For years a chronic kidney disease has been killing farm laborers around the world. Now scientists from Sri Lanka believe the disease to be linked to glyphosate, the central ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide.
The disease is known to pathologists as CKDu, “Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown etiology,” and it is often fatal amongst the poor farmworkers that contract it. This is the case in Honduras, and in Sri Lanka, where over 20,000 people have died from the disease in the last 20 years. According to Truthout, in El Salvador and Nicaragua “more men die from CKDu than from HIV/AIDS, diabetes and leukemia combined.” El Salvador has the highest mortality rate from kidney disease in the world.
But the origin of the disease remains a mystery. Three scientists from Sri Lanka, Dr. Channa Jayasumana, Dr. Sarath Gunatilake and Dr. Priyantha Senanayake, have been investigating the causes and now believe that glyphosate is the primary suspect.
Glyphosate was first invented by the Stauffer Chemical Company in 1964 as a descaling agent to clean the mineral deposits from pipes in hot water systems. Glyphosate’s chelating property allows it to bind with heavy metals. The agent was patented by Monsanto in the 1970s and marketed as “Roundup” in 1974. Since that time it has become the most lucrative herbicide on the market, with glyphosate products registered in over 130 countries and used on 100 crops.
But glyphosate can very easily be absorbed into the human body – through ingestion, inhalation or simple contact. By binding with metals such as arsenic or cadmium – both found in the groundwater and soil in Central America, India and Sri Lanka – the glyphosate-metal complex wreaks havoc on the kidneys. The high acidity of kidney tubules separates the metal from the glyphosate and the glyphosate itself shields metals from metabolic attention. This can easily result in death.
Monsanto has always marketed Roundup as one of the safest herbicides on the market – and that is one of the reasons for its widespread use. It was named one of the “Top 10 Products That Changed the Face of Agriculture” by Farm Chemicals magazine in 1994. But glyphosate studies with rats show severe hepatic and kidney disturbances and both Moms Across America and Thinking Moms Revolution accuse Roundup of causing autism and food allergies in children.
The full report linking glyphosate to CKDu can be read on the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.