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Monsanto rips glyphosate review's 'piecemeal approach'

U.S. paper claims 'overlooked' aspect to herbicide's chemistry

The developer of glyphosate herbicide says a U.S. paper in a Swiss online journal on entropy studies is "sheer hypothetical speculation" that uses a "piecemeal approach" to connect the chemical to human illness.

The paper by New Hampshire consultant Anthony Samsel and Massachussets computer scientist Stephanie Seneff, posted April 18 in the open-access journal Entropy, alleges inhibition of certain enzymes by glyphosate -- best known as the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup -- is an "overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals."

Interference with cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes, the authors say, "acts synergistically with disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria, as well as impairment in serum sulfate transport."

Glyphosate residues are found in the "main foods of the Western diet" and the consequences, they wrote, "are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease."

Glyphosate, they said, "is the 'textbook example' of exogenous semiotic entropy: the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins."

Glyphosate, they said, attacks weeds by disrupting the "shikimate pathway" in which certain amino acids are synthesized in plants. "The currently accepted dogma is that glyphosate is not harmful to humans or to any mammals because the shikimate pathway is absent in all animals," they wrote.

"However, this pathway is present in gut bacteria, which play an important and heretofore largely overlooked role in human physiology through an integrated biosemiotic relationship with the human host."


Monsanto, the St. Louis-based seed and ag chem firm, took to its company blog the following week to say the Entropy paper offers "no new data, a piecemeal approach, and low scientific quality" and "is less a scientific paper and more sheer hypothetical speculation."

The company said publication in a "physics journal" such as Entropy "would not have subjected the paper to appropriate peer review by experts in relevant fields of biology and medicine."

Samsel and Seneff's paper, the company said, "strings together numerous observations to propose a chain of causation linking glyphosate to these various health issues" but "many of the individual observations made are controversial, incorrect, or poorly established."

None of the disease associations cited in the paper are supported by available toxicology testing, experimentation or observations associating glyphosate exposure with such disease outcomes in humans, the company said.

The authors, Monsanto said, "have put forth a series of highly elaborate assertions regarding causation in the absence of any observable associations. If one assumption or linkage in the overall string of assertions is incorrect, the entire argument collapses."

Furthermore, the company said, "biological systems are highly complex, and the authors’ approach fails to consider other hypothetical causes."

The company also ripped the U.S. authors for what it called their "strong connections with the anti-GM activist community" -- Samsel with the Union of Concerned Scientists and Seneff with the Weston Price Foundation.

Related story:
Study links heavy glyphosate use to health risks,
April 25, 2013


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