Glyphosate ‘masculinizes’ females. The scientific study of infants

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Glyphosate is a dangerous endocrine disruptor for humans. Yet another confirmation comes from a groundbreaking study that, for the first time, associates its concentration in maternal urine with certain anatomical features of infants’ sex organs.

The study-performed by a team of Italian-American researchers, including Fiorella Belpoggi, scientific director of the Ramazzini Institute-has just been published in Environmental Pollution. (1)

The study

The research involved 94 U.S. mother-child pairs participating in TIDES(The Infant Development and the Environment Study), a study that monitors the effects of prenatal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) with effects on reproductive development.

Two measurements were conducted for each mother-child pair:

on mothers, levels of glyphosate and its degradation product AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid) in urine samples analyzed in the second trimester of pregnancy,

on newborns (45 females and 49 males), anogenital distances (anopenile and anoscrotal for males, anoclitoral and anovulvare for females).

Glyphosate is confirmed as an endocrine disruptor

Comparative analyses showed a correlation between higher levels of glyphosate and its metabolite in maternal urine and an abnormal lengthening of the anogenital distance in female infants, instead typical of males. In contrast, no association emerged in male offspring, suggesting greater sensitivity of females to exogenous androgens.

‘These preliminary results partially replicate our previous findings in rodents (Manservisi et al., 2019) and suggest that glyphosate is a sex-specific endocrine disruptor with androgenic effects in humans,’ the researchers explain.

The starting data

The previous rat study cited by the researchers had shown that exposure to glyphosate and Roundup® at low doses during gestation and early infancy (1.75 mg/kg/day) causes androgen-like effects in the offspring:

in females, a delay in the onset of the first oestrus (the ‘heat’, fertile phase), increased testosterone and anogenital distance,

in males, increased anogenital distance in pups.

Note that the dose of glyphosate used in the experiments is the U.S. acceptable daily intake (ADI), considered ‘safe’ for humans: 1.75 mg per kg of body weight per day.

A glyphosate bath

The research also reminded of the pervasiveness of the pesticide, particularly in the United States. Glyphosate and its metabolite appeared in 95% and 93%, respectively, of urine samples from pregnant women who gave birth in 4 different and distant US hospitals (2).

Human exposure to glyphosate is now a phenomenon disconnected from geography: this is the most widely used herbicide in the world. It is, however, exacerbated in countries where GMOs are cultivated. First marketed as Roundup® in 1974, the agrotoxic was used in fields only at the pre-harvest stage to exterminate weeds. Since the start of glyphosate-resistant GMO crops in 1996, agricultural use of the molecule has increased 300-fold.

Human exposure to glyphosate

Exposure to glyphosate in the general population is widespread, usually occurring through the diet (Fagan et al., 2020). Recent studies report increased levels of glyphosate and AMPA in adult urine samples in the general population (Conrad et al., 2017; Mills et al., 2017). An organic diet, however, allows the body to rid itself of glyphosate ingested with food, as found in a study we reported on.

Residues of the herbicide and its metabolite AMPA are commonly detected

– in the air (Chang et al., 2011),

– in the soil (Battaglin et al., 2014),

– In the water (Medalie et al., 2020)

– in food (FDA, 2019; Kolakowski et al., 2020; Ledoux et al., 2020; Zoller et al., 2018). See in this regard the case of Twinings ‘100% natural’ green tea or wheat and legume origin Canada.

The false certainties

Glyphosate was initially considered ‘safe’ for humans, the target being an enzyme present in plants, bacteria and fungi, but absent in mammals. Numerous studies, however, have debunked false certainties, as we have seen.

Today it is feared for possible carcinogenic effects, after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified it as a ‘probable human carcinogen’ (EFSA, 2015; EPA, 2016; IARC, 2017; Portier et al., 2016). As well as for the harmful effects caused by endocrine and reproductive activity (interference) (Ingaramo et al., 2020; Mun ~ oz et al., 2020).

In Europe, glyphosate is authorized until the end of 2022, after a five-year renewal granted on 5.11.2017 based on manipulated studies.

The only solution available today is to participate in the European citizens’ initiative #SaveTheBees (and farmers, their families, and consumers and residents, from agrotoxin abuse in agriculture) by entering your details at https://www.savebeesandfarmers.eu/ita.

Marta Strinati

Notes

(1) Corina Lesseur, Patrick Pirrotte, Khyatiben V. Pathak, Fabiana Manservisi, Daniele Mandrioli, Fiorella Belpoggi, Simona Panzacchi, Qian Li, Emily S. Barrett, Ruby H.N. Nguyen, Sheela Sathyanarayana, Shanna H. Swan, Jia Chen. Maternal urinary levels of glyphosate during pregnancy and anogenital distance in newborns in a US multicenter pregnancy cohort. Environmental Pollution, Volume 280, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2021.117002. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749121005844)

2) University of California, San Francisco, (UCSF), University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), University of Minnesota (UMN) and the University of Washington (UW).

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".