Toxin, glyphosate, carcinogen: Story behind 3 most misused words in conventional vs. organic farming debate

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[Editor’s note: Marthélize Tredoux is a former scientist and co-owner and editor at Incogvino, a website that covers wine. By day, she helps South African wineries sell their wine in the US.]

In the conventional versus organic farming debate, I keep seeing basic terms used, abused and misappropriated – more often than not to push an agenda. So for the sake of all that is accurate (and by extension to me as a scientist, holy), let us get a few things straight.

1) Toxin / Toxic / Toxicity
A toxin is “a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms – synthetic toxicants are thus excluded”. Snake venom is a toxin. Botox is a toxin.

The word you’re thinking of is “toxic” or toxicity” which is “the degree to which a substance can damage an organism”. Here’s the kicker: ANY substance you can think of is toxic. But the dose makes the poison.

2) Glyphosate
Glyphosate has an LD50 of 5600mg/kg. This means an 80kg [176 pound] individual will need to ingest at least 448 grams of pure glyphosate to suffer from acute toxicity and possibly die. Caffeine has an LD50 of 192mg/kg. So the same individual only needs to ingest 15.36 grams of caffeine for similar effects. Table salt has an LD50 of 3000mg/kg.

3) Carcinogens / carcinogenic
Glyphosate is Class 2A – probable carcinogen. In the same group, you will also find high-temperature frying, household combustion of biomass fuel (i.e. wood-burning fires), red meat and “very hot beverages”.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Marthélize Tredoux: The Science Behind Herbicides and Pesticides

  • Jacob Ann Smith

    What’s carcinogens then? You either didn’t elaborate or you mistakenly used an incorrect word there. Please edit.
    Carcinogen – a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue. Please elaborate so the people will know.

    • Roy Thagard

      A carcinogen is a cancer-causing agent. A 2-A designation states the agent or exposure to the agent is “probable” to cause cancer. Either the substances show a risk of cancer to animals in a testing lab, or there is inadequate evidence to support or deny it’s carcinogenic nature. The author’s point is glyphosate is in the same cancer-causing agent grouping as hot beverages, red meat, etc, things that we routinely expose ourselves to without questioning it’s long term health risk. Good question, I hope this helps.