Roundup and Gut Bacteria

Note: I recently became a contributor over at The Skeptical LibertarianThere will be some cross-posting and similar topics covered. This is a benefit, however, as it has already brought to my attention new material which I might not have otherwise noticed. There is also other great material over there, so if you are looking to add to your reading – please check it out. Thanks to Daniel Bier for a whole new stack of material to use in my writing!

Daniel Bier, publisher and executive editor of The Skeptical Libertarian, brought to my attention a news story regarding a new published report on the active ingredient in Roundup® called Glyphosate. As he rightly points out, the conclusions and the mode of publications immediately raised some skeptical red-flags. So I started reading the study, and all I can do is shake my head at how poor the “science” really is in this paper.

The first red-flag comes right away in the article’s title: Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. The terms “modern disease” and “gut bacteria/microbes/flora/etc” have been used and abused by pseudoscientific practitioners that promote fad diets (paleo and such), anti-vaccination people, anti-genetically modified food people, and other groups which employ the naturalistic fallacy. The term “modern disease” is a loaded term, with the claim that all diseases and conditions (cancer, autism, MS, Parkinson’s, etc) are all caused by our modern lifestyle and modern medicine. It is also very popular to connect all things disease to the intestine. While there is a kernel of truth in a few of the claims, too often the terms get pseudoscientific treatment. Now my skeptical senses are tingling.

The next set of red-flags come from the abstract. I will post the entire thing here. I think those familiar with skepticism can find several overly bold statements here. I will highlight a few below.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, is the most popular herbicide used worldwide. The industry asserts it is minimally toxic to humans, but here we argue otherwise. Residues are found in the main foods of the Western diet, comprised primarily of sugar, corn, soy and wheat. Glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology, one of which is to detoxify xenobiotics. Thus, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Here, we show how interference with CYP enzymes acts synergistically with disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria, as well as impairment in serum sulfate transport. Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. We explain the documented effects of glyphosate and its ability to induce disease, and we show that glyphosate is the “textbook example” of exogenous semiotic entropy: the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins.

The last two sentences stand out the most. The human body is a very complex system. The implication that any one chemical is the cause of all disease all alone is intellectual dishonest, cognitively dissonant, or both. A similar tactic is used in opposite way for marijuana. Proponents claim it will cure all disease, but the research would indicate it is much more complex: perhaps treating certain diseases while exacerbating others. While it is technically plausible glyphosate plays a role in all of the diseases listed, it is highly unlikely. To also implicate glyphosate as the number one example of an “environmental toxin” indicates a misunderstanding of the complexity of biology.

Glyphosate and Cancer

One of the first claims in the paper is as follows:

Thus, while short-term studies in rodents have shown no apparent toxicity, studies involving life-long exposure in rodents have demonstrated liver and kidney dysfunction and a greatly increased risk of cancer, with shortened lifespan.

The study cited regarding the long-term effects is rife with inadequacies. If you look at the link, several follow-ups are posted regarding these inadequacies of methodology. There is also a failure of a review not to acknowledge these follow-ups, and a failure not to point out that one study with rats bred to have a predisposition to tumors is not enough to make a strong conclusion. As David Gorski at Science-Based Medicine points out:

The investigators measured numerous parameters in each group, some of them at multiple different time points. An experiment with this many groups and this many parameters measured this many times is virtually guaranteed to generate multiple “positive” results. How did they control for all these multiple comparisons? I’ve read the study a few times now, and I still can’t figure it out. An experiment with this many groups in which this many parameters are measured is guaranteed to produce “statistically significant” differences in a number of variables by random chance alone. Heck, in Figure 5, I counted 47 different parameters measured, and in some tables thirteen different parameters recorded curiously as percentage changes. Even worse, for the mortality data (arguably the most critical data), no confidence intervals are reported, and there appears to be no discussion of how the mortality data were analyzed…

I am skeptical that rats in a control group bred to develop tumors 72% of the time are the best method for finding a substance to be a strong contributor to their cancer.

Glyphosate and Gut Bacteria

Their next conclusion is as follows:

The incidence of inflammatory bowel diseases such as juvenile onset Crohn’s disease has increased substantially in the last decade in Western Europe and the United States. It is reasonable to suspect that glyphosate’s impact on gut bacteria may be contributing to these diseases and conditions.

This is a common correlation/causation error, which is an error demonstrated in this viral post from a couple months back:

While research on gut bacteria and the role it plays on human biology, and there is intriguing research on gut flora and fecal transplants in treating specific digestive diseases, it hasn’t shown effects outside of that to this point. As Mark Crislip concludes in his article on fecal transplants:

The practice of medicine is always in flux* and off the wall ideas today are tomorrows standard of care.  For fecal transplant and some colonic diseases, it is an intervention that, outside of C. difficile, is still unproven, although a promising idea.   For diseases outside the colon, biologic plausibility makes stool transplant unlikely to have any benefit with real potential downsides.  Stool transplants are unlikely to be of widespread to benefit,  but when all you have to offer is crap, everything is a toilet.

Glyphosate and Autism

The authors try connecting glyphosate to autism, but do so through the gastrointestinal hypothesis. Their statement is as follows:

It is now well established that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is associated with dysbiosis in the gut, and, indeed, this is viewed by many as an important contributor to ASD.

The study cited is by Karoly Horvath, who has pushed the connection between “leaky gut” and autism, similar to Andrew Wakefield. Karoly Horvath is listed among “Autism’s False Prophets” in Paul Offit’s book of the same title. The leaky gut hypothesis is centered around the idea that something triggers the intestine to become inflamed (vaccines, foods, “modern” foods, etc) and allows “macronutrients” in the blood and damages the brain. While it is true that autistic kids have a higher incidence of gastrointestinal issues, it has been hard to find a single cause. There are errors in reporting, since many studies relied on parental reporting of issues. There are other possible causes, such as one recent study that showed those with autism that reported gastrointestinal issues also reported higher rates of anxiety and sensory over-responsivity. The possible pathways of inflammation cited by Wakefield and Horvath have all since been discredited in follow-up studies. SInce the original study by Horvath was published in 2003, I would have to assume Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff willfully ignored the followup in order to prove their point.

As a side note, it is important to note the genetic component of autism. Families with an autistic child have an increased chance of another child having ASD. Other brain disorders share a genetic link with autism. A small study showed the brains of autistic boys were dramatically different in their structure than a control group. Because of a genetic link, it is possible the intestines of autistic kids are more susceptible to inflammation, but it is much less likely the inflammation is what causes autism.

Glyphosate and Obesity

The authors of the paper also make an auspicious connection to obesity. They state:

The obesity epidemic began in the United States in 1975, simultaneous with the introduction of glyphosate into the food chain, and it has steadily escalated in step with increased usage of glyphosate in agriculture.

What’s interesting is the studies they link to all have to do with dietary changes, and not with glyphosate. The studies correlate sugar consumption, portion size, and similar issues as leading to obesity, not glyphosate. It is also of note that obesity started rising the year glyphosate was introduced, yet elsewhere the authors claim it is chronic exposure over the long-term that causes problems in the body. If it indeed is long-term exposure, then there should be a lag in the rise of obesity, not an immediate correlation.

Other Opposing Views to the Claims of the Paper

Kevin Kloor writes about the poor reporting done on this study (and poor science reporting as a whole). For example, Reuters called the paper a “study,” which it clearly is not – it is a review – but really should be treated more as an editorial commentary since the literature review is very biased and incomplete. Hank Campbell at Science 2.0 talks a little about this paper and the dangers of an open-access journal such as Entropy. Even though it carries a label of “peer-review,” it is merely a small editorial board looking for certain gross errors, but not truly peers in the field looking at the science itself. Hank Campbell does offer hope that some science reporters did actually look at the study, and showed it to be nonsense…but the fact the Reuters article still exists without so much as an update is concerning.

Monsanto makes a few valid points within its response on its blog. Similar to Hank Campbell’s response, they state:

Publication in a physics journal would not have subjected the paper to appropriate peer review by experts in relevant fields of biology and medicine.

A few of the other points in the blog, such as the affiliations of the authors, are not proof by themselves that the study is flawed. But taken as a whole, along with the content (and missing content) of the paper, it is apparent the authors of the review were biased in their conclusions. Glyphosate has been the source of controversy for quite some time. While concern over Monsanto’s influence on agriculture is a valid discussion, it doesn’t invalidate the science behind it (what I nickname the Capitalistic Fallacy).

Dave Mance III takes a bit more of a common sense, middle-ground approach to glyphosate in an article for Northern Woodlands magazine. While pointing out that the precautionary principle would dictate finding alternatives to any herbicide, there are certain good uses for them. Mr. Mance also looks at how science is misreported, because good scientists are honest in their assessment that there is no 100% certainty. The article further points out the importance of looking at the source of studies and their funding sources. When looking at independently funded studies (such as by universities), he found:

Researchers at Cornell, among other major universities, analyzed toxicology tests in 1996 and concluded that glyphosate is “practically nontoxic” by ingestion, and it’s unlikely that the chemical would produce reproductive, teratogenic (birth defects), mutagenic, or carcinogenic effects in humans (read the results yourself). But because science is never 100 percent certain about anything, you can see where phrases like “practically nontoxic” leave an opening for attack. The web is awash with antiglyphosate stories with headlines like: 50 percent of rats given this died – Why is it on your dinner plate? And, indeed, if you fed rats more than 5,600 mg/kg of the chemical they would probably die. (To put this number into perspective, a proportional dose for a 150-pound human would be 840 g, almost two pounds; table salt would kill you at 350 g.) But by making an extreme example the rule, and overlooking the fact that rats fed 400 mg/kg a day for most of their lives showed no adverse effects, such stories give readers a skewed picture of the real-world health risks.

This is a nice summary of how scientific conclusions can be misinterpreted, and how dose is an important factor in many things biological and chemical.

Conclusion

The bold conclusions reached by the review are not supported by the evidence. The authors did include many citations, but did not look at followup to many of the citations or willfully ignored them. There are many leaps of correlation to causation that do not fit their own hypothesis, but they force fit them anyway. The connections to a popular topic among pseudoscientists, gut bacteria, are very shaky at best. The review is easily dismissed, and already has been by science writers with expertise and good science sense.

Reuters would be well served to update their article to point out these errors. In fact, this should be the policy of any science writer – to welcome discussion and a willingness to provide updates as new information comes to light. While I feel I do sufficient research in my own writing, if solid evidence comes to light which is in opposition to my conclusion, I am comfortable with changing any of my conclusions. I believe that is the mark of a good scientist, a good science writer, and a good skeptic.

About Eric Hall

My day job is teaching physics at the University of Minnesota, Rochester. I write about physics, other sciences, politics, education, and whatever else interests or concerns me. I am always working to be rational and reasonable, and I am always willing to improve my knowledge and change my mind when presented with new evidence.
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108 Responses to Roundup and Gut Bacteria

  1. mud says:

    I notice the letters to the editor were flying! I’d say this paper gets retracted fairly soon.

    That, and I will have to watch my drinking habits…

    • Simon Allen says:

      Poor Eric, having a life criticising others who question the adding of toxic poisons to our children’s bodies. Maybe it’s sour grapes that nobody publishes your beliefs except you. The Shikimate pathway that Roundup uses to kill plants IS present in human gut bacteria and nothing you can do will change that. Stop splitting hairs to try and make yourself look smart. Your life is being wasted.

      • Eric Hall says:

        In the theme of splitting hairs, let me just point out I am not criticizing anyone for asking questions. It is the conclusions i am criticizing.

        Also note: you cannot question something by starting with the conclusion – meaning you are saying it is poison and then call it questioning.

        If you will also notice, on this blog we allow comments which disagree with our conclusions. Go to any anti-GMO or other similar website and you will see the comments which do not agree with the author never appear or are deleted. Shouldn’t that raise any concern on their position?

  2. Julee K says:

    Nicely done. I am a new convert to science and rational thinking. Used to believe all the anti-GMO hype but science won me over in the end!

    • Obviously that’s a straw man description — Nearly all laws in all countries are the result of voter/consumer demand. Gay marriage is illegal in Muslim countries.

  3. Dr Peter Andrews says:

    It’s gratifying to see that you haven’t found any *science* which contradicts the conclusions of the review – just your usual childish sneering at anything which doesn’t support your existing dogmas.

    • Eric Hall says:

      Dr Andrews –

      I am not sure what you mean by childish sneering. If you could provide examples, I’d be happy to address them.

      Also, science is not a process of contradiction. I am simply saying the conclusions of the review are not actually conclusions; rather, they are hypotheses. If I make a claim, I need to follow the proper scientific methods for evidence and determine if that evidence validates the hypothesis. If it doesn’t, the null hypothesis holds. For example, if I said having the last name Andrews increases the chance of getting ear infections, the null hypothesis would be the last name Andrews is not an indicator for increased ear infections. If my evidence is I monitored 4 people with the last name Andrews for 6 months and 2 of the 4 subjects got an ear infection, it might be interesting, but it doesn’t yet validate the theory because of the small size of the study, lack of other controls, and lack of plausibility. If additional studies are done with better controls, then the hypothesis would have an increased chance of being true. However, if follow up studies do not show any correlation, the null hypothesis remains.

      My point on this review is they cherry-picked studies which have since been repeated, but did not produce the same results (or in the case of Wakefield, fraud). If an experiment is repeated and does not produce the same/similar results, then the null hypothesis holds.

      It is up to the scientist to produce evidence to prove their hypothesis correct. It is not the job of science to “disprove” a hypothesis. The authors here did not provide proper evidence for their hypotheses, thus they are not valid ones. Future experiments could change that, but to this point there is no evidence for that.

    • Mike in Virginia says:

      I didn’t think Eric was being childish at all, but simply pointing out the flaws in the conclusions and the lack of proper scientific methods applied. As a matter of fact, mere moments after Reuters began reporting on this paper, the scientific community responded negatively. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2013/04/26/when-media-uncritically-cover-pseudoscience/#.UaIUZ0DCbIU

      Childish would have been if he had replied to ask you where you got your PhD from, because surely you were taught the scientific method at some point.

      • drmattnd says:

        Sorry, but that the scientific community responded negatively doesn’t mean anything. There is always resistance when dogma is challenged… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but often is.

        The problem with the scientific method isn’t the method itself- it is the fact that is is applied by people who, in the end, are no less emotional, ego-driven, politically-driven, and downright catty, than anybody else.

        Semmelweis was onto something with his theory of “cadaverous particles” but his contemporaries either couldn’t bring themselves to admit their bias against basic hygiene was causing so many deaths, or were too freaked out that his theory was a throwback to some kind of anti-vitalistic “death force.”

        Pasteur proved Semmelweis essentially correct, with the addition that the “particles” were actually living beings that were causing disease. But then again, he and most bacteriologists shunned Metchnikoff’s theory that white blood cells destroyed bacteria. Most of them thought that the WBC’s were responsible for spreading pathogens.

        Also- at the time the scientific community was so enthralled with the revolutionary Germ Theory, that they largely overlooked other research into symbiotic gut bacteria in ruminants.

        Later on, in America, Dubos and colleagues laid the groundwork for drug-based treatment of infection- giving rise to the monolithic pharmaceutical industry we see today. Yet his later theories- now some 40-ish years old- into viewing the human+microbiome as an ecosystem were considered to fluffy for “real” medicine, and sounded too similar to the much loathed “Gaia Hypothesis” for many scientists to consider investigating more closely.

        It’s all just a big circus, you see?

        • Eric Hall says:

          If you get bitten by a rabid animal – what is it that will save your life?

          If you get cancer, what is it that will save your life?

          Science isn’t always neat and tidy – but the progress is pretty amazing.

    • Mark Scott says:

      Keep up the great work Eric Hall. Thousands of young children in 3rd world countries die from vitamin A deficieny. Genetic engineered rice with vitamin A would solve this but has been demonized by science deniers. The fearmonering generated by this has caused leaders in these countries to ban introduction of Golden Rice. It saddens me to the core to see these chidren die. I beg you and others to open your hearts and eyes and read all the good GMO’s can and have done, Sincerely Mark Scott

  4. Mud says:

    Have you read the articles Peter? Notice the letters to the Ed ? I’d be holding back those phrases that indicate your unwillingness to look things up.

    Its not hard to read a cited article and spend just a short time reading a few related articles to remove a lot of doubt.

    The “science” definitely appears in the criticism of the journals. The dogma may be your own.

  5. Dr. Matt says:

    While I would much prefer to see the global implementation of agricultural systems which do not require chemical sprays and are not economically dominated by a handful of transnational behemoths, the author’s skeptical criticisms here are all valid, yet in my opinion, a bit misapplied.

    Firstly, he is correct in pointing to widespread employment of the naturalistic fallacy among certain groups which are promoting this information. However that, in and of itself, does not invalidate the questions being raised in this paper, or by the groups promoting it.

    Secondly, he is correct in drawing attention to the fact that singling one specific chemical- glyphosate- out from a whole host of others (thousands?) which are being ingested through are food supply could be solely responsible for all disease. A perhaps more salient question along these lines is: What sort of safety data do we have to support the concurrent use of all these different chemicals together?

    However, I am not convinced that is the actual implication being put forth by the study authors.
    In the hypotheses put forth in the paper under question, the paper authors did a fairly reasonable job of summarizing various complex biochemical interactions within the body. Therefore, to contend that the study authors “misunderstand the complexity of biology” is a somewhat vacuous allegation.

    Thirdly, he is also correct in drawing attention to the common causation/correlation error which is being flirted with in thepaper. However, as the quote indicates, the authors say, “It is reasonable to suspect that glyphosate’s impact on gut bacteria may be contributing to these diseases and conditions.”

    That it is “reasonable to suspect” that glyphosate “may be contributing” to these diseases and conditions indicates that the paper authors are hardly making a claim of causation here. They are asserting that a suspicion of glyphosate being a risk factor for certain diseases and conditions is reasonable.

    Indeed, it is reasonable.

    My personal take on this paper is that the authors put forth a number of hypotheses that are only tenuously backed by the current research. However, I didn’t get the impression that they were asserting any more than this.

    Based on my read of this paper, and other recent studies suggesting a harmful effect of glyphosate on gut microbiota in livestock, there is an urgent need for further investigation into this line of research. Especially in consideration of the EPA’s recent move to expand the kinds of crops to which glyphosate can be applied, and to raise the limits of total exposure in our food supply.

    • Eric Hall says:

      Thanks for your comments –

      If you look at the citations that go along with the suspicions the authors of the paper try to state as reasonable, they cite published studies that have long been refuted. Any publication which cites bad science shows either a bias or an ignorance of more recent data – thus their own conclusions are much more likely to be invalid because they are based on bad science.

      I like my idea of the capitalistic fallacy because it is a subtle but important distinction in separating problems with the current system of capitalism in science and science itself. I certainly have concerns both scientifically and ethically with Monsanto. My concerns include those of biodiversity – which history shows a lack of biodiversity can have devastating effects as other biology evolves. A lack of biodiversity also shows some signs of being less efficient with both resources and growing yield. Certainly more study should be put there. I also have a concern that the US is allowing Monsanto to monopolize the market – which goes against the idea of capitalism. It should foster a discussion of how we classify monopolies as well as a look at the entire patent system. It does not invalidate data. Data both from Monsanto – as well as independent sources show glyphosate to be incredibly safe.

      It is very suspect when someone tries to conclude all disease is caused by one source. Skin cancer (melanoma) is known to be caused by excessive sun/UV exposure. It is on the rise in young people due to tanning bed use. It would be silly to conclude it is caused by glyphosate for there is no plausible way to connect them. It would be just as silly to conclude the increased exposure to UV is causing autism, MS, etc.

      Most of their conclusions lead back to the “leaky gut” hypothesis to which no connection can be made. While I don’t dispute that it is interesting the correlation of some diseases and conditions to inflammatory bowel disease, we already know in some cases it is not the cause. Autism for example can be found early in development, long before the bowel disease develops. Again, to bring all diseases down to one cause (IBD) is as silly as saying increased UV exposure causes all disease.

      There are too many errors in the paper to consider it valid in any way. It is possible a few of the conclusions will someday be proven correct, but it will be because the data shows a connection, not on a biased conjecture.

  6. Dave R. says:

    I thought you did a good job overturning this one. Up until now I have only heard people being dismissive of this study out of hand, without thorough analysis.
    I don’t agree however that glyphosate is safe. Are you aware of this work? (link below) I think you may find it more substantial and would be intrigued to get your take on it:
    http://www.earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/Roundup-and-birth-defects/RoundupandBirthDefectsv5.pdf

    • Eric Hall says:

      A quick glance at it and I see many statistics that are not properly cited. If I can’t follow every stat back to its original study, I worry. I also noticed a reference to BPA in the study – for which they get their statistics wrong and also refer to doses as “low” without specifying what that means. I would say the paper was written with the conclusion already in mind.

  7. realisticatavistic says:

    Brilliant dissection. Thank you.

  8. BrendaL says:

    You fail to make the connection between dysbiosis, gut inflammation and neurological inflammation due to the enteric nervous systems, the immune system and neurotoxins released through the “leaky gut”. They are not exclusive of one another. The “many causes” of autism may be exacerbated by glyphosate and its disruption of healthy gut bacteria to children who are genetically predisposed. These children have difficulty detoxifying their bodies due to polymorphism and when our environment overwhelms their system and glyphosate disrupts the P450 detox pathway and decreases beneficial bacteria that also aid in detoxification then the canary in the mine dies.
    When these children are put on organic foods to avoid GMO’s and they are given nutrients that assist in detoxification and they are put on an elimination diet to avoid food sensitivities that excite their immune systems, they improve. Some improve dramatically. You can have all of the skepticism as you want but we should not ignore these potential factors, especially if the health and life of people with autism or Alzheimer’s improves by taking measures due to these potential culprits.

    • Eric Hall says:

      Brenda –

      I didn’t fail to not make the connection – the studies fail TO make the connection. Your word soup does not constitute proof. The claim that there are many causes of autism is invalid without some extraordinary evidence – when most evidence points to the genetic cause.

      If you then notice – your proof is an anecdote. I will provide one of my own. My autistic stepson does much better when we provide him with opportunities to improve. The school works with him on social and life skills. We provide him with opportunities to learn and explore the world. His improvement is based on intervention. So perhaps it isn’t the food, but the attention being paid that is the cause of the improvement.

      I’m sorry, but the science does not support your claims.

      • Dr. Matt says:

        “To bring all diseases down to one cause (IBD) is as silly as saying increased UV exposure causes all disease.” I would concur, but add that in a time where we know about epigenetics, and that diet is certainly a factor in epigenetic changes, to bring a disease down to “the genetic cause” is committing the same error of reasoning.

        Here is a link to a pubmed search for “microbiome autism” which yields 12 results. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=microbiome+autism

        Now, I have not gone ahead and read or evaluated all these studies, so I cannot comment on the strength of the evidence they present. However, that they present any evidence at all refutes your claim that “the studies fail to make the connection.”

        As for anecdotal evidence, I have an autistic patient who experienced some moderate improvement in cognitive skills concomitant with improvement in gut functions. Of course, other interventions were being made (as they should) and so we cannot know for sure as to the cause of the improvements.

        What we do know is that the other interventions were already in place before we began working with digestive function. And no, I didn’t present to his mother that impaired digestive function was the “cause” of his autism. However, I did state that there was some reason to believe that improvements in digestive function would yield improvements in cognition, and that I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some moderate progress- which we indeed did see.

        • Eric Hall says:

          If you read them – there is interesting research in intestinal problems and autism – but the connection is in reverse. It appears those with autism have a higher incidence of intestinal problems – not the other way around. It is like connecting high cholesterol and a heart attack. They may correlate – but which way? I don’t think a heart attack is the cause of high blood cholesterol.

          • drmattnd says:

            I don’t think that is a valid comparison.

            There is evidence for bidirectional communication between the brain and gut via the vagus nerve.

            Another factor might be an issue with membrane permeability allowing gut-derived neurotransmitters to enter the CNS.

            Or maybe even some factor that is affecting both brain and gut permeability.

            Clearly- we don’t know- but these are all plausible explanations. I’m actually kind of surprised none of these occurred to you.

          • Eric Hall says:

            Again – it isn’t that there isn’t some plausibility that certain conditions could cause neurological issues through the intestinal membrane – but again the idea that is the pathway for all disease that raises an immediate question as to the validity of the study. If that was the case, couldn’t we theoretically get central lines put in and have all of our nutrients delivered via the blood stream and avoid all disease forever?

          • drmattnd says:

            Again- The authors did not actually conclude that this was the pathway for *all* disease. Of course- if they did- that would be ridiculous.

          • Eric Hall says:

            From the abstract

            Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease

            So why is it these diseases were all around before the introduction of Roundup?

          • drmattnd says:

            What they actually offered in the conclusion was that the mechanisms described could “plausibly contribute” to those diseases, along with other factors, such as dietary deficiencies and xenobiotic exposure.

          • Eric Hall says:

            So in other words – it is conjecture or a hypothesis – not a conclusion. It should then be framed as such.

            There are over 200 kinds of cancer – I find it hard to believe one ingredient is the cause of all of them.

          • drmattnd says:

            Yes, it is a hypothesis. Again, from the conclusion:

            “Given the known toxic effects of glyphosate reviewed here and the plausibility that they are negatively
            impacting health worldwide, it is imperative for more independent research to take place to validate
            the ideas presented here, and to take immediate action, if they are verified, to drastically curtail the use
            of glyphosate in agriculture.”

            See? … to validate the ideas presented here.

            Again, they never actually SAID there is one single cause of all disease, and it is glyphosate. That is a strawman argument.

            I agree, the quote you provide from the abstract is dubiously worded. But it is no more than that. In the case of an apparent contradiction between the abstract and the actual study, the study controls.

          • Eric Hall says:

            And again – my problem lies with how they then went to the press and how the press reported it. I also have a problem with some of their “hypotheses.” They have been well studied and proven to be invalid. Why would we study the things which already have several studies with good data? Sounds similar to those who are against vaccines – the constant call to study a link between vaccines and autism when dozens of studies are already available which show no link. So their call to action in many ways is also invalid which is what I showed here.

            Overall – this paper is not how science should operate.

          • Eric Hall says:

            They pushed so hard and cherry-picked to get the result they wanted – then hedged at the end with a statement that sounds like “But, we’re just asking questions.” That’s really a terrible way to communicate science.

          • drmattnd says:

            But we DON’T have good data to substantiate that glyphosate is NOT harmful to gut bacteria.

            I do agree with your other criticisms in terms of how the paper was written and reported on. But none of that means that all of the hypotheses presented are false.

            Yes, some of them are more tenable than others. But that there are any tenable hypotheses present is enough to raise a question which should be studied further, rather than summarily dismissed.

            All of the nose-snubbing that is going on in the scientific community is just as deleterious to science as uncritical media reporting. Two sides of the same coin.

            Gosh- if we were to eliminate all studies which were poorly communicated or reported on, there wouldn’t be very much left.

          • bacteria use shikimate pathway the same as plants. so – roundup kills them.

          • Eric Hall says:

            Salmonella alone kills over 300 people in the US every year. The killing of bacteria alone isn’t proof of harm.

          • Eric Hall says:

            Many of the hypotheses in the paper have been proven invalid. As my post says – they cited many papers as evidence that have many followup studies that couldn’t duplicate the results – which the authors chose to ignore. One study does not constitute proof – and if several studies cannot replicate the results the original study is invalid.

            We don’t test every hypothesis – especially if they are ridiculous or absurd. I could say there is a giant teapot on the far side of the moon – you can’t easily disprove it – but it is a bit absurd to think it is a valid hypothesis.

            Also remember – it is up to the one making the hypothesis to prove it valid – or else the null hypothesis stands.

          • Eric! You make me laugh! Didn’t You really see the difference between reasonable and unreasonable things?
            I think that the fact that glyphosate kills bacteria is important and must be very seriously taken because of massive government allowed use of it and subsequent leaking into food, water, air. But You speak about salmonella. May be tell me, when salmonella is approved by FDA as herbicide or for some other human use?

          • drmattnd says:

            There’s no such way to conduct a calculation, and besides, the idea is flawed. It assumes there isn’t some other way to maintain current production levels with using glyphosate.

            Please show me the studies- ANY study- which demonstrated that the impact of glyphosate on gut bacteria is within acceptable limits. As I indicated elsewhere, I searched on PubMed and could not find any studies looking into effects on gut bacteria, other than the two I previously cited, which suggested harm to Enterococcus.

          • Dear friend! Looking for such studies is rough and treacherous thought crime! The Truth ministry already sent Mr. Hall from Sceptic division to save You from Your dangerous ideas. Keep calm and do not show resistance!

          • Eric Hall says:

            Is there a way to maintain current levels another way?

            As for the gut bacteria – much like the cited paper, the concentrations required for what they called “minimal inhibitory concentration” is many orders above typical exposure in the environment. Salt at that concentration would also inhibit bacteria.

        • drmattnd says:

          “Also remember – it is up to the one making the hypothesis to prove it valid – or else the null hypothesis stands.”

          Normally, yes. But this isn’t a normal situation.

          We are talking about a substance for which about 200 million pounds a year are released into the environment- just in the United States alone!

          We are also talking about a substance for which an entire industry has been built around, and which is intimately intertwined with national and global food policy.

          We are also talking about a substance developed by a company which- frankly- doesn’t have all that great of a track record in terms of what they have told us is “safe” and how they go about silencing any claims to the contrary.

          This is not theoretical physics we are talking about here.

          The bottom line is: burden of proof rests upon the agricultural industry to demonstrate that glyphosate is safe. The claims are that the burden of proof has been met- but the study models used to evaluate the safety did not account for gut bacteria.

          The first point of fact is that we have NO EVIDENCE to believe that there is an acceptable level of impact to beneficial gut bacteria.

          The second point of fact is that we DO have reason to believe there is a negative impact, because some of those bacteria share the same chemical pathway targeted by glyphosate.

          The third point of fact is that we DO have real research suggesting a negative impact on Enterococcus, as referenced above.

          Skepticism is both fine and appropriate here. But the above three facts stand for themselves- with or without the article we are discussing.

          • Eric Hall says:

            I would suggest a calculation. How many people would starve if glyphosate were to stop being used immediately? Compare that to the unproven harm you are claiming. Which one is worse?

            The industry has proven it is safe. See the hundreds of papers published as such which this review ignored – including the follow-up studies which could not replicate the harm scenarios.

          • I agree, there will be some very poor people in some corporations and some more in banks and corrupt regulatory institutions, who will extremely suffer, if we stop to use toxic pesticides! It is a call of duty for all nations to save their income! Rot front! Long term and eco farming no pasaran!

          • Eric don’t know nothing about skyrocketing increase of numerous, so called “modern” diseases in last 25 years. And how would he know? He just yesterday arrived from Monsanto base on Moon where he was on secret mission from 1972. Meantime, while he was on the cosmic travel and defended Earth from anti-gmo invaders from Black Star the incidence of type 1 diabetes is rising among children in Philadelphia. The incidence rate has increased by 29% since the 1985–1989 cohort.

            http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2013/01/15/dc12-0767.abstract

    • My response will be purely anecdotal, but hopefully still relevant. My daughter was diagnosed with ASD at 3.5 years. We did not change anything in her diet, but her symptoms improved starting at age 5 due to appropriate levels of speech therapy, occupationaly therapy, and consistent behavior training at home and at school. By age 6 she was performing at an average level in a regular general education classroom with no additional in class supports (though she is still pulled out for speech and social skills.) What is interesting about this to me is that just recently we found out in dramatic fashion that she has severe gastrointestinal issues, but her behavior and other ASD effects remain at the level they were before. The only changes in diet are dictated by her GI doctor’s recommendations and do not involve going “organic” or grain-free, gluten-free, GMO-free, etc. My point is that simply because ASD and IBD co-exist in my daughter, they are not necessarily linked/causative of one another. Her ASD improved way before we even knew the IBD was present, and the food we provide her has not changed since she started eating regular table food.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Why not use better agriculture design as in Permaculture. This debate needs to get back to the basics. By using herbicides and pesticides we are shaming science by not using it. It’s just a quick fix instead of actually studying something to find a better solution for humanity.

    • Eric Hall says:

      I agree with this in a couple of ways –

      First – putting extra chemicals on the crops requires more energy input. The less things we need to apply to the crops, the less energy used, the lower the cost of the product and the less energy likely derived from carbon sources is needed.

      Second – Being lazy with how we treat plants is hurting biodiversity. There is some preliminary studies showing the lack of diversity is actually lowering output and also carries the risk of losing other beneficial genetics.

      However, I wouldn’t say using herbicides is “shaming science.” Certainly the science of farming has increased output and saved millions from starvation.

      • drmattnd says:

        I would say the “shame” is in continuing to go down a particular path simply because of inertia and/or the financial incentive to do so.

        Agriculture and medicine share in a common approach of “kill the invader” which is clearly incomplete and short-sighted, according to contemporary scientific knowledge. We should be looking to support natural competitors of invasive species.

        Where glyphosate is concerned, apparently nobody thought to investigate effects on the soil microbiome, or in livestock, or in humans. I’m not quite sure what a good excuse for that is, but I’m willing to write it off as a simple oversight.

        However, preserving biodiversity should be a no-brainer… and should have been from the very start. No excuses there.

        • Eric Hall says:

          I’m not sure what you mean by having been studied – but each example (soil microbiome, or in livestock, or in humans) there are dozens and dozens of studies. The negative effects claimed by some are only apparent at extremely large doses.

          Similarly – medicine doesn’t always take a “kill the invader” approach. For example – vaccines are used to stimulate our body to fight off infection. HIV is now managed with anti-virals to the point where the viruses aren’t “killed” but are prevented from reproducing.

          Agriculture is an area where there is plenty of room for improvement – but I don’t think it as bad as some would make it seem either.

          • drmattnd says:

            What I mean by having been studied is looking at the effects of glyphosate on symbiotic organisms in the gut of humans and livestock, and similar organisms in the soil.

            For example, a PubMed search for “glyphosate bacteria” yields 299 results. But most of the research is focused on potentially pathological bacteria, like Pseudomonas, Klebsiella, Escherichia, etc.

            By contrast, a search for “glyphosate enterococcus” yields only two results, both published this year. These are the studied I referenced elsewhere in the comments, and for which I am still awaiting your response.

            “Glyphosate lactobacillus” also yields two results, one of which is the same study previously mentioned. “Glyphosate bifidobacterium” yields one result. Again the same study.

            So, to clarify this point, I find it surprising, and bordering on negligence, that the potential toxicity of glyphosate on known symbiotic bacteria was not really investigated, one way or another, until very recently. Seems to me like somebody should have thought of that. But I wasn’t there, and don’t really know.

            To the second point, I did make the claim that the medical approach is ALWAYS “kill the invader.” However, it is the dominant paradigm, and vaccination is still within that paradigm via an indirect route.

            Please allow me to illustrate this second point more clearly.

            In a 1945 speech delivered to the Rockefeller Society entitles, “The Mode of Action of Chemotherapeutic Agents,” Rene Dubos opens:

            “There are, theoretically, several independent avenues of approach to the problem of the chemotherapy of infectious diseases. One may conceive, for example, of the chemical substances endowed with such physiological activity that they hasten recovery by stimulating the normal defense mechanisms of the body. There may be, on the other hand, other types of chemical agents capable of exerting a beneficial effect on the course of disease by decreasing its toxic manifestations, either by combining with and neutralizing the toxic constituents and products of the parasite, or by rendering the host cells resistant to these poisons. In practice, however, the only significant results of chemotherapy to date have been obtained with substances which are capable of killing, or of inhibiting the growth of, the infectious agent in the invaded tissues of the host. The present discussion will be limited to an analysis of the mechanisms by which antiseptics and chemotherapeutic agents interfere with the living processes of bacterial cells.”

            With the notable exception of vaccination, the scientific “discussion,” as it were, has pretty much been limited to this for nearly 70 years.

          • drmattnd says:

            Bah! In the fifth paragraph of the above reply, I intended to write “didn’t” rather than “did.”

          • Eric Hall says:

            The studies on soil microbes that I have had time to look at don’t seem to address the biodiversity issue. It is very possible because there is less biodiversity in the crops planted – that some microbes are not getting the nutrients they need. In the lab, the microbes are only affected by very large doses – much larger than they would ever get in the field.

            While I do think this should be studied further – it isn’t necessarily the fault of RoundUp – at least it hasn’t been connected clearly.

  10. Dear Eric! It is quite obvious that You already had Your opinion or better say – belief (gliphosate is harmless and everybody opposing this is an heretic deserving a stake) before reading the abstract of article You wrote about. Your “debunking” here reminds me something like an advert on TV where an actor mascaraed as a scientist pronounces magical words “clinically proved”. Please read this open access article about Tromso university’s Biosafety centre biologists recent research on gliphosate toxicity for D. magna and You will see who really is fallacy driven.
    http://pubmedcentralcanada.ca/pmcc/articles/PMC3572389/

    Sorry, i have feeling that You are not a skeptic, but very ordinary corporations’ lobbyist.

    • Eric Hall says:

      While it is true that based on other studies I have reached the conclusion that at the levels being used that Glyphosate is safe. So if I carry any bias, it is that previous conclusion based on data. But I will always look at new data to see if perhaps something was missed. This however was not new data, but a review of data. In fact, as I point out it is cherry-picked where the few studies that come to the opposite conclusion are refuted by several follow-ups (and ignoring those). It would be a little like me using published material on light ether and claiming that is how light is transmitted and ignoring all of the work done since. The buzz words of “modern disease” and “gut bacteria” also raise red flags. I don’t think there is a substance known that isn’t harmful at a high enough dose – but usually in one to a few specific ways. To make the claim all disease is caused by one thing is absurd on any level.

      I am certainly willing to look at your publication, but the link is not working at this point. I will try again some other time.

      I wish I got a lobbyist paycheck – I’d take more vacations.

      • Strange, but i am trying to add this another link for Norwegian research already 3-rd time: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10646-012-1021-1/fulltext.html

        • Eric Hall says:

          I see a couple of problems with the study on first read –

          First is its lack of peer review (again an open-access journal – so we can’t be sure of the quality of the review).

          Second is the lack of mention of the algae used to feed the Daphnia magna. It would seem to me to be important to know if the food source was actually available to the Daphnia magna. I could have missed it in my first glance at this – but is it possible the roundup killed the algae and the Daphnia magna starved? I believe this is the reason the warning label says not to use near waterways, because of the possible harm to aquatic food sources.

          • I see, Eric, that You have no time to read all those articles. Instead You draw Your own conclusions based on Your beliefs about evil and absolutely stupid independent scientists (100% nobody of them ever had had a practicum in laboratory under the supervision of real professor, nobody is ever introduced to basic standards of toxicity research in vivo and all their diplomas are given by corrupt universities) willing to destroy world saving and angelically honest corporations and their owned researchers.

            Would You scroll it down to materials and methods, You would found mentioned species of algae, which were daily fed to daphnids.

          • Eric Hall says:

            I saw the species. I didn’t see a citation anywhere where the effects of roundup on said species is mentioned.

            I’m not saying they are evil. I am saying that scientists can make mistakes – which is why it is important to have a solid review process. Remember the FTL neutrinos? They carefully looked over their data and couldn’t find what was wrong. So they put it out to other scientists – and it turned out it was a loose optical cable. Thereby the data could be corrected and the speed of light was still safe for now.

            And right now I am prepping for class – so I don’t have time to read every weakly reviewed journal article in detail.

  11. and yes, for You it is not a problem to repeat Monsanto’s red herring about “physics” journal and not to mention that this article was published is a Special Issue “Biosemiotic Entropy: Disorder, Disease, and Mortality”. http://www.mdpi.com/journal/entropy/special_issues/biosemiotic_entropy

    Surely, this is such an “unimportant” moment, not worth to include is Your so “skeptical” article…

    • Eric Hall says:

      That doesn’t change its status as non-peer reviewed. I again could publish something on light ether and it would be accepted with a check to go with it.

      • i guess You missed this: “Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Entropy is an international peer-reviewed Open Access monthly journal published by MDPI.”

        So, where is Your proof that article (review) wasn’t peer reviewed?

        • Eric Hall says:

          See the difference –

          American Journal of Physics – 50 full-time PhDs in physics on staff.

          Entropy – pick 5 possible referees and they pick one to OK it.

          Entropy is a pay-to-play journal with low standards for review. It is not a well-respected journal. See here for more on open-access journals – http://scholarlyoa.com/2013/05/16/more-controversy-over-open-access-publisher-mdpi/

          • It is not an argument. It’s like i would look to somebody’s photo and say – he is not trustworthy because he is similar to my classmate who often cheated and therefore everything he wrote/edited/reviewed is flawed.

          • Eric Hall says:

            That is not a valid analogy. Entropy itself has a history of publishing papers which are total bunk and not retracting them. The process for review is weak and practically non-existent. A better analogy is to say Entropy is like going to a chiropractor for your cancer treatment while something like AJP is like an oncologist.

          • No, Eric, the only way for correct criticism is to point to exact empiric (methodological, statistic, etc.) flaws in review and those articles it is based on. Criticizing magazine instead of article in general is simply false attribution.

          • Eric Hall says:

            Criticizing a journal with a history of publishing bad science without retraction is not false attribution. It is a red flag. Does it invalidate every publication in it? No. But it adds a level of scrutiny. Digging into the article itself – I found many errors (you did read the post, right?).

            If I were publishing an article – I wouldn’t put it in Entropy.

      • Sure? You really believe Yourself in that that You are speaking? May be write something on ether and publish in Entropy. If You will succeed, i will pay You back cost of publication twice.

        • Eric Hall says:

          I certainly would not – for I do not want to publish bad science.

          See another thing MDPI published recently – http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-02/hilarious-theory-everything-paper-provokes-kerfuffle-hullabaloo-foofaraw

          For all of your personal attacks on me – you seem to want to get away from the science. I will continue to support the science – which says glyphosate is safe.

          As a physicist – the use of pesticides and the reduced biodiversity does interest me. There is some evidence (using energy calculations) that we actually get less food per input using pesticides and herbicides along with the reduced genetic diversity of the seeds being used. So I do read about these things quite a bit. While I think we would agree that farming practices need to be changed – it is for vastly different reasons. Those reasons are important – because it determines the path on which we should be for the change. I prefer to use good science and find change that is scientifically sound – not paranoid reaction.

          • Eric! I am opposing Your way of argumenting (lack of empiric arguments and demagogic used instead), not making ad hominem attacks. For example You try to blacken authors of article because of usage of “modern diseases” wording. It is flawed argumentation however. “Modern diseases” are not a penny worst than “global warming” for example.

            If it was Ok for Nature publishers to accept paper with “modern diseases” mentioned in the title, then how can You reproach that to “Entropy”?

            http://www.nature.com/ejhg/journal/v15/n5/full/5201811a.html

            And not only reproach wording used in the title, but to make conclusions from that about the validity of article in general.

            I am still waiting when You will point to exact experiments, which authors referenced and which were not reproducable as You stated. Name at least 3 and give references to corresponding publications. I will be happy to read those. – This is what i understand with “science” not sophistic equilibristics.

          • Eric Hall says:

            It isn’t being used in the same way – as a claim that the diseases are exclusive to recent decades. I suggest you read my post to see what the issue is with the term in the paper in question.

  12. mabewa68 says:

    ‘very ordinary corporations’ lobbyist.’

    The tactic of accusing anybody who doesn’t agree with everything that the anti-GMO movement believes of working for Monsanto or other corporations is incredibly cowardly. Grow up, please. I have low knowledge about these issues, so I’m trying to learn more, but when I hear these kinds of childless insults, it doesn’t impress me. If you really do have science on your side, then show us. Otherwise, you just sound desperate and fanatical.

    • valtersgrivins says:

      It’s not a matter if a person making himself blind to hundreds or more researches showing that poison is poisonous is an paid lobbyist or “useful idiot” (as Bolshevik Lenin called that kind of people), who has been brainwashed by propaganda and follows needed path without direct guidance.

      In opposite, i think that it is childish to decline evidence again and again and refuse to see the beast behind camouflage (or you haven’t enough examples about corporations doing crimes against humanity in the name of their higher god – PROFIT?).

      This case, when one from main points of “unmasking” is an attack to title of review not to design and analysis of researches used there is very characteristic.

      Especially i would like to point to one from the main objections to so called Seralini study, e.g. to usage in it the certain (SD) breed of rats. The fact mr. Hall and all other “sceptics” doesn’t want to see, that it is exactly the same breed used before by Monsanto short term safety study Seralini is rejecting conclusions from. If somebody doesn’t understand that is was even obligatory for Seralini to use SD rats, then such person is much far away from science than it is possible to imagine.

      • Eric Hall says:

        Yes, you use rats with the likelihood to get tumors in short-term studies, but not in long-term studies. You answered your own question there.

        I acknowledged more than once I do not like Monsanto for many economic and a few scientific reasons. But that is not the point here. In fact, Monsanto only bought RoundUp – they didn’t invent the stuff. It’s a little like saying because a person robbed 50 houses he must also be guilty of murder. Just because Monsanto and other corporations have done things that are bad, doesn’t make them automatically guilty in this case.

  13. Bio Expert says:

    If you don’t understand molecular biology (obviously you don’t) Eric you should probably keep your mouth shut. Just a thought…..

    • Eric Hall says:

      Hi Bio Expert –

      If you have evidence of anywhere where I erred – please feel to discuss and cite your sources. Until that point, your comment has no meaning.

      Also, while I may not be an expert on molecular biology, I believe David Gorski, Mark Crislip, and Paul Offit are all experts – all of whom are cited in the blog.

  14. Moral Dolphin says:

    I still love that graph…Its hilarious..I’ll send it to my kids (again)..

    By the way “Bio Expert”, technically Eric is writing the article not running a podcast. Have a thought wrt this.

  15. Pj says:

    Loving the discussion. Matt, could you provide links to your publications in peer reviewed journals? Think it’s only fair for us to see your credentials.

  16. Gary Smith says:

    Eric, I applaud not only your article, but your ability to keep a cool head in the face valtersgriven’s nastiness, ignorance, and poor spelling and grammar.

    valtersgrivens, do not reproduce.

    I, too, would like to see links to Dr. Matt’s stuff and his credentials

  17. Larry G says:

    John Yudkin was absolutely dismissed as an absolute quack and was lambasted by the scientific community for his Pure White and Deadly book in the 1970’s. The Ancel Keys high and mighty research was bought instead, hook, line and sinker. Of course anything can be attacked for a myriad of reasons. I think one has to read the studies and decide what path they choose. Correlation and causation are very difficult to prove. Didn’t it take until the mid to late 1960’s for the surgeon general to put out the warning on cigarettes stating “Cigarettes smoking may be hazardous to your health”. I am just choosing to steer clear of this stuff so that in 40 years or more to see how the experiment plays out. If ingesting a herbicide is not harmful then I would have expected to see those chemical components in natural food.

    • Eric Hall says:

      Glyphosate has been around since the early 1970s. So it has had a 40+ year run already. We also have much more sophisticated tools for doing scientific research than we did decades ago.

      Interesting that the cigarette example always comes up…tobacco being a “natural” plant and all…

    • Gary Smith says:

      I agree with Eric on this. Scientific research has come leaps and bounds from what it was even a decade ago. To hold modern science up to the candle of the past is to poorly illuminate the issues and achievements of the present and to all but blind our vision of the future.

      Many people wrongly assume that by ingesting a food that has been treated with a pesticide means they are ingesting that food as though it was sprayed the day before they ate it. All pesticides break down in the environment over time. “Pre-harvest interval” is a term for the time that must be observed between when a crop can be treated and when it can be harvested and is related to how quickly the pesticide in question breaks down or is cleansed through irrigation to acceptable levels as established through rigorous study by, in Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), or the USDA in the States. (No one is taking it on Monsanto’s word, or Dow’s, or any of the many chemical manufacturing companies in the world, that anything is safe…everything is independently tested by non-commercial facilities and scientists to strict standards).

      In my own opinion, what is missing in most of the anti-pesticide, anti-GMO/GE is critical thinking. The “Capitalistic Fallacy”, as Eric coins it, is so common and universally employed in the “anti” camps as to be the event horizon of a mental “black hole” where reason cannot escape.

      • if pesticides are “breaking down” a week or 2 after sprying (“Pre-harvest interval”) as hocus-pocus men are telling, then how those can be found in human blood? Even in people living in big towns, far away from farms and eating only processed food bought in supermarkets? And is so great quantities?http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22683313

        See also this: All 197 children in an Arkansas community had detectable residues of pentachlorophenol in their urine at levels as high as 240 ppb. A metabolite of p-dichlorobenzene was also detected in 97 percent of the children. The herbicide 2,4-D was found in the urine of 20 percent of the children, even though it is extremely short lived in the body, implying that one out of five children was exposed to this pesticide shortly before their urine was collected for analysis.[9] This community was seen as fairly representative and not disproportionately exposed, implying that pesticide exposures are ubiquitous among children in the United States today.

        http://www.nrdc.org/health/kids/farm/chap6.asp

        • Eric Hall says:

          Let’s assume for a second that these results can be repeated and are legitimate. (Note: first quick glance tells me there is some methodological concerns, but I will ignore that for this thought). Parts per billion is an awfully small amount. After most has been excreted or metabolized, that little bit left might take a little while to get out. Think homeostasis.

          So then the question becomes what dose is harmful. That we do know pretty well from repeated studies. It takes alot more than ppb levels before any risk even shows up.

          So you might ask – why use it at all? Well, weed control allows higher yields. Higher yields means cheaper food. Cheaper food means more kids can get fed. What do you think is more dangerous? Kids that are malnourished, or nearly undetectable levels of a chemical known not to cause harm at low levels?

          The risk benefit would say to keep controlling weeds.

          • parts per billion are toxic for many substances, especially for those that are created for killing. You should know that. If not, search pubmed. In mere seconds you will get tenths or even hundreds of articles for consideration…
            Hungry kids? Stop that cheap propaganda. We both know well that there are not legions of malnourished kids in many countries where are strict rules of pesticide use. The same is true for GMO and food additives.

          • Eric Hall says:

            How many kids go hungry in the US every day? 16 million. Thats not propaganda. It’s real.

            I dont know of too many things toxic at ppb. In fact, we haven’t been able to measure that low until not too long ago.

            And what I am saying here is we have literally dozens of tests showing it takes a much much much higher dose of glyphosate before any effect is seen in animal testing.

          • USA is one from the most “relaxed” countries regarding pesticide and GMO use. So, there must be another reason for “hungry kids”.

            What about Roundup, here are only few sources pointing to it’s toxicity in very small concentration:

            Charles M Benbrook. Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. — the first sixteen years. Environmental Sciences Europe, 2012, 24:24 DOI:10.1186/2190-4715-24-24

            Thongprakaisang S, Thiantanawat A, Rangkadilok N, Suriyo T, Satayavivad J. Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Jun 10;59C:129-136. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2013.05.057. [Epub ahead of print]

            Cuhra M, Traavik T, Bøhn T. Clone- and age-dependent toxicity of a glyphosate commercial formulation and its active ingredient in Daphnia magna. Ecotoxicology. 2013 Mar;22(2):251-62. doi: 10.1007/s10646-012-1021-1. Epub 2012 Dec 6.

            Mesnage R, Bernay B, Séralini GE. Ethoxylated adjuvants of glyphosate-based herbicides are active principles of human cell toxicity. Toxicology. 2012 Sep 21. pii: S0300-483X(12)00345-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2012.09.006. [Epub ahead of print]

  18. Larry G says:

    I would like to share the back and forth of this subject on another thread if the moderators on this thread will so allow it. I think it may be interesting reading through it for all that are interested in this topic. I think there are two considerations here. One deals with science and reporting of science and its peer review etc. in general and 2).Is there really any issues regarding toxicology with the use of glyphosate. Both are discussed here as well. Fascinating subjects!

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2013/04/26/when-media-uncritically-cover-pseudoscience/#.UaIUZ0DCbIU

  19. Kristy says:

    Your chart is misleading
    You are not factoring in population growth or inflation into your chart of “organic food sales in the millions”
    And you are useing “individuals diadnosed” which is our population as a whole not children
    Instead of 1in 10,000 to 1 in 88 or 50 children
    Elderly suffering from leaky gut syndrome are going to be suffering from alzhimers not autism

    • Eric Hall says:

      Thats the point Kristy – correlation doesn’t mean causation. It is intended to demonstrate that idea – which is what anti-vaccine people do in order to provide “evidence.”

    • Eric Hall says:

      Do you have science showing the rate of leaky gut syndrome? The connection to Alzheimer’s? Autism and Alzheimer’s are very different conditions – so I am not sure how you connect them other than they both happen in the brain

  20. rstsummers says:

    I am also a skeptic, especially when someone tells me that a substance previously used as a chelating agent which also shuts down the shikimate pathway in bacteria is safe enough to drink. I hope you will accept the notion that the health of our gut biome has a significant impact on all aspects of our health due to our dependence on those bacteria to synthesize so many precursor chemicals that the body uses. Not only are we dependent on them for general immune function but for manufacturing the vitamin D precursor, aromatic amino acids, and even brain health. Their science may not be conclusive and is probably flawed, but the precautionary principle says we should at least pay attention and look much more closely at the issue, not make fun of it because it does not meet the highest standards of scientific inquiry. And while I certainly agree that correlation is not causation, when a correlation as close as the use of glyphosate and the rise of chronic diseases exists (it does), and there is a known and explainable pathway for causation (there is), perhaps we should be more skeptical of the old arguments that it DOESN’T pose a threat and start trying to find out just how much of a threat it might pose.

    • Eric Hall says:

      While I am all for taking precautions, we do have to be very careful in evaluating connections. You also state that, but then use that very error in defending your position that RoundUp is a threat. vinegar is also anti-bacterial in concentrations as little as 0.5% – pickles are usually packed in a 3-5% solution. Should I stop eating pickles because the vinegar kills bacteria? HCl is used as a toilet cleaner because it kills bacteria, yet it is present in my stomach. Should I take proton pump inhibitors forever to keep the HCl from killing my gut flora?

      Is there really a rise in chronic disease, or is it simple we understand more about it? It is pretty clear that is a big part of the rise in autism – and I am starting to see science being done which would say similar for other chronic diseases.

      • rstsummers says:

        My position, as I stated fairly clearly, is that we do not know the truth about RoundUp. We know only that glyphosate is a chelating agent that interferes with the shikimate pathway in bacteria. We know that we rely on our gut biome for virtually every aspect of our health; and IF the shikimate pathway is blocked, we COULD become quite ill. We know that the combination of chemicals in RoundUp is more toxic to bacteria than any of its components alone. We know it stays in the soil, water, air, and food long past the time we were assured it would break down. We know that it’s by-products, when it does break down, might also be problematic when they interact in the environment or our bodies. We know that it shows up in tests of human urine and mother’s milk. We do not know how much we are consuming, how much it bio-accumulates, how it interacts with all the other chemicals we are consuming, etc, etc.

        Your suggestion that we should not be concerned with it’s effect on the shikimate pathway because pickles and stomach acid also have bactericidal effects is a non sequitur. We have a gut biome that is mostly immune to both stomach acid and the acids we consume. We have no idea how these chemicals impact our gut biome because no one has bothered to study how the chemicals we are consuming impact those bacteria, even when those chemicals are known to impact bacterial function on which we depend. We do know that the effects of glyphosate on bacteria are in no way related to effects of acids on those same bacteria.

        Oh, and, yes, there is a rise in the incidence of many chronic diseases. Interestingly, the rise in at least a couple of them exactly tracks the increase in the use of glyphosate in our food supply. Which, again, isn’t proof of causation, but since there IS a known link, we should investigate that potential rather than just buy into the assurances of Monsanto, which also are unsupported by real evidence (or even disproven by new evidence). There is substantial evidence that glyphosate persists in the soil, water, air, even in the ocean for months (sometimes many months). Its excretion in breast milk is evidence of bio-accumulation, which we were guaranteed would not happen, though again, it was never adequately studied.

        Maybe you could put your skepticism and analytical ability to better use by analyzing the work supporting the corporate position for scientific weakness (there is plenty of fodder there) or would that be against your personal interest?

    • Gary Smith says:

      There just isn’t any good science to support the arguments that glyphosate can be attributed to the plethora of diseases some people would have us believe.

      This is the “Precautionary Principle” as I was able to find it.

      “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.” – Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle, Jan. 1998

      There are so many ambiguities in the above statement as to render it nonsense. Who decides what activities pose a threat to human health to engage the principle? Who decides at what point the proponent has borne the burden of proof? Who decides how long is long enough to decide an activity is safe?

      We have regulatory agencies that test, monitor, approve, and disapprove of “activities”. The proponents are already legislated to bear the burden of proof for safety of an “activity” and the costs associated with doing so. Glyphosate has been studied for 40 years!

      The argument, of course, is that the USDA, the PMRA, WHO, and any other regulatory agency out there has been bought out by big business and are all corrupt. Right…let’s form another police agency to enforce the “precautionary principle”. Naturally, they will be above corruption, highly principled, and smarter than all the scientists and researchers who now endorse the things they spend their lives at; the latter of whom should really be ashamed for the corruption, detrimental environmental impact, and the human suffering their careers currently support.

      Eric Hall…I applaud your efforts at managing a discussion on this topic with those whose critical thinking skills evaporated along with their mother’s milk, essentially at the same time as those who support the existence of ghosts, “Big Foot”, chemtrails, ufo’s, alien abduction, magic, astrology, creationism, and god…etc…

      • John Smith says:

        Such science-killing corporative trolls, as this bad smelling “gary smith”, had defended very similarly also DDT, cigarette smoking, Ritalin, etc.

      • rstsummers says:

        I’m impressed by your ability to cut and paste from the dictionary, but I would be more impressed if you could articulate, using your critical thinking skills, how the precautionary principal might be applied to this particular scientific problem. Of course it would help if you could actually articulate the scientific problem of how the relevant chemicals interact with each other in the environment as well as in our bodies, how glyphosate impacts bacterial function in our gut biome, what evidence does or does not exist as to the safety of glyphosate in our food, the actual levels in our food, water and bodies, etc., first. But that is not possible, because none of that has actually been conclusively studied.

        Perhaps you could become MORE skeptical about the unsupported claims of multi-national corporations making billions from their products, such as: glyphosate is safe enough to drink, it breaks down within a few days in the environment, and it does not bio-accumulate, regardless of how much we consume. Since we now know that it is found IN our food, IN our bodies, IN our children’s urine and IN mother’s milk, as well as in the soil, water, air and the ocean, months after application, MY critical thinking skills suggest there is a disconnect in the evidence somewhere and that the precautionary principal applies as to who is responsible for PROVING just how safe it is.
        .
        BTW, shame on you for employing insults instead of valid argument. There is nothing wrong with my critical thinking skills, I believe only what can, and has been, proven; and on this issue that is pretty much NOTHING. That said, what I know of HOW we test and regulate chemicals in this country (basically, we don’t bother, that’s from first hand knowledge of the EPA’s chemical safely program) causes me to err on the side of caution when it comes to what I eat, especially when that chemical is known to negatively impact the bacteria that keep me alive and healthy. But, hey, go ahead and eat it, if you’re so sure it’s safe.

        • Gary Smith says:

          This will be my only direct engagement with you.

          If I say you are a hypocrite for doing what you accused me of, am I insulting you or just stating a fact?

          Like I said, there isn’t any good science to support your position, and using the same tired and discredited references as support indicates that your critical thinking skills could use some improvement. I’m trying to be encouraging here.

          You have yourself provided no valid arguments. Regulatory agencies HAVE proven glyphosate safe. Every claim you have made is false and you offer no support for your “first hand knowledge of the EPA’s chemical safety program”.

          When you stop buying gas, stop shopping at Wal-Mart, stop drinking coffee, stop buying “Made in China” products, and stop making 9/10ths of the purchases you make, then you may proceed with your tirade on the multi-nationals making billions. Until then your position is, in my opinion, hypocritical.

          The function, as I understand it, of Skeptoid is to foster critical thinking, research, fact-checking and awareness of the creators, purveyors and supporters of pseudoscience, mythinformation and fear mongering. If you can not be open to the subject matter in this site then you should consider joining a blog that supports you ideas. Here, you are like a Jehovah’s Witness at and Atheist convention. And quite frankly, sir or madam, the evidence is on our side.

  21. Larry says:

    You raise a good point, “Who should bear the burden of proof”? That is at the heart of the issue. I believe it is the producer or manufacturer. The fact is if we have been studying glyphosate for 40 years answer, “Why has there been no human studies”? I would think that human studies should be done on food products that humans will consume over long periods of time. They are performed with drugs or other things that are ingested and prescribed for chronic use. 2. Why did Michael Taylor’s FDA scientists recommend that human studies be performed in the 1990’s when this extensive and exhaustive research that showed this to be absolutely safe was transpiring? and 4. Why were they ignored? 5. Does anything that has a two month study duration involving rats satisfy you as to the efficacy of it’s long term safety? 6. Is there any precedent where there has been FDA and USDA approval of food or drugs where there was proven safety that more chronic effects became known? 7. Would you gladly and openly ingest a few ounces or so of glyphosate in a cup on occasion and not give it a second thought? 8. Why are so many other nations quick to ban it, if it is so safe and efficacious? I guess they are all fools and hate science.

    And one thing to note, the FDA and regulatory agencies “do not test it”. The chemical companies test it and submit their findings for review and approval. There is absolutely no conflict of interest in that. None of this of course shows or proves anything scientifically. I know that. But given the lack of human testing, the track record of this chemical company and the very nature of the chemicals I simply choose to not consume it. Oh but wait, it isn’t a choice, it isn’t labelled. I think at the very least it should be. If it is so safe and the answer to feeding the world the company should be proud to own it.

  22. ConcernedParent says:

    Excuse me, do you know about all the different colonies of bacteria in our guts and how they all work together and with our body? No one does. It is becoming more apparent that there is a brain-gut connection when it comes to Autism. Skeptics like you can no longer deny that. And when something comes out you immediately say, ‘There’s no way that causes ALL of this increase.’ No one said this one chemical caused all diseases of all of one very broad disorder. The corporations you’re standing up for are the biggest cherry pickers of all. This is just a waste of my time. Seriously, if you think it’s ok to eat food with altered DNA that has 15 times more pesticides sprayed on it because it’s cheaper, go for it.

    • Eric Hall says:

      Do you have studies showing this clear connection to the gut and autism? Because it turns out it is the opposite relationship – the brain affecting the gut.

      You are also confusing (as many do) the plant being treated with RoundUp and the product itself. The GMO food is designed to resist being killed by roundup so that it can be applied to those crops without harming them. While we can have that separate discussion here or elsewhere, this isn’t about the plants. And my conclusion is RoundUp itself is pretty darn safe.

      • Larry says:

        It isn’t only the glyphosate but the surfactants. But judging from the link below it is “pretty darn safe”, wouldn’t you say, Eric? Would you have your family drink this stuff? But what do these guys know? I could Skeptiod them and find out that their conclusions are all false! As a matter of fact, every study that concludes anything other than pure safety is false! We did our test on a few mice in the early 90’s for a couple months, nothing happened, we submitted to Michael Taylor at the FDA, (Michael never had any previous ties to us) we got our approval and and we are all good! That’s the end of it!

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15862083

        I am not here to attack glyphosate because I don’t know the long-term effects of this stuff on humans nor do I know what concentrations it is in what food is ingested and also how they may effect the 450 CYP or whatever. Neither do you Eric! I am just staying on the side of caution because I don’t know and apparently I don’t have the “right to know” what is in my food. Ask the food industry and Monsanto. They decide for us.

        • Eric Hall says:

          You are making an error in both judging what I am saying as far as safety and a logical fallacy.

          I am saying it is safe if used as it is intended. Any substance can be harmful depending on the dose. A cup of coffee is safe and possibly beneficial for me, but given enough the caffeine can cause health problems and even death if enough is ingested – though the water toxicity would probably get me first. Green Tea – long touted as beneficial to health by people employing the naturalistic fallacy, can be toxic to the liver if taken in supplement form. Our body is able to remove or metabolize all kinds of things – but if given too much at once it cannot do it fast enough to overcome the toxic effects. So the amount we might ingest from unwashed vegetables is safe. Drinking the concentrated form when mixed with other chemicals might not be safe – the dose is always the poison.

          You are employing what I call the capitalistic fallacy in regards to Monsanto. For one, Monsanto’s patent expired over a decade ago, thus it is not their sole responsibility in regards to safety. Second, we obviously know it is used, because of people crying foul over its use. Independent lab tests have shown its safety. It breaks down pretty quickly by bacteria and is neutralized by other chemistry in the soil.

          You can dislike Monsanto because of their business practices. The science that concerns me is the loss of biodiversity among crops – some studies suggest it may actually hurt overall yields. I might also suggest the energy input into applying herbicides is an issue. But to try to make false claims on the science behind a product they no longer even exclusively own is unreasonable.

          • Larry says:

            Eric:

            Agreed on the dosage and certainly on the business practices which are really not a part of this discussion. But the French have found that glyphosate is not as biodegradable as was first thought and presented by Monsanto and there are recent blood tests in urine and in blood that indicate that it is not as biodegradable in the body. Now we can question those tests and data as well. But there are other issues that are coming to light as well, as far as it being an issue with hard water regions that spray a lot of glyphosate so there can be other issues that are a problem though not specifically glyphosate itself but rather how it reacts with other items in the environment. I found this hypothethis quite compelling but I am sure there are holes in this as well. The basic point you didn’t address is the that there has been NO HUMAN TESTING! Which there hasn’t been, and the effects of this chemical as it pertains to greater dosages which are currently being administered.

            Hypothesis
            Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the
            Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of
            Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka?

        • Eric Hall says:

          Would I drink a cup of the stuff? No – because it is far beyond any dose I am ever exposed to. But if asked to participate in a study where I am given tiny doses typical of the exposure I would get from unwashed veggies – I would gladly participate.

          It would be like saying – will you drink 10 gallons of water every day to test water toxicity? It is ludicrous because you would never drink that much water on a normal basis.

          • Larry says:

            10 gallons of pure clean water may leave me bloated and give me hyponatremia, but certainly not full of toxicity but that is not the point here. Just curious as to your thoughts on this snail study. Again we can talk about 5 ppm concentrations versus 0.5 ppm and the fact that it is snails, but this still gives me pause.

            I just think we don’t know the mid to long term effects of the bioaccumulation of this herbicide and moreso I am not happy about the EPA’s recent decision to allow much higher dosage of glyphosate.

            http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2090989613000398

  23. Mike says:

    I’m sorry, but the science and evidence against Glyphosate are both overwhelming in this instance and the many correlations made by many biologists under peer review do in fact point to a smoking gun called Glyphosate. Glyphosate is not a naturally occurring compound and the manner in which it interferes with many biological processes for plants, mammals, amphibians and yet others, only requires a general assessment among the greater public once the data reaches a degree of well qualified entropy.

    We have prosecuted murder on circumstantial evidence having far less supporting data than the industry now holds on this toxin. But then there was always someone standing in the wings saying maybe it was an accident she pulled the trigger after she slit his throat, JUST so they could see their name in print one more time.

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