Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore was recently interviewed by a reporter with The Huffington Post, Canada over a controversy surrounding a recent study published by the United Nations’ International Agency for Research on Cancer. The manuscript stated there is a link between a Monsanto Roundup additive, glysophate, and cancer. Monsanto has angrily denied the report and has demanded a retraction.
While being interviewed, Mr. Moore said that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide is safe for human consumption and won’t hurt you. The reporter interviewing Mr. Moore stated he had some in his possession and offered Patrick Moore a glass to which Moore refused. Moore also stated that glysophate was not increasing the rate of cancer in Argentina as well. While The Huffington Post interview was seen as a gotcha moment and Dr. Moore’s remarks were made in haste, I decided to do some more research on whether or not glysophate is toxic to humans. As it turns out, Patrick Moore is correct when he said glysophate is not causing cancer and the herbicide that carries the additive is safe.
According to an article about this very issue published in Biology Fortified, glysophate is a toxic for animals and humans at a certain level, but overall is safe to use in weedkiller. The commentary’s author, Anastasia Bodnar, points to the Glysophate Technical Fact Sheet published by the National Pesticide Information Center at Oregon State University. Ms. Bodnar further points out:
There are occasionally alarm-inducing papers like Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors. This paper, and others like it, tend to use human cells in a petri dish rather than whole animals. I had the misfortune to do some research on cultured human cells myself and let me tell you, those are some tricky buggers to work with. Even when everything is working perfectly, it’s still very hard to tell if the results you are getting will hold true when repeated in a whole animal model. Something that causes a reaction in naked cells may not react the same when applied to your skin or taken in through your digestive system (both of which have evolved to keep you safe from many things).
Only a combination of animal models and cell studies can give us the full picture (even better if we can pair these up with some epidemiology). The third review above includes some animal studies as do the EPA reports. While I am cautious about cell studies in general, the majority of such studies have not found any cause for concern, as described in Review of genotoxicity studies of glyphosate and glyphosate-based formulations (open access) as well as in the EPA reports.
In any subject there will be a few studies that find something totally different from what is found in the majority of similar studies. In closing, I leave you with this recent strangeness: Glyphosate and AMPA inhibit cancer cell growth through inhibiting intracellular glycine synthesis. This obviously tongue-in-cheek meme plays on so many scaremongering memes created about single studies. As interesting as a single study may be, we must look at the totality of evidence. And so far, the evidence does not show that that glyphosate causes – or cures- cancer.
Glysophate has become the new boogie man for environmentalists since it is one more way they can demonize pesticides and herbicides. In the case of the UN agency’s study linking glysophate to cancer, I would not be surprised if it later comes out that scientists involved in the manuscript cherry picked data, misused evidence and even speculated on the evidence they used. Environmentalists not only hate the idea of humans being able to use chemicals in order to conquer nature, but their demonizing herbicides and pesticides makes it easier for greens to attack the human food supply so as to shrink the human population.