25 November 2015

Additives in Roundup weedkiller may be genotoxic

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup pesticide, may not cause cancer on its own, but once it's mixed with other constituents it could be genotoxic.


Monsanto Company is an American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation, based in Missouri.

It is best known for developing genetically engineered (GE) seed and producing Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide.

On their website Monsanto states that Roundup “offers enhanced, consistent weed control, weed to weed and field to field, even hard-to-control weeds such as velvetleaf, purslan, morning glory, lambsquarters and Canada thistle”.

They also claim that Roundup has consistently outperformed imitator herbicide products in greenhouse and field trials.

Probably a human carcinogen

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is deciding whether or not to approve the use of Roundup for the next 15 years, a report by the European Union Food safety Authority (EFSA) stated that glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) is “unlikely to cause cancer”.

On the face of it, that statement should be just what Monsanto wanted to hear, especially after the findings of the World Health Organisation (WHO) earlier this year that glyphosate is probably a human carcinogen.  

Read: 6 hidden cancer causes

There’s more to it, though, and, as the environmental watchdog Sustainable Pulse pointed out, even if the main ingredient glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer, the mixture of glyphosate with other constituents or “co-formulants” could be genotoxic. (A substance that is genotoxic damages DNA and may lead to cancer.)

Additives not tested

Sustainable Pulse adds that tests carried out on laboratory animals involve only the active ingredient, in this case glyphosate. The additives that increase or support the herbicidal properties of the weedkiller are not tested, although they form part of the product used on crops, and to which people and animals are exposed.

The WHO findings were not based on glyphosate alone, but combined with all the other additives in Roundup.

According to a study pesticide formulations are up to 1,000 times more toxic than the isolated “active ingredient” that is tested. The study also found that Roundup was the most toxic of the herbicides and insecticides that were tested.

Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini, who headed the study, said that the public isn’t aware of how toxic these pesticides are and that they should be assessed more realistically. Ignoring the situation and doing nothing could endanger people’s lives.  

Read more:

UN agency classifies pesticides as 'probably carcinogenic'

Monsanto orders review of 'carcinogenic' herbicide



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