Garden and Yard Care

Published on December 6th, 2009 | by Derek Markham


Inert Ingredient in Roundup Kills Human Cells

One of the inert ingredients in the popular herbicide Roundup has been found to kill human cells, especially embryonic and placental cells. Many consumers believe Roundup to be safe, and until a recent study, researchers focused solely on the health effects of a single active ingredient, glyphosate. New research has now found that the inert ingredients amplified the toxic effects on human cells.

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Those so-called ‘inert’ ingredients found in many common consumer products sound so innocuous, simply because of what they are called, but it turns out that some of them may be highly toxic. The EPA’s interpretation of federal pesticide laws means that manufacturers aren’t required to disclose them on the labels, and over 4000 different inert ingredients can be found in products sold in the U.S.

Researchers at the University of Caen found that one specific inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, was more deadly to human cells than the herbicide itself, and they said their finding was “astonishing.” POEA is a surfactant derived from animal fat, added to Roundup to help it to penetrate plants’ surfaces and make it more effective.

The study compared the effects of the formulations (glyphosate with POEA) and then glyphosate and POEA alone. All of the formulations caused total cell death within 24 hours. While glyphosate alone also damaged cells, the researchers found that POEA  amplifies toxicity induced already by glyphosate, and they state that POEA alone was more deadly to cells than glyphosate.

The results of the study concluded that the adjuvants in Roundup formulations are not chemically or biologically inert. On top of that finding, researchers said that the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and death in the residual levels to be expected in food and feed derived from Roundup-treated crops and on lawns and gardens. The research team suspects that Roundup might also cause abnormal fetal development, low birth weights or miscarriages by interfering with hormone production.

“The authorizations for using these Roundup herbicides must now clearly be revised since their toxic effects depend on, and are multiplied by, other compounds used in the mixtures.” – Gilles-Eric Seralini, Ph.D, lead researcher

Because 100 million pounds of Roundup are applied to U.S. farms and lawns each year, these findings are indeed disturbing. Monsanto, the manufacturer, says that the study’s methods “do not reflect realistic conditions” and contend that their product is safe when used as directed.

According to the EPA, POEA is not dangerous to public health or the environment. The ingredient is allowed to be used in products which are certified organic by the USDA.

The study, “Glyphosate Formulations Induce Apoptosis and Necrosis in Human Umbilical, Embryonic, and Placental Cells“, was published in the Journal of Chemical Research and Toxicology.

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About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!

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