Glyphosate - What is it and Why should I care?
Glyphosate is an herbicide. It is applied to the leaves of plants to kill both broadleaf plants and grasses. Glyphosate was first registered for use in the U.S. in 1974. It is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. People apply it in agriculture and forestry, on lawns and gardens, and for weeds in industrial areas. There are over 750 products containing glyphosate for sale in the United States; the most widely known is probably Round-Up.
Studies suggest that glyphosate has carcinogenic potential, although its maker, Monsanto, claims it to be harmless. However, their research was performed by pesticide companies in support of Monsanto's goals and the results have not been made public.
Glyphosate binds tightly to soil and can persist in soil for up to 6 months, probably longer in water. Glyphosate is found virtually everywhere in the food chain, as well as tap water, and has been found in human and animal urine. The chemical acts as an endocrine-disruptor and can alter liver and kidney function. It also seems that glyphosate accumulates in internal organs, rather than being rapidly eliminated, as previously thought. Humans with chronic ill health were found to have higher levels of the chemical in their urine.
Altered testosterone and estradiol levels were found in rats given low doses of glyphosate and mammary cancer rates were much higher in treated rats. Kidney changes leading to chronic kidney failure, as well as death of liver cells, was seen in treated animals; this correlates with chronic kidney disease seen in farmers who handle this chemical often. One study showed that antibiotic resistance by bacteria may be associated with exposure to glyphosate.
Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto who still claims their product is completely safe and does not cause cancer or ill health. Many large food companies have also been sued for having natural claims on their products when glyphosate is found in significant levels in the food.
Cornell University tested 18 different pet foods and found that all products contained glyphosate, even those labeled as non-GMO. As expected, pet foods higher in grains topped the list for contamination. For pets eating the same product day in and day out, chronic exposure to this chemical can have deleterious effects on kidney, liver, and reproductive function. In one study, animals were found to have levels of glyphosate in their bodies at 50 times the level of humans that were tested.
Fatty liver syndrome was seen in rats fed levels of glyphosate much lower than those found in many common pet foods. One of the most common alterations in lab work seen in my practice is elevated liver enzymes, which we treat with supplements to detox the liver. Cushing's Disease, an endocrine disorder, is being diagnosed much more frequently in dogs. Could the inclusion of this chemical in food be contributing to these changes?
Unfortunately, our pets have higher exposure to these chemicals than most humans. They walk barefoot on treated ground, lick from puddles and eat plant material that may be contaminated. When they are fed pet foods laden with glyphosate, the exposure is compounded. Long-term effects on our pets are unknown. Do your best to avoid chemicals containing glyphosate on your lawn and gardens. Feed healthy, fresh, organic foods that are non-GMO whenever possible.