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Glyphosate (N-phosphonomethylglycine), the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup that is manufactured by Monsanto has been labeled a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC, which is the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, which recently considered the status of five insect and weed killers including glyphosate. All were found to be potential carcinogens.
There were no additional studies involved in the IARC determination, only a re-examination of the some of the research done almost 20 years age. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which makes its own determinations, said it would consider the IARC’s evaluation, but as recently as 2012 the EPA’s assessment of glyphosate concluded that it was not a carcinogen and could "continue to be used without unreasonable risks to people or the environment." EPA is currently conducting the standard registration review of glyphosate to determine if its use should be limited. The EPA that was expected to complete their review by 2015, but it appears to be delayed.
The new classification of glyphosate by IARC as a potential carcinogen is aimed mainly at industrial use of glyphosate. Its use by home gardeners is not considered a risk by the IARC. Details of the review have not yet been published only a short paper announcing the decision was published in Lancet Oncology (a British Medical Journal). The IARC said there was "limited evidence" in humans that the herbicide can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and there is convincing evidence that glyphosate can also cause other forms of cancer in rats and mice. Glyphosate has been found in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, showing the chemical has been absorbed by the body. Glyphosate was classified as a probable carcinogen in the same category of cancer risk as things like anabolic steroids, working as a hairdresser and shift work.
Glyphosate (N-phosphonomethylglycine), the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup that is manufactured by Monsanto (though the formulation is no longer under patent) is the most popular herbicide in use today in the United States, and increasingly throughout the World. Today, Americans spray an estimated 180-185 million pounds of the weed killer, on their yards and farms every year. All the acute toxicity tests have indicated glyphosate is nearly nontoxic to mammals. Thus, it has been assumed that any residues of glyphosate that are ingested from food sources or by farm workers are safe. As a consequence, measurement of its presence in food is practically nonexistent. Glyphosate and its metabolite aminomethylpholphonic acid (AMPA) have not been covered in the reports from the Center for Disease Control on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, so human exposure has not been measured.
Monsanto and industry experts have submitted a review of their studies and believe that glyphosate has been proved safe to humans and the environment. Nonetheless, there have been for some time a minority of scientists and experts in the United States who believe that glyphosate may instead be much more toxic than is claimed by Monsanto. In 2013 a report was published in the online journal Entropy presented a rational scientific argument based on the systematic search of the literature and possible pathways of impact that led the authors to argue that many of the health problems that appear to be associated with a Western diet could be explained by biological disruptions that have been attributed to glyphosate. These include digestive issues, obesity, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, Parkinson’s disease, liver diseases, and cancer.
In humans, only small amounts (~2%) of ingested glyphosate are metabolized to AMPA, and the rest enters the blood stream and is eliminated through the urine. The philosophy that tiny amounts of chemicals are of no health consequence has been the cornerstone of toxicology and regulation, but that has recently come into question with our increased ability to measure trace amounts of chemicals. For many environmental chemicals, more research is needed to determine whether exposure at the extremely low levels is a cause for health concern. Since 2000 there has been widespread adoption in the U.S. of Roundup Ready® (RR) crops, for the production of soy, beet sugar, and corn increasing the use of glyphosate. Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are used to produce corn feed animals that produce meat. Glyphosate has become ubiquitous in our industrial food supply and warrants more testing rather than just a re-examination of older studies that were somewhat ambiguous in their results.