Consumption of soy milk and herbicide glyphosate may alter your sperm? Horticulturist Kevin Folta says not so fast

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[Editor’s note: Kevin Folta is a molecular geneticist and chair of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida.]

Carey Gillam [‎Research Director at US Right to Know] posted a link on Twitter highlighting a newly-published article. The article comes from a team of Brazilian scientists that fed developing male rats massive amounts of soymilk, and then massive amounts of soy milk spiked with gigantic doses of herbicide (not just glyphosate). They then analyzed factors potentially related to reproductive toxicity.

The referenced work is Nardi et al. 2017….

To make this relevant, I’m ~100 kg. To achieve the amounts used in this this experiment I’d have to drink a liter of soy milk and just under a half-cup of herbicide a day, for 35 days.

My conclusion: When you poison pubescent, developing male rats with isoflavones (a type of phytoestrogen) you screw up their development. Then when you add massive doses of herbicides for 23 days you can find differences in testosterone and sperm morphology. It shows that sick animals fed herbicides show physiological differences. Duh.

But the authors don’t prefer the conservative interpretation that I would draw. This sensational conclusion omits the fact that these were rats hammered with herbicides and soymilk, yet makes it seem like relevant doses from normal exposure.

But it is a great conclusion for Gillam, paid by the anti-GMO industry, who can now cherry pick the scare out of the article to make it seem like food-based exposures of glyphosate are dangerous.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Massive Consumption of Soy Milk and Herbicides for Three Weeks Might Make Your Sperm Weird

  • SageThinker

    Will someone please post a screenshot from the paper showing that it is indeed the whole Roundup formulation and not pure glyphosate being fed at 50 and 100 mg/kg?

    I have uni access to papers but my access to Food Chem Tox is only up to 1994 for some reason. I cannot find the paper. Please, i would like to see the paper stating this, because the abstract seems to say otherwise.

    I would indeed have designed such a study to use 1, 10, and 100 mg/kg of pure glyphosate. There is about 3 mg/kg glyphosate within Roundup Ready soy crop produce. This is integral with the soy bean, and cannot be washed off. It is greatly reduced in soybean oil but then remains in the meal that’s normally fed to livestock for protein.

    [EDIT:] I used Sci-Hub to get the paper and it does in fact say it uses Roundup. Mentions it only in the “Materials” section. Rest of paper says “glyphosate” which i consider to be deceptive. In this case i agree with Kevin Folta. This is flawed science. How did it pass peer review of Food Chem Tox? Seriously. Don’t reviewers read the papers they approve? A simple edit to the abstract and the paper would have fixed that.

  • Carey Gillam

    Jeez, Folta et al getting so desperate they have to launch attacks over tweets linked to scientific studies. I didn’t draw any conclusions, I shared a new study to promote discussion and debate. Clearly the industry surrogates hate both.

    • lauriloo

      Lol. I can’t take you seriously. So dishonest when you claim innocence like that. It’s like a teenager spreading a vicious rumor and saying she’s just repeating what other people are saying.

      • SageThinker

        No, Carey’s right. She tweeted a link to the study. The study itself is the problem, when they use Roundup but write “glyphosate” in the abstract as if they used pure glyphosate. It’s obvious that there are battle lines here. The biotech industry fights USRTK and all others who seek to expose the propaganda machine. In this case, the study is indeed flawed, but there is childish battleground behavior going on here.

        • lauriloo

          It’s also dishonest to use an amount of Roundup that no human being would ever be exposed to other than by drinking straight out of the bottle. If she doesn’t know that’s ridiculous she shouldn’t advance herself as any kind of authority on the subject.

          • SageThinker

            Actually that is not dishonest. It’s a toxicology standard technique to use higher doses to account for a smaller population of lab animals. The dishonest part is only the use of glyphosate-based-formulation instead of glyphosate pure. If i designed the study, i would use 3, 30, and 300 mg/kg in the soy of pure glyphosate. 3 mg/kg is the average amount of glyphosate in Roundup Ready soybeans. That’s 3 ppm.

          • Farmer with a Dell

            Compensating for inadequate statistical power in a study design by increasing toxin dosage is a lame and unprofessional tactic (precisely what we’ve come to expect from the Daft Tinkler). Such flawed study design only exposes study results to legitimate concerns regarding not only relevance, but mechanism of action at unrepresentative dosages. It is a deliberate recipe to arrive at skewed and inconclusive study results.

        • Kevin Folta

          Sage, a few years ago when there was the Intelligence Squared debate many anti-GMO folks were not happy with the job their team did. They created lots of tweets, lots of other graphics. I shared one of them. The person mentioned contacted my university, threatened to sue me, and the folks over at GM Watch have captured those screenshots and claim that I devised the whole thing. All I did is what she did– shared the material.

          However, I certainly realize that it was not the right thing to do. I personally apologized to those affected and have not done such things since. So the “I’m just putting it out there” defense doesn’t work for me.

          Carey is paid by folks that have coordinated an attack on my career. I think it is fair to point out why people should not trust her as a source of legitimate information.

          She does not realize (or she does) that her attempts to “promote discussion and debate” scare people and enforce a position that is not true. I’m all for discussion and debate. But let’s debate data and interpretations, not headlines.

    • Kevin Folta

      Carey, you are purposely propagating poor-quality information because it suits your purpose. That’s the point. You are paid by an activist group to spread this kind of misinformation on inconclusive, non-real doses. I think that is fair to point out.

      Certainly you have worked hard to damage my reputation and that of people in my family– and I’ve told the truth. Here you are not critically evaluating the work, you are implying some connection and endorsing it.

    • SageThinker

      Kevin Folta may be projecting here. I recall Folta propagating poor-quality information to suit his purpose on many an occasion. Here (image), for instance, he claims that glyphosate can be washed off of produce, and also gets the molar conversion wrong. Molarity involves the molar mass of the compound. Glyphosate molecule has a mass of about 169. Not to mention the basics of the potential selective pressure of glyphosate upon microbial populations in the human gut microbiota. Jaworski (1972) showed significant inhibition of a bacterium at 10 uM which was the lowest he tested. It’s obvious there would be inhibition at lower concentrations, and the way selective pressures work, a small pressure can change population balances due to competition for space and resources. He’s pushing an agenda. He is highly biased and cannot be trusted to do science or SciComm with integrity. It’s obvious from evidence.

      That said, the need for integrity applies to everyone. The study in question is deceptive for it says “glyphosate” whereas it used Roundup full formulation. That should not have passed peer-review with an abstract that does not match the study.

  • Good4U

    This “team of Brazilian scientists” should be ostracized for conducting unethical experiments on animals. This is not how authentic toxicology studies are performed in compliance with Good Laboratory Practice. All regulatory agencies require GLP compliant studies for making regulatory decisions on pesticides and the MRLs that pertain. If the above article is true, it describes nothing more than weird, fraudulent experimentation, no more useful than a high school science fair exhibit. No real scientist would perform this sort of junk.