There is no better metaphor for planetary pathology than the way we grow the bulk of our food. Glyphosate (an organo-phosphate), the active ingredient in ‘roundup’ was used as an antibacterial agent and industrial descaler before it was used as a herbicide. Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum metal chelator that works by binding (inactivating) the micro and macronutrient co-factors calcium (Ca), cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), nickel (Ni), and zinc (Zn) essential for plant enzyme activity. Unfortunately, the same co-factors are essential for bacterial and also mammalian enzyme production. All conventionally grown plants contain glyphosate because residual chemical is sequestered in soil colloids, then liberated upon application of phosphate based fertilisers, and taken up by subsequent crops where it bioaccumulates in meristemmatic tissues (seed, fruits, roots, tubers, rhizomes, active growing leaf tips etc. – the things we like to eat). Once ingested, glyphosate gets everywhere, even the placenta and breast milk, disabling both human and bacterial enzyme production. One important result of this is a shift in the crucial F/B ratio in the gut, leading to gut dysbiosis, because glyphosate kills lactic acid and other beneficial bacteria more easily than pathogenic or potentially pathogenic bacteria.
Indeed, a study published earlier this year looked at just that, finding glyphosate affected the mouse microbiome, tending to dysbiosis, with knock-on effects of compromised neurological function. Conventional farming also acidifies the soil, liberating aluminium, which combines with the aluminium within the Roundup formula, and with the organo-phosphate itself to trigger gluten sensitivity in previously non-sensitive individuals via wheat grown using glyphosate as a herbicide, and then as a desiccant 3 days before harvest. The overuse of glyphosate is also destroying the microbiome of the animals that humans eat, most especially the ruminant animals, which rely on a healthy gut much more than we humans. Glyphosate basically triggers gut dysbiosis in ruminants through its antibacterial action to the point where Clostridium botulinum in the rumen produce sufficient botulism pathogen to sicken and even kill animals, the amounts needed for mortality being so small that most cases of this are unnoticed.
Redressing the balance isn’t rocket science – in our human hubris we have thought ourselves above nature, and in control of nature. We are not. Our essential action for survival of the species may best be described as ‘get back to the garden’ – a return to nature, and the way that natural systems run. Organic farming practices, greatly reduced global meat consumption and production, stop poisoning the air and water as well as the earth, and a more equitable distribution of wealth (including a universal minimum living wage regardless of current employment status). We also want to cease the practice of introducing toxins willfully into the human body, especially the developing human body.
So, do we want a pathologically ill planet inhabited by beings rushing headlong into non-viability as a species, or do we want a return to the metaphorical garden? The choice is ours, and incredibly easy to make. By simply refusing to support en masse conventional agricultural output, there would be no choice but for producers to provide what the people want. In a society where money is God, the withholding of cash is a powerful weapon, but only if we are united.
Aitbali Y et al. (2018) Glyphosate based herbicide exposure affects gut microbiota, anxiety and depression-like behaviour in mice. Neurotoxicity and Teratology 67:44-49.
Ackermann W et al. (2014). The Influence of Glyphosate on the Microbiota and Production of Botulinum Neurotoxin During Ruminal Fermentation. Current Microbiology 2014. doi:10.1007/s00284-014-0732-3.