Wrong About Roundup: Breast Milk Stays Glyphosate Free
New moms around the world can rest easy knowing that their gardening chores won't put their children at risk. According to a new and independent study conducted by university researchers, the herbicide glyphosate cannot accumulate in mother's breast milk. (Click here to jump to the results!)
Scientists and health experts alike have been concerned about the unknown effects of herbicides and pesticides for a very long time - and for good reason! There is an ever growing list of pesticides in particular that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has banned from private and commercial use, largely because of the harm they can inflict on local wildlife and young children.
[ You can learn more about Neonicotinoids, a common pesticide seed coating that has been found to harm bees, here. ]
Likewise, there is a shorter list of banned and regulated herbicides that have proven toxic in high concentrations. However, it's important to note that glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup and the most widely used herbicide by the US agricultural industry, has been largely ignored.
And that's a wonder, since that particular chemical cocktail is used to treat the foods we eat - primarily glyphosate-resistant varieties of soybeans, corn, and canola, The herbicide is even used to keep genetically modified cottons safe, meaning even the clothes we wear could sport trace amounts of the herbicide.
The EPA has assured consumers in the past that thanks to extensive washing and preparation of products before they reach our markets, the amount of glyphosate the average US citizen will encounter in their entire lifetime is negligible. What's more, industry experts have insisted that the toxin runs quickly through the body, ensuring that it cannot build up to threatening concentrations with prolonged exposure.
However, what about newborns, who are incredibly vulnerable to toxins during the developmental stage of their life? The worry was that, regardless of the fact that the Roundup chemical wasn't affecting mothers, it may be able to still hitch a ride through breast milk to get to their children. (Scroll to read on...)
To find out if this was the case, public health watchdog Moms Across America (MAA) decided to launch a glyphosate testing campaign - analyzing human fluids. The reported results, which were revealed in 2014, were alarming, with three in 10 mothers testing positive for contaminated breast milk.
"This data offers a first indication of potential accumulation in the human body, giving newborns a substantial dose of synthetic chemicals as a 'gift' for their start into life, with unknown consequences," Angelika Hilbeck, a senior research scientist at the Institute of Integrative Biology in Zurich, said in a statement. "This is reckless and irresponsible conduct in a society which still has a living memory of previous reckless chemical contaminations, such as DDT. It seems we either did not learn, or we have forgotten, our lessons from Rachel Carson!"
However, it's important to note that even on the day of its release, the MAA study was far from conclusive.
"The initial testing ... is not meant to be a full scientific study," the watchdog group warned. "Instead it was set up to inspire and initiate full peer-reviewed scientific studies on glyphosate, by regulatory bodies and independent scientists worldwide."
Now, a year later, a team of independent scientists at Washington State University have concluded that this was one of those unfortunate situations where incomplete science has misled the public - even if it was conducted with good intentions in mind.
"The Moms Across America study flat out got it wrong" Michelle McGuire, an executive committee member for the International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation and a national spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition, said in a statement.
"The MAA findings are unverified, not consistent with published safety data and are based off an assay designed to test for glyphosate in water, not breast milk," she explained. (Scroll to read on...)
McGuire is a lactation physiologist at Washington State University who has spent more than 25 years researching the benefits of breast feeding. When a report came out that might dissuade women from breastfeeding their newborns, she felt duty-bound to investigate it for herself.
McGuire and her colleagues collected milk and urine samples from 41 lactating women living near highly productive agricultural regions where glyphosate is routinely used in farming practices. It's important to note that the subjects of the MAA study differed in this regard, as it used women who were "mostly familiar with GMOs and glyphosate [and had] been trying to avoid GMOs and glyphosate for several months to two years," according to MAA director Director, Zen Honeycutt.
In the MAA report, Honeycutt had said that this fact alone was what made their findings so alarming. However, this is likewise what makes McGuire's study equally stunning.
According to the results, "high sensitivity liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry methods specifically optimized for the task" detected neither glyphosate nor any glyphosate metabolites in any milk sample, even when the mother had detectable amounts of glyphosate in her urine. (Scroll to read on...)
What's more, the researchers found no difference between subjects who self-identified as people who actively ate organic and avoided GMOs and those who has no consumer preference.
"Our data - obtained using sophisticated and validated methods of analyses - strongly suggest that glyphosate does not bioaccumulate and is not present in human milk even when the mother has detectable glyphosate in her urine," McGuire added. "These findings emphasize the critical importance of carefully validating laboratory methods to the biological matrix of interest, especially when it is as complex as human milk."
McGuire presented these results and more at the recent Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Conference on July 23.
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