Steven Smith's picture
Maybe GMO's aren't the problem. They are only the enabler in the case of Roundup Ready. Enabling food to be doused with it. Roundup is supposed to be safe on humans since it only attacks plants. Isn't our gut flora and fauna plant like? This retired MIT scientist explains my question.

A:Expert Answer

Plants are not "doused" in Roundup or, more precisely, its active ingredient glyphosate.  Relatively small amounts of glyphosate are applied as weeds emerge.  These die and do not compete against emerging glyphosate-resistant crops.  Glyphosate is amazingly non-toxic to humans or any other animals.  Acute effects are seen only at relatively high doses. The LD50 (the dose that kills half of the rats that consume the dose) is about 5,000 mg/kg of body weight.  In other words, if you weigh 200 pounds, you'd have to drink about two pounds of the 41 percent commercial concentrate to have a 50 percent chance of dying. Of course, it is not recommended―ask any of the hundreds of people that have tried to commit suicide by drinking it.  It takes a good dose to cause problems. Look up "glyphosate" and "suicide" in PubMed.  


The flora of the gut are hardly plant-like—they are microbes, the vast majority bacteria. The "Roundup resistance" gene comes from a bacterium.


The woman in the YouTube video you sent is Dr. Stephanie Seneff.  She is a computer scientist in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT.  She is not a plant scientist, molecular biologist or expert in human disease.  She uses the MIT affiliation and a Ph.D. to create arguments from authority without evidence.  Her evidence is largely correlation.  She claims that glyphosate causes autism.  And obesity.  And Parkinson's.  And depression.  And ADHD.  And several other ailments. 


She explains their effect being caused by "exogenous semiotic entropy," a phrase that, if Googled, gives you her paper in Entropy, a low-/no-impact physics journal that has a reputation of publishing anything for a fee.  It claims peer review, but no biologist or medical researcher reviewed the work.  The phrase "exogenous semiotic entropy" sounds fancy, but she's the first person to use it.


The big problem with glyphosate is not physiological; it is resistant weeds.  Fortunately, new solutions are in the works.  Glyphosate is a great tool for farmers; it keeps labor and fuels costs lower, and it allows for "no-till" farming, saving valuable topsoil.

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achood4mu's picture

Kevin - great answer.

NeedsTheTruth's picture

oh ok, i guess if you have tiny amounts, it makes it safe. Studies show 1 part per million is cancerous. so perhaps 1 part per billion may be safe? if im not mistaken, the EPA has approved 6000 parts per million?

so 1 ppm = dangerous, LETS PUT 6000 TIMES THAT INSTEAD! now its magically safe!

Kevin Folta's picture

Can you please provide the source of your statement that 1ppm "is cancerous"? I'd appreciate it and it will add to the discussion on this topic.

Cornlover's picture

NeedsTheTruth do you only see what you want to see?He gave good and correct answer.

Steven Smith's picture

It wasn't a solo effort by Dr. Stephanie Sneffe.
Her partner Anthony Samsel explains their findings here; and and
Their review of 286 studies involved hundreds of scientists.
She describes it here. 

Transparency's picture

While I don’t necessarily agree with all off Dr. Seneff’s conclusions, I think universally condemning, dismissing, or trashing a researcher’s body of work is going into dangerous territory.

One has to look at, and dissect their work with a critical eye. How much of their work could have some validity? 10 percent? 20 percent? 50 percent?

Personally, I think Dr. Seneff raises very valid questions about glyphosate’s interaction with gut bacteria. How many studies have been done in this area, aside from Dr. Seneff’s? Few or none? Well, then, isn’t it about some independent studies (not paid for by big Agra) be done to analyze this interaction between gut bacteria and glyphosate? If she is so wrong and off-base as you imply, then why don’t scientists “prove” her wrong by doing extensive testing in the area of gut bacteria and glyphosate?

Gut bacteria influence how our cells behave, and they are a large and essential part of our physiology.

At the very least, there may be a kernel of truth here that needs to be seriously studied, analyzed, and presented in peer review journals.

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher

AgrSci1's picture

Transparency needs to consider taking some biology and chemistry classes.

There are many steps between glyphosate application and the stomach. The study Transparency cites doesn’t account for the many degradation processes that glyphosate is subject to. It simply looks at the effect of glyphosate on these microbes, probably in petri dishes. Then, based on these results, they made some wide ranging conclusions. It appears that the author of the study drew a conclusion and then went on a desperate search for a biological connection. (You can save the citations of the author’s credentials. Some of the researchers that cranked out the poorest research I have seen are at an ivy-league school. They are desperate for publications, funding, and recognition.)

If glyphosate is being stored in the plant from the time of application until harvest, where is it being stored? In what chemical form? Glyphosate does not even control all plants, but we are to believe it has devastating effects on all microbes and animals

Glyphosate binds very tightly to soils and sediments in the environment (KOC = 24,000 mg/L), so it is not available for uptake from the soil. Glyphosate has a soil half-life of 47 days. So even if it was absorbed from the soil, which of its breakdown products is causing the devastating problems? Which of glyphosate’s breakdown products were tested in this great research study that you cite?

Shouldn’t there be a correlation between exposure and disease? If glyphosate is so toxic shouldn’t the autism rates be orders of magnitude higher in farm areas than in urban areas? I haven’t seen that data anywhere. If you aware of such studies, please share the references with us. (This reminds me of the problems with frog populations which some zealots were blaming on the atrazine herbicide. Unfortunately, upon more thorough examination, the incidence of this problem is as high or higher in urban areas than farm areas. – Actually, this problem appears to very complex and is still being studied by many researchers.)

Many researchers have believed that the continuous increase in autism cases over the last decade isn't real, but is due to increased diagnosis by physicians that are more aware of it. Also, broadening of the diagnostic criteria for autism may be at least partially responsible for the greatly increased diagnosis of autism at younger ages. Was that considered? (

A major problem with the study you cite is that it is simply a correlation study. As a statistician friend of mine tells me, “correlation” does not prove “causation”. In fact, there are an amazing number of articles the blame the autism increase on childhood vaccinations. See the following:
“For the 1st vaccine series, the Hepatitis B, a recently published study found that it was associated with a 3x increased risk of autism in boys during the study period.[1] Scientifically, whether vaccines cause autism is still an open question.”

This article has a similar graph to the one you cite, except it correlates autism with Hep-B vaccinations. So what is the real cause of autism? Vaccinations or glyphosate? Or, is the data implicating vaccinations as weak as that for glyphosate? Or is there some other mysterious, evil, intentional cause that still needs to be uncovered?

Also see:


So should we stop vaccinating our children out of fear? I will continue to have my children vaccinated.

The scientific evidence stating that glyphosate is the cause of so many health and environmental problems is extraordinarily WEAK.

I suggest that you consider taking some science classes and make sure to include one that discusses research methodology.

Rickinreallife's picture

"Plants are not "doused" in Roundup, or more precisely, its active ingredient glyphosate. Relatively small amounts of glyphosate are applied as weeds emerge. " There have been repeated assertions that glyphosate resistant crops are "drenched", "doused", "sprayed with massive amounts" etc of glysophate. I was hoping to put the amount actually applied in some perspective.

Using a Perdue University extension publication "Understanding Glysophate to Increase Performance" [], the highest rate of application recommended for three examples on page 5 of the document was for late season control of Ivyleaf Morningglory, at 60 oz./acre of the Roundup Weathermax formulation. The actual active ingredient in Roundup (i.e. glysophate) is for ease of calculation purposes about 1/2 the product by weight (it is usually a smaller percentage). There are 4840 square yards in an acre. At application rate of 60 oz / acre, that is 12/1000th of an ounce per square yard. Since glysophate is only 1/2 of the product, the amount of glysophate applied per sq. yd. would be 6/1000th of an ounce. You would be applying about an ounce of glysophate on an area of about 167 square yards.

Steven Smith's picture

This study states Roundup with Glyphosate is carcinogenic in the parts per trillion range. Inducing T47D hormone dependent breast cancer cell growth.

If it is sprayed that sparingly how does it end up in urbanite's urine and umbilical cords? Maybe it is because in 2011 it was found in 60-100% of rain and air samples. I thought Weathermax was one of the "rainproof" versions that can't be washed off produce? Making it not show up in our drinking water. Could consumers be getting it from NON-GMO things like wheat that was sprayed pre-harvest to dry out? It not only kills weeds, but makes it easier or sooner that you can harvest.

Wheat, Oats and feed Barley when it gets below 30% moisture.
Canola and Flax when 75-80% of pods are brown.
Soybeans stems are green - brown, pods are mature (yellow - brown) 80-90% of leaves have dropped.
Lentils when lower 15% of pods are brown, seeds rattle.
Dry Beans when the stems turn towards brown, pod dry and brown, 80-90% leaves drop.
Forage 3-7 days before last cut.

Transparency's picture

@AgrSci1 – I am the first one to admit, I am not a biologist, chemist, or scientist of any type. That’s why I am asking so many questions here.

Is Dr. Seneff’s correlative approach / methodology deeply flawed? Sure sounds like it.

I get it, thank you.

Do I personally draw an immediate correlation between glyphosate and autism, or any of the host of diseases she refers to, based on her work? No. That is so far beyond the scope of my thinking. That is why I said I don’t necessarily agree with her conclusions.

If you had shared links about a possible correlation between glyphosate and Parkinson’s, or obesity, or depression, asking me to comment, I would say the same thing.

I do take one thing from her work though, and that is this question: Does glyphosate influence gut bacteria? I think that is a valid question to pursue. And it’s a question with potential ramifications (yes, I know -- if carefully analyzed using established scientific methodology, of course!).

I found only one other study that relates to this subject: “The effect of glyphosate on potential pathogens and beneficial members of poultry microbiota in vitro” from “Current Microbiology” ( Is this study flawed as well? I don’t know. I only found the abstract and so was unable to read the full study. If one looks hard enough, I think one could find a flaw in almost every study – and yes, some more than others.

Friends of the Earth Europe tested people for glyphosate in 18 countries, and found traces in people’s urine in all 18 countries. So it does appear that glyphosate is somehow making into our bodies, even if in only miniscule amounts. And yes, I understand that glyphosate is considered non-toxic to us, but is it non-toxic to the friendly bacteria in our bodies? That is my question for you and the other scientists.

Rickinreallife's picture

Steven Smith said "If it is sprayed that sparingly how does it end up in urbanite's urine and umbilical cords?" My purpose in trying to quantify the application rate was to challenge the frequent assertions that GM crops are "drenched", "doused" and similar hyperbole in descriptions of the amounts of herbicide being applied. I think people overestimate the amount of product actually being applied and even in your response you characterized the amounts of active ingredient actually applied per unit of area I calculated as sparing, suggesting that you may have presumed that the rates were much higher. Even though you didn't bring it up, I will concede that my calculation was for a single application, and therefore the amounts per any given area unit applied over a growing season may be more if a crop is sprayed more than once. Also, my choice of the Weathermax formulation was merely because I was looking for the highest application rate recommended from the choices available from the Perdue Extension paper cited and it happened to be Weathermax. I am making no claims that Weathermax is the predominant formulation used, or as to whether Weathermax performs as advertised, and would not dispute the other potential environmental introductions of glysophate you listed. And even though 60 oz Roundup per acre may be less than what many might envision, maybe some might consider 60 oz/acre a lot. As far as glysophate being found in blood, I am not making the argument that glysophate cannot be found in blood because the actual amounts being applied are far less than many might presume. I don't have any information myself that would question or support the accuracy of any work that reported glysophate detections in blood. It is a topic I lookforward to exploring more on my own.

Cornlover's picture

I was at a class on this last year and their studies showed more chemical coming out of the city's not the farmers fields.Has something to do with all the hard ground.

Johann Doyle's picture

.....economizing on the truth.

The people that benefit from promoting gmo's will all have more or less the same type of response. They will produce theories or facts that seemingly confirm the safety of gmo's to humans.

The people that don't benefit from promoting the safety of gmo's will also have more or less the same type of response as well. They will produce studies that seemingly prove how damaging gmo's are to humans.

Unfortunately, in the current corporate controlled environment it will not be possible to receive an impartial adjudication. The reasons have to do with corporate and government policies around these issues. Corporate lobbyists have managed to influence the vote of nearly the entire US Congress, if not the entire congress.

The corporate side has a lot more money and power than concerned citizens, as a rule, so they have access to the finest minds in the country...or the world, in order to prove their point. Politicians and legislators are well within the range of the corporate wallet. Add to this the sad fact that 5 or 6 corporations control almost 100% of media around the world....then you can see some of the obstacles to getting unbiased information out to the public.

There will be some pushing and shoving and when the dust clears the corporation will declare itself the winner. The mainstream will hear few voices speaking the unbiased truth because it is not currently possible to have anything published in the mainstream that isn't connected to a corporate agenda of one form or another.

What am I actually saying here? This forum is part of the smoke and mirrors of the marketplace. The corporate agenda has as purpose to maximize income so as to maximize profits for shareholders. Anything else is merely incidental to their main purpose. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

I wanted to speak my mind on this issue. Regardless of how many spin doctors you throw at this problem you can't change the truth of an issue. Enough people will see the truth eventually. That's the beauty of amount of hyperbole or educated bafflegab can change it. The best that the disinformation squads can do is muddy the waters for a while. Luckily for the corporations the public is too stupid to see the finagle. It is still true that nobody has ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence of the public.

Cornlover's picture

You can't change a fact of science