Glyphosate – What It Is and Why You Should Care
Posted by Diane, MPH, RD, LD - Director of Nutrition Services on Oct 26th 2020
Glyphosate is the major chemical component of the synthetic weed killer or herbicide known by many of us as Roundup®. It’s used in lawn care, and chemists have found it present in many of the foods we see on our grocery store shelves. But is it safe for us – and especially our children – to consume?
Glyphosate is widely used in the US on farms producing crops like corn and soy. Both corn and soy ingredients, such as corn syrup, corn oil, soy protein and soy oil are in many products. And, unless you exclusively consume organic-certified foods and beverages, you’re likely being exposed to, and consuming, glyphosate. (It’s important to note that the USDA Organic seal assures you that glyphosate and many other synthetic pesticides and herbicides have not been used to produce that product.)
If glyphosate is so pervasive, should you be concerned - especially for the littlest members of your family? In my professional opinion, yes. A recent small, but significant, study of pregnant women showed that 90% had detectable glyphosate residues in their urine. The scientists conducting the study found that the amount of glyphosate found in the women’s urine correlated with shorter pregnancy lengths*. This is troublesome, because there is a significant amount of research that indicates that shorter pregnancies can have negative effects on infant development after birth.
At this point, no significant studies have been done to assess the potential risks of glyphosate in kids, but there are a few things we do know:
- Children can have a higher exposure to glyphosate and other pesticides because they (generally) eat more food per pound of body weight than adults do.
- Infants and children are still growing and developing, including internal organs like their kidneys. Glyphosate accumulates more in the kidneys than in fat, muscle, and other body tissues. Kids’ kidneys are still developing and maturing, and elimination of pesticides through their urine is not as efficient as in adults.
- While most glyphosate is excreted in the urine after 5-7 days, a small amount remains in the body, primarily in bone and bone marrow.
But fear not! There is hope! A recent scientific article** reported that an organic diet can reduce exposure to a range of pesticides – including glyphosate- in both children and adults. The study noted that in just a 3-day period,the amount of glyphosate in participants’ urine dropped by approximately 70% when their diets were changed from conventionally produced foods to all-organic foods. (Remember, organic regulations from the USDA National Organic Program prohibit the use of glyphosate and many other pesticides.) This is just one more reason why I believe it is important to use organic products with infants and young children -- to greatly reduce their exposure to these harmful chemicals.
Want to know more about avoiding contaminants and chemicals (like heavy metals, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium) in your little one’s diet? Let us know! We’re here to help you make the decisions that give your little ones their best start.
Have a question for our Dietitian, Diane? Want to know more about the ingredients in your baby's formula? Send us your questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Glyphosate exposure in pregnancy and shortened gestational length
Fagan J, Bohlen L, Patton S, Klein K. “Organic diet intervention significantly reduces urinary glyphosate levels in U.S. children and adults,” Environmental Research. August, 2020.
** Organic diet intervention significantly reduces urinary glyphosate levels in U.S. children and adults