GMO Crops & Glyphosate: Detrimental Effects on Health

 In Endocrinology, Environmental Medicine, Fertility


Humaira Quraishi, ND, MS

An historic event took place in August of 2018 when Dewayne Johnson won his lawsuit against Monsanto; he was granted “$39.2 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.”1 Johnson, a 46-year-old gardener, developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma after continuous use of Monsanto’s most popular commercial weed killer. Thus far, this was the first case against Monsanto to go to trial, as well as the first case won. Thanks to this trial, Monsanto’s classified documents were scrutinized, and they revealed that the company knew of the product’s potential harmful effects on health. Not only has Monsanto neglected to acknowledge these side effects, the company has also targeted researchers who write negatively about glyphosate and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Critical Data & Monsanto’s Cover-ups

Researcher Gilles-Eric Séralini published a study in 2012 that showed that rats fed glyphosate – the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weed killer – in their drinking water developed tumors, even at low amounts.2 His research was later retracted by the journal because “it did not meet scientific standards,”3 even though there was no evidence of it being scientifically invalid. Séralini took these accusations to court in 2 separate cases, and won. In both cases, the court ruled that the individuals accusing Séralini, one of whom was an ex-employee of Monsanto who had begun working for the journal, were guilty of public defamation and forgery.2 Séralini went on to republish his article in another journal.4

Meanwhile, previous research5 on health effects of GMOs by another investigator, Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, was also targeted by Monsanto. Thanks to court order, Vendômois was able to obtain Monsanto’s data, which gave his study credibility regarding chronic and subchronic toxicities. Vendômois and his team discovered within Monsanto’s documents hepatorenal differences in rats which, in a 90-day trial, consumed 3 GM corns: MON 863, Mon 810, and NK 603, all owned by Monsanto.5 Other toxicities included increases in weight and plasma triglycerides in female rats who consumed MON 863; increase in heart weight in males given NK 603; and early signs of chronic nephropathy in Sprague Dawley rats fed MON 863 (though not with MON 810 and NK 603).5 In his article, Vendômois also outlined issues with Monsanto’s data, and included the following observations:

1) Ninety-day studies on rats are not long enough to evaluate for chronic side effects by pesticides

2) There were too many controls – “out of 400 rats, there were only 80 eating GMOs.” This means the study was only based on 320 control animals, giving the impression that GMOs do not pose any risks, since the majority of the rats were unaffected.

3) A regulatory health test was performed only once for each GMO product. This means that the evaluation process was not scientifically up to standards, even for a 90-day trial.

The German Appeal Court, after concerns in Europe over GMO MON 863, allowed public access to Monsanto’s raw data.6 After review of the data, Séralini et al discovered that Monsanto neglected to show data with even the slightest negative results from MON 863 maize and had suggested that it was safe to consume. “The disturbing oversight runs false negative results and a risk of health consequences for millions of people and animals.”6 Séralini and his team also found “significant effects were concentrated in livers and kidneys as main detoxification organs reacting in cases of food/chemical contamination.”6 Once again, Monsanto failed to mention significant side effects of GMOs, including: “significant increase in blood glucose of 10% in GM-fed females, in triglycerides of 24-40%, overweight livers and enhanced liver/brain ratios (7%), small but significant body weight gain (3.7%), and disturbed kidney parameters.”6 Sounds like metabolic profiles.

Since early findings of hepatotoxicities in Sprague Dawley rats, a 2-year study was conducted on these rats using NK 603 maize and Monsanto’s glyphosate-containing herbicide.7 Researchers used 3 different concentrations of both residues. NK 603 was administered with or without the weed killer in the feed at 11%, 22%, and 33% concentrations, while the weed killer, alone, was administered in drinking water with concentrations at 0.1 ppb (regular tap water), 400 ppm (max level allowed in GMOs), and 0.5% (half the agricultural dose). At 15 months, the female rats showed marked liver and kidney dysfunction.7 Testosterone and estradiol levels also appeared to be elevated. By the end of the 2-year experiment, researchers noted male rats to have more severe hepatorenal deficiencies compared to females. However, females who consumed 0.1 ppb of the weed killer were seen to have more mammary tumors, which led to premature deaths.7 Despite the evidence of toxicity, the results were “immediately dismissed by persons involved in the products’ authorizations, or in collaborations with biotech industries.”7 Studies that have been conducted by Monsanto and their collaborators have all been classified as confidential, thus preventing other researchers and the general public from seeing the results, unless allowed by court order.7

GMOs & Glyphosate: Cellular Effects

Seeing these side effects and tumors in animal models, one must also consider the biological and biochemical impact of both GMOs and glyphosate on the cellular level. How might the mitochondria react to GMOs? Mitochondria are not only critical to ATP production; they also have important roles in cell signaling, apoptosis, and inflammation. Alex Vasquez, DO, ND, DC, has compiled a variety of evidence correlating mitochondrial dysfunction with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.8

Glyphosate acts as a chelator and binds to many minerals, leading to nutritional depletion in plants and, later, in animals and humans.9 One of these minerals is manganese, which is very important to the mitochondria. Manganese plays a role in cell survival and regulating enzymes like manganese superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD), which helps protect the mitochondria and surrounding cells from oxidative damage.10 As explained by Dr Vasquez and MIT research scientist Stephanie Seneff, PhD, the combining of solvents and the glyphosate in Monsanto’s weed killer can particularly predispose to mitochondrial dysfunction, as the solvents impair the mitochondrial membrane, allowing glyphosate to penetrate the organelle and bind to manganese 11 Because manganese is so critical to the function of Mn-SOD, a deficiency of manganese can promote intracellular oxidative damage and inflammation, in turn raising the risk of chronic health conditions.

If causing damage to the mitochondria isn’t bad enough, Dr Seneff describes glyphosate as also causing DNA damage, interrupting amino acid balance, removing trace minerals, and impairing detoxification pathways. As she stated in an interview with Dr David Perlmutter, “Epidemiological evidence supports strong temporal correlations between glyphosate usage on crops and a multitude of cancers that are reaching epidemic proportions, including breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer, and myeloid leukemia.”12 Séralini and Vendômois found the maize GMO, MON 863, to have metabolic effects including “direct or indirect insertional mutagenesis.”5 An example is the insertion of the transgene producing the insecticidal Cry1Ab toxin, leading to “synthesis of new RNA products encoding unknown proteins or/and to metabolic pathways variations which caused up to 50% changes in measured osmolytes and branched amino acids.”5 Another such study, published in The Lancet Oncology, found occupational exposure to Monsanto’s herbicide and its solvents in the United States, Canada, and Sweden to have a positive association with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.13

There is also evidence, from a 2012 animal study by Séralini et al, suggesting that GMO maize and Monsanto’s weed killer causes infertility and hormonal imbalance by disrupting the enzyme aromatase that produces estrogen.2 In the study, rats fed the glyphosate herbicide alone in water, rats fed corn sprayed with the herbicide, and rats fed GM maize treated with the herbicide, all showed higher levels of estrogen.2 They also displayed large mammary tumors – tumors that are known to be estrogen-dependent and shown to be significant at even the lowest dose of the Monsanto’s weed killer. “[I]n females, the androgen/estrogen balance in serum was modified by GM maize and [glyphosate] treatments,…  and for male animals at the highest [glyphosate]-treatment dose, levels of estrogens were more than doubled.”2 The Natural Fertility Info organization stated the following: “The recent study prompted the largest healthcare organization in the U.S. Kaiser Permanente, to release warnings to limit consumption of GM foods.”14 Assuming similar effects in humans, this increase in estrogen levels leads to many issues in fertility, including ovulation, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, fibroids, and low sperm count.14 Rising estrogen levels is resulting in earlier puberty. Research published in the journal Pediatrics revealed that 15% of girls worldwide are beginning puberty by the age of 7.”15

False Promises

According to Emily Cassidy, a research analyst for Environmental Working Group, GMOs were supposed to help global food security because the demand for food is expected to double by 2050 compared to what it was in 2005.16 However, recent evidence indicates “GE crops have not increased crop yields enough to significantly contribute to food security.”16 Cassidy also found that in Africa, traditional breeding techniques have produced more crops, compared to genetic engineering.16 It also takes more money to produce genetically engineered (GE) crops: “industry-supported research found that it can take more than $100 million to research and develop a simple [GE] variety,” whereas, it takes only $1 million to create a new variety using traditional breeding techniques.16 Unfortunately, 75% of the processed foods in the United States contains genetically engineered ingredients. What’s worse, because of herbicide resistance, “superweeds” are causing farmers and manufacturers to use more glyphosate. Between 1996 and 2011, glyphosate usage increased by 527 million pounds, an increase of about 11%.16

GMOs were created to endure and/or produce 1 or more insecticides.5 GMO crops made to withstand heavy use of glyphosate are labeled “RoundUp Ready.” Ninety percent of cotton, corn/maize, soy, canola, and sugar beets sold in the United States are genetically modified.17 Farmers are able to spray these crops in order to kill the weeds because the crops are not affected by the herbicide. However, the residue of the herbicide still remains on the food.18 Think about this: if the residue remains on the food, how likely is it going to remain in our bodies, considering factors such as 1) not cleaning produce properly; 2) hooverizing instead of fletcherizing foods; and 3) digestive concerns, such as leaky gut, which allow more penetration of the pesticide/mutated genes into the body. Glyphosate has also been shown to deplete nutrients, which results in deficiencies.19 For 60 years, “the USDA has been tracking the nutrient density of 43 crops … USDA data shows a progressive and alarming rate of decline in nutrition since the ‘green revolution’ began in the 1940s.”19

Closing Comments

If the poison is still present, the genes are still active,20 and genetic modification reduces the nutritional density of foods, then GMOs and glyphosate herbicides can have more severe and chronic effects on our health than we already know. In 2015, the World Health Organization labeled glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic in humans.”21 When an Indian research team in 2010 found significant biological effects of their new Bt insecticide on 3 different mammals within a short period of time, they decided to study its chronic effects on heath rather than commercialize the toxin.5 If they stepped up to study these insecticides’ effects of health, then why can’t we? There is momentum in the organic revolution, but many are hesitant to obtain organic produce, due to hidden or deficient evidence or the cost of organic goods. However, if we can bring more evidence forward, increase awareness of health concerns associated with GMOs and glyphosate, and teach our communities how to grow and effectively use organic produce, our health will be in much better shape This begins with us whenever we recommend nutritional protocols and non-GMO supplements to our clients and patients – Docere.


  1. Cade GA. Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto: Hidden Dangers in Weed Killer Giant. More than 5000 Lawsuits against Monsanto. August 26, 2018. Global Research Web site. https://tinyurl.com/yd5lop6t. Accessed October 14, 2018.
  2. Séralini GE, Clair E, Mesnage R, et al. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food Chem Toxicol. 2012;50(11):4221-4231.
  3. [No authors listed]. Retraction notice to “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize” [Food Chem Toxicol. 50 (2012) 4221-4231]. Food Chem Toxicol. 2014;63:244.
  4. Séralini GE, Clair E, Mesnage R, et al. Republished study: long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Environ Sci Eur. 2014;26(1):14.
  5. de Vendômois JS, Cellier D, Vélot C, et al. Debate on GMOs health risks after statistical findings in regulatory tests.” Int J Biol Sci. 2010;6(6):590-598.
  6. Séralini GE, de Vendômois JS, Cellier D, et al. How subchronic and chronic health effects can be neglected for GMOs, pesticides or chemicals. Int J Biol Sci. 2009;5(5):438-443.
  7. Séralini GE, Mesnage R, Defarge N, et al. Conflicts of interests, confidentiality and censorship in health risk assessment: the example of an herbicide and a GMO. Environ Sci Eur. 2014;26(1):13.
  8. [Glyphosate research papers compiled by Dr Alex Vasquez.] Available at: https://tinyurl.com/hwobxs5. Accessed October 14, 2018.
  9. Samsel A, Seneff S. Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases III: Manganese, neurological diseases, and associated pathologies. Surg Neurol Int. 2015;6:45.
  10. Smith MR, Fernandes J, Go YM, Jones DP. Redox dynamics of manganese as a mitochondrial life-death switch. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2017;482(3):388-398.
  11. How Roundup Damages Your Mitochondria and Makes You Sick. February 2, 2016. [Video interview of Alex Vasquez and Stephanie Seneff by Jeffrey Smith]. Mercola.com Web site. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/02/02/how-roundup-damages-mitochondria.aspx. Accessed October 14, 2018.
  12. Perlmutter D. The Real Reason GMO Matters. Available at: https://www.drperlmutter.com/the-real-reason-gmo-matters/. Accessed October 14, 2018.
  13. Guyton KZ, Loomis D, Grosse Y, et al. Carcinogencity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate. Lancet Oncol. 2015;16(5):490-491.
  14. Barton-Schuster D. GMO Corn & Roundup Shown to Cause Hormone Imbalance. Updated October 25, 2018. Natural Fertility Info Web site. https://natural-fertility-info.com/gmo-corn-hormonal-imbalance.html. Accessed October 14, 2018.
  15. Biro FM, Galvez MP, Greenspan LC, et al. Pubertal assessment method and baseline characteristics in a mixed longitudinal study of girls. Pediatrics. 2010;126(3):e583-e590.
  16. Cassidy E. Feeding the World Without GMOs. March 2015. Environmental Working Group. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/ycwrfdvp. Accessed October 15, 2018.
  17. Lallanilla M. GMOs: Facts About Genetically Modified Food. January 11, 2016. Live Science Web site. https://www.livescience.com/40895-gmo-facts.html. Accessed October 15, 2018.
  18. Yang T, Doherty J, Zhao B, et al. Effectiveness of Commercial and Homemade Washing Agents in Removing Pesticide Residues on and in Apples. J Agric Food Chem. 2017;65(44):9744-9752.
  19. Casper J. LMOs, GMOs and Glyphosate (a toxic antibiotic). Updated November 20, 2018. Nutritonal Balancing Web site. https://nutritionalbalancing.org/center/htma/food/articles/gmo.php. Accessed October 15, 2018.
  20. Freeman E. Scientists: New GMO wheat may ‘silence’ vital human genes. October 9, 2012. Digital Journal Web site. http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/332822. Accessed October 15, 2018.
  21. International Agency for Research on Cancer. World Health Organization. IARC Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides. March 20, 2015. Available at: https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/MonographVolume112.pdf. Accessed October 15, 2018.

Humaira Quraishi, ND, MS, graduated in 2017 from both the College of Naturopathic Medicine and Nutrition Institute at the University of Bridgeport. Currently, Dr Quraishi is practicing in a wellness center in Rutherford, New Jersey. She focuses her practice on gastrointestinal, endocrine, and allergy disorders.

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