The following video is an interview between Jeffery Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology and Dr. Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D. and senior research scientist at MIT. They carry on an extensive discussion about the potential dangers of glyphosate which is better known by its commercial name, Roundup. The interview is long (an hour) and pretty technical, but still worth watching. I’ll do my best to summarize it in layman’s terms for those who don’t have the time to watch.
Glyphosate is an herbicide. It kills plants. It’s marketed as a weed killer, but it actually kills all plants. That’s why GMO plants have been so popular because they have been genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate. A farmer can plant a field of genetically engineered corn or soy and spray it with Roundup, killing off all the weeds that would suck soil nutrients away from the corn without harming the corn. Before Roundup, tilling was the most effective way to control weeds, but tilling isn’t great for topsoil. It destroys nutrients, is time consuming, and contributes to erosion. It’s easy to see why Roundup became so popular.
The way glyphosate works is that it interrupts the shikimate pathway, a metabolic function in plants that allows them to create essential amino acids. When this path is interrupted, the plants die. Human cells don’t have a shikimate pathway so scientists and researchers believed that exposure to glyphosate would be harmless.
The problem is that bacteria DO have a shikimate pathway and we have millions of good bacteria in our guts – our “gut flora.” These bacteria are essential to our health. Our gut isn’t just responsible for digestion, but also for our immune system. When glyphosate gets in our systems, it wrecks our gut and as a result our immune system.
The interview then goes on to cover an assortment of diseases that can potentially be linked to glyphosate exposure and gut problems. Autism. Alzheimer’s. Obesity. Low serotonin & tryptophan (depression, mental illnesses, and increased violence). Parkinson’s. Birth defects. Crohn’s & colitis. Cancer. Diabetes. Etc. Pick a disease and Dr. Seneff will like it to glyphosate. I won’t go into the specific details regarding each disease. If you are interested, watch the video.
It’s a lot to take in and the skeptic in me wants to say “Really? All that from this one chemical?” Then I remember dioxin (Agent Orange) and DDT. I got the impression that Dr. Seneff’s research is still in the very early stages. She often used phrases like “I believe,” “I suspect,” and “we’re working on” rather than more concrete statements like “I discovered,” “I proved” or “data showed.” Also, in the interest of full disclosure, Dr. Seneff’s degrees are in electrical engineering and computer science, not biology or public health.
Even so, her findings do make a lot of sense and in time evidence may surface to better support her theories. History is riddled with examples of supposedly-safe substances that later turned out to be devastating to human health, the environment, or both.
In the meantime, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence out there from people and families who converted from a conventional diet to an organic diet/lifestyle to minimize exposure to glyphosate. Even farmers who switch their animals to an organic diet notice behavioral differences. I noticed changes in my physical and mental health when I transitioned to a largely-organic diet. I’m not ready to whole-heartedly embrace her sweeping conclusions, but I’m also unwilling to write them off simply because her degree isn’t medically oriented.
One interesting point Dr. Seneff made was that the rate at which many of these diseases are growing – especially autism, which was practically unheard of fifty years ago – suggests that the problem is environmental. In fact, in the past 5 years, autism rates have increased from 1/150 to 1/50. In just 5 years. Most medical research these days focuses on genetics. They are looking for the devil within, but what if Dr. Seneff is right and the problem is external? If autism were genetic, it would take generations for the numbers to increase significantly. We should be looking for significant environmental alterations in the past 30-50 years. Glyphosate and GMOs fit the bill.
This should give everyone plenty to think about over the weekend.