Shortly after the HomeEconomist blog (The real reason wheat is toxic) on glyphosate went viral, this Snopes comment was published: http://www.snopes.com/food/tainted/roundupwheat.asp
I’ve replied to the HomeEconomist but The Snopes comment also needs a reply, so here goes:
1. Pre-harvest dessication using glyphosate.
This is not widely done for wheat, at least at present. However, it is done on sugar cane. The Samsel & Seneff review provides references on the use of glyphosate to speed maturation of sugar cane and to increase its sucrose content.
A simple google search will turn up more, such as this one:
“The common practice in Colombia is to desiccate the sugarcane foliage prior to harvesting, by spraying glyphosate, one month before the scheduled harvesting” (http://www.haifa-group.com/knowledge_center/recommendations/field_crops/). There is also some evidence of use of glyphosate to dessicate sweet potatoes. These pre-harvest uses are in addition to the use of glyphosate to kill weeds in the field that might interfere with crop growth.
2. Glyphosate residue on wheat.
Although glyphosate is not used pre-harvest on wheat or other grain crops, the government has approved a higher residue of glyphosate on wheat than on many other crops. Residue limits on wheat are presently 30 ppm versus a 2 ppm on sugar cane. So glyphosate on wheat is not unheard of, even if not used pre-harvest.
3. Varieties of Wheat:
In my admittedly limited research, I learned that France appears to use many of the same hybrid varieties as the U.S. does. So I tend to question assertions such as those made by William Davis in the book “Wheat Belly” that the “problem” with wheat in the United States is due to the many hybrid varieties developed and used in commerce.
4. Increase in celiac disease.
The data on the increased incidence of celiac disease is quite solid and set out in full in the Samsel & Seneff review.
5. Increases in wheat sensitivities:
The Samsel & Seneff review does not focus on an increase in wheat sensitivities (as opposed to allergies or celiac disease). Instead, they link the increased exposure to glyphosate from ALL sources to an increased incidence of sensitivities to a variety of different foods.
Much research remains to be done in this arena. Glyphosate is not directly toxic to humans but it is known to affect bacteria and some plants negatively. As a result, it follows that the glyphosate residue on our food could affect our intestinal bacteria negatively. Research today emphasizes the importance of a healthy intestinal flora. Our intestinal bacteria are critical to not only our digestive health but also to avoiding food allergies and many other illnesses. As a result, the data linking glyphosate and illness has a very logical basis.
6. The Samsel & Seneff review is lengthy and well referenced.
This review demonstrates the real possibility that the use of glyphosate on our food may be detrimental to our health. It, however, does not focus on wheat as being an especial culprit in this problem.
Thus, the Homeeconomist did a great job of bringing attention to an important issue but did a poor job of understanding that neither gluten nor wheat is the problem. Instead, it is the use of glyphosate in increasing amounts (the European Union is considering raising its glyphosate limits on wheat, rice, etc. to match those of the US and the FDA recently raised the residue limits on US foods) on so many of our GM food crops (such as sugar beets) combined with an increasing interest in using glyphosate pre-harvest on crops such as sugar cane.
And heaven knows most Americans eat too much sugar and that source may well be the biggest culprit.
Photograph “Sugar cane” public domain by Schreib-Engel
Photograph “Bag of cane sugar” by Alex Juel
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