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January 20, 2018

058.5 Important Clarification on the Glyphosate/ Groceries Episode


The last episode contained information about glyphosate that was allegedly detected in common grocery store items.  Today’s podcast is an important follow up.

At the time the discussion was 100% correct based on the methods and information provided.  I have since been contacted by the laboratory that did the testing.  I’m confident that their numbers were reported correctly, as described on their analytical reports.  So is there herbicide detected in parts per billion?  Looks like it could be in some cases, is correctly detected with reliable quantitation in other cases, and in other cases it is not detected (still could be there below limit of detection).

What it means again is that we are very good at detecting something that almost isn’t there, and you’d need to eat billions of boxes of Cheerios to reach a physiologically perilous level of the herbicide.

It also means no reason for alarm.  The levels are amazingly small, and are a testament to outstanding detection– and are not the poisons as described.  This clarification also underscores the importance of peer review.  When methods are incomplete, and controls like organic products are coming back positive– it suggests that there are serious issues with the measurements.

So the question shifts again to the ethics of activist groups that attempt to scare parents with minuscule non-zero numbers.  That is the conversation we must be having.

4 Comments on 058.5 Important Clarification on the Glyphosate/ Groceries Episode

  1. Kevin, thanks for this clarification. I’m interested in two points in particular: their controls, and the concentrations.

    You say, after speaking with the lab, that they did all the procedures correctly. Do you agree with the controls that they chose?

    Now, you say that the concentrations are in ppb; to be clear, the cheerios sample is in ppm (i.e. 1,125 ppb or 1.125 ppm). What are biologically significant concentrations for human consumption? Additionally, isn’t glyphosate a hydrophilic compound? Therefore, can it ever be bioaccumulated in significant amounts?

    Thanks Kevin

    • Cameron, you are right on all accounts. Let’s start at the end. That’s right, we know it moves through the body in the urine and stools, a small amount metabolized in the liver. Biological significance is not an issue either, as you’d have to consume grams per kg of body weight to have effects. That’s based on animal models and on the occasional suicide attempt.

      The company has no obligation to provide any information to me. They did a job for a paying customer and delivered the non-zero results they wanted. That’s the bottom line.

      In terms of controls, the email they send me satisfied my questions. They claim to have developed an appropriate test for each product and measured the amount of glyphosate titrated into each one. So that’s what I have to work with. That would be correct. The fact that it is detected in organic stuff bothers me because I trust organic growers and supply chains. Too much to lose.

  2. Hi Kevin,
    First – THANK YOU for all your hard work! I love the podcast and share it with my students every semester.
    I have a first assignment of Biology in the News. Essentially they go out and find something on the web that interests them then see if they can find any papers on PubMed the support/refute the web finding. One student found an interesting paper (below) and I would love to hear your thoughts on it!

    Sci Rep. 2017 Jan 9;7:39328. doi: 10.1038/srep39328.
    Multiomics reveal non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats following chronic exposure to an ultra-low dose of Roundup herbicide.
    Mesnage R1, Renney G2, Séralini GE3, Ward M2, Antoniou MN1.
    Author information
    The impairment of liver function by low environmentally relevant doses of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) is still a debatable and unresolved matter. Previously we have shown that rats administered for 2 years with 0.1 ppb (50 ng/L glyphosate equivalent dilution; 4 ng/kg body weight/day daily intake) of a Roundup GBH formulation showed signs of enhanced liver injury as indicated by anatomorphological, blood/urine biochemical changes and transcriptome profiling. Here we present a multiomic study combining metabolome and proteome liver analyses to obtain further insight into the Roundup-induced pathology. Proteins significantly disturbed (214 out of 1906 detected, q < 0.05) were involved in organonitrogen metabolism and fatty acid β-oxidation. Proteome disturbances reflected peroxisomal proliferation, steatosis and necrosis. The metabolome analysis (55 metabolites altered out of 673 detected, p < 0.05) confirmed lipotoxic conditions and oxidative stress by showing an activation of glutathione and ascorbate free radical scavenger systems. Additionally, we found metabolite alterations associated with hallmarks of hepatotoxicity such as γ-glutamyl dipeptides, acylcarnitines, and proline derivatives. Overall, metabolome and proteome disturbances showed a substantial overlap with biomarkers of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and its progression to steatohepatosis and thus confirm liver functional dysfunction resulting from chronic ultra-low dose GBH exposure.

    PMID: 28067231 PMCID: PMC5220358 DOI: 10.1038/srep39328
    [PubMed – in process] Free PMC Article
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