Glyphosate herbicide in vaccines? Here is what concerned parents should know

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It’s a nightmare scenario: an herbicide used to kill weeds is discovered in vaccines, threatening to turn disease-preventing and often life-saving inoculations hazardous to health and even life.

The campaigning anti-chemical group Moms Across America [read Genetic Literacy Project profile here] announced that a study it commissioned found trace amounts of glyphosate—the world’s most-used herbicide, often used with plants genetically modified to resist it—in several vaccines.

Earlier this year, Moms Across America sent 5 childhood vaccines to an independent lab to be screened for glyphosate. All 5 tested positive for glyphosate, with the MMR vaccine showing levels 25X higher than the other vaccines.

Further, more accurate tests are urgently needed by the FDA and CDC to confirm exact amounts. However, any amount is unacceptable. Action must be taken to protect our infants and children.

Moms Across America sent letters to the FDA, CDC, NIH, EPA, California US Senator Barbara Boxer and the California Department of Public Health urging more testing on glyphosate and revoking the herbicide’s license. The report was picked up by many anti-GMO activist sites, including Natural News, March Against Monsanto, and Vaccine-Injury Info. Even Erin Brockovich, the consumer activist known for her work on environmental contamination (Julia Roberts starred as her in a profile feature film), amplified the frightening findings—if they were indeed accurate and meaningful— on her Facebook page:

Not sure what to make of this yet… but it should piss you off. .. Wondering if glyphosate could be contaminating not only our water, urine, breast milk, food, soil, beer and wine, but our vaccines as well.” Moms Across America ran some tests…Glyphosate, a chemical ingredient found in Monsanto’s Roundup and hundreds of other herbicides, has been found in vaccines.

Anti-vaccine groups, such as those supporting Stephanie Seneff and her papers on the alleged dangers of glyphosate, GMOs and vaccines have also lauded the study as evidence of harmful vaccination. Seneff is a MIT computer scientist with no expertise in genetics or chemicals. She was quoted on MAAM’s blog Eco-Watch as claiming certain vaccine viruses including measles in MMR and flu are grown on gelatin derived from the ligaments of pigs fed heavy doses of glyphosate in their GMO feed.”

Seneff has written several papers in what are known as predatory, pay-for-pay journals that have found correlations supposedly linking glyphosate, GMOs and vaccines to autism, cancer and other diseases—even though independent mainstream scientists have found no causative links. She discussed her opposition to vaccines and glyphosate in this video:

It’s all sounds scary. However, it’s not clear that any glyphosate was actually in any of MAAM’s samples..and if glyphosate residues are present in vaccines, which is highly doubtful, t’s almost certain that the residue exposure levels are so minute as to be meaningless.

The study

The “study”, which has not been release for review let alone appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific publication was conducted by a private St. Louis company called Microbe Inotech which does not have the expertise to do a sophisticated assay on glyphosate, allegedly identified these concentrations of glyphosate:

  • Influenza vaccine, 0.331 ppb
  • MMR vaccine, 2.671 ppb
  • Pneumococcal vaccine, 0.107 ppb
  • Hepatitis B vaccine, 0.325 ppb
  • T Dap vaccine, 0.123 ppb

MAAM said that additional studies were conducted by Anthony Samsel, who calls himself a “research scientist/consultant“, although there is no evidence he has a science degree or expertise in this type of research. He has collaborated and is a co-author with Seneff on numerous studies that mainstream scientists have labeled quack research. Apparently Samsel found similar trace amounts of glyphosate in vaccine preparations he tested. His “study” also has not appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific publication, but he did post this video:

Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, the patented form of glyphosate, responded that the study, like others commissioned by MAAM, has significant problems:

The testing method used here for vaccines appears to be a method that was developed as a quick and inexpensive screening test for water samples to decide whether additional testing with a more expensive and precise method is needed. Simply put, because of this method’s potential for false positives at very low concentrations, a negative result of the test on water means no further testing is required; a positive result means one should conduct the more expensive test to confirm. This quick and inexpensive screening test has only been shown to work well in water – not vaccines, not wine, not beer, not milk, not eggs. Just water.

A method problem

The study used a method called ELISA, which is short for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. ELISA is a very fast, somewhat reliable method for determining the concentrations of chemicals, by using a pairing of radioactive labeled antibodies. This test is often used for determining levels of cholesterol in blood, for example. It is not, however, at all accurate at measuring anything in low parts per billion.

More accurate methods of measuring volumes in that minute a range would be techniques called gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, or GC/MS, in which chemicals are ionized (having an electron removed, usually), and the now-electrically charged molecule or chemical is measured by its mass and charge. This is a longer (and expensive) procedure, but extremely accurate. Gas chromatography, the “GC” part, is carried out before the “MS” step, and separates your targeted chemical from other chemicals in your sample.

Peter Davies, an emeritus professor of plant biology at Cornell, in an interview with the Genetic Literacy Project warned against ELISA as a useful test at very low concentrations:

At 1-10 ppb it is awfully easy to think you are analyzing a specific compound when in fact you are tracing some other compound so unless I saw the full mass spectra to at least 2 decimal places I would say that glyphosate is not proven, and few labs have that degree of sophistication.

ELISA is notoriously susceptible to interference by the presence of other compounds, both in the positive and negative direction, and while fine for a first approximation, it is not acceptable for a definitive measurement. No top ranked journal in the field accepts ELISA as definitive proof for small molecules unless accompanied by further proof. The gold standard is multiple ion mass spectrometry after HPLC and or GC, or as MS-MS.

Even the Detox Project, a testing organization that has been involved with glyphosate testing with MAAM and others, has questioned relying on ELISA:

ELISA testing methods for pesticides can produce false positive and false negative results and thus cannot be used by regulators – ELISA methods can give inaccurate results. These methods are usually used as a screening tool and any positive results have to be confirmed by a chromatographic method to be usable in risk assessment.

The company MAAM contracted for its study only used the ELISA method.

Debunked studies and questionable motives

These claims by Seneff and Samsel echo previously debunked MAAM campaigns. Friends of the Earth Europe and Mom’s Across America claimed in 2014 that an informal test they had funded found minute traces of glyphosate in breast milk and urine, causing a furor, with the story widely circulated across anti-GMO and quack websites, and even in such nominally mainstream blogs as Civil Eats.

weedkiller-herbicide-roundup-glyphosate-in-breast-milk-of-american-women-1

The results were challenged in a study by Washington State University scientist and lactation expert, Michelle McGuire, who found no evidence that glyphosate accumulates in breast milk. Activists criticized the study’s authors, which included three Monsanto employees, although the data was independently scrutinized. Two subsequent German studies, including an independent report in 2016 by scientists affiliated with the independent German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)–which does risk assessments for the European Commission–found no traces of glyphosate. The studies used mass spectrometry to discover that none of the research subjects had glyphosate in their breast milk samples up to the technical limit of MS (which is much more sensitive than the methods Samsel and MAAM reported).

As for glyphosate, the world’s most-used pesticide has become a symbol for opposition to genetic engineering in food, and has been alleged of causing a number of harms, including cancer. However, a number of national and international health and environment agencies—WHO, the EFSA, the US EPA, US EPA, and Germany’s federal risk assessment institute—have found no harm from the chemical. Only the cancer research arm of WHO—International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)—claimed that glyphosate poses a “probable” hazard (which isn’t the same as an exposure risk). It’s not clear that what MAAM’s contract organization found is even glyphosate—the Microbe Inotech study even indicates that the amount in milk was the only validated method.

Dan Goldstein, a Monsanto scientist who authored the company’s response to the MAAM announcement, wrote:

Everything that regulatory agencies and credible scientists know about glyphosate tells us this outcome is extremely unlikely. Unfortunately, such sensational allegations only serve to spark unwarranted fear and confusion and make finding reliable information much more difficult.

Andrew Porterfield is a writer, editor and communications consultant for academic institutions, companies and nonprofits in the life sciences. He is based in Camarillo, California. Follow @AMPorterfield on Twitter.

  • RobertWager

    I have never seen a ELISA that had sensitivity at the ranges claimed by MAM.

    • First Officer

      Nor corn having such low levels of carbon and such high levels of energy output as claimed by MAM.

      • JP

        LOL, are you talking about the “Stunning Corn Comparison” that actually analyzed a soil sample instead of a corn sample?

        • First Officer

          Yup!

  • mem_somerville

    It’s time for the CDC to step in and deal with these claims. The vaccine fearmongers have caused real harm over the years as their claims festered unchallenged, because nobody took the harm of the cranks seriously.

    I think it worked really well to see the Zika BS claims swatted quickly in mainstream media, and that needs to happen more. Stop this terrible misinformation before it metastasizes. Waiting for 2 years to respond is no longer working in the social media environment we face today.

    • Andrew Porterfield

      Thanks. One thing I want to follow up with is MAAM’s hypothesis: that glyphosate could actually appear in vaccines. How is that possible?

      • When it first came out, MAAM said that it was because of the animal products used to grow viruses or make vaccines, that the animals had eaten feed grown in crops sprayed with glyphosate. Which is pretty silly. I mean, seriously, silly.

        • JP

          It’s like fourth-hand glyphosate residual… that’s almost as bad as the lengths they go to try to link any pro-biotech professional to Monsanto.

          • Michael McCarthy

            “fourth-hand glyphosate residual”
            Kind of like “third-hand smoke”. As though the odor and residue of a smokers clothing poses a clear and imminent danger such that those working in a hospital cannot smoke AT ALL.

        • Aguirre15

          Wouldn’t any medium used to produce vaccines have to come from a certifiably SPF source or something along those lines? This is a bit out of my area but sure seems odd.

          • We have no clue where they got the vaccines!

        • Whatever happened to ingestion being way different than injection?

      • mem_somerville

        Pretty sure it’s homeopathic logic.

      • yogazeal

        Maximum Residue Limits set by FAO http://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/standards/pestres/pesticide-detail/en/?p_id=158
        This is the pathway for glyphosate to enter the feed of animals, which are the source of the medium to grow vaccines. The Implications will destroy consumer demand for all Monsanto Products [You heard it first here!]

        • JP

          There is literally no implication from this “testing.” The results, as mentioned, are far too low to make any kind of conclusion.

        • agscienceliterate

          You’re certainly not the first ill-informed activist to slam Monsanto and you won’t be the last. Nonetheless Monsanto products demand by farmers, and consumption by consumers, is doing just fine, along with other GE seed companies. Studies over the last 20 years, of billions of animals who have eaten GE crops, have shown zero negative impact on animals.
          If your activist mindset prevents you from accepting the studies, and if you fear GE foods, then you should definitely stick to organic and non-GMO certified foods. Regarding vaccines, it’s too bad you are also an activist anti-vaxxer. Not vaccinating one’s children with a safe product for entirely preventable diseases is actually quite an antisocial act.

    • Why should the CDC waste resources on these claims when this article and many others do such a good job debunking the claims? Mom’s Across America and this same lab said their was glyphosate in breast milk and surprise, surprise, other testing said their wasn’t.

      What should be done is an investigation by the FDA or a state health agency into this lab that continues to do meaningless tests that help the folks at MAM scare people.

      https://vaxopedia.org/2016/09/14/glyphosate-in-vaccines/

      • mem_somerville

        Because people turn to the CDC and not to Genetic Literacy. Look, I’m a fan of GLP, but it does not carry the same weight as a CDC page for parents who have no grasp of this field.

        I would love to see this lab get slapped in addition to that–but I’m tired of authorities letting random scientists take crap from outfits like the Moms Against America instead of doing their jobs.

        • Think about this again considering how much time and money has gone into proving vaccines don’t cause autism or proving fake autism cures don’t work.

    • I don’t think it is necessary for the Centers for Disease Control to use taxpayer funds to debunk every crazy idea out there.

  • Ugasailor

    MAAM uses the same lab in St. Louis, MO for all the analyses they base all their silly scare stories on (wine, vaccines). The MIL, Inc. lab in St. Louis, MO has used an Enzyme Linked Immunoassay (ELISA) for measurement of picogram levels of glyphosate. Really.

    The MIL lab reports showing ppb levels of glyphosate to 4 significant figures indicates a very non-sophisticated laboratory operation. As mentioned by Andrew in this piece ELISA is very susceptible to false positives for trace level compounds in complex matrices. One can see in the MIL reports that many samples were diluted to reduce background interference typical with ELISA when used to determine trace levels of small molecules. Moreover, there were no spiking and recovery studies done/reported to demonstrate the suitability of their analytical method for measuring ultratrace levels of glyphosate nor were there confirmatory analyses employing alternate and more specific analytical methodologies such as MS-MS, LC-MS or GC-MS.

    The glyphosate levels reported by MIL are completely meaningless aside from being ridiculously trivial. MAAM appears to be operating a scientific fraud scam to generate web hits and donations.

    Next up, “Glyphosate found in moon rocks.”

    • JP

      Almost has the same feel as a high schooler carrying the results of a chemistry experiment read off of a graduated cylinder to four decimal places to try to make themselves sound smarter 🙂

      • yogazeal

        There is a clear pathway which allows some glyphosate in the vaccine. http://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/standards/pestres/pesticide-detail/en/?p_id=158
        At this early stage we must acknowledge this contamination COULD have a mutagenic effect on the vaccine. Testing has been completed, and the reports are published – by the millions of Autistic Patients.

        • JP

          Um, no. Do you see those amounts they “found?” They are well outside the range of testing for the assay used. It would be literally the same thing as saying, well, there COULD be elephant tusk in vaccines, we better worry about that.

    • First Officer

      Well, the Moon is made of cheese from conventionally fed cow milk. 🙂

      • agscienceliterate

        Genetically modified cheese! Oh, no! Label the moon!

        • yogazeal

          In fact, yes, the Glyphosate can have an effect on the genetics, in damage, by chelation, the metal-based protein molecules.

          • Rick Bagnall

            …what. Let me try to unpack this: you’re claiming that glyphosate can damage DNA by chelating metal-based proteins? Do I have that right?

            OK, let’s start with the notion of chelating metal-based proteins. Yes, there are some proteins that incorporate metal atoms (ions, really). Hemoglobin is probably the best known, but it’s hardly the only one. But these proteins aren’t especially common (except for hemoglobin) and they don’t have anything to do with DNA, as far as I know. Plus there’s the question of whether glyphosate is structured properly to chelate anything in the first place. I’d think stearic hindrance would prevent it.

            Now let’s move on to the genetic damage. Just exactly how does this supposed chelation of metal-based proteins damage DNA, which is neither metal-based nor a protein?

            The way glyphosate works to kill weeds is that it interferes with an enzyme that synthesizes certain amino acids. Without those amino acids, the plant can’t assemble vital proteins and it dies. But here’s the thing: humans don’t have that enzyme, nor do we have anything vaguely resembling that enzyme. So there’s nothing for glyphosate to interfere with and we just excrete it about as fast as we ingest it. I’m not even sure the liver considers it nasty enough to break down.

    • Veritasss

      Since your stance is that “Glyphosate is less toxic to animals than table salt; the safest herbicide ever developed.” (yes, that’s your quote from another forum on–tada–glycophosate), your arguments are bound to be biased–VERY biased.

      Are you paid for this?

  • Excellent debunking with clear facts. Thanks.

    • Ima Skeptic

      Until there is further testing, nothing has been debunked. Sorry. Those glyphosate figures weren’t pulled out of thin air. The ELISA testing was always meant to be a first step, a prelude to a more in-depth examination of an issue.

      • Well, then, I can’t wait to see the rest of the testing and the results.

        • yogazeal

          Yes, additional testing is clearly required. Glyphosate is allowed by FAO standards “Maximum Residue Limits” in eggs and farm animals – the source of the base material to produce vaccines themselves.

          • I hardly think scientists making vaccines are getting their cells from regular ole farms. This screams conspiracy theory to me.

      • They basically were pulled out of thin air. They misused the test, just like they did when testing breast milk.

      • Aguirre15

        This was debunked the moment the name Samsel came up. The man is a hack and complete fraud.

      • Alan Douglas

        Except for the fact that ppb levels are outside the limit of detection for ELISA. ppb level hits do not indicate any need for further testing. Those antibodies can interact with nontarget molecules at very low levels, which would give you false response at very low (ppb) levels in the absence of an actual signal.

        • yogazeal

          Maybe, but potential action of the glyphosate on vaccine before it is injected . . . is worthy of more study.

  • agscienceliterate

    How did MAM get ahold of these 5 vaccines to send out for “testing” in the first place? One doesn’t just walk into a doctor’s office or a clinic and ask to be given a sample of a vaccine. Doesn’t pass the sniff test.

    • hyperzombie

      How did MAM get ahold of these 5 vaccines to send out for “testing”

      They found them in the magic corn field with the “high energy” corn that had no carbon in it. Maybe Narnia?

  • Ron

    In the light of the above stating the inaccuracy of the ELISA testing method, it is ironic that Monsanto used the same method in its safety testing of Roundup Ready Corn as submitted to the FDA and EPA, stating the sensitivity of the method in the report :”The quantitation limit of the EPSPS ELISA assay was ca. 0.003 µg/g.” Monsanto also thought the method accurate enough to use in the FDA requested allergenicity of wheat grain analysis.

    • Twan

      The detection Limit of the ELISA used by Monsanto was, according to Monsanto, 0.003 µg/g which equals 3 ppb. That means that under optimal conditions 3 ppb might give you a Signal that’s just a tiny bit above the background noise. That’s the reason why signals at the ELISA detection Limit should be treated with caution (yes, I have used ELISA myself).The MAA reports values between 0,123 – 2,671 ppb. That’s below the detection Limit they measured noise. There’s no irony of Monsanto also using ELISA. They clearly state the limits of their assay and it is the FDA and not Monsanto who decides if the method used is sensitive enough.

    • yogazeal

      Inaccuracy in the testing is not an issue, nor is the precise amount, because there is a clear pathway which allows some glyphosate in the vaccine. http://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/standards/pestres/pesticide-detail/en/?p_id=158
      At this early stage we must acknowledge this contamination COULD have a mutagenic effect on the vaccine. The logic is inescapable, testing has been completed, and the reports are published – by the millions of Autistic Patients.

      • Michael McCarthy

        Your link is meaningless.

        At this early stage we must acknowledge this contamination COULD have a mutagenic effect on the vaccine.

        Let’s see what the WHO says:
        “The Meeting concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to be genotoxic at anticipated dietary exposures.”
        http://www.who.int/foodsafety/jmprsummary2016.pdf?ua=1
        Considering the alleged amounts of glyphosate found are below the dietary exposure levels, I’d say you’re blowing smoke.

  • David Lemonde

    Does anyone realize that this author is the owner of a marketing company that works for bio-tech clients? Conflict of interest?

    It’s interesting that the author goes to such obvious lengths to posit anti-glyphosate activists as fringe extremists with biased, scientifically un-grounded opinions. Yet, if you look at the scientific research that has been done (see Shikimate pathway and gut flora) on explaining how glyphosate works in our system – it’s extremely unsettling. It’s even more unsettling when you couple this with empirical evidence on the drastic rise in disease rates in the US that mirrors the drastic rise in glyphosate usage. I noticed that the author carefully avoids this kind of science and empirical evidence in this article.

    He does point out the fact there is a great need for more research to be done on the potential for glyphosate to be in vaccines. Preliminary studies obviously have found glyphosate in vaccines. Even if these studies are “quack” science, which they may be, it should none the less be a major red flag for more widespread academic testing. This seems to be the only real nugget worth taking from this article.

  • Ron van der Horst

    Samsel used the ELISA method to test the county water supply which returned a positive. The water was immediately sent for further testing using the mass spectrometry method to determine if there was indeed glyphosate present in the towns water supply.

    or

    Samsel used the ELISA method to test vaccines which returned a positive. The vaccines were immediately sent for further testing using the mass spectrometry method to determine if there was indeed glyphosate present in the vaccines.

    Monsanto- /”This quick and inexpensive screening test [ELISA] has only been shown to work well in water – not vaccines, not wine, not beer, not milk, not eggs. Just water.”/
    How many ELISA glyphosate tests have been carried out that, individually or collectively, demonstrate the ELISA method does not work well with vaccines?