Photo by Mike Mozart via Flickr
Melinda Hemmelgarn is a registered dietitian and the host of Food Sleuth radio. Through investigative reports Food Sleuth radio connects the dots between food, health and agriculture. This September, Hemmelgarn sat down with Dr. Jeff Ritterman, a member of the steering committee of Physicians for Social Responsibility and former chief cardiologist at Kaiser Medical Center in California. The topic of their discussion was Ritterman’s recent article entitled, “Monsanto’s Herbicide Linked to Fatal Kidney Disease Epidemic: Could it Topple the Company?”
In his article, Ritterman sheds light on a fatal kidney disease epidemic taking place in parts of Central America, Sri Lanka and India. While the cause of the epidemic is unconfirmed, scientists theorize that Monsanto’s herbicide glyphosate is to blame. Among the victims are farmers working with pesticides, specifically glyphosate.
Ritterman hypothesizes that Monsanto’s glyphosate is binding with heavy metals found in the soil and groundwater. The theory is quite plausible given glyphosate was first patented by Stauffer Chemical Company as a chelating agent used to clean out heavy metals from pipes. Once bound to the glyphosate, Ritterman explains, the liver is unable to detect and detoxify the heavy metals. Evading the liver, chemicals like arsenic and cadmium are delivered to the kidney tubules, where they build up over the course of years and eventually cause kidney failure.
Kidney disease is now the second leading cause of mortality among men in El Salvador. Although glyphosate hasn’t been conclusively proven to be the cause of the epidemic, both El Salvador and Sri Lanka have invoked the precautionary principle and banned its use. El Salvador also refuses to buy Monsanto’s GMO seeds (which are glyphosate-resistant) despite pressure from the U.S., which has since been resolved.
In 2015, glyphosate will be up for review by the EPA. Ritterman believes it’s time to “reclaim the attention for public health.”
Listen to Melinda Hemmelgarn’s eye-opening interview with Dr. Jeff Ritterman on Food Sleuth radio.