Hot off the press of Current Microbiology journal’s March 2015 issue, a study evaluating the effects of glyphosate (trade name Roundup), a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide. Thanks in large part to crops genetically engineered to be glyphosate-resistant (including corn and soy), glyphosate now makes its way into an estimated 75%-80% of the food lining grocery store shelves today. But what effect does glyphosate have on us?
“In conclusion, glyphosate causes [gut] dysbiosis which favors the production of [neurotoxin] BoNT in the rumen. The global regulations restrictions for the use of glyphosate should be re-evaluated.” 1
Gut dysbiosis is effectively an imbalance of the microbiota within our gut. But what are the health implications of this effect? In a word: Infinite. We have an entire ecosystem of microbes outnumbering our cells 10 to 1, with a collective genome at least 150 times larger than our own. This ecosystem exists primarily in our gut, specifically the large intestine. Researchers are just beginning to uncover the many implications of the complex and intricate balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ microbes, especially in the context of our immune system. 2, 3 In order to properly frame just how rudimentary our knowledge is within this arena, a recent study has suggested that our appendix is responsible for producing microbes to influence our critical microbiota balance. 4 You may recall the long withstanding hypothesis for the appendix as a useless organ inexplicably left behind by evolution; supporting its frequent surgical removal in the case of inflammation.
International research has identified a particular group of microbes that seem important for gut health and a balanced immune system, dubbed the ‘Clostridial Clusters’. Of particular interest is the apparent direct relationship between certain members of this cluster and cells that prevent immune overreaction, called regulatory T cells, or Tregs. Studies have demonstrated that without these Treg cells, mice are unusually prone to inflammatory disease. Inflammation mediates and is the primary driver of many medical disorders and autoimmune diseases (including cancer 5), as well as many cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and infectious diseases. 6 One of the questions central to microbiome research is why people in modern society, who are relatively free of infectious diseases, a major cause of inflammation, are so prone to inflammatory, autoimmune and allergic diseases. Many now suspect that society-wide shifts in our microbial communities have contributed to our seemingly hyper-reactive immune systems. 7
Given the recent and dramatic rise in chronic inflammatory conditions and the uncanny statistical correlation with the introduction of glyphosate, I would say it’s time to reconsider our position on the subject. I know I have.
(Incidentally this is only one of additional published studies currently available on PubMed demonstrating the effects of glyphosate on the microbiota of animal models.)
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25407376 ↩
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2881665/ ↩
- http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/among-trillions-of-microbes-in-the-gut-a-few-are-special/ ↩
- http://mbio.asm.org/content/4/1/e00366-12.full.pdf ↩
cancerresearchuk.org/2013/02/ 01/feeling-the-heat-the-link- between-inflammation-and- cancer/ ↩
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immune-mediated_inflammatory_diseases ↩
- http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/among-trillions-of-microbes-in-the-gut-a-few-are-special ↩