Human fertility is declining, and recent studies suggest conventional food may be a significant contributor to this disturbing trend, seen in both men and women. Pesticides have repeatedly been implicated in worsening fertility, and one of the most recent studies adds further support to this hypothesis.
The study,1,2 published in JAMA Internal Medicine, evaluated the influence of factors known to affect reproduction on the reproductive success of 325 women between the ages of 18 and 45 (mean age 35), who underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF). As reported by Time,3“The women in the study filled out detailed questionnaires about their diet, along with other factors that can affect IVF outcomes, like their age, weight and history of pregnancy and live births.”
High Pesticide Exposure Associated With Reduced IVF Success
Using a U.S. government database listing average pesticide residues on food, the researchers estimated each participant’s pesticide exposure based on their food questionnaires. On average, women with high pesticide exposure ate 2.3 servings per day of fruits, berries or vegetables known to have high amounts of pesticide residue. Those in the lowest quartile ate less than 1 serving of high-pesticide produce per day.
Compared to women with the lowest pesticide exposure, women with the highest amounts of pesticide exposure had an 18 percent lower IVF success rate. They were also 26 percent less likely to have a live birth if they did become pregnant. Using modeling, the researchers estimate that exchanging a single serving of high-pesticide produce per day for one with low pesticide load may increase the odds of pregnancy by 79 percent, and the odds of having a live birth by 88 percent.
Pesticide Regulations Fail to Protect Human Health
Senior investigator Dr. Jorge Chavarro, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health told Time:4
“I was always skeptical that pesticide residues in foods would have any impact on health whatsoever. So, when we started doing this work a couple of years ago, I thought we were not going to find anything. I was surprised to see anything as far as health outcomes are concerned. I am now more willing to buy organic apples than I was a few months ago.”
Coauthor Dr. Yu-Han Chiu, research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, added:5
“There have been concerns for some time that exposure to low doses of pesticides through diet, such as those that we observed in this study, may have adverse health effects, especially in susceptible populations such as pregnant women and their fetus, and on children. Our study provides evidence that this concern is not unwarranted.”
As noted by Dr. Philip Landrigan, dean for global health and professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in an accompanying commentary,6 “The observations made in this study send a warning that our current laissez-faire attitude toward the regulation of pesticides is failing us,” adding:
“We can no longer afford to assume that new pesticides are harmless until they are definitively proven to cause injury to human health. We need to overcome the strident objections of the pesticide manufacturing industry, recognize the hidden costs of deregulation, and strengthen requirements for both premarket testing of new pesticides, as well as postmarketing surveillance of exposed populations — exactly as we do for another class of potent, biologically active molecules — drugs.”
Male Fertility Rates Have Also Plunged
Research also shows sperm concentration and quality has dramatically declined in recent decades, and the evidence suggests endocrine disrupting chemicals are largely to blame. While there are many sources, pesticides, including glyphosate,7 are known endocrine disruptors as well. According to the first of two recently published papers,8 a meta-analysis of 185 studies and the largest of its kind, sperm counts around the world declined by more than 50 percent between 1973 and 2013, and continue to dwindle.
The most significant declines were found in samples from men in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. (Men suspected of infertility, such as those attending IVF clinics, were excluded from the study.) Overall, men in these countries had a 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration and a 59.3 percent decline in total sperm count (sperm concentration multiplied by the total volume of an ejaculate).
As it stands, half of the men in most developed nations are now near or at the point of being infertile. Lead author Dr. Hagai Levine, who called the results “profound” and “shocking,”9 worries that human extinction is a very real possibility, should the trend continue unabated.10
Study Reveals Shocking Increase in Glyphosate Levels
In related news, researchers from University of California San Diego School of Medicine recently reported there’s been a shocking increase in glyphosate exposure in recent decades and, subsequently, the level found in people’s urine.
For this study,18 the researchers measured excretion levels of glyphosate and its metabolite aminomethylphosphonic acid in 100 participants from the Rancho Bernardo Study of Healthy Aging, which ran for 23 years, starting in 1993, the year before genetically engineered (GE) crops were introduced in the U.S.
As one would expect, the introduction of Roundup Ready GE crops led to a massive increase in the use of Roundup, the active ingredient of which is glyphosate. Glyphosate has also become a popular tool for desiccating non-GE grains, legumes and beans.
Rising Glyphosate Levels in Urine Is Cause for Concern
The exact implications of glyphosate exposure to human health is still unclear, but other recent research22 found that daily exposure to ultra-low levels of glyphosate for two years led to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in rats, and the levels found in people’s urine were a hundredfold greater than those in this rat study.
In response to the findings of rising glyphosate levels in people’s urine, Monsanto was quick to say that the amounts reported “do not raise health concerns,” and that the fact that the chemical is detected in urine is just “one way our bodies get rid of nonessential substances.”23 Speaking to GM Watch, Michael Antoniou of King’s College London had another take on the matter:24
“This is the first study to longitudinally track urine levels of glyphosate over a period before and after the introduction of GM glyphosate-tolerant crops. It is yet another example illustrating that the vast majority of present-day Americans have readily detectable levels of glyphosate in their urine, ranging from 0.3 parts per billion, as in this study, to 10 times higher — 3 or more parts per billion — detected by others.
These results are worrying because there is increasing evidence to show that exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides below regulatory safety limits can be harmful.”
Glyphosate Found in Breast Milk
Three years ago, the first-ever independent testing for glyphosate in the breast milk of American women found high levels in 30 percent of the samples.25 The testing, which was not a formal scientific study, was carried out by Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse. Still, the findings strongly suggest glyphosate bioaccumulates and builds up in your body over time, despite claims to the contrary.
Breast milk levels were found to be 76 to 166 micrograms per liter (ug/l), which is up to 1,600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides, but still well below the 700 ug/l maximum contaminant level (MCL) for glyphosate allowed in the U.S. However, the U.S. level was set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) based on the now-ridiculous premise that glyphosate will not bioaccumulate.
How to Check Yuur Glyphosate Level
As food has become increasingly adulterated, contaminated and genetically engineered, the need for laboratory testing has exponentially grown. In response to this need, the Health Research Institute (HRI Labs) has created two glyphosate tests for the public — a water testing kit, and an environmental exposure test kit.
The latter is a urine test that will tell you how much glyphosate you have in your system, which can give you a good idea of the purity of your diet. If your glyphosate level is high, chances are you’ve been exposed to many other agrochemicals as well.
I had the environmental exposure test done a while back, and had a glyphosate level below the threshold of detection, which is 40 parts per trillion, likely because I eat primarily organic and homegrown foods, and expel toxins I might come in contact with through exercise and regular sauna use.
So far, HRI Labs has analyzed more than 1,200 urine samples. The testing is being done as part of a research project, which will provide valuable information about the presence of glyphosate in the diet. It will also help answer questions about how lifestyle and location affects people’s exposure to agrochemicals. Here are some of their findings to date:
- 76 percent of people tested have some level of glyphosate in their system
- Men typically have higher levels than women
- People who eat oats on a regular basis have twice as much glyphosate in their system as people who don’t (likely because oats are desiccated with glyphosate before harvest)
- People who eat organic food on a regular basis have an 80 percent lower level of glyphosate than those who rarely eat organic. This indicates organic products are a safer choice
- People who eat five or more servings of vegetables per day have glyphosate levels that are 50 percent lower than those who don’t eat fewer vegetables
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