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Weed killer glyphosate found in human urine across Europe

Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE) commissioned a series of urine tests on people in 18 countries across Europe. The results were released on Thursday and FoE is asking, "Why is there weed killer in our bodies?"
The findings from these tests raise serious concerns about the increasing levels of exposure to glyphosate-based weed killers, which are commonly used by farmers, public authorities and gardeners across Europe.
What is worrying is that should more genetically modified (GM) crops be grown in Europe, the use of glyphosate is predicted to rise even further.
According to FoE, despite the widespread use of the weed killer, there is little monitoring of glyphosate at present in food, water or the wider environment.
The FoE test is the first of its kind in Europe to test for the presence of the weed killer in human bodies.
Spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Europe, Adrian Bebb said on their website:
"Most people will be worried to discover they may have weed killer in their bodies. We tested people living in cities in 18 countries and found traces in every country. These results suggest we are being exposed to glyphosate in our everyday lives, yet we don't know where it is coming from, how widespread it is in the environment, or what it is doing to our health.
"Our testing highlights a serious lack of action by public authorities across Europe and indicates that this weed killer is being widely overused. Governments need to step-up their monitoring and bring in urgent measures to reduce its use. This includes rejecting any genetically modified crops that would increase the use of glyphosate."
The group is calling on the EU to urgently investigate how glyphosate is finding its way into people's bodies. They are demanding that there is an increase in the levels of monitoring in the environment, food and water. They also demand immediate restrictions on the use of glyphosate across Europe.
The laboratory tests were run between March and May 2013 on urine samples from volunteers in 18 countries across the European Union. On average, 44% of the samples contained glyphosate. The proportion of glyphosate found in the samples varied between countries, with Malta, Germany, the UK and Poland having the most positive tests, and lower levels detected in Macedonia and Switzerland.
The volunteers who were tested and provided samples all live in cities. None of them had handled or used glyphosate products in the run-up to the tests.
Monsanto is the largest producer of glyphosate, and the corporation sells it under the brand name "Roundup." The product is used on many genetically modified crops.
At present, there are 14 new GM crops, designed for cultivation with glyphosate, awaiting approval to be grown in Europe. Should these additional crops be approved, this would inevitably lead to a further increase of glyphosate spraying in the EU.
The full results of ‘Determination of Glyphosate residues in human urine samples from 18 European countries’ by Medical Laboratory Bremen are available online.
More detail of the samples used:
Urine samples were collected from volunteers in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the UK. A total of 80/182 samples tested were found to contain glyphosate. Volunteers were all city-dwellers and included vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets. No two samples were tested from the same household. The samples were analysed by Dr Hoppe at Medical Laboratory Bremen in Germany.
Results of urine tests across Europe for glyphosate weedkiller.
Results of urine tests across Europe for glyphosate weedkiller.
Friends of the Earth Europe
However, according to Farmers Weekly magazine, UK scientists who reviewed the study said its findings were "unreliable."
The magazine quoted Alison Haughton, head of the pollination ecology group at Rothamsted Research, as saying:
"This is not good science - I cannot find where the methodology and results are published [note they are published here], and so it is impossible to assess the robustness of the work."
"If FoE and GM Freeze want their work to have scientific credibility, and provide a genuine contribution to the debate on pesticide residues, then they should submit their work for publication in a peer-reviewed journal."
"As it stands, this press release is completely insubstantial, it is not scientific, and cannot be taken seriously by anyone."
And apparently Monsanto insists that glyphosate “does not pose any unacceptable risk to human health or the environment".
"It is not surprising to find glyphosate in urine should a person ingest food with low residues of glyphosate. Glyphosate is not metabolized by the human body but excreted into the urine and faeces. This is a well-known aspect of glyphosate that contributes to its comprehensive safety assessment," Monsanto’s spokesperson told the magazine.
“We always take any allegation seriously and would like to know more,” he added.

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14 comments

#1Jun 14, 2013 Brett Wilkins
Glyphosate has been sprayed across large swathes of Colombia for decades as part of US and local coca eradication efforts. As you can imagine, the effects on land, water, animals and humans have been pretty devastating.
#2Jun 14, 2013 Anne Sewell
The whole ecosystem is in danger of being completely ruined.
@Brett Wilkins
Glyphosate has been sprayed across large swathes of Colombia for decades as part of US and local coca eradication efforts. As you can imagine, the effects on land, water, animals and humans have been pretty devastating.
#3Jun 14, 2013 Anne Sewell
Coincidentally, after someone added a rather nondescript photo of weeds to the article, I have now added a pic of Colombia being sprayed with the stuff.
@Brett Wilkins
Glyphosate has been sprayed across large swathes of Colombia for decades as part of US and local coca eradication efforts. As you can imagine, the effects on land, water, animals and humans have been pretty devastating.
#4Jun 14, 2013 Igor I. Solar
Glyphosate in human urine is BAD news. Although Monsanto argues that Roundup is only "minimally toxic" to humans, it enhances the potential of occurrence of several diseases; that is not acceptable.
#5Jun 15, 2013 Paul Wallis
There's also the psychoactive factor in glyphosate I pointed out in an article a while back. Is it a coincidence that a global epidemic of depression is occurring as this horrible crap gets into the food chain?
#6Jun 15, 2013 Anne Sewell
Yeah, frightening stuff indeed. Not only for the environment and plants, but definitely for us and animals. Makes you sort of foresee a future of dust blowing across dead fields, with no bird song, and no one around...
@Paul Wallis
There's also the psychoactive factor in glyphosate I pointed out in an article a while back. Is it a coincidence that a global epidemic of depression is occurring as this horrible crap gets into the food chain?
#7Jun 15, 2013 Paul Wallis
@Anne Sewell
Yeah, frightening stuff indeed. Not only for the environment and plants, but definitely for us and animals. Makes you sort of foresee a future of dust blowing across dead fields, with no bird song, and no one around...
These were the same morons who came up with the terminator gene, weren't they? Not a clue, for decades.
#8Jun 15, 2013 skeptikool
What people won't do to 'pretty' their lawns is quite amazing, killing worms, birds, and harming themselves and their children as they do so. "Mildly toxic" Monsanto may claim, but surely cumulative.
#9Jun 15, 2013 Anne Sewell
I'm sure it even gets into the ground water.
What people won't do to 'pretty' their lawns is quite amazing, killing worms, birds, and harming themselves and their children as they do so. "Mildly toxic" Monsanto may claim, but surely cumulative.
#10Jun 15, 2013 Kathleen Blanchard
I have begged our maintenance guy here to stop using Roundup. He insists it is safe. I don't understand the need for lawns in the first place.
#11Jun 15, 2013 Anne Sewell
*Shudder*... one of my worst memories was visiting my brother in England and seeing a great big bottle of Roundup standing on the KITCHEN table!!!!
@Kathleen Blanchard
I have begged our maintenance guy here to stop using Roundup. He insists it is safe. I don't understand the need for lawns in the first place.
#12Jun 16, 2013 Steve K
It makes one wonder how many other toxins are found in our bodies from agricultural herbicide / pesticide use and/or from industrial chemical by-product waste that ends up in water we drink or food we eat.
#13Jun 16, 2013 Kathleen Blanchard
I agree Steve K. I live in a rural area near a farm. Agricultural pesticides are linked to higher rates of Parkinson's disease - for farmer and those living within miles of where they are sprayed. So much for the "Green Acres" dream of rural living.
#14Jun 16, 2013 Anne Sewell
So true Kathleen. I had forgotten about Green Acres!! Found some on YouTube: :)
@Kathleen Blanchard
I agree Steve K. I live in a rural area near a farm. Agricultural pesticides are linked to higher rates of Parkinson's disease - for farmer and those living within miles of where they are sprayed. So much for the "Green Acres" dream of rural living.

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