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Concept: Roundup


The broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate (common trade name “Roundup”) was first sold to farmers in 1974. Since the late 1970s, the volume of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) applied has increased approximately 100-fold. Further increases in the volume applied are likely due to more and higher rates of application in response to the widespread emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds and new, pre-harvest, dessicant use patterns. GBHs were developed to replace or reduce reliance on herbicides causing well-documented problems associated with drift and crop damage, slipping efficacy, and human health risks. Initial industry toxicity testing suggested that GBHs posed relatively low risks to non-target species, including mammals, leading regulatory authorities worldwide to set high acceptable exposure limits. To accommodate changes in GBH use patterns associated with genetically engineered, herbicide-tolerant crops, regulators have dramatically increased tolerance levels in maize, oilseed (soybeans and canola), and alfalfa crops and related livestock feeds. Animal and epidemiology studies published in the last decade, however, point to the need for a fresh look at glyphosate toxicity. Furthermore, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” In response to changing GBH use patterns and advances in scientific understanding of their potential hazards, we have produced a Statement of Concern drawing on emerging science relevant to the safety of GBHs. Our Statement of Concern considers current published literature describing GBH uses, mechanisms of action, toxicity in laboratory animals, and epidemiological studies. It also examines the derivation of current human safety standards. We conclude that: (1) GBHs are the most heavily applied herbicide in the world and usage continues to rise; (2) Worldwide, GBHs often contaminate drinking water sources, precipitation, and air, especially in agricultural regions; (3) The half-life of glyphosate in water and soil is longer than previously recognized; (4) Glyphosate and its metabolites are widely present in the global soybean supply; (5) Human exposures to GBHs are rising; (6) Glyphosate is now authoritatively classified as a probable human carcinogen; (7) Regulatory estimates of tolerable daily intakes for glyphosate in the United States and European Union are based on outdated science. We offer a series of recommendations related to the need for new investments in epidemiological studies, biomonitoring, and toxicology studies that draw on the principles of endocrinology to determine whether the effects of GBHs are due to endocrine disrupting activities. We suggest that common commercial formulations of GBHs should be prioritized for inclusion in government-led toxicology testing programs such as the U.S. National Toxicology Program, as well as for biomonitoring as conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Agriculture, Animal testing, Toxicology, Carcinogen, Herbicide, Glyphosate, Roundup


The impairment of liver function by low environmentally relevant doses of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) is still a debatable and unresolved matter. Previously we have shown that rats administered for 2 years with 0.1 ppb (50 ng/L glyphosate equivalent dilution; 4 ng/kg body weight/day daily intake) of a Roundup GBH formulation showed signs of enhanced liver injury as indicated by anatomorphological, blood/urine biochemical changes and transcriptome profiling. Here we present a multiomic study combining metabolome and proteome liver analyses to obtain further insight into the Roundup-induced pathology. Proteins significantly disturbed (214 out of 1906 detected, q < 0.05) were involved in organonitrogen metabolism and fatty acid β-oxidation. Proteome disturbances reflected peroxisomal proliferation, steatosis and necrosis. The metabolome analysis (55 metabolites altered out of 673 detected, p < 0.05) confirmed lipotoxic conditions and oxidative stress by showing an activation of glutathione and ascorbate free radical scavenger systems. Additionally, we found metabolite alterations associated with hallmarks of hepatotoxicity such as γ-glutamyl dipeptides, acylcarnitines, and proline derivatives. Overall, metabolome and proteome disturbances showed a substantial overlap with biomarkers of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and its progression to steatohepatosis and thus confirm liver functional dysfunction resulting from chronic ultra-low dose GBH exposure.

Concepts: Metabolism, Antioxidant, Oxidative stress, Radical, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Fatty liver, Steatosis, Roundup


Glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) are the major pesticides used worldwide. Converging evidence suggests that GBH, such as Roundup, pose a particular health risk to liver and kidneys although low environmentally relevant doses have not been examined. To address this issue, a 2-year study in rats administering 0.1 ppb Roundup (50 ng/L glyphosate equivalent) via drinking water (giving a daily intake of 4 ng/kg bw/day of glyphosate) was conducted. A marked increased incidence of anatomorphological and blood/urine biochemical changes was indicative of liver and kidney structure and functional pathology. In order to confirm these findings we have conducted a transcriptome microarray analysis of the liver and kidneys from these same animals.

Concepts: Kidney, Liver, Renal cortex, Renin, Offal, Herbicide, Glyphosate, Roundup


Herbicide use is increasing worldwide both in agriculture and private gardens. However, our knowledge of potential side-effects on non-target soil organisms, even on such eminent ones as earthworms, is still very scarce. In a greenhouse experiment, we assessed the impact of the most widely used glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup on two earthworm species with different feeding strategies. We demonstrate, that the surface casting activity of vertically burrowing earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) almost ceased three weeks after herbicide application, while the activity of soil dwelling earthworms (Aporrectodea caliginosa) was not affected. Reproduction of the soil dwellers was reduced by 56% within three months after herbicide application. Herbicide application led to increased soil concentrations of nitrate by 1592% and phosphate by 127%, pointing to potential risks for nutrient leaching into streams, lakes, or groundwater aquifers. These sizeable herbicide-induced impacts on agroecosystems are particularly worrisome because these herbicides have been globally used for decades.

Concepts: Soil, Aquifer, Irrigation, Earthworm, Lumbricidae, Herbicide, Roundup, Lumbricus terrestris


Use of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) increased ∼100-fold from 1974 to 2014. Additional increases are expected due to widespread emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds, increased application of GBHs, and preharvest uses of GBHs as desiccants. Current safety assessments rely heavily on studies conducted over 30 years ago. We have considered information on GBH use, exposures, mechanisms of action, toxicity and epidemiology. Human exposures to glyphosate are rising, and a number of in vitro and in vivo studies challenge the basis for the current safety assessment of glyphosate and GBHs. We conclude that current safety standards for GBHs are outdated and may fail to protect public health or the environment. To improve safety standards, the following are urgently needed: (1) human biomonitoring for glyphosate and its metabolites; (2) prioritisation of glyphosate and GBHs for hazard assessments, including toxicological studies that use state-of-the-art approaches; (3) epidemiological studies, especially of occupationally exposed agricultural workers, pregnant women and their children and (4) evaluations of GBHs in commercially used formulations, recognising that herbicide mixtures likely have effects that are not predicted by studying glyphosate alone.

Concepts: Epidemiology, In vivo, Toxicology, In vitro fertilisation, In vitro, Herbicide, Glyphosate, Roundup


Our recent work (Séralini et al., 2012) remains to date the most detailed study involving the life-long consumption of an agricultural genetically modified organism (GMO). This is true especially for NK603 maize for which only a 90-day test for commercial release was previously conducted using the same rat strain (Hammond et al., 2004). It is also the first long term detailed research on mammals exposed to a highly diluted pesticide in its total formulation with adjuvants. This may explain why 75% of our first criticisms arising within a week, among publishing authors, come from plant biologists, some developing patents on GMOs, even if it was a toxicological paper on mammals, and from Monsanto Company who owns both the NK603 GM maize and Roundup herbicide ®. Our study has limits like any one, and here we carefully answer to all criticisms from agencies, consultants and scientists, that were sent to the Editor or to ourselves. At this level, a full debate is biased if the toxicity tests on mammals of NK603 and R obtained by Monsanto Company remain confidential and thus unavailable in an electronic format for the whole scientific community to conduct independent scrutiny of the raw data. In our article, the conclusions of long-term NK603 and Roundup toxicities came from the statistically highly discriminant findings at the biochemical level in treated groups in comparison to controls, because these findings do correspond in an blinded analysis to the pathologies observed in organs, that were in turn linked to the deaths by anatomopathologists. GM NK603 and R cannot be regarded as safe to date.

Concepts: Scientific method, Molecular biology, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food, Ice-minus bacteria, Glyphosate, Roundup, Monsanto


Japanese knotweed Fallopia japonica is an extremely abundant invasive plant in Belgium and surrounding countries. To date, no eradication method is available for land managers facing the invasion of this rhizomatous plant. We tested different chemical herbicides with two application methods (spraying and stem injection), as well as mechanical treatments, on knotweed clones throughout southern Belgium. The tested control methods were selected to be potentially usable by managers, e.g., using legally accepted rates for herbicides. Stem volume, height and density reduction were assessed after one or two years, depending on the control method. Labor estimations were made for each control method. No tested control method completely eradicated the clones. Stem injection with glyphosate-based herbicide (3.6 kg ha(-1) of acid equivalent glyphosate) caused the most damage, i.e., no sprouting shoots were observed the year following the injection. The following year, though, stunted shoots appeared. Among the mechanical control methods, repeated cuts combined with native tree transplanting most appreciably reduced knotweed development. The most efficient methods we tested could curb knotweed invasion, but are not likely to be effective in eradicating the species. As such, they should be included in a more integrated restoration strategy, together with prevention and public awareness campaigns.

Concepts: English-language films, Plant stem, Fallopia, Polygonaceae, Japanese knotweed, Weed, Herbicide, Roundup


The biodegradability of nitrochlorinated (diuron and atrazine) and chlorophenoxy herbicides (2,4-D and MCPA) has been studied through several bioassays using different testing times and biomass/substrate ratios. A fast biodegradability test using unacclimated activated sludge yielded no biodegradation of the herbicides in 24 h. The inherent biodegradability test gave degradation percentages of around 20-30 % for the nitrochlorinated herbicides and almost complete removal of the chlorophenoxy compounds. Long-term biodegradability assays were performed using sequencing batch reactor (SBR) and sequencing batch membrane bioreactor (SB-MBR). Fixed concentrations of each herbicide below the corresponding EC50 value for activated sludge were used (30 mg L(-1) for diuron and atrazine and 50 mg L(-1) for 2,4-D and MCPA). No signs of herbicide degradation appeared before 35 days in the case of diuron and atrazine and 21 days for 2,4-D, whereas MCPA was partially degraded since the early stages. Around 25-36 % degradation of the nitrochlorinated herbicides and 53-77 % of the chlorophenoxy ones was achieved after 180 and 135 days, respectively, in SBR, whereas complete disappearance of 2,4-D was reached after 80 days in SB-MBR.

Concepts: Concentration, Biodegradation, Land degradation, Herbicide, Roundup, Atrazine, Batch reactor, Herbicides


Genetically modified (GM) crops have been and continue to be a subject of controversy despite their rapid adoption by farmers where approved. For the last two decades, an important matter of debate has been their impact on pesticide use, particularly for herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops. Some claim that these crops bring about a decrease in herbicide use, while others claim the opposite. In fact, since 1996, most cultivated GMOs have been GMHT crops, which involve the use of an associated herbicide, generally glyphosate. In their very first years of adoption, HT crops often led to some decrease in herbicide use. However, the repetition of glyphosate-tolerant crops and of glyphosate only applications in the same fields without sufficient alternation and herbicide diversity has contributed to the appearance of glyphosate-resistant weeds. These weeds have resulted in a rise in the use of glyphosate and other herbicides. This article explores this situation and the impacts of herbicide-resistant weeds, using an interdisciplinary approach and drawing on recent data. The paper analyzes the spread of GMHT crops worldwide and their consequences on herbicide use in the USA in particular. It then addresses the global development of glyphosate-resistant weeds and their impact, particularly focusing on the USA. Finally, the last section explores how industry, farmers, and weed scientists are coping with the spread of resistant weeds. The concluding comments deal more widely with trends in GM crops.

Concepts: Agriculture, Pesticide, Abstraction, Genetically modified organism, Weed, Herbicide, Glyphosate, Roundup


Microorganisms capable of degrading herbicides are essential to minimize the amount of chemical compounds that may leach into other environments. This work aimed to study the potential of sandy-loam soil fungi to tolerate the herbicide Herburon (50% diuron) and to degrade the active ingredient diuron. Verticillium sp. F04, Trichoderma virens F28, and Cunninghamella elegans B06 showed the highest growth in the presence of the herbicide. The evaluation of biotransformation showed that Aspergillus brasiliensis G08, Aspergillus sp. G25, and Cunninghamella elegans B06 had the greatest potential to degrade diuron. Statistical analysis demonstrated that glucose positively influences the potential of the microorganism to degrade diuron, indicating a cometabolic process. Due to metabolites founded by diuron biotransformation, it is indicated that the fungi are relevant in reducing the herbicide concentration in runoff, minimizing the environmental impact on surrounding ecosystems.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Microbiology, Eukaryote, Biotechnology, Chemical compound, Surface runoff, Herbicide, Roundup