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

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.

Related article:  Will CRISPR and gene editing change public fears about Franken-technology?

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.


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.

110 thoughts on “Glyphosate herbicide in vaccines? Here is what concerned parents should know”

  1. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

          • Yeah, but the idea that mem somerville is getting at, which I think is legitimate and important, is getting out in front of it. Remember the lessons learned from the Wakefield issue and get it under control preemptively.

            Stopping the next Andrew Wakefield *before* it’s a problem, before this memetic infection of pseudoscience takes hold in the community and it’s hard to walk it back.

  2. 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.”

    • 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 :)

          • …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.

    • 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?

  3. 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.

    • 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    • As is often the case, so called proponents of ‘Science ©’, forget that true science is an ongoing system of inquiry. No
      “science is settled”.

  6. 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.


    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?

  7. Research glyphosate and ecuador and you will see that it is causing cancer, etc. Interesting that its the MMR vaccine that has the highest amount of glyphosate. This is the vaccine that parents of healthy babies report to damaged their children – when autism began.

    To lie and promote a poison produced by the company that supplied Agent Orange to the detriment of all has to be the most wicked and stupid thing one can do. I don’t care how much Monsanto is paying you. How can these people, and the politicians who protect them, live with themselves.

  8. The obvious question is why isn’t comprehensive testing, of vaccines, done immediately to make sure the initial “cheaper” study is not correct? If there is even the slightest chance this poison is in vaccines it should be ruled out immediately. Quit with the stupid predjudice attacks against the organization and do the science!

  9. I thought true science would call for more precise testing, not for merely scoffing at the testing methods used. This is the problem that appears when an agenda is to be served, not the truth to be told. Much like the “climate” science we have seen. More computer prophesy, than observed and recreated theory.

  10. This is clearly a biased trash piece. I recognize the brand of mockery in many other articles trying to cover up the truth of a matter. Slander and defamation are the primary tools of attack. Dr. Seneff has had a Bachelors degree in biophysics for 50 years, she has had it since she was 20 along with many other degrees. What it says about her is that she is smarter than all other people on this site. She is a senior scientist at MIT and has done many studies with coleague on these subjects only to be ridiculed by a select few scientists who have not contributed to the debate, only offered slander. To understand the harmful effects of round up you have to ask the critiques of it, not the proponents. Remove all scientific research done by scientists who have conflict of interest, are getting paid by Monsanto or a subsidiary and that eliminates most of the supporting junk.

  11. Brian Deer did a smear campain on Dr. Wakefield, he falsified and misled people, and over the last 8 years Wakefield has been vindicated over and over not only by having his original studies peer reviewed but by other researchers who have found similar results, not to mention a top worker at the CDC who admitted the CDC was falsifying data on autism and vaccines to favor vaccines. The CDC is extremely corrupt, congress investigated them a number of times and came to this conclusion. Your basis is to ignore scientists who find a connection to autism or health issues and deny or defame the opposition to a fake study done by big pharma who make billions off of vaccines. When Dr. Seneff who has had a Bachelor’s degree in biophysics for 50 years, concluded that glyphosate is harmful to the gut barrier and could then get to the brain and damage it’s blood brain barrier it was an instant culprit along with vaccines as a cause of autism and this triggered a slander campaign against her and the radical liberals keep defaming Wakefield over again incase some people have not learned over the last 8 years that he has been vindicated many times.

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