
A unique feature of this kidney disease (chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology/CKDu) is that none of the commonly known risk factors apply, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, but there’s a strong association between this mysterious kidney disease and consumption of hard water (i.e., water that contains higher amounts of calcium, magnesium, strontium, and iron).
Ninety-six percent of patients with chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology had consumed hard or very hard water for at least five years. Meanwhile, the disease is not found among those who get their drinking water straight from natural springs. Kidney toxicity is not known to be associated with hard water consumption, and this surprising finding added to the initial mystery. Furthermore, the disease seemed to have cropped out of nowhere. There were no reported cases of this kind of kidney disease in Sri Lanka prior to the 1990s.
The researchers note that the original use of glyphosate was as a de-scaling agent, used to clean out calcium and other mineral deposits in hot water systems. De-scaling agents attach to minerals such as calcium and magnesium, rendering them water soluble. According to the authors:
“[T]he totality of scientific evidence gathered so far has highlighted the fact that an unknown factor (Compound X) originating from agrochemicals, when combined with hardness/Ca/Mg can cause significant kidney damage; thus explaining many current observations including the unique geographical distribution of the disease.
If we assume that the ‘Compound X’ is derived from the agrochemicals and is easily bound to Ca/Mg/Sr/Fe to ultimately cause damage to the kidneys, then this hypothesis can explain the geographical distribution of chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu) as well as the occurrence of the disease only after the 1990s…
Although glyphosate alone does not cause an epidemic of chronic kidney disease, it seems to have acquired the ability to destroy the renal tissues of thousands of farmers when it forms complexes with a localized geo-environmental factor (hardness) and nephrotoxic metals.”
A ‘Perfect Storm’ of Environmental Factors and Chemical Contamination
Arsenic also plays a role. Previous research has shown victims of chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology have arsenic in their hair and nails, and arsenic along with heavy metals such as cadmium, chromium, nickel, and lead are also found in the triple-super-phosphate (TSP) fertilizer used by Sri Lankan farmers.
Triple superphosphate4 (TSP), also known as calcium dihydrogen phosphate and as monocalcium phosphate, became widely used in the 20th century. In Sri Lanka, it’s applied within a couple of weeks of spraying the rice fields with glyphosate.
According to the featured study, Sri Lankan farmers do not use protective gear when applying agricultural chemicals, which would explain why glyphosate has been found in farmers’ urine post-application. The matter may be further compounded by the fact that:
- The affected farmers dissolve the glyphosate in hard water before spraying
- They eat rice contaminated with glyphosate and heavy metals
- Many chew locally grown tobacco, which has also been found to be contaminated with cadmium and arsenic
“The phosphorus atom in the phosphonic group in the glyphosate/AMPA molecule can possibly be replaced by As (Arsenic). Following dermal and respiratory absorption of glyphosate, it can form complexes with nephrotoxic metals and arsenic derived from rice, vegetables and tobacco within the circulation,” the researchers say.
Chemical Agriculture Has Replaced Sustainable Agriculture Around the Globe
Chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology has also become commonplace among Central American sugarcane farmers. The two crops, rice and sugarcane, both require higher amounts of agricultural chemicals when grown on a large scale, and glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide in areas affected by this chronic kidney disease.
Shockingly, considering its majestic natural beauty, the island country of Sri Lanka has some of the highest use of agricultural chemicals in the world! According to the featured article:
“The Island newspaper… quoted World Health Organization/U.N. data which said Sri Lanka used 471 units of agro-chemicals, the highest in the world, made up of 187 Units of pesticides, which was also the highest in the world and 284 units of fertilizer, which was the eighth highest in the world.
Others were; Bangladesh (431U), Jamaica (397U), Dominican Republic (358U), Costa Rica (357U) and El Salvador (355U)… The state also subsidizes chemical fertilizer in an unprecedented scale.”
The Many Health Hazards of Glyphosate
It seems quite clear that we’ve radically altered our farming methods, embracing the “marvels” of chemical agriculture, without having a clear understanding of what all of these products actually do, alone and in combination, beyond their obvious benefits of killing pests. It appears as though, long-term, certain chemicals such as glyphosate also have the ability to kill the human population, along with other portions of the natural world.
Glyphosate is actually, in many ways, similar to DDT, which is now known to cause reproductive problems and birth defects6 among other things. The most recent research into DDT effects found that exposure appears to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, decades later.
This is undoubtedly unwelcome news to those who, in their youth, used to run out and frolic in the fumes from the DDT truck! Remember, DDT was advertised as completely harmless, and sold to an unsuspecting public with catchy slogans like “DDT is Good for Me-e-e!” Heck, they even sold DDT-laced wallpaper specifically designed for children’s rooms! And it was “certified to be absolutely safe for home use.”
Today, we have glyphosate which, just like DDT, has been falsely advertised, and falsely “certified” and “guaranteed” as safe. Besides being identified as a likely causative factor in fertility problems and birth defects, research also shows that glyphosate:
- Decimates beneficial microorganisms in the soil essential for proper plant function and high quality nutrition
- Causes extreme disruption of your gut microbes’ function and lifecycle; preferentially affecting beneficial bacteria, while promoting the growth of pathogens in your intestines
- Chelates critical microminerals, preventing them from being utilized by the plant (leading to nutrient-deficient food) Inhibits enzymes that catalyze the oxidation of organic substances, which appears to be an overlooked component of glyphosate’s toxicity to mammals. By limiting the ability of these enzymes to detoxify foreign chemical compounds, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of those chemicals and environmental toxins you may be exposed to
- Promotes the proliferation of disease-causing pathogens in soil Is toxic to water fleas at extraordinarily low levels, well within the levels expected to be found in the environment. These findings throw serious doubt on glyphosate’s safety
- Predisposes cattle to lethal botulism
- Is toxic to human DNA even when diluted to concentrations 450fold lower than used in agricultural applications
Other Hidden Health Hazards Associated with Phosphate Fertilizers
Polonium-210 is a highly radioactive element9 that releases alpha particles as it decays. It’s also chemically toxic. While alpha particles cannot penetrate deeply into your body, they can cause serious damage to cells they do come into contact with. While naturally present in small amounts in the environment, one of the primary sources of exposure is via calcium phosphate fertilizers, commonly used on tobacco fields and food crops.
Researchers have gone so far as to suggest that it’s the radiation from these fertilizers that are the primary cause of cancer in smokers.11, 12, 13 According to a report in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research,14 radioactivity in tobacco comes from two sources: the atmosphere and uptake through soil rich in calcium phosphate fertilizer contaminated with polonium phosphates.
You can also consume polonium by drinking fluoridated water, courtesy of the fluorosilicic acid used. This chemical byproduct, created during the phosphate fertilizer manufacturing process, is what is typically used to fluoridate municipal water supplies. Uranium and radium are two known carcinogens found in fluorosilicic acid used for water fluoridation, and polonium-210 is one of two decay products of uranium. Furthermore, polonium decays into stable lead-206, which also has significant health risks—especially in children—and research has indeed shown that drinking fluoridated water increases lead absorption in your body.
Phosphate Fertilizers Also Used in GMO Agriculture
Phosphate fertilizers are also used on food crops. And while foodborne polonium may be absorbed and react differently in your body than being inhaled, you could potentially be exposed to greater levels of this (and other) radioactive elements than previously thought, through the aggressive use of phosphate fertilizers in food production. Besides the risk of radioactive contamination, research has shown that dietary calcium phosphate has a detrimental effect on your gut health—an effect shared by glyphosate, which also decimates your gut flora. According to a 2002 study in the Journal of Nutrition:
“Most Gram-positive bacteria are susceptible to the bactericidal action of fatty acids and bile acids. Because dietary calcium phosphate (CaP(i)) lowers the intestinal concentration of these antimicrobial agents, high CaP(i) intake may enhance intestinal colonization of Gram-positive pathogens and the subsequent pathogenesis.”
Taken together, modern agricultural methods may at first glance appear to be the most cost effective and efficient strategy, but it quickly becomes one of the most costly ways to produce food once you take into account the environmental and human health consequences.
Moreover, processed food manufacturers, represented by the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America (GMA), is working hand-in-hand with the chemical technology industry to force this food model on the world, with tax payers subsidizing the very food that will promotes disease and wreaks havoc on the environment. The GMA is spearheading the efforts of these industries to prevent you from knowing the truth about what you’re really eating, and control the food system at virtually any cost, it seems.
Greatest Purveyors of Disease Fight to Maintain Control of the Food System
As you may recall, during last year’s I-522 ballot campaign to label GMOs in Washington State, the GMA came up with an ingenious, and illegal, money laundering scheme to protect the identity of members who donated funds to the opposing campaign.16
This illegal move helped them defeat I-522 by a mere 1 percent margin. The scheme fell apart however, and the GMA was sued by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who accused them of intentional money laundering and violating state campaign disclosure laws. As a result, the identities of the companies paying to defeat I-522 were released.18 Not surprisingly it contained the usual suspects: Pepsi, Coke, General Mills and Nestle – all primary purveyors of chronic disease.
But that’s not the end of the story.
On Jan. 13, the Washington State Office of the Attorney General announced that the GMA has countersued the state, challenging its campaign finance laws.19 Essentially, the Association is suing for the right to hide corporate campaign funds—a move that threatens the transparency of the state’s elections on every issue! What’s more, the GMA has also filed a civil rights complaint against the Attorney General himself, claiming that he acted unconstitutionally when he enforced the state’s laws! It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. This is bullying at its finest. As recently reported by TakePart.com:20
“If you don’t live in Washington state and are wondering why you should care, A. Bryan Enders, associate professor of agricultural law at the University of Illinois, has food for thought. ‘This is part of a larger narrative involving increased consumer awareness,’ he says. ‘The GMA countersuit can be viewed as not pro- or anti-consumer but about maintaining control over the messaging of our food system. As various states respond to consumer demand for heightened food labels, this shifts control away from GMA and its members and places it within the hands of diffuse consumer interests.’
The latest countersuit isn’t GMA’s only stick in the fire. According to Reuters, the trade group is working with a coalition including biotech crop developers and unnamed lawmakers to introduce federal GMO labeling legislation—legislation that would have the power to nullify individual state laws, a tactic public health lawyer Michele Simon spoke with us about in September. ‘The devil is in the details,’ Simon said. ‘Industry will agree to federal labeling, but in exchange, they say, ‘we want to pre-empt or stop any states from going further.'”
Biological Farming Is the Way Out of This Mess
Last year, I interviewed Dr. Elaine Ingham, an internationally recognized expert on the benefits of sustainable soil science. According to Dr. Ingham and other soil experts, a key component of successful agriculture lies in having the right helper organisms in the soil; beneficial species of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, beneficial nematodes (not the weed feeders), microarthropods, and earthworms—all of which contribute to plant growth in a number of different ways.
Nutrient cycling is another major issue. Dr. Ingham believes the concept that your soil is deficient and needs added phosphorus or nitrogen, etc. in order to grow plants is seriously flawed, and largely orchestrated by the chemical companies, because it’s based on looking at the soluble, inorganic nutrients that are partly present in your soil. The real nutrition plants require is actually derived from microorganisms in the soil. These organisms take the mineral material in the soil and convert it into a plant-available form. Without these bioorganisms, plants cannot get the nutrients they need.
So what you need is not more chemical soil additives, what you need is the proper balance of beneficial soil organisms. You can actually use a starter culture to boost the fermentation and generation of beneficial bacteria much in the same way you can boost the probiotics in your fermented vegetables.
For compost, this strategy is used if you want to compost very rapidly. In that case, you can use a starter to inoculate the specific sets of organisms for your garden’s particular needs. Dr. Ingham has written several books on this topic, including The Field Guide for Actively Aerated Compost Tea, and The Compost Tea Brewing Manual. You can also greatly enhance the benefits of compost or compost tea by adding biochar, as it serves as residence where the bacteria can live and thrive; otherwise they tend to die out relatively rapidly after adding them to the soil.
Eat Well and Help Save Farmers by Supporting Sustainable Agriculture
With everything we now know about the benefits of organically grown foods, and the health and environmental hazards of chemical farming, there’s no doubt that HOW your food is grown is of utmost importance to your health. This is why I encourage you to support small family farms, and to buy organic whenever possible.
Another alternative is to grow some of your own vegetables. Sprouts are an excellent choice if you’re just getting started, or if you want to grow the most nutritious food for the least amount of time and money. Frequenting farmer’s markets and joining a community-supported agriculture program are other options. Below are several resources to obtain wholesome food that supports not only you but also the environment and the farmers who grow your food.
- Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
- Farmers’ Markets — A national listing of farmers’ markets.
- Local Harvest — This website will help you find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
- Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals — The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
- Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) — CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
- Food Routes — The Food Routes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.