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Scientists recently concluded a massive review of evidence linking widely used pesticides, like glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup), and the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). People are most heavily exposed to glyphosate and other pesticides when they eat genetically modified (GMO) crops that were specifically designed to withstand pesticides like Roundup. Alarmingly, despite the evidence of danger, the USDA does not test foods for glyphosate contamination because the tests, it claims, are too expensive.
Scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, analyzed 44 papers covering nearly 30 years of research examining pesticide exposure and cancer development. They looked at 80 active ingredients to clarify their role in the development of NHL, the rates of which have increased strikingly over the past 30 years.
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What is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?
NHL is a cancer that begins in the lymph system in white blood cells called lymphocytes. These cells become abnormal, no longer protect the body from infection or disease, and grow without control. NHL is thought to be caused by either infectious triggers or exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides. Overall, it is the seventh most common type of cancer and has a five-year survival rate of 63%.
Strong Link Found Between Glyphosate, Found in GMOs and Cancer
Out of all the pesticides the researchers examined, the strongest evidence was for the link between exposure to glyphosate and a subtype of NHL called B-cell lymphoma. People with the largest occupational exposure to glyphosate were 50% more likely to develop NHL in general, and twice as likely to develop B-cell lymphoma.
Additional Health Risks Associated with Glyphosate
Glyphosate has been associated with a host of human health risks, including nervous system disease and birth defects. It is also associated with decreased detoxification enzyme activity in the liver, leaving the body less able to detoxify toxins. It’s also been shown to promote the destruction of beneficial gut bacteria, which normally keeps harmful bacteria in check and prevents leaky gut syndrome.
Other Pesticides Also Linked to Cancer
The researchers found that other pesticides, including carbamate insecticides, organophosphate insecticides, the phenoxy herbicide MCPA, and lindane—an insecticide also used to treat head lice—were also associated with an increased risk of NHL.
How to Avoid GMOs
While we’re still waiting for more research to help answer the question, “Do GMOs cause cancer?” the potential link between GMOs and cancer and other diseases is not to be ignored. To safeguard your health, follow the Institute for Responsible Technology’s quick tips for avoiding GMOs and cancer:
- Buy organic. Certified organic products cannot intentionally include any GMO ingredients.
- Look for “Non-GMO Project” verified seals.
- Avoid at-risk ingredients including soybeans, canola, cottonseed, corn, and sugar from sugarbeets.
- Buy products listed in the Institute for Responsible Technology’s Non-GMO Shopping Guide.
Share Your Experience
Where do you stand on GMOs? Do you think they should be labeled?
This article was originally published in 2014. It has since been updated.