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Glyphosate: environmental contamination, toxicity and potential risks to human health via food contamination

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Abstract

Glyphosate has been the most widely used herbicide during the past three decades. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies glyphosate as ‘practically non-toxic and not an irritant’ under the acute toxicity classification system. This classification is based primarily on toxicity data and due to its unique mode of action via a biochemical pathway that only exists in a small number of organisms that utilise the shikimic acid pathway to produce amino acids, most of which are green plants. This classification is supported by the majority of scientific literature on the toxic effects of glyphosate. However, in 2005, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported that glyphosate and its major metabolite, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), are of potential toxicological concern, mainly as a result of accumulation of residues in the food chain. The FAO further states that the dietary risk of glyphosate and AMPA is unlikely if the maximum daily intake of 1 mg kg−1 body weight (bw) is not exceeded. Research has now established that glyphosate can persist in the environment, and therefore, assessments of the health risks associated with glyphosate are more complicated than suggested by acute toxicity data that relate primarily to accidental high-rate exposure. We have used recent literature to assess the possible risks associated with the presence of glyphosate residues in food and the environment.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Helen Wallace and Stephen Trueman for their input to this article. This research was funded by EcoBiotics. EcoBiotics played no role in the preparation of this review.

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Correspondence to Shahla Hosseini Bai.

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Bai, S.H., Ogbourne, S.M. Glyphosate: environmental contamination, toxicity and potential risks to human health via food contamination. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23, 18988–19001 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-016-7425-3

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