Cambridge, MA—Are herbicides only killing weeds? Recent research published in Entropy suggests that they do more damage than eliminating weeds.

The chemical in question is glyphosate, which is the key component in the ever-popular herbicide, Roundup. The research review article, written by Anthony Samsel, an independent scientist and consultant, and Stephanie Seneff of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, states that glyphosate usage could be a factor in the development of gastrointestinal disorders, autism, obesity, infertility, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, heart disease and diabetes. 

One of the bigger concerns is glyphosate’s tendency to kill the normal bacteria in the human gut, referred to as gut flora. Don Huber, Ph.D., says that once the good bacteria in the gut are killed, harmful bacteria will take over: “You take the good guys out and the bad guys rule. And that's what's happening.”

Another concern also involving glyphosate’s negative effects in the gut is the way that the chemical blocks the gut’s ability to create serotonin. Glyphosate prevents the gut from making tryptophan, which is the foundation of serotonin. Without serotonin, which is responsible for giving people the feeling of happiness, people can become depressed, obsessive compulsive and even suicidal.

The researchers state, “Glyphosate is likely to be pervasive in our food supply, and, contrary to being essentially nontoxic, it may in fact be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.”

The report is still preliminary research, but has opened the doors for more in-depth research involving glyphosate. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to finish a standard registration review by 2015 to determine if glyphosate’s use should be limited.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, July 2013 (online 5/30/13)