Science in Society Archive

Ban Glyphosate Herbicides Now

Scientists Confirm Potent Hormone Disrupting Effects

Latest evidence confirms world's top-selling herbicide used with GM crops is toxic and disrupts sex hormones at infinitesimal doses; time for a worldwide ban. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

This report has been submitted to the US Environment Protection Agency. Please circulate widely with all the hyperlinks included to your elected representatives, wherever you are

Scientific evidence of glyphosate and Roundup toxicities piling up

Glyphosate is the world's top selling herbicide, and Monsanto's formulations Roundup is used with more than 80 percent of all genetically modified (GM) crops grown globally. But evidence of its extreme toxicity has been emerging within the past decade. Glyphosate was found to kill human placental cells at concentrations below that recommended for agricultural use and approved by our regulators, while Roundup was lethal at even lower concentrations [1] Glyphosate Toxic & Roundup Worse , SiS 26). The herbicide has already been linked with spontaneous abortions, Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma in humans; and in laboratory studies glyphosate caused liver damage in rats. Roundup is also highly lethal to amphibians [2] ( Roundup Kills Frogs , SiS 26).

Recently, the research team led by Giles-Eric Séralini at Caen University in France confirmed the lethality of glyphosate and Roundup formulations to human cells at minute concentrations (down to parts per million, ppm) [3] ( Death by Multiple Poisoning, Glyphosate and Roundup , SiS 42). They also identified three main targets for killing cells: damage to the cell membrane, poisoning of energy metabolism in the mitochondria, and programmed cell death involving fragmentation of nuclear DNA.

Séralini's team joined up with colleagues at the University of Burgundy in Dijon and have now demonstrated that the herbicide and its Roundup formulations disrupt the action and synthesis of sex hormones at even lower concentrations [4].

Synergistic nonlinear effects of herbicide formulations

Glyphosate-based herbicides are now major pollutants of rivers and surface waters. Commercial glyphosate formulations contain a number of different ‘adjuvants' that are supposed to be ‘inert', but such cocktail mixtures typically exert synergistic, multiplicative and other nonlinear effects, much more potent than the separate ingredients [5] ( Super-Toxic Cocktails , SiS 42). Unfortunately, typical toxicology tests are still carried out on individual ingredients, if at all

Not surprisingly, the question of active toxic threshold of the combinations of glyphosate and adjuvants in different formations in vivo is still open, but as Séralini and colleagues state [4], “it is now well demonstrated that mixtures formulated with G [glyphosate] and adjuvants are themselves not environmentally safe, in particular for aquatic life. They can even enhance heavy metals toxicity.”

Carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic effects

The researchers decided to look into the carcinogenic mutagenic and reproductive toxicity (CMR) of glyphosate and formulations in view of previously published findings dating from the 1990s, documenting effects on reproduction, such as sperm production and pregnancy, and mutagenic and toxic effects at very low doses in embryonic, foetal and placental cells. Numerous CMR substances are also endocrine disruptors and object for specific legislations

They chose the human liver cell line HepG2 because it is the best characterized human liver cell line, and is used as a model system to study xenobiotic toxicity. The liver is the major detoxification organ for food or drinks contaminants, and Roundup has been demonstrated to damage carp and rat liver cells at low concentrations.

The endocrine disrupting effects were studied with three different sex hormone receptors (oestrogen receptors ER a , ER b and androgen receptor AR), and with aromatase, the enzyme responsible for converting androgen to oestrogen. If these functions are disturbed, they will have a range of developmental impacts including sexual and other cell differentiation, bone metabolism, liver metabolism, reproduction, pregnancy, development, behaviour and hormone-dependent diseases such as breast or prostate cancer.

Sex hormone disrupting effects at infinitesimal concentrations

The human liver cells were exposed to glyphosate (G) and four different Roundup (R) formulations, and monitored for toxicity with a combination of enzyme assays for cell damage (cytotoxicity) as in the earlier work [3].

In addition, the ability to disrupt the action of oestrogen (female sex hormone) and androgen (male sex hormone) was investigated (see above) and their ability to damage DNA monitored with a ‘comet assay', a single cell gel electrophoresis for detecting single- and double-strand breaks and other lesions.

Glyphosate (G) was purchased from Sigma-Aldrich. The Roundup formulations tested were from Monsanto, and available on the market; Roundup Express (7.2g/L of G) (R7.2), Bioforce or Extra 360 (360g/L of G) (R360), Grands Travaus (400g/L of G) (R400), Grands Travaux plus (450g/L of G) (R450).

All functions were found to be disrupted at sub-agricultural doses with all the Roundup formulations within 24 h of exposure, the effects being more dependent on the formulations than on the concentration of glyphosate. Glyphosate alone was toxic from 1 percent, but the formulations were more potent; cytotoxic effects began at 10 ppm, and DNA damages at 5 ppm. But endocrine disrupting effects came top.

The disruption of androgen-receptor binding occurred at 0.5 ppm for the most active formulation (R400), and at 2 ppm, the transcription of oestrogen receptors was inhibited. Aromatase transcription and enzyme activity were both disrupted at 10 ppm. All formulations except R450 appeared more anti-androgenic than anti-oestrogenic. The ranking in inhibition efficiencies was R400>R450>R360>R7.2, with a 300-800 fold difference between the strongest inhibitor and the weakest. The effects were clearly neither linear nor proportional to G concentration. Glyphosate alone has no effect on these endocrine-related activities.

Ban glyphosate and GMOs now

These results are devastating for health and the environment. The toxic effects of Roundup (R400) begin at 5 ppm, and the first endocrine disrupting action is already evident at 0.5 ppm, 800 times lower than the level of 400 ppm authorized by the US Environment Protection Agency in food or feed. And these latest results come in the wake of a string of evidence linking the herbicide and its formulations with cancers, miscarriages and other reproductive toxicities, liver and cell toxicities, DNA damages, lethality to amphibians [2] and lately, a range of embryonic defects in frogs [6] ( Glyphosate Herbicide Could Cause Birth Defects , SiS 43).

In 2005, we called for a urgent review of glyphosate and Roundup [1]. Argentina is now considering a ban on this herbicide and formulations used on GM soybean grown in nearly half of its agricultural land [6].

It is time for a worldwide ban on glyphosate herbicide and GM crops. There is strong evidence indicating that [7] GM is Dangerous and Futile ( SiS 40), apart from the fact that more than 80 percent of all GM crops grown globally are engineered to be glyphosate-tolerant, and have been responsible for a 15-fold increase in glyphosate use on major crops as glyphosate-resistant superweeds proliferate.

Article first published 15/07/09


  1. Ho MW and Cummins J. Glyphosate toxic & Roundup worse. Science in Society 26 , 12, 2005.
  2. Ho MW. Roundup kills frogs. Science in Society 26 . 13, 2005.
  3. Ho MW and Cherry B. Death by multiple poisoning, glyphosate and Roundup. Science in Society 42 , 14, 2009.
  4. Gasnier C, Dumont C, Benchour N, Clair E, Chagnon M-C and Séralini G-E. Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines. Toxicology, doi:10.1016/j.tox.2009.06.006.
  5. Saunders PT. Super-toxic cocktails. Science in Society 42 , 49, 2009.
  6. Ho MW. Glyphosate herbicide could cause birth defects. Science in Society 43.
  7. Ho MW. GM is dangerous and futile, we need sustainable food and energy systems now. Science in Society 40 , 4-7, 2008.

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There are 19 comments on this article so far. Add your comment above.

Torben Munk Nielsen Comment left 16th July 2009 00:12:29
Thank you Dr. Mae-Wan Ho for this article. I have been thinking about this for many years, as long as the products have been on the market. Love and light Torben Copenhagen Denmark

Will Hof Comment left 16th July 2009 23:11:13
Great article. Can I be so bold as to say that this poison is part of the eugenics program by the NWO?

Arther Rubin Comment left 16th July 2009 23:11:50
Because GMO food is not labeled in the US, doctors are unable to diagnose allergies to them. Emerging diseases are being classified as "psychotic".

marta ainley Comment left 16th July 2009 23:11:32
I can only find very negative outcomes from places where they have used GM seeds. They end up getting pests which the farmer is then forced into buying Round Up. Lobbying of MEPs by Monsanto and the US government seems to work and until our governments stop the lobbying this wont stop. How much evidence do our governments need. We must all write constantly to our governments an d tell them that we are not going to accept GM or RoundUp or similar products from agrochemical cos.

Zeppo Comment left 1st August 2009 05:05:44
It is said that glyphosate is harmful to liver cells. People don't drink it, they spray it - on plants. Unless I squirt the stuff in my beer, how does it get to my liver?

mae-wan ho Comment left 2nd August 2009 19:07:22
Hi Zeppo, glyphosate can get into your liver via the bloodstream, if you inhale it, or absorb it through your skin, as would happen when you are near a spray. You can also eat it in contaminated produce, because it may not wash off completely. And especially, in the case of glyphosate- tolerate GM soya or maize, there's plenty in the plant, they take it up OK, only it doesn't kill them, but it could hurt all other animals including you that eat the plant.

Benjamin Comment left 8th December 2009 18:06:00
I support a worldwide ban on roundup and glyphosate.I have never believed it was safe or "clean",Even before the introduction of GM crops.Both Glyphosate and the surfactant polyethoxylated tallowamine is highly toxic in the environment and has a long half life.What really scares me is the appalling recklessness with which this product is applied,as if it were harmless.

Jo Comment left 9th March 2010 08:08:10
If I understand correctly, Canada and Denmark have banned Roundup. These countries must have vaild evidence it is unsafe, if this is the case.

Mae-Wan Ho Comment left 10th March 2010 01:01:15
thank you Jo, for reminding us that Denmark has banned glyphosate back in 2003. But I don't believe Canada has.

Ulrich Oslender Comment left 5th July 2010 18:06:09
There is no mention here that glyphosate is used by the Colombian anti-narcotics police in their aerial fumigations to destroy (illegally planted) coca crops. The Colombian government's stance is that the spraying does NOT harm the tropical rainforest at large and is NOT harmful to humans either. I am a human geographer, not a natural scientist, but this myth of glyphosate being harmless for human health, has to be exposed in order to strengthen our case for an immediate stop of aerial fumigations in the highly biodiverse tropical rainforest in Colombia's Pacific coast region.

Yia Comment left 14th April 2010 16:04:37
I understand our body have the capacity to get rid of toxins otherwise we all would have died after inhaling the millions of micro organisms found in the environment. Thats why we have Exposure Standards and these must be respected through proper risk assessment/monitoring. Can I know if studies have been carried out to show how many people have been affected and/or will be affected. I understand that the no risk scenario does not exist.

kerry marsh Comment left 3rd March 2011 22:10:33
Can you tell me if gllyphosate and or roundup contains heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel , lead - ? all the nasty ones. Cannot find this info anywhere msds sheets are useless. Many thanks Kerry

SAM A SAPIENZA Comment left 4th March 2011 22:10:00

Stam Fordly Comment left 26th August 2011 18:06:59
If you wish to ban glyphosate worldwide I assume that you have a viable alternative means of terminating serious agricultural weeds like couch-grass? It's not just used with GM you know... Otherwise prepare for famine to make a comeback in Europe and North America because people WILL starve, probably in their millions.

Callum Barclay Comment left 7th September 2011 17:05:08
I think the proof of these things needs to be backed up with real studies and not fear mongering. I'm not spraying any fetuses or really convinced it gets into the food chain when used as directed (path weeds). Now I add muriatic acid to my "organic" spray (available at any pool store) and that kils the suckers in 2 hours. Murder on the environment I suppose, but if big government wants to ban stuff that intelligent people use reasonably, then we should all bow down and leave our freedoms at the door. Sorry....

Jenny Comment left 22nd October 2011 05:05:36
Callum, Glyphosate is in the food chain. Most of the genetically modified organisms on store shelves in the US are Roundup Ready meaning the farmer can spray them with Roundup and they won't die. This is true for Corn, Sugar Beets, Canola, Soy and now alfalfa. The time between spraying alfalfa and harvesting it to feed to cows is very short. Our cattle are likely eating Roundup, in this case. We know that what cows eat crosses into the milk. This means the milk could contain roundup.

Robzilla Comment left 1st May 2012 22:10:01
I think the proof of safety needs to be determined before we use these pesticides. Oh we did not wait for that, instead we have all been guinia pigs. Thanks Monsanto!! To Callum freedom in this country is an illusion specially after the "Patriot Act" but the freedom you are asking for to use any product responsibly hsould be a right of all cicitzens and this includes what we decide to put in our body. The problem is no one is really doing the real research to study the effects of these chemicals. Ask the FDA and they say it is up to the Manufacturer to determine the safety and effectiveness of a product. If you ask Monsanto about safety they will say it is the job of the FDA to make sure what they produce is safe. So no one is doing their job. So there is no real proof that round up is safe and the same goes for GMO's and if there are independant studies done Monsanto will not release any info sighting patent claims. Meanwhile GMOs are a big lie. They claimed superior yeilds-false- they also claimed less use of pesticides-wrong round up use has gone way up since the introduction of GMO's. Also lets just look at the history of Monsanto to see if they can be trusted. They developed agent orange and ddt and caused a lot of environmental damage and lied about what they knew about their products. Now they have been reborn and have shed their chemical legacy only to become the gmo and pesticide leader. They want us to believe their pesticides and GMO's are safe but will not let anyone study their products(refering specifically to GMO's not Round UP) so I guess you have to ask yourself do I trust a company with a track record of destroying the environment and poisoning people and their babies but now we can believe they have changed and only want good things for us all and solve world hunger while creating the worlds first patented seed. I would not trust anything they sell or say and frankly they should all be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity. I guess it is one way to control population???

Cindi Comment left 21st June 2012 22:10:16
Canada certainly does allow spraying with Glyphosate. In fact, there is a farmer directly across the road from my property who is spraying Roundup all over his crops even as I type this. The government banned use of Roundup by homeowners for use on their own property, as well they should, although I believe they still allow it for use on poison ivy, etc. The farmers are allowed to spray as much of the damn stuff as they see fit. Nobody in the city knows that or even wonders about it. They think the "conventionally" grown (since when are toxins "conventional"??) produce they buy is pure as the driven snow. Either that or they are under the extremely mistaken impression that the government would NEVER allow anything to be sold that was harmful to them. Very sad, very frustrating.

M S Comment left 12th March 2013 07:07:04
Trust the government and its entities to protect our health? Nope. I sure don't. We all have to be proactive in trying to ensure our health!