Understanding the Basics of Glyphosate
Guest Editorial by Howard Vlieger, STUDENTOFTHESOIL
Glyphosate is a broad spectrum chelator, a nonselective herbicide, an extremely effective antimicrobial agent, a synthetic amino acid, an endocrine disruptor and a probable carcinogen. The world has never experienced such a multi-pronged compound used liberally and indiscriminately. In my opinion, the history books someday could well state that “glyphosate is the most chronically toxic compound ever indiscriminately released into the environment”.
The substance glyphosate was initially discovered in 1950 by a Swiss chemist, Henri Martin, at the pharmaceutical company Cilag. At that stage the product had no known pharmaceutical purpose. In 1964 Stauffer Chemical Company discovered the chelating capabilities of glyphosate and it was developed and utilized as a descaling agent for boiler systems and steam pipes. Although Stauffer screened glyphosate as an herbicide, it was passed over because it did not meet their functional period of time. It was not until the early 1970s that glyphosate was discovered/developed by Monsanto scientists to have herbicidal activity.
Glyphosate is the active chemical ingredient in Roundup herbicide and approximately 40 generic forms of glyphosate based herbicides (GBHs). GBHs are nonselective thus they are designed to kill any living plant on which they are applied and have become the most widely used herbicides in the world.
Glyphosate’s Properties: First Patented in 1964
Glyphosate as a Mineral Chelator
A chelator binds to a mineral to change its physical properties without becoming part of the molecule. There are two primary types of chelation (relative to production agriculture or in nature).
A friendly chelator prevents a mineral or element from being tied up by others minerals or the soil. Humic substances (humic acid, fulvic acid or tannic acid) are examples of friendly chelators because they can hold the mineral in a protective manner but release the mineral physiologically or microbially to subsequently make the mineral available to the plants growing in the soil.
A strong chelator like glyphosate grabs onto the mineral(s) or element(s) and makes them bio-unavailable. Glyphosate performs this function in two ways because it is a strong chelator and a biocidal/antimicrobial product. It holds the mineral/nutrient relative to the charges involved with chelation. Glyphosate also damages the microorganisms that would in many cases be the most effective means of making the mineral or nutrient available to a growing plant.
Glyphosate chelates Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), Manganese (Mn), Zinc (Zn), Iron (FE), Copper (Cu), Nickel (Ni), Cobalt (Co), Boron (B), Molybdenum (Mo), Selenium (Se) & Potassium (K). It takes an extremely small amount of glyphosate to cause this bio-unavailability because of how effective glyphosate is as a chelator. If glyphosate is present in a substance(s), nutrient availability will be questionable.
It has been proven that glyphosate lowers the mineral content and physiological availability of nutrients in a growing crop. Glyphosate reduced seed and leaf concentrations of calcium, manganese, magnesium, and iron in non-glyphosate resistant soybean. It has also been proven that glyphosate also reduces the nutrient, content in the grain/seed of a glyphosate resistant (GR) crop that is sprayed with GBH. There is nothing in the genetically engineered, GR crop that enables the GR crop to deal with the chelating effects of the glyphosate herbicide. GR crops can simply survive or tolerate the application of the GBHs.
Some researchers believe that glyphosate can lower the test weight of grain due to its chelating effects, but it cannot be substantiated scientifically. Due to the inability in lab analysis equipment and capabilities relevant to nutrient/nutritional analysis, it is difficult to determine if a mineral is present, and available, or unavailable due to the presence of glyphosate residue. The mineral can be detected to be present but it is uncertain if it is available for utilization with MOST labs’ testing capabilities.
Glyphosate residue testing requires very specific equipment and expertise on how to properly conduct this type of analysis. It is a very difficult to analyze for the presence of glyphosate residue as recoveries from ‘spiked’ samples can be as low as 60 % with certain analytical systems.
Glyphosate as an Herbicide – Patented in 1969
Although glyphosate is registered as an herbicide, it has been repeatedly documented (since 1984) that glyphosate does not kill a weed directly. Glyphosate shuts down the plants’ defense mechanism making it susceptible to disease causing organisms which are actually responsible for killing a susceptible plant that has been sprayed with a GBH. This has been demonstrated in several scientific studies by growing plants in sterile soil and then spraying them with a GBH. The plant will stop growing for up to 10 – 14 days and then begin to grow again after the growth hormones can function properly when the plant recovers/receives critic nutrients/minerals from the soil.
The susceptible sprayed plant does NOT DIE but only stops growing. This has also been demonstrated by applying a fungicide with the glyphosate herbicide. The disease(s) that kill plants that have been sprayed with glyphosate are promoted by the pathogenic fungi in the soil. The fungicide stops the fungal disease and thus prevents the herbicidal activity so the plants do not die. It has been stated for the ease of the lay person to better understand or make an association that glyphosate “gives the plants a condition similar to AIDS”. Again, it’s a defense mechanism in a plant (comparable to a human’s immune system) that is rendered inactive due to the presence of glyphosate. Weeds are developing resistance to the diseases, not the glyphosate. This is just one reason, for the ever growing number of SUPER WEEDS.
Glyphosate as an Antimicrobial Agent- Patented in 2004
Monsanto was granted a patent on glyphosate as an antibiotic (or parasite control product) in August 2004 and this patent was expanded in 2010. The company applied for the patent in August 2003, yet concurrently while the patent was being reviewed and approved, they denied that glyphosate could cause any possible damage to the soil or soil microorganisms.
Dr. Robert Kremer worked for the USDA ARS at Columbia, Missouri. He was unable for many years to get any of his detailed precise research published on the damaging effects of glyphosate to the soil, soil organisms and plants. This was due to Monsanto’s influence in the scientific journal arena in the United States. Dr. Kremer submitted his research to the European Journal of Agronomy to finally get the work published. The most interesting part about glyphosate’s antimicrobial effect is that it affects beneficial organisms at much lower doses than it does the opportunistic or pathogenic disease-causing organisms. This has been documented in soil by Dr. Kremer & others, in livestock; chickens by Dr. Monika Krueger as well as causing botulism in cattle.
It bears repeating that glyphosate has been proven to stimulate the growth of the opportunistic/pathogenic disease-causing organisms at very low levels. A consequence of this differential toxicity reduces the population of the biological control organisms (the good bugs) and increases the population of the opportunistic or disease causing organisms (the bad bugs). Fusarium is an example of a disease causing organism.
Glyphosate also causes a continual increased veracity or intensity of the opportunistic organisms. So, the bad bugs continue to maintain or increase their population (throughout the growing season) and keep getting stronger wherever/whenever glyphosate is present in the environment. This has not been documented in humans as it is theoretically unethical to do research on humans but as we know it occurs every day without their permission or knowledge as unsuspecting victims consume food that contains glyphosate residue.
Thanks to the excellent clinical work of Dr. Michelle Perro (an outstanding pediatrician who practices integrative medicine and coauthor of What’s Making Our Children Sick) and the pioneering scientific research of Dr. Dana Stanley (reestablishment of specific beneficial gut microorganisms) many of the damaging effects of glyphosate in the gut of livestock and humans are better understood. Dr. Monika Krueger has also been very instrumental in pioneering research in remediating glyphosate’s negative effects in livestock that has subsequently benefitted humans.
Glyphosate is an aminophosphonic analogue of the natural amino acid glycine. Glycine is a ubiquitous amino acid important in plants for the management of stress and for collagen growth in humans. The science on this aspect of glyphosate is still young and definitely requires more research.
Glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor . An endocrine disruptor in essence causes a malfunction of normal cellular development. In a developing fetus this can cause birth defects. In an adult this can cause metabolic disfunction or the growth of abnormal cells (tumors).
Glyphosate was classified as a probable carcinogen by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March of 2015. This decision has been aggressively contested by industry and also disputed by the EPA and other regulatory agencies. Dr. Christopher J. Portier just published a paper on the science supporting the IARC cancer decision.
Dr. Charles Benbrook authored an excellent paper on comparing the science that IARC used and the science that EPA used in reaching their varying conclusions on glyphosate. It is difficult to understand how EPA justified its controversial conclusion until you see the limited scope of the science they reviewed.
In summary, Glyphosate is a broad spectrum chelator, a nonselective herbicide, an extremely effective antimicrobial agent, a synthetic amino acid, an endocrine disruptor and a probable carcinogen. The world has never experienced such a multi-pronged compound used liberally and indiscriminately. In my opinion, the history books someday could well state that “glyphosate is the most chronically toxic compound ever indiscriminately released into the environment”.
Acknowledgements: I greatly appreciate the help and guidance of many individuals over a period of many years that has enabled me to learn and comprehend this information. I would like to give a special thanks to three specific friends and colleagues. Dr. Arthur G. Dunham DVM, Dr. Don M. Huber PhD. and Dr. Robert J. Kremer PhD. who have all been extremely gracious with their time and unbelievably patient as I have asked countless questions over the years. Most of ALL I give thanks to the Good Lord and Creator for enabling me to “see what I look at”.