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What Is Glyphosate, and How Harmful Is It?

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Non-organic crops are often aided by the use of herbicides. These herbicides control the population of invasive plants and weeds and can assist the growth of specific crops. 

The problem with herbicides is that their health effects on humans haven’t yet been entirely examined. An example of this is glyphosate. It’s been the most widely used herbicide in the US since 2001, but there are some concerning long-term health effects from overexposure. 

Keep reading this article to find out what this herbicide is, what it’s in, and its effects. 

What is Glyphosate? 

So, what is glyphosate? Glyphosate is an herbicide. Herbicides are commonly used in the agricultural industry to get rid of invasive plants and other weeds. It can kill both broadleaf plants and grasses. 

Glyphosate can come in a sodium salt form. Farmers use this form to control growth rates and speed up the ripening process for different crops. It’s one of the most widely used herbicides in the USA and has been since its introduction in 1974. 

How is it Used?

Glyphosate is what’s called a “non-selective herbicide.” This means that it will kill most plants that it’s applied to. It kills the plants by preventing them from making proteins that aid growth.

You’ll be able to find glyphosate in many domestic weed-control products like Pondmaster, Rodeo, and Roundup. It’s used by farmers in the process of food production. 

Some common crops that people treat with glyphosate include:

  • Fruit and vegetable crops 
  • Corn
  • Soybeans
  • Sugar
  • Wheat
  • Beets

You will not find any glyphosate in organic food as it is prohibited to use when growing organically. 


Exposure to glyphosate can come in a few different ways. Most commonly, exposure happens through people’s gardens or their food. 

This is because the herbicide is widely used in both home gardens and industrial food crops. 

In your Garden

If you’re using brand-name weed killers to control plants in your garden, then there’s a good chance that you’ve been using products containing glyphosate. 

The most likely form of glyphosate exposure in your garden is by breathing it in or getting it in your eyes, or on your skin. You’re more likely to be exposed if you smoke or eat without washing your hands, or if you touch plants that you have recently sprayed. 

The herbicide can cause mild irritation to the skin and eyes that should eventually subside. You could experience vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, burning, or mouth pain if you swallow it. 

You should always wash your hands and change clothing immediately after using products containing glyphosate. 

In Your Food

There could also be amounts of glyphosate in your food. Farmers use it to spray certain GMO crops like soybeans and corn. These crops have been engineered to withstand the herbicide, and farmers use it to control growth. 

It’s also regularly sprayed on crops like wheat, beans, barley, and oats to dry them and prepare them for harvesting. It’s found in some more surprising crops like tomatoes, avocados, cucumbers, and spinach.  

Effects of Exposure

So what are the dangers of glyphosate? In the short-term, exposure to glyphosate is mostly harmless, but there have been a few reported fatalities after intentional ingestion.

As mentioned above, you can expect some irritation and abdominal discomfort if swallowed, but most glyphosate will pass through the body with no discernible adverse effects. 

Long Term Health Effects 

The long-term effects are more debated than the short-term. Research is ongoing, but there are some early signs that long-term exposure could lead to some side effects.

Early research has shown mixed results, and most of the experiments so far have been conducted on animals rather than people.


This one is hotly debated. Various bodies have differing views on this. The EPA and the WHO both state that it is unlikely that glyphosate is carcinogenic to humans. The EPA claims that it is not harmful to humans so long as proper care is taken and instructions for use are followed.

On the other hand, research from The International Agency For Research on Cancer claims that it’s probable that the herbicide is carcinogenic. 

Damage to Liver and Kidneys

There’s a chance that glyphosate is harmful to your kidneys and liver. Early research conducted on dairy cows shows.

Farmers fed the cows a diet of soybeans, a crop that is high in levels of glyphosate. Researchers found that the cows had a higher risk of suffering from either liver or kidney damage in the future.

Developmental Issues 

Some people claim that the herbicide can cause problems with the endocrine system and affect their hormones. The EPA stated last year that they could find no evidence that the herbicide interferes with human hormones. 

More research needs to be conducted before this is proved. 

Pregnant Women

A handful of scientists are concerned about the effect of glyphosate on pregnant women. Children and developing fetuses are more susceptible to carcinogens compared to fully developed and grown adults. 

The EPA claims that there’s no evidence that the herbicide is a reproductive toxin and that children aren’t at any higher risk. 

Eat Organic to Avoid Glyphosate

The health effects of glyphosate need more thorough research, but there are some warning signs present about its potential dangers. If you’re still concerned, the only way to head off fears about glyphosate dangers is to eat organic. 

Organically grown food in the US is governed by stringent regulations, and the use of herbicides like glyphosate is strictly prohibited in organic growing. 

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out more of our great informational content today. 

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