Chemical, used by Monsanto, found in urine of Europeans - study
Residents of 18 European states have been tested positively to traces of glyphosate, a globally used weed killer, the study says. It remains unclear how the chemical used on Monsanto GMO crops got in people’s bodies.
It turns out that 44 per cent of volunteers had it in their
urine, but it is yet unclear how the herbicide got into their
“These results suggest we are being exposed to glyphosate in
our everyday lives,” Adrian Bebb, spokesperson of
environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) said in a
The study, carried out between March and May 2013, showed that
proportions of positive samples varies between countries, with
Malta (90 per cent) , Germany (70 per cent), UK (70 per
cent) and Poland being “the most positive samples”
and Macedonia and Switzerland – “the lowest”.
"Our testing highlights a serious lack of action by public
authorities across Europe and indicates that this weed killer is
being widely overused,” the group said.
Glyphosate is essentially used on plants including grasses,
sedges, broad-leaved weeds and woody plants as well as great
variety of genetically modified crops. Glyphosate is the active
ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, which is sprayed in
large amounts on genetically engineered, so-called "Roundup
“It is crucial for growing genetically modified (GM) crops,
many of which are modified to withstand glyphosate,” FoE
All volunteers, who provided their urine samples, are people from
European cities; they had no contact with glyphosate or used
products containing it in the run-up to the tests.
However, after testing volunteers’ samples the group still cannot say “where it is coming from, how widespread it is in the environment, or what it is doing to our health.”
This study is the first of its kind because despite being widely
used in farming and gardening, there is little monitoring of
glyphosate in food, water or the wider environment. Commonly
tests with glyphosate are conducted with rats, dogs, mice, and
rabbits in studies lasting from 21 days to two years.
The FoE members are concerned that the problem many increase as
“14 new GM crops designed to be cultivated with glyphosate are
currently waiting for approval to be grown in Europe.”
“Approval of these crops would inevitably lead to a further increase of glyphosate spraying in the EU,” the group concluded.
Despite considered relatively non-toxic, there are groups of
scientists concerned that glyphosate may disrupt the human
hormone system, be an 'endocrine disruptor', cause DNA damage and
even cancer. One of the recent reviews, conducted by MIT, also
highlighted dangerous health effects of glyphosate, including
increased cancer risk, neurotoxicity, and birth defects, as well
as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation, but still said that
more independent research is needed to prove their findings.
We “have hit upon something very important that needs to be
taken seriously and further investigated,” Stephanie Seneff,
PhD, lead author and research scientist at MIT, told Reuters in
May, shortly after the review was made.
At the same time, the UK scientists who reviewed most recent
FoE’s study said its findings were "unreliable", according
to Farmers Weekly magazine.
"As it stands, this press release is completely insubstantial,
it is not scientific, and cannot be taken seriously by
anyone," the magazine quoted Alison Haughton, head of the
pollination ecology group at Rothamsted Research, as saying.
US biotech giant Monsanto, which insists it “does not pose any
unacceptable risk to human health or the environment".
"It is not surprising to find glyphosate in urine should a
person ingest food with low residues of glyphosate. Glyphosate is
not metabolized by the human body but excreted into the urine and
faeces. This is a well-known aspect of glyphosate that
contributes to its comprehensive safety assessment,"
Monsanto’s spokesperson told the magazine.
“We always take any allegation seriously and would like to
know more,” he added.