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Is it the gluten or is it the glyphosate?

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New evidence points to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, as the culprit in the rise of gluten intolerance, celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome. A study just published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Toxicology (Vol. 6(4): 159–184 ) by Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff explains how the nearly ubiquitous use of glyphosate as a crop desiccant is entering our food chain and making us ill.

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Pre-harvest application of glyphosate to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980 and its use as a drying agent 7-10 days before harvest has since become routine. It is now used on all grain crops, rice, seeds, dried beans and peas, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, and sugar beets. According to the Pulse Growers Association in Canada (legume growers), “Desiccants are used worldwide by growers who are producing crops that require 'drying down' to create uniformity of plant material at harvest. These products may also assist in pre-harvest weed control. In Canada, products such as diquat (Reglone) and glyphosate (Roundup) have been used as desiccants in pulse crops in the past, and there are new products on the way. ”

The percentage of the total acreage of wheat in the US treated with glyphosate in 1998 and 2012 is shown in Table 1 (slide show).

Samsel & Seneff state that in 2004 glyphosate was used to treat 13% of the wheat in the UK and by 2006, 94% of UK growers used glyphosate on 40% of cereal and 80% of oilseed crops for weed control or harvest management. According to a 2012 report on glyphosate residues in food in the UK, residues as high as 1.1 parts per million [ppm] were detected in whole wheat flour. Lesser residues were detected in a wide range of breads. Residues of 0.6 ppm were found in dried lentils and peas, 2.7 ppm in dried beans, and 11 ppm in dried chickpeas.

Despite multiple letters and documents submitted in protest, just last July the EPA raised the maximum allowable residues of glyphosate in our food, most likely to accommodate levels already present. Allowed levels for various crops where desiccants are routinely used are shown in Table 2 (slide show).

In 2009 Gasnier et al. published an article in the journal Toxicology citing evidence that glyphosate-based herbicides are endocrine disruptors in human cells. They reported toxic effects to liver cells “at 5 ppm, and the first endocrine disrupting actions at 0.5 ppm.”

Samsel & Seneff have meticulously researched the known (published) effects of glyphosate along with the known (published) pathologies associated with celiac disease, gluten intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome. They have identified chemical and biological pathways where glyphosate can be the cause. These are: disruption of the gut bacteria; breakdown in the junctions of the intestinal wall; depletion of vital minerals, vitamins and nutrients; and impairment of cytochrome enzymes that aid the liver in detoxifying environmental toxins, thus multiplying the deleterious effect of other environmental toxins to which we are exposed in increasing amounts.

The increase in the amount of glyphosate applied to wheat correlates with the rise of celiac disease, peritonitis, and deaths due to intestinal infection (see slide show). Samsel and Seneff argue that the increases in these diseases not only have an environmental factor, but not all patient's symptoms are alleviated by eliminating gluten from the diet, which points to another cause.

Data sources:

glyphosate applications to wheat: USDA: National Agricultural Statistics Service

Hospital discharge data: CDC: 1991-2005 2006-2010

Mortality data: CDC mortality database

3/12/2014 The link to the Samsel & Seneff paper has been updated to point to the Journal of Interdisciplinary Toxicology. The link was not available when this article was first published. The cross-link to pub med is still not available because JIT relies on a third party for the cross-linking.

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788 – 1860)

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