Glyphosate Levels in Humans

A generation of increasing glyphosate use in agriculture is beginning to show its effects in the human body.

| August/September 2018

  • sprayer
    Glyphosate concentrations in humans are rising because of pervasive agricultural use.
    Photo by Getty Images/Leonid Eremeychuk

  • sprayer

Many people know that modern agriculture relies on massive amounts of pesticides to produce substantial results, but few realize how far-reaching pesticides’ impacts can be. Now, a new study is revealing that these compounds are more present in our bodies than we think.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in many herbicides, is known for triggering environmental damage and adverse health effects at excessive concentrations. In fact, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine have revealed that the chemical is showing up in human bodies.

While it’s convenient to think the contaminant is confined only to the corn and soy fields it’s sprayed on, tests of everyday foods, such as cookies, ice cream, and crackers, are all showing traces of the chemical. Human exposure to glyphosate has increased more than 500 percent since 1994, when the product was first introduced to the market. Before this date, few people had detectable levels of the compound in their bodies. As of 2016, almost three-quarters of those sampled did.

This is cause for concern, as the World Health Organization categorized glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015. In 2017, the European Parliament voted in favor of phasing out glyphosate from agriculture in the following five years, with a full ban in 2022. At the same time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers the compound safe for agricultural use.

While it’s unclear what amount of human exposure to glyphosate might be dangerous, there’s no denying that people are being exposed to unprecedented levels of this controversial agricultural chemical through the food and water they consume. Visit The Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit that provides agricultural research results to consumers and farmers, and search “glyphosate” to learn more about regulatory agencies’ views on the chemical.

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