The Adverse Health Effects of Pesticides, Glyphosate, GMOs, and MoreFayyaz Alam
The Adverse Health Effects of Pesticides, Glyphosate, GMOs, and More
As the population in the world continues to grow, scientists and food manufacturers have been working on ways to alter the process of growing food. The purpose of this is to grow food faster and more efficiently in order to meet the rising demand. The more widely used methods for altering growth and environment include pesticides, glyphosate, and GMOs. Here we will discuss what these methods are as well as the adverse health effects of pesticides, glyphosate, GMOs, and more.
What are Pesticides?
Pesticides are any chemical that is used to repel, kill, or control animal or plant life that is considered to be a pest. There are different types of pesticides that are used for various purposes. We’ll discuss more on those below. As a whole, pesticides have made their way into almost every aspect of our lives including the food we eat, the water we drink, and even the air we breathe. In fact, a 2019 study update by the Agricultural Health Study the spouses of farmers that used organophosphate insecticides (even though they never directly used it themselves) had a higher rate of breast cancer than the general population.
Even the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) admits that due to the widespread use of agricultural chemicals in food production, people are exposed to low levels of pesticide residues through their diets. There is even a warning on their website explaining that the evidence suggests children are particularly susceptible to the adverse health effects of pesticides, including but not limited to neurodevelopmental effects.
There are different types of pesticides used in food production and around our environment. Keep reading below for an overview of the most common types.
Quick Overview of Types of Pesticides
The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) names over 20 different types of pesticides currently in use. However, the most common types of pesticides that you are likely to be exposed to are listed below.
Types of Pesticides:
- Herbicides – used to kill plants like weeds.
- Insecticides – used to kill bugs and pests.
- Fungicides – used to kill various fungi.
- Bactericides – used to kill bacteria.
- Rodenticides – used to kill rodents.
In May 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) did an extensive study of the use of these types of pesticides on crops from 1960 – 2008. The first rapid growth they found was in 1981 when usage peaked at 196 million pounds of pesticide per year. Fast forward to the end of their studied timeline in 2008 and the usage has bloated to 516 million pounds of pesticide per year. Of the 21 crops they analyzed, the highest offenders were corn, soybeans, cotton, wheat, and potatoes, which accounted for about 80% of pesticide usage.
The Impact of Pesticides on the Environment
There is a widespread environmental impact caused by the use of pesticides. Recent studies have found that pesticides can spread much further than they are intended and affect other animals and plant life. For example, in 2011 a study was published in the Journal of Chromatography which presented data that confirmed pesticide residue was making its way into other food sources such as livestock. Pesticide residue was found in cows, pigs, fish, and more. In 2019, a similar study confirmed these findings and concluded that exposure to these chemicals can cause various health problems such as endocrine disruption, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, birth defects, and dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems.
It’s not just livestock that is getting contaminated by pesticides but also bees, too. A 3-year study found that honey bee collected pollen revealed widespread contamination by agriculture pesticides. During that time, 554 pollen samples were analyzed for pesticide residues and 62% contained at least one pesticide. Many of them contained up to 7 different types. Over the 3 years of research, 18 different pesticides were detected in total. The spread of agricultural pesticides by honey bees could cause even more disastrous, unexpected consequences.
The Adverse Health Effects of Pesticides
While the adverse health effects of pesticides have been well studied, there is still a lack of proper tracking of those affected. Per the World Health Organization (WHO), there are no reliable estimates as to how many people per year suffer from pesticide-related health effects. A study in 1999 estimated that world-wide deaths and chronic diseases due to pesticide poisoning number about 1 million per year. However, later studies have increased this number significantly. One study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) found that the annual incidence rates of acute pesticide poisoning in school-children to be over 7.4 per million.
Children are more susceptible to the effects of pesticide poisoning. It’s not just due to the food they eat either. According to Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, of the 40 most commonly used pesticides in schools, 28 can cause cancer, 14 are linked to endocrine disruption, 26 can adversely affect reproduction, 26 are nervous system poisons and 13 can cause birth defects.
Exposure can also happen to any of that happen to wander near a lawn being treated. The database also mentions that of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 can cause cancer, 13 are linked to birth defects, 21 can affect reproduction, and 15 are nervous system toxicants.
A current popular pesticide being used across the world is glyphosate. Keep scrolling down to learn more about this harmful toxin.
What is Glyphosate?
Glyphosate is a type of pesticide that falls into the herbicide category. It is applied to the leaves of plants and grasses to kill them. There is also a sodium salt form of glyphosate that is used to ripen crops and regulate plant growth. According to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), there are over 750 products containing glyphosate for sale in the United States, making it the most widely used herbicide.
Exposure to glyphosate can happen through the skin, eyes, or breathing it in. Some could also be ingested if you eat or smoke after using a product with glyphosate and not washing your hands. It’s not just glyphosate you have to worry about but also the harmful chemicals they are produced with.
A 2004 study concluded that there is a reasonable correlation between the amount ingested and the likelihood of exacerbating a pre-existing disease or death. Advancing age is also associated with a less favorable prognosis. This study also found that inhalation of spray may cause oral, nasal, and throat irritation. Eye and skin irritation could also come from dermal exposure.
However, the exposure to glyphosate actually has a much darker side and can produce long-term adverse health effects. Keep reading to learn more.
The Impact of Glyphosate on the Environment
Glyphosate has been praised for its ability to bind with soil, therefore it isn’t likely to sink further and affect the water supply. While bacteria in the soil are supposed to break the glyphosate down, it’s not happening quickly. Several field tests have shown that barley, carrots, and lettuce contained glyphosate residues up to one year after the soil was treated.
In fact, a 2016 European Union report on pesticide residue confirmed this. They tested over 6,000 samples of food and found 3.6% of them contained quantifiable glyphosate residue levels. 19 of these samples, including honey and cereal products, had levels that exceeding the European maximum residue levels for safety.
The use of glyphosate may be directly responsible for a decline in the monarch butterfly population. In 2015, The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stating that the agency ignored warnings about the potentially dangerous impacts of glyphosate usage on monarchs. The National Pesticide Information Center NPIC also agreed with this stating that glyphosate may affect fish and wildlife indirectly since killing the plants alters the animals’ habitat.
The Adverse Health Effects of Glyphosate
Glyphosate has many adverse health effects that have been studied and published over the last decades. Due to this, many countries including Colombia, El Salvador, and Sri Lanka have issued nationwide bans on their use. On the contrary, the U.S. tries to push the agenda that glyphosate is safe since it is so widely used here. However, current research does not back up this sentiment.
An extensive research study published in the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology proved that exposure to glyphosate induced breast cancer due to its pro-estrogenic activity. After reports of neural defects and craniofacial malformations from regions where glyphosate is used, a 2010 study focused on the embryonic effects. They found that glyphosate produced teratogenic effects by impairing retinoic acid signaling. This essentially means it caused neurological defects in the embryos as well as produced deformations in the skull. The study concluded that the embryos exposed to glyphosate were, “highly abnormal with marked alterations in cephalic and neural crest development and shortening of the anterior−posterior axis.”
Another 2016 study decided to look at link between glyphosate and the effects it has on pregnancy and the outcomes were just as grim. It concluded that glyphosate was associated with birth defects, miscarriages, pre-term deliveries, smaller babies, and childhood diseases. They also found an excess of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) among those children exposed.
Unfortunately, the exposure to glyphosate doesn’t just stop at pregnancy either. A groundbreaking study completed by Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse found that glyphosate was even present in breast milk. This is further evidence that glyphosate can build up in our bodies over time and it stays there. The tested breast milk found glyphosate present 760 to 1600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides. If you’re wondering how this happens, the same study tested drinking water and found shocking results. 70% of American household’s drinking water tested positive for above detectable levels of glyphosate.
There are many other studies out there that link glyphosate with adverse health effects such as disrupting gut bacteria, organ failure, cancer, and promoting heavy metal chelation. The chelation causes heavy metals to accumulate in the body (especially aluminum) and allows it to cross the blood-brain barrier, making it a neuro-toxin. When a chronic list of health issues such as early death, and kidney failure were plaguing Sri Lanka, multiple studies concluded that glyphosate and heavy metals were to blame.
What are GMOs?
GMO stands for genetically modified organism. The process involves using genetic engineering techniques to alter an organism’s genetic material. Many different plants have been genetically modified to enhance, alter, or eliminate specific genes. This is done to make crops resistant to pests and disease as well as to alter their nutrient profile or increase the quality of what is produced. Most of the US production of soybeans and corn has been genetically modified to be glyphosate-tolerant. While genetically modified rice (golden rice) has been created to increase the food’s nutrient value.
According to the USDA, more than 90% of all cotton, soybean, and corn acreage in the U.S. is used to grow genetically modified crops. If you’re curious about the most popular GMO foods approved by the USDA, take a look at the list below.
Examples of GMO Foods
Here is a list of GMO foods that have been approved by the USDA:
- Sugar Beet
The Impact of GMOs on the Environment
The main concern when it comes to the impact of GMOs on the environment is out-crossing. Out-crossing, also called out-breeding, is when unintentional breeding happens between different breeds. In this instance, it would be a GMO plant accidentally breeding with a wild plant and creating new weeds. They could also unintentionally spread out into the wild and continue to grow there on their own. This out-crossing could produce new weedy and invasive plant species.
Another concern is when using GMOs that have been created to be insect resistant. It is believed that over time and is happening currently that insects will be able to evolve and develop a new resistance to this type of plant. Similar concerns have been expressed about weeds becoming resistant to herbicides due to repeated growth of genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops.
The Adverse Health Effects of GMOs
Many countries in the European Union (EU) including France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece, and Luxembourg have banned the cultivation or sale of GMOs completely. There is good reason for that, too. While the U.S. continue to attempt to advocate that GMOs are safe, the truth is, they are not. It is also important to note that GMOs were developed specifically for the vast use of glyphosate, only further proving they’re unsafe and can cause adverse health effects.
While many argue that GMOs are natural since they are just moving around the DNA of plants and nothing else, G. D. W. Smith, a professor at Oxford University explains why it’s not that simple, “Yes, the DNA of all living organisms is made up of just four nucleosides, and yes, virtually all proteins are made up from just 20 amino acids. But this does not imply that everything containing these basic building blocks is without risk to human beings. The same units, arranged in different ways, are contained in the smallpox virus, bubonic plague and influenza, deadly nightshade and other poisonous plants, creatures such as poisonous jellyfish, scorpions, deadly snakes, sharks – and people who talk absolute nonsense.”
An extensive examination published by Earth Open Source delves deeper into the adverse health effects of GMOs. Their research concluded that GMOs may produce mutagenic effects that can disrupt or alter gene structure, disturb normal gene regulatory processes, or cause effects at other levels of biological structure and function. These effects can result in unintended changes in composition, including new toxins or allergens and/or disturbed nutritional value. The insecticidal internally produced by GMOs, such as the Bt toxin in GM crops, may be toxic or allergenic.
The change in farming practices for GMOs is also linked to toxic residue. For instance, higher levels of crop contamination with glyphosate are an inevitable result of using genetically modified glyphosate crops. One study found that rats who ingested GMO corn and glyphosate developed severe kidney and liver damage, disturbance to pituitary gland function, and hormonal disruption. It also led to increased rates of large palpable tumors, and premature death.
Consider the Adverse Health Effects of Pesticides, Glyphosate, and GMOs
When looking over the research presented, there are many adverse health effects to consider when it comes to pesticides, glyphosate, and GMOs. All pesticides are harmful to humans, especially children. They can cause cancer, heart disease, cognitive defects, mental illnesses, and more. Pesticides can also build up in your body from exposure, so it’s important to detox from time to time.
Glyphosate and GMOs are linked together because GMOs are specifically developed for the use of glyphosate and both have been shown to cause adverse health effects that include cancer, birth defects, neurological disease, kidney and liver failure, and premature death.
Pesticides and glyphosate can be found in our food and water supply. While GMOs are used in a lot of common crops like corn, soybeans, and potatoes. It’s likely you already have a buildup of these chemicals in your system due to years of exposure. Therefore, consider using a detox to cleanse these toxins from your body for good.
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