The impact and toxicity of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides on health and immunity.
Glyphosate, or N-phosphomethyl(glycine), is an organophosphorus compound and a competitive inhibitor of the shikimate pathway that allows aromatic amino acid biosynthesis in plants and microorganisms. Its utilization in broad-spectrum herbicides, such as RoundUp®, has continued to increase since 1974; glyphosate, as well as its primary metabolite aminomethylphosphonic acid, is measured in soils, water, plants, animals and food. In humans, glyphosate is detected in blood and urine, especially in exposed workers, and is excreted within a few days. It has long been regarded as harmless in animals, but growing literature has reported health risks associated with glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides. In 2017, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic" in humans. However, other national agencies did not tighten their glyphosate restrictions and even prolonged authorizations of its use. There are also discrepancies between countries' authorized levels, demonstrating an absence of a clear consensus on glyphosate to date. This review details the effects of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides on fish and mammal health, focusing on the immune system. Increasing evidence shows that glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides exhibit cytotoxic and genotoxic effects, increase oxidative stress, disrupt the estrogen pathway, impair some cerebral functions, and allegedly correlate with some cancers. Glyphosate effects on the immune system appear to alter the complement cascade, phagocytic function, and lymphocyte responses, and increase the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in fish. In mammals, including humans, glyphosate mainly has cytotoxic and genotoxic effects, causes inflammation, and affects lymphocyte functions and the interactions between microorganisms and the immune system. Importantly, even as many outcomes are still being debated, evidence points to a need for more studies to better decipher the risks from glyphosate and better regulation of its global utilization.