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Glyphosate is everywhere

Glyphosate is everywhere


Glyphosate has turned up in breast milk, women’s blood, urine, animals’ organs, air, rain, and streams. It has been found to cross the placental barrier in an in vitro (not in living humans) study.

Glyphosate turns up everywhere. In 2014 it was found in American women’s breast milk. Laboratory testing commissioned by two NGOs, Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse, found levels of 76 μg/L to 166 μg/L glyphosate in the breast milk – 760 to 1600 times higher than the EU permitted level in drinking water. These levels were, however, less than the 700 μg/L maximum contaminant level (MCL) for glyphosate in drinking water allowed in the US.1

Dr Angelika Hilbeck, senior scientist at the Institute of Integrative Biology in Zurich, commented, “If confirmed in a full investigation, it seems that glyphosate has become a ubiquitous chemical in terms of presence and persistence. This data also offers a first indication of potential accumulation in the human body, giving newborns a substantial dose of synthetic chemicals as a ‘gift’ for their start into life, with unknown consequences. This is reckless and irresponsible conduct in a democratic society, which still has a living memory of previous reckless chemical contaminations, such as DDT. It seems we either did not learn, or we have forgotten, our lessons from Rachel Carson.”

These high levels raise the question of whether glyphosate bioaccumulates in our bodies. If it does, then so-called safe levels are meaningless, since the glyphosate could build up to dangerous levels even if daily exposures are low.

Other places glyphosate has unexpectedly turned up include:

  • Women’s blood

Glyphosate was found circulating in the blood of non-pregnant women living in Canada. The amounts of glyphosate detected ranged from undetectable to 93.6 ng/ml (93.6μg/L), with an average of 73.6ng/ml (73.6μg/L).2 Worryingly, this is well within the range of glyphosate concentration found in vitro to have endocrine disruptive effects on the estrogen hormone system.3 Such disruptions can lead to serious diseases such as cancer and reproductive problems.4

  • Crossing the placental barrier in an in vitro study

In an in vitro study simulating human exposures, 15% of administered glyphosate crossed the human placental barrier and entered the foetal compartment.5 The study showed that the placental barrier in mammals does not protect the unborn foetus from glyphosate exposures.

  • Urine

As an extension of the breast milk study by Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse, the American women’s urine was tested. The tests found maximum glyphosate levels over 8 times higher than those found in the urine of Europeans1 in previous testing commissioned by Friends of the Earth. In the FoE tests, the highest levels of glyphosate and its toxic metabolite AMPA were respectively 1.8 μg/L and 2.6 μg/L and these chemicals were found in the urine of respectively 44% and 36% of European city dwellers.6

Glyphosate levels have been found to be significantly higher in urine of humans who ate non-organic food, compared with those who ate mostly organic food. Chronically ill people showed significantly higher glyphosate residues in their urine than healthy people.7

In a separate detailed analysis, glyphosate was found in the urine of cows, humans, and rabbits. Cows kept in a GM-free area had significantly lower glyphosate concentrations in urine than cows in conventional livestock systems.7

In an analysis of farm and non-farm families, urinary levels of glyphosate in non-farm children were slightly higher than those in farm children. The authors suggested that this was because of the widespread use of glyphosate in non-farm areas, such as in home gardens.8

  • Animals’ organs

Glyphosate has been found in the intestines, liver, muscles, spleen and kidney of slaughtered cows.7

  • Air and rain

Glyphosate and its toxic metabolite AMPA were found in over 75% of the air and rain samples tested from the Mississippi Delta agricultural region in 2007. The researchers noted that the widespread presence of glyphosate was due to the cultivation of GM glyphosate-tolerant crops.9

  • Streams and watercourses

Glyphosate and AMPA were frequently detected in streams in the American Midwest during the growing season.10 In a monitoring programme in Denmark, glyphosate and AMPA were washed out of the root zone of some types of soil and into drainage water in average concentrations that exceeded the EU permitted limit for drinking water (0.1 μg/l).11,12

Are these levels of glyphosate found in human and animals’ bodies and in the environment dangerous? No one knows, as the necessary testing of presumed safe “acceptable daily intake” levels has not been done in animals. Also, the complete herbicide formulations as sold and used, such as Roundup, have not been tested over the long term at realistic exposure levels.



  1. Honeycutt Z, Rowlands H. Glyphosate Testing Report: Findings in American Mothers’ Breast Milk, Urine and Water.; 2014.
  2. Aris A, Leblanc S. Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Reprod Toxicol. 2011;31(4):528-533.
  3. Thongprakaisang S, Thiantanawat A, Rangkadilok N, Suriyo T, Satayavivad J. Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013;59:129-136. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2013.05.057.
  4. Vandenberg LN, Colborn T, Hayes TB, et al. Hormones and endocrine-disrupting chemicals: Low-dose effects and nonmonotonic dose responses. Endocr Rev. 2012;33(3):378-455. doi:10.1210/er.2011-1050.
  5. Poulsen MS, Rytting E, Mose T, Knudsen LE. Modeling placental transport: Correlation of in vitro BeWo cell permeability and ex vivo human placental perfusion. Toxicol Vitro. 2009;23:1380-1386. doi:10.1016/j.tiv.2009.07.028.
  6. Hoppe HW. Determination of Glyphosate Residues in Human Urine Samples from 18 European Countries (sponsor: BUND, FoE). Bremen, Germany: Medical Laboratory Bremen; 2013.
  7. Krüger M, Schledorn P, Schrödl W, Hoppe HW, Lutz W, Shehata AA. Detection of glyphosate residues in animals and humans. J Env Anal Toxicol. 2014;4(2). doi:10.4172/2161-0525.1000210.
  8. Curwin BD, Hein MJ, Sanderson WT, et al. Urinary pesticide concentrations among children, mothers and fathers living in farm and non-farm households in Iowa. Ann Occup Hyg. 2007;51:53-65. doi:10.1093/annhyg/mel062.
  9. Majewski MS, Coupe, R. H., Foreman WT, Capel PD. Pesticides in Mississippi air and rain: A comparison between 1995 and 2007. Env Toxicol Chem. February 2014. doi:10.1002/etc.2550.
  10. Coupe RH, Kalkhoff SJ, Capel PD, Gregoire C. Fate and transport of glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid in surface waters of agricultural basins. Pest Manag Sci. 2011;68:16-30. doi:10.1002/ps.2212.
  11. Kjaer J, Olsen P, Ullum M, Grant R. Leaching of glyphosate and amino-methylphosphonic acid from Danish agricultural field sites. J Environ Qual. 2005;34(2):608-620.
  12. Kjær J, Olsen P, Barlebo HC, et al. The Danish Pesticide Leaching Assessment Programme: Monitoring Results 1999–2003:; 2004.