Photo of a container of glyphosate
Glyphosate - the herbicide used with impunity on GMO crops - may be having a significant negative effect on our health

Glyphosate: The GMO pathway to ill health and disease

11 March, 2014

Glyphosate is the main component of the world’s most widely used herbicide and it underpins most GMO cropping.

It is claimed that it is one of the safest herbicides ever made. But it does disrupt bacteria; and some scientists are linking it to diseases which are increasing globally and especially in the US and Europe.

US researcher Dr Stephanie Seneff – a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory – believes her research shows that glyphosate’s mode of plant attack has the potential to and indeed does cause a plethora of human diseases and health problems.

These include autism, Alzheimers, obesity, low serotonin and tryptophan (linked to depression, mental illnesses, and increased violence), Parkinson’s, birth defects, Crohn’s and colitis, cancer and diabetes.

Glyphosate is an herbicide – the ‘active’ component of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. It is a biological catalyst that works by inhibiting a key enzyme sequence within plants, rendering them unable to function.

All plants require this pathway to function.

But animals do not have it, which is one reason why Roundup and glyphosate have always been assumed to be relatively safe for humans and animals.

Misplaced assumption about human health

Known as the “shikimate pathway”, the enzyme sequence that glyphosate disrupts is critical for enabling plants to create some essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein).

It is also vital for bacteria, fungi, algae and parasites – including bacteria in humans.

The bacteria in our bodies outnumber our cells by 10 to 1, and the shikimate pathway is important to them and to our health.

We need essential amino acids to function as an organism.  But the human body cannot create them, which is why we rely on plants and our resident gut flora to do it for us.

Upsetting our vital bacterial balance

When this ‘flora’ is inhibited or damaged, suggests Dr Seneff, we get symptomatic problems like irritable bowel disease. Over a period of time our immune system becomes disrupted by this imbalance in our guts, a state referred to as dysbiosis.

This causes a  ‘leaky gut’ – a condition where an altered or damaged bowel lining or gut wall allows substances such as toxins, microbes, undigested food, or waste to leak or migrate more widely into the body. This triggers an immune reaction that can then open the floodgates to a range of health problems.

This is not to say that glyphosate is definitively the cause of these diseases. There are obviously other factors at play but Dr Seneff makes a compelling case that we’re unwittingly poisoning ourselves for the sake of weed control.

Brining glyphosate and GMOs into the picture

Dr. Seneff highlights her research and perspectives in a lengthy video interview with the campaigner and author Jeffrey Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology.

In the interview Dr Seneff uses phrases like; “I believe,” “I suspect,” and “we’re working on” rather than more concrete statements like “I discovered,” “I proved” or “data showed.”

This research is, clearly, in its early stages; but her perspectives make sense.

History is riddled with examples of supposedly safe substances that later turned out to be devastating to human health, the environment, or both.

Dr. Seneff makes the point that the rate at which many of these diseases are growing – especially autism, which was practically unheard of 50 years ago – suggests that the problem is environmental.

In fact, in the US in the past 5 years, autism rates have increased from 1 in 150 to 1 in 50. There are likely to be other contributing factors – and arguably detection and diagnosis has drastically improved – but external environmental factors could well be the trigger for this surge.

And looking at significant environmental changes, glyphosate and GMOs fit the frame.


  • This article first appeared on the Citizens Concerned About GM website. We are grateful for their permission to reproduce it here with minor modifications and additional links for clarity.