Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the Roundup herbicide produced and sold by Monsanto. It is typically used to kill weeds and is used on genetically modified organisms (GMO) that are modified to resist the killing effects of this chemical. This modification is done by mechanically inserting genes into plants’ DNA so they are able to resist dying from this herbicide. Genetically modifying is an artificial process that can only happen in a laboratory and would never happen in nature on its own. Since we are still discovering how genes work, we do not yet know the long-term effects of this process on our health and that of the environment.

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world with the U.S. using 25 percent of it, making us the world’s largest user. Traces of this are now found in human and animal urine samples, and in the blood of pregnant women around the world. We are exposed through the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink.

Originally patented as an antibiotic, glyphosate disrupts the shikimate pathway in biological systems. While humans don’t directly use a shikimate pathway, the bacteria in our soil and bodies’ do. Minerals are digested by the soil biology, making them available to the plant through the root system. Healthy plants provide us with nutrient-rich food. When the shikimate pathway in biology is disrupted by glyphosate, life becomes mineral-deficient, susceptible to disease and a factor in long-term health issues.

The chemical also chelates minerals, meaning it binds with them and makes them unavailable. Without certain minerals, plants and humans are unable to make compounds necessary for good health. Mineral deficiencies make us susceptible to health problems of all kinds.

Glyphosate’s antibacterial and chelating properties affects the soil bacteria and the plants that are grown in this soil. Further up the chain, it influences the health of those that eat these plants. Now it is being linked to many serious health issues, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. More research is still being done and publicized; an educated and empowered populace may be our best and only hope to change regulations and practices which may be harmful in so many ways.

Avoiding Glyphosate: Be Empowered In Your Backyard

Growing our own food using sustainable regenerative practices reduces our carbon footprint. It is also a satisfying and clean way to supplement what we eat. Studies show working in healthy soil helps build our gut bacteria. One of the bacteria found in soil actually activates serotonin in the body, making us feel happier. Here are some ways to avoid potentially harmful chemicals like glyphosate and help the environment at the same time:

  1. Support local farmers that practice growing food sustainably and without chemicals. This also reduces our carbon footprint, stimulates the local economy and sends a message about keeping our community clean.
  2. Eat and drink organic produce and beverages. This will reduce your level of exposure.
  3. Avoid eating foods known to be genetically modified to withstand glyphosate. Soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, sorghum and their derivatives have higher levels of contamination.
  4. Consume more sulfur-containing foods. These have compounds that help eliminate glyphosate and other toxins through the detoxification process. These include cruciferous vegetables—such as broccoli, cabbage, bok choy and Brussel sprouts—and alliums, including garlic, onions and leeks.
  5. Ingesting fermented foods helps populate the healthy bacteria in our guts while keeping less desirable strains in check.
  6. Eating wild foods and herbs grown in our own backyards is helpful—provided that we don’t spray chemicals there. Many of these are mineral-rich and are known to support the kidneys and liver, both big players in the detoxification process. These include stinging nettles, burdock, chickweed, wild onions, ramps and, ironically, dandelions.
  7. Dandelions seem to be the bane of homeowners and businesses’ seeking the perfect lawn but all parts of this prolific plant are edible and able to help rid the body of glyphosate. Rather than viewing this weed as a nuisance that requires battle, see it as the sunny, powerful plant that is.

To learn more about glyphosate and how it affect soil, plant and human health, come to Holcomb Farm on March 24 to hear two experts talk about these topics ( Meet other concerned people, bring questions and join the discussion.

Joan Palmer is the director of The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition. Connect at