Roundup Weedkiller: A Threat to Human Health?

Introduced in the 1970s by the agricultural company Monsanto, Roundup is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. Roundup is so effective in killing weeds and other unwanted plants in the farm. This is why it has been the go-to herbicide for many farmers around the world.  

Roundup is still being used in more than 160 countries and most of the regulatory bodies in these countries consider Roundup as a safe herbicide to use in farming. 

But despite its effectiveness and wide use, various studies have established it to cause health complications such as metabolic syndrome and cancer-related diseases.

Here is a look at these effects;

Metabolic Syndrome

Glyphosate, which is an active ingredient in Roundup, has been widely linked to the growing metabolic syndrome issues in some countries. According to an article in the Legal Examiner, people, especially young adults and children, who were found to have consumed products with higher levels of glyphosate, were more likely to suffer from metabolic disorders and liver inflammation across the United States. People that suffer from metabolic syndrome also have a higher chance of getting heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.

Moreover, Glyphosate in Roundup is known to alter the composition of gut bacteria in the human body. A study in the National Library of Medicine shows that the gut microbiota and urine metabolome can be altered if traces of glyphosate are found in human food. 

When there is an imbalance of the microbiota in the human body and there is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria or a reduction in beneficial bacteria, the human body can experience extensive diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Therefore, excessive ingestion of glyphosate in Roundup exposes people to gut bacteria, which is a health problem in the long term.


Roundup has also been associated with cancer-related issues in humans. Findings from the Organic Consumers Association found that glyphosate in Roundup induced non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 

An increase in cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma found as a result of glyphosate in Roundup can alter the body’s function as the body’s organs and tissues tend to be heavily pressured. 

Continued use of Roundup means that more non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases are likely to rise in the future, thereby threatening the efficacy of the health system, especially in developing countries where the health systems are not fully integrated into society.

The use of Roundup has also been associated with the rising cases of tumours among populations that heavily depend on genetically modified foods with high traces of glyphosate. 

An investigation by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that both pure glyphosate and glyphosate formulations are carcinogenic to humans and can cause strong genotoxicity in human bodies. Roundup being established to be carcinogenic to humans simply means that the glyphosate in the weed killer is capable of causing cancerous tumors. Therefore, If the IARC has already linked Roundup to cancer-related diseases, then humans that depend on products with high traces of glyphosate are at risk of getting cancer in their lifetime.

Worrying dependency on roundup

Farmers around the world have developed a deep dependency on Roundup despite growing calls for its ban in some countries. 

Continuous use of Roundup for farming in most countries has led to the virtual disappearance of rotational systems that were in place before the introduction of glyphosate as a herbicide.  

The popular weed killer has completely changed the farming system around the world, as some farmers are now using Roundup to increase their output. Additionally, the use of Roundup has also paved the way for genetically modified foods to be unleashed around the world, drumming up new debates on their health implications in the long run.

The dependency on Roundup in farming by farmers has made it difficult for many countries to impose a ban on herbicides. Farmers in some countries, especially in Europe and Africa, are protesting the potential ban of Roundup since most of them depend on the weed killer to increase their output every year.

In the European Union, several associations of farmers threatened to sue their respective governments in 2017 if a new license was not issued. Therefore, as farmers rise against any potential ban, preventing the adverse health effects of Roundup becomes difficult to control in the future.

Roundup use in Africa

Unlike Europe and North America, Roundup is still widely used in almost all 54 countries in Africa. 

Although Malawi was the only African country that temporarily decided to suspend the importation of glyphosate to the country, the decision was later withdrawn.

One of the main reasons for Malawi temporarily banning Roundup in the country was to protect their farmers from the adverse effects of glyphosate on the human body. 

Research in the Journal of Development and Communication Studies found that glyphosate in Roundup caused skin irritation among Malawian farmers that used it, a sign of potential health risk in the long run. Therefore, Malawian farmers were more exposed to the health implication of Roundup than consumers considering the evidence of skin irritations caused by glyphosate.

Some local farmers tend not to be so careful in the application of glyphosate in their farms, which exposes them to Roundup’s toxins. 

According to an article by DW News, people have been found not to wear safety gear when handling glyphosate in Roundup and fail to either understand the language or fail to read the instructions displayed on the containers of Roundup. 

This inability to understand the language displayed in Roundup or the carelessness of the lack of attention on the side of farmers in handling glyphosate during farming shows the glaring lack of awareness of its dangers to the health of the farmers in the long term.

In Kenya, the ministry of Health has been grappling with the rising cases of cancer in the population of the country for decades now. According to data from Kenya’s Ministry of Health, the third leading cause of death and the second leading cause of non-communicable diseases after cardiovascular diseases in the country is cancer. Doctors in the country have attributed this surge in cancer cases in the country with the wide use of glyphosate in Roundup in Kenya’s agricultural sector.

In conclusion, what is coming out is that while Roundup is effective at killing weeds in farms, its direct and indirect impacts on human health are of significant concern.