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Glyphosate May Be Having a Harmful Effect On Our Gut Microbiome

Uh oh... Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide (plant-killer) in the world, and its pervasive use may be harming our gut microbiomes. Glyphosate (which is in Roundup) is used not only as a weed-killer, but also applied to glyphosate resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops such as soy, canola, corn, and also right before harvest (preharvest) on many grain crops. Thus we find glyphosate and glyphosate residues all around us, including in the foods we eat.

Researchers at the University of Turku  in Finland developed a bioinformatics tool to examine glyphosate effects on gut bacteria. They found that glyphosate kills many bacterial species found in the human gut, including such important keystone bacteria as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii. Their words: "54% of species in the core gut microbiome are sensitive to glyphosate". (A nice way of saying it kills them.) They summarize:

"A large proportion of bacteria in the gut microbiome (Qin et al., 2010) are susceptible to glyphosate (class I); thus, the intake of glyphosate may severely affect the composition of the human gut microbiome. "

Glyphosate has already been linked to a number of health problems (e.g. cancer, endocrine disruption). The gut microbiome or microbiota is the millions of microbes living in our intestines, and they are very important to our health. Imbalance or disruptions to our gut microbiome result in inflammation, chronic conditions, and diseases.

What to do? Try to eat as many organic foods, especially grains, soy, and corn, as possible. Organic farmers are not allowed to use glyphosate. Try to avoid using glyphosate-based herbicides on your property.  Unfortunately, our government agencies are not protecting us with regards to glyphosate, and the US allows higher glyphosate residues in food than in the European Union.

From Science Daily: Glyphosate may affect human gut microbiota

Glyphosate is the most commonly used broad-spectrum herbicide. Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland have developed a new bioinformatics tool to predict if a microbe, e.g. a human gut bacterium, is sensitive to glyphosate. 

"Glyphosate targets an enzyme called EPSPS in the shikimate pathway. This enzyme is crucial to synthesizing three essential amino acids. Based on the structure of the EPSPS enzyme, we are able to classify 80-90% of microbial species into sensitive or resistant to glyphosate," says Docent Pere Puigbò, developer of the new bioinformatics tool.

Based on the analyses using the new bioinformatics tool, 54% of the human core gut bacterial species are potentially sensitive to glyphosate.

Glyphosate is thought to be safe to use because shikimate pathway is found only in plants, fungi and bacteria. However, glyphosate may have a strong impact on bacterial species in the human microbiome, and several recent studies have shown that perturbations in the human gut microbiome are connected to many diseases. Therefore, the widespread use of glyphosate may have a strong effect on gut microbiomes as well as on human health.

The dominance of this herbicide in the pesticide market is mainly attributed to the use of transgenic crops, such as soy, corn and canola, which are often grown as glyphosate-resistant varieties outside Europe. In Europe, glyphosate is commonly used to desiccate cereal, bean and seed crops before harvest. It is also used to eradicate weeds prior to sowing in no-till cropping systems.

The risk to come across glyphosate residue in food that has been grown in Finland is small, because desiccation of the cereal fields by glyphosate is not allowed in Finland.

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