by Julie Wilson staff writer
(NaturalNews) Glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide, is the primary ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup. While the weed killer has proven dangerous to human health, and is a probable carcinogen, the other supposedly inactive chemicals found in Roundup may pose even more of a threat to people.
New research suggests that the co-formulants found in Roundup may be more harmful to humans than glyphosate alone. A bombshell report published by The Intercept, outlines the dangers of these co-formulants, and the shocking revelation that Monsanto may have intentionally mislabeled "inert ingredients" in Roundup to cover up the adverse health effects they have on humans.
That is the argument being made by attorneys representing plaintiffs who filed suit against Monsanto in April, claiming that frequent exposure to Roundup (and its inert ingredients) gave them cancer.
Roundup's inert ingredients blamed for causing cancer
John Sanders and Frank Tanner, both from California, routinely used Roundup as part of their profession. Sanders worked in agricultural fields for 30 years, while Tanner owned a landscaping business.
Both men developed non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a cancer that begins in the lymph nodes or other lymphoid tissues such as the spleen and bone marrow. Their case against Monsanto focuses heavily on the chemical additives found in Roundup, which enhance glyphosate's effectiveness.
Until recently, the health effects of co-formulants were largely unknown. Because Monsanto and other crop chemical companies consider these ingredients a trade secret, researchers' attempts to study the chemicals and their effect on humans have been obstructed.
The Intercept reports that, "because manufacturers of weed killers are required to disclose only the chemical structures of their 'active' ingredients — and can hide the identity of the rest as confidential business information — for many years no one knew exactly what other chemicals were in these products, let alone how they affected health."
But a young scientist from London, who found that unacceptable, changed the game when he successfully reverse-engineered some of Roundup's co-formulants so that they could be studied. His work would later produce a meaningful study about the health effects of co-formulants.
Robin Mesnage, a cellular and molecular biologist, purchased nine glyphosate-based herbicides, including five different mixtures of Roundup. With the assistance of three specialists – a pesticide toxicologist, a chemical mixture expert, and a veteran in mass spectrometry – Mesnage was able to reverse-engineer six of the nine formulations, and more importantly, he found that, "each of these supposedly inert ingredients was more toxic than glyphosate alone."
Now that he knew which chemicals to study, Mesnage and his team collected more samples, which proved to be a difficult task because co-formulant manufacturers sell primarily to pesticide makers, and they're even more unwilling to sell to a scientist testing their toxicity.
They were able to obtain samples of pure co-formulants from a farmer mixing his own herbicide and a company using the chemical to make soap. "They were of course not aware that I was going to assess it for toxic and endocrine-disrupting effects," said Nicolas Defarge, a molecular biologist based in Paris. Three other samples came from a colleague in Hungary.
The researchers published their findings in February, concluding that five of the six co-formulants "affected the function of both the mitochondria in human placental cells and aromatase, an enzyme that affects sexual development," according to The Intercept.
"Not only did these chemicals, which aren't named on herbicide labels, affect biological functions, they did so at levels far below the concentrations used in commercially available products."
Study shows co-formulants more dangerous than glyphosate
One of the co-formulants most harmful to humans is polyethoxylated tallowamine (POEA), a chemical used to help Roundup penetrate the waxy surface of plants. POEA, a supposed "inert" ingredient, "was between 1,200 and 2,000 times more toxic to cells than glyphosate," researchers found.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is fully aware of POEA's toxicity, including the fact that it's killed fish and lab rats, as well as harmed frogs, yet the Food and Drug Administration does not test food for the chemical, or any other additives, FDA press officer Lauren Sucher told The Intercept.
The EPA has documentation that 1,000 fish died after a chemical cocktail containing POEA was dumped into a ditch in 1998. It also knows that lab rats died after inhaling POEA during an experiment, and that it is toxic to fish and amphibians.
"For the lawyers litigating the cases against Monsanto, the idea that POEA and the other ingredients contribute to the toxicity of Roundup is critical," reports The Intercept.
"'That's one of the central theories of our case,' said David Wool, an attorney at Andrus Wagstaff, who is working on suits against Monsanto on behalf of four people who developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after years of regularly using Roundup.
"'It's not only that glyphosate is carcinogenic and dangerous,' said Wool. 'Monsanto had every reason to know that, by including POEA, it increased the danger of all of these products.'
"Robin Greenwald, the Weitz & Luxenberg attorney who filed Sanders and Tanner's case, is confident that discovery, which will begin over the next few months, will show that Monsanto intentionally mislabeled dangerous co-formulants.
"'My assumption is that we will find documents in their files that show they had ample evidence that the surfactants were not inert and that they too had the potential to cause illness in people,' said Greenwald."