A bee, RoundUp, and a mushroom walk into a bar.
Weird start to a joke, right?
Well you might be surprised to find out that bees, RoundUp, and mushrooms are actually completely related and directly affect your health! The link? GMOs.
What are GMOs?
GMO stands for “Genetically Modified Organism”. Basically, scientists play with the DNA of major crops to make them not die when pesticides are sprayed on them.
This includes all major crops like corn, soy, wheat, canola, sugar, cotton, sugar beets, alfalfa, and chocolate.
The most commonly used pesticide (and the primary reason for needing to genetically modify crops) is RoundUp with a main ingredient called glyphosate.
You’ve probably heard of RoundUp. Heck, you probably even have a bottle of it in your garage. (But you’ll never use it again after reading this.)
You might not have heard of glyphosate. Glyphosate is the most dangerous part of the GMO puzzle, so that’s what I’m going to focus on.
Why Is Glyphosate Bad?
Glyphosate has been deemed safe by the FDA. Because the powers that be believe that it isn’t toxic, RoundUp is usually handled carelessly and not well regulated.
First, we haven’t been exposed to glyphosate long enough to know whether or not there are any long-term effects.
Second, glyphosate is actually toxic and not just to humans!
You are what your food eats.
Enter the bees, stage right.
There are a few bullet points to hit here.
Glyphosate is toxic to:
- Plants (GMO or not).
- Animals (who eat the plants).
- Humans (who eat the plants and animals).
We’ll start with plants since this is where the chemicals are used, and they’re the bottom of the food pyramid.
Glyphosate kills plants.
Bold statement, I know. But I’ve got the science to back it up.
Plants absorb chemicals if they’re exposed. It doesn’t matter whether they’re GMOs or not. GMO are only made to not die from RoundUp exposure.
So when crops (read: your food) is sprayed with RoundUp (read: glyphosate), they soak it in!
What happens after that? Glad you asked.
There is a “process” that happens in plants and gut bacteria that makes amino acids and a few other necessary chemicals. When plants are exposed to glyphosate, the levels of these super important chemicals drops 50-65%! And a sneaky little enzyme that kills the process shows up by 20x! 
Glyphosate also prevents plants from absorbing minerals (like calcium and magnesium) from the soil as efficiently .
When nutrient levels drop in the plants, they become sick (just like we do!). And then when you eat the sick plants, you get less nutrition and introduce glyphosate into your body.
But before we get to humans, let’s talk about animals. The bees, in particular.
Glyphosate kills animals.
Bees are super freaking resilient.
And even they have problems with glyphosate.
But hold on, I’m going to keep you on the hook about the bees story for just one more minute while we talk about some less hard-core animals :
- Mice exposed to glyphosate show signs of liver and blood cell damage.
- 33% of frogs in an environment with glyphosate died within 2 weeks. The number of different species went down by 70%.
- Rats exposed to glyphosate didn’t start getting majorly sick until after 3 months (which is the normal length of a toxicity study).
- Female rats that ate GMO maize over their lifetime got mammary tumors. The male rats had gut, liver, and kidney diseases.
- Cows fed GMOs has increased risk of lethal bacterial infection.
Let’s talk about the bees. They’re all dying.
I’m not exaggerating. This is real. Our bees are sick.
Scientists have known about this problem for a while and have been stuck.
No solution. Just sick and dying bees.
In fact, scientists estimate that by this point all bees have been infected by a virus that kills them. All of them. And if the worker bees die, within weeks the entire hive will die also.
Why do we care about the bees? They are a key ingredient in almost all of our food. Take a look at our grocery shelves without them:
So it’s actually a super big deal that we get the bees better.
Enter mushrooms, stage left.
Here’s where we bring this story around.
A guy by the name of Paul Stamets discovered bees feeding on his mushrooms. The mushrooms the bees were eating had antiviral properties that we healing them!
(For more info in his super crazy research, this talk he did is really good.)
Some scientists think that the bees get sick from eating pollen contaminated with glyphosate. Bees can actually process tons of toxins that would kill other animals (like I said, resilient). But glyphosate is the Trojan horse.
Plants are treated with glyphosate. Bees collect the pollen. Bees consume glyphosate. Glyphosate suppresses their superpower enzyme that protects them from other toxins. Then the other toxins kill the bees.
And Mr. Stamets has figured out how we can save the bees with mushrooms! Very cool.
Why does glyphosate suppress this special enzyme? To answer this, let’s look at the last part of the puzzle.
Glyphosate kills humans.
Glyphosate is danger to humans in 2 ways:
- It stops sulfate from being transferred in the body.
- It suppressed those superpower enzymes.
It’s a building block for amino acids (which we need or we die). For example, insulin (blood sugar regulator) has lots of sulfur-containing amino acids.
Basically, when glyphosate shows up, it steals sulfate’s taxi. Then the body produces toxic compounds as extra taxis. When all the sulfate has been delivered, these toxic taxis are left empty and dangerous. They react to destroy our cell walls and DNA. Not cool.
What other bad things happen when sulfate can’t get moved through the body?
“Impaired sulfate transport” (that’s the fancy way to say it) has been linked to:
- Crohn’s disease
- gut dysbiosis
…just to name a few .
They’re actually called CYP enzymes, but that’s not as much fun. CYP enzymes are basically evolved in everything that keeps you alive. If they’re not allowed to do their jobs, all your important functions start to crap out.
By messing with your CYP enzymes, glyphosate can :
- inhibit the testosterone turning into estrogen (at 100x less concentration than the recommended dose for farmers to put on their crops!!). And keep in mind that RoundUp can be 20x more toxic than glyphosate alone because of the other chemicals in RoundUp.
- increase retinoic acid, which causes neural and cranial defects in embryos and babies.
- inhibit the detoxing CYP enzyme (even at suuuuuper low concentrations). We’re talking less than a drop in 1 liter of water is enough to completely stop the superpower detoxing enzyme in plants.
Not bad enough? How about a list of diseases that have been linked to glyphosate exposure :
- irritable bowel
- liver disease
You might be wondering how RoundUp got the all-clear from the FDA with research like this floating around. If I had to guess, money would be close to the top of the list.
But the solution is easier than you might think!
What You Can Do
How can you avoid GMOs?
Easy! Look for this label when you’re grocery shopping to make sure your food is GMO-free:
They even have an app you can download. Want to go one step farther? Anything certified organic can’t have GMOs. So you can also look for this label to make sure you food is organic:
Now it’s time for you to take action! Pay attention at the grocery store this week when you’re shopping and read the labels. Shopping GMO-free makes a big difference to both your health and the environment!