Feed on

In a comment on the previous post, a friend of a commentor sends him evidence that glyphosate is toxic and obviously bad and obviously (we can surmise) should be banned.

Do people read their own bullshit? Do they think for more than half a second when they send stuff like this around the interweb? So, I spend hours and hours and hours trying to learn about round-up, GMOs, toxicity, read the review papers and such … and then some clown sends a note saying, just saying, that “glyphosate is toxic” and that “argument” wins the day?


Just spent 2 minutes reading the linked-to study and you will come to learn that someone is using a study where 600 people intentionally poisoned themselves with glyphosate, and where it kills a small share of them, as evidence for … what, exactly?


As they say, we’re doomed. Why do I bother?


7 Responses to “We Need to Do Better – Glyphosate (i.e. Roundup) Edition”

  1. sherlock says:

    A quick scan tells me that table salt is more acutely toxic than glyphosphate (LD50 oral of 3000 mg/L vs 5000 mg/L for rats).

    • sherlock says:

      Edit to that last comment is “mg/kg” not “mg/L”. My apologies.

      I found this though: A chemical that has an acute toxicity of around 90,000 mg/kg and is used in pesticides, fracking fluids, and GMO-development processes. It also can be found in our food and drink. Pesticide runoff and soil degradation is a source of it getting into rivers and lakes. Intoxication can easily lead to death and doctors have trouble recognizing the symptoms:

      “…intoxication can occur in a variety of different clinical settings but is generally not well recognised in the medical literature. The condition may go unrecognised in the early stages when the patient may have symptoms of confusion, disorientation, nausea, and vomiting, but also changes in mental state and psychotic symptoms. Early detection is crucial to prevent severe hyponatraemia, which can lead to seizures, coma, and death.”


  2. Alex says:

    I swear I tried reading the study. Overwhelmed by the unfamiliar terms. And reading “intentional ingestion” threw me a bit.

    I took the charitable route, saying, “okay, so glyphosate caused a 3% death rate. So maybe GMOs can cause harm. But does that mean it’s not worth it?”. Friend’s response was that he’s neither anti-GMO nor absolutely pro.

    I’m still a bit confused about the dosage, and must be missing something. The article says “Death was strongly associated with greater age, larger ingestions and high plasma glyphosate concentrations on admission (>734μg/mL).” That translates to 0.734g/l. According to wiki, “The most common formulation in agriculture is 360 g/l”. But of course, this doesn’t mean one would ingest this much just by eating food with Roundup sprayed on it. The best I found was: “Some poultry and cattle feed samples in Germany were found to have 0.4-0.9 mg glyphosate/kg.”, which I think translates to 0.4 – 0.9μg/mL, so nothing near the dose taken in the study.

    Thanks for setting me on the right track!

    • sherlock says:

      Hey Alex,

      “734 μg/mL” is referring to the the concentration of glyphosphate in the blood plasma of the patients, not the concentration of the pesticide that they ingested. For reference, 1 μg/mL is equal to 1 part per million (ppm). I find it easier for myself to put low concentrations into parts per million or parts per billion (ppb). The most common formulation of 360g/l (via Wikipedia) is roughly 36% by weight glyphosphate. It’s actually a little less due to the density of glyphosphate, but that doesn’t really matter for this example. You can actually find the percent of any active ingredient (the ingredient doing the killing) of any pesticide product used in the US on the EPA’s website if you are so inclined. So the the patients ingested a 36% solution of glyphosphate and some of this glyphosphate ended up in the blood. “High” concentrations in the blood are those >734 μg/mL (or 734 parts of glyphosphate per 1 million parts blood plasma).

      Hope this helps.

  3. Alex says:

    I’m mostly curious about the dose they took. How high was it compared to what they would ingest eating foods sprayed with roundup?

    • wintercow20 says:

      The LD50 dose for caffeine would be something like ingesting 12,000mg in a sitting to kill a typical small adult. This would be about 125 cups of coffee at a sitting, give or take.

      The LD50 dose (i.e. how big a dose you need to kill 50% of test animals) is 12 and a half ounces of glyphosate … or you’d have to drink about 3 gallons of Roundup to have a solid chance of killing yourself.

      In order to see how big a dose we should be worrying about, we can check out the EPA and USDA guidelines for safe exposure, which are of course conservative. If you assu,e that EVERY SINGLE possible commodity crop is treated with glyphosate and that residue remains on all of these food products, the EPA still concludes that regular ingestion of glyphosate in your diet imposes minimal risk.

      A conservative amount of daily exposure, if consumed over the lifetime, every day, is about 2mg/kg … which means that a small adult can be exposed to 127 milligrams of glyphosate every day without any adverse effects over an entire lifetime. Vitamin D exposure at 0.1mg per day or more causes problems, for comparison.

      When I look around at the websites citing scare stories of glyphosate exposure, I am seeing that maximum residues are no higher than 1mg per kg per day, which is less than half of what the EPA considers safe (see here for an example https://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/press_releases/foee_4_human_contamination_glyphosate.pdf). But remember, last I checked (which was last fall when I prepped for environmental class) the US government had never even bothered to test for glyphosate residue in food, largely due to the expense of doing so and the widely understood lack of toxicity.

  4. Douglas2 says:

    I’ll jump in with a badly-sourced comment. If I am remembering that study correctly from when I read it a long time ago, the mortality wasn’t actually from the glyphosate, but from the surfectants that the commercial solutions contain along with glyphosate. Hazy memory and all that….

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