Glyphosate and the epidemic of child ill health

The revelations about the damaging effects of glyphosate – the world’s most widely used herbicide – just keep on coming and its impact on child health is likely being overlooked or simply ignored.

May 21, 2018 by Staff Reporter

glyphosate montage

The revelations about the damaging effects of glyphosate – the world’s most widely used herbicide – just keep on coming.

Last week an international multi-university study led by the Ramazzini Institute in Bentivoglio, Bologna found that, even at so-called ‘safe’ doses, glyphosate-based herbicides can cause cellular mutations and interfere with sexual development and the healthy function of the intestinal microbiome (the community of beneficial bacteria in the gut) in young and adolescent animals.

This finding echoes the real-world experience of US paediatrician Dr Michelle Perro and medical anthropologist Dr Vincanne Adams, authors of a new book What’s Making Our Children Sick?, which looks at the devastating impact of our industrial food system on child health and what they describe as an ‘epidemic’ of child ill health that is spreading across the world.

Drs Perro and Adams note that our increasingly industrialised food system is responsible for an alarming rise in the use of pesticides on food crops, including the herbicide glyphosate. Levels of use are so high that our food is increasingly contaminated with multiple residues of these toxicants. Because childhood and adolescence is a time when the human body is growing and changing at an exponential pace, exposure to toxicants like glyphosate can do much greater damage at this time.

The authors detail their combined experience in identifying and treating, hard-to-diagnose and hard-to-treat chronic health problems in children by cleaning up their diets in a way that helps restore the microbiome.

Stark statistics for UK child health

The book focuses on the US experience of child health, and makes stark reading. But this experience is not unique.

In the UK, nearly half of all family meals are made of up of ‘ultra-processed’ foods; traces of glyphosate can be found in food and water and exposure can occur in parks, on city streets and especially in home gardens. Child health statistics here are equally startling:

  • Between 5-8% of children have a food allergy; 1 in 55 have a peanut allergy and 1 in 40 a cow’s milk allergy.  Hospital admissions for children with food allergies have increased by 700% since 1990.
  • 1 in 11 children and young people has asthma. We have the highest prevalence, hospital admission and death rates for childhood asthma in Europe.
  • Rates of childhood atopic diseases are rising; 1 in 5 have rhinitis, 1 in 3 asthma and 1 in 6 eczema.
  • One person in 210 has Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, conditions collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD. The rate amongst youngsters is rising.
  • Although more common in adults, around 14% of older teenage children and 6% of pre- to young teenage children have IBS.
  • Around 3-7% of British children are believed to have ADHD, with many are prescribed drugs to try and improve their concentration at school.
  • Headaches affect around half of children by the age of 7, and three quarters of those aged 15. Chronic migraine affects 0.8-1.8% of adolescents and 0.6% of children.

Pesticides on their plates

The volume of pesticides applied to UK food crops has increased by up to 17-fold in 40 years.From farm to fork a single food item may be doused with 30 or more individual pesticides yet this daily ingestion of multiple pesticides linked to hormone disruption, neurological DNA damage is barely being monitored.

According to the authors rising levels of ill health among children are “the cumulative outcome of being born into and living in an environment that has been made toxic by agrochemical industrialised food production.”

Even when our children are eating ‘healthy’ food, there may be problems hidden beneath the surface. In the UK, according to regular reporting by the government’s Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF), 60% of all fruits and vegetables sold in the UK contain residues of multiple pesticides.

A recent analysis of 12 years of UK government data on pesticide residues by PAN-UK found worrying levels of 123 different pesticides in free produce supplied to 4-6 year olds under the Department of Health’s School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme. Some of these were substances linked to serious health problems such as cancer and hormone disruption.

Last week’s study adds to the already large and increasing weight of studies showing worrying health effects from exposure glyphosate.

In the UK, government figures show its use in farming – where it is routinely sprayed on crops like wheat, oats, maize and barley but also soya, rapeseed, sunflower seeds and chick peas as a desiccant, to dry them out before harvest – has increased by a shocking 400% in the last 20 years.

The European Union recently extended the licence for this herbicide for another 5 years. The post-Brexit vision for food and farming in the UK is in such disarray that it is likely the UK will not only continue, but increase, its use of this toxic herbicide.

A revolutionary approach to child health

“New research on the role of the microbiome in health is forcing us to rethink the role of gut health in relation to overall health, even mental health. And, naturally, efforts to explore gut health are refocusing attention on the role of food in creating and sustaining a healthy microbiome,” say the authors.

What’s Making Our Children Sick? provides clinical case studies illustrating how the health problems many children experience – allergies, asthma, rashes, gastrointestinal issues, autoimmune disorders, and cognitive malfunction – can be successfully treated through the gut with a fresh, organic (and therefore pesticide-free, and non-GMO) wholefood diet that can feed and repair the microbiome.

The authors’ insightful and revolutionary approach to child health deserves serious attention.


  • The authors of What’s Making Our Children Sick? will be speaking at a special event in London on May 24 at OmVed Gardens in Highgate (6.30-8.30pm). Book your place via Eventbrite.
  • For a full picture of child health in the UK see the Beyond GM leaflet Kids in the UK – A Picture of Health? Sources and suggested reading for the leaflet can be found here.
Like what we're doing? Help us do more!
Let your MP know

You can find your MP and get in touch directly by visiting

Beyond false promises. Beyond failed technology. Beyond corporate control.
The time has come to move Beyond GM.

About this site::
GM Free Me is a Beyond GM initiative. Submitting your photo to this site is a vote for a safer, healthier more sustainable food system, for the health of our plants, animals and soil, for the independence and future security of our farmers. Thank you for speaking up.    Read more...