Don’t Believe Everything You Read (Celiac Disease and the Herbicide Round-Up)

CropSpraying An article recently published in the open-access journal Interdisciplinary Toxicology presented a theory that the increasing rates of celiac disease observed in North America and Europe are due to the increasing use of the herbicide Roundup, specifically its active ingredient glyphosate.

However, the authors of this article, which was detailed and lengthy, made that what is only a theory, or hypothesis, look like fact. The idea of a relationship between this herbicide and celiac disease spread quickly. In reality, there is no actual evidence, just a lot of speculation.

The journal publishing the paper is from the Slovak Republic, and the Editor-in-Chief is Michal Dubovický, from the Institute of Experimental Pharmacology & Toxicology, the Slovak Academy of Sciences, in the Slovak Republic. The editors are almost all toxicologists from the Slovak Republic.

There are so many faulty assumptions and outright errors in this paper that it is unnecessary to explain every one of them. Just laying out some of the facts is enough. With what you know about celiac disease or can discover by doing just a little research, you will see mistakes in the very first sentence of what is called the “abstract” or summary of the article.

The authors state, “Celiac disease, and, more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe, where an estimated 5% of the population now suffers from it.” They then go on to treat these celiac disease and gluten intolerance as if they are identical. They go on to use their “evidence” to explain how glyphosate causes the serious conditions associated with celiac disease.

The idea of a relationship between this herbicide and celiac disease spread quickly. In reality, there is no actual evidence, just a lot of speculation.

Gluten sensitivity is not celiac disease. It is poorly understood, and occurs when people have symptoms when they eat gluten that go away when they do not. These individuals test negative for celiac disease and do not develop the complications or problems that people with celiac disease often do. It is not clear how many people have gluten sensitivity since there is no universally accepted way of diagnosing it at this time. It is also unclear where the number 5% came from, but it is not the percentage of people with celiac disease. In North America and Europe, the prevalence or rates of celiac disease are about 1%. For the sake of completeness, it could also be added that the rates of celiac disease are going up in other areas of the world where there the use of glyphosate may or may not be increasing.

See also
Why Are Athletes Going Gluten Free?

lactobasillus Another idea floated by the authors of the study is that putting “good bacteria” into the intestinal tract of people with celiac disease is a known treatment for celiac disease. While it is true that some intestinal diseases are caused by or worsened by the replacement of the normal good bacteria in the intestine with disease-causing bacteria, and even if this might help a person with celiac disease in terms of symptoms, it is absolutely not a treatment for celiac disease.

Even when making a chart to show that the rise in celiac disease coincides with the increased use of the herbicide, the authors use hospital discharge diagnoses to get numbers of celiac disease cases. Most diagnoses of celiac disease are not made on hospitalized patients.

There is actually a simple reason why these kinds of errors are sprinkled through the article. The authors have no training in medicine or biology, and they clearly do not even understand the illness they are discussing. They list themselves as follows:

Anthony SAMSEL- Independent Scientist and Consultant, Deerfield, NH 03037, USA and Stephanie SENEFF – Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA

While Seneff has degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, she has no training in medicine, healthcare, or biology. It is even less clear what training Samsel has or what degrees he might have been awarded. One must wonder what makes a self-described independent scientist and computer science/artificial intelligence laboratory scientist qualified to talk about celiac disease.

This is not enough to make even a philosophical argument, and absolutely not enough to make claims that one chemical causes an illness

Putting aside that they do not even understand the difference between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, their basic premise is that since a higher percentage of the population has celiac disease now, and since more of the herbicide glyphosate is in use every year, the increases in these two things at the same time mean that one caused the other. In other words, because there is more glyphosate in use today, that is why more people have celiac disease.

See also
Gluten Free Club Cartoon - Tolerant of Gluten Intolerant

Most people will understand that this is not enough to make even a philosophical argument, and absolutely not enough to make claims that one chemical causes an illness. In fact, these two writers have claimed that glyphosate use has caused just about every medical problem that has become more common. In this article, along with celiac disease, they say that the herbicide causes thyroid cancer and kidney failure. dr_reading_test_results

In the past, they wrote a paper that attributed the following illnesses, among others, to the herbicide use:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  •  Autism
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Infertility
  • Depression
  • Cancer

All of this is based on graphs and charts showing that the increase in glyphosate parallels the increasing incidence of these diseases. This is not proof. These things may be associated in time, but one does not cause the other. It would be wonderful if we could wipe out all of these diseases by simply removing the glyphosate from food, but nothing is that simple.

Just by looking at the consumption of various foods in the United States, the amounts of olive oil, poultry, palm oil, and soy bean oil have all increased in the same way as the incidence of celiac disease. It would be as correct to say that olive oil causes celiac disease as that glyphosate does.

See also
New Experimental Drug For Celiac Disease: ALV003

Farmer_and_Daughter_in field The authors do point to a study of fish that showed that large amounts of glyphosate can harm their intestinal tracts. It almost seems unnecessary to note that fish are so different from humans that this kind of comparison is useless. Giving them our air to breathe kills them, and putting us under water to breathe kills us.

No tests have been done to confirm the herbicide theory.

All the authors give is lists of chemical reactions and long names of enzymes in the body that can be damaged by glyphosate in theory or in a lab. While the descriptions of the way glyphosate interrupts certain chemical pathways in bacteria seem very scientific, many of these have not been proven. Those that have been studied have been studied in bacteria, not even in any animals.

While testing this theory might be difficult, something could be done to try and see if there is any truth in it. One could draw blood levels of glyphosate from people newly diagnosed with celiac disease and compare these to similar people without celiac disease, for example. Or, people with untreated celiac disease who want to test this could be recruited and treated with either a gluten-free
diet or a glyphosate-free diet to see how they do, of course without letting anyone know who got which diet (double blind study).

See also
Current Medical Trials on Celiac Disease

No one will do this study because the basic assumptions are not sound. There are strict rules governing human research. In addition to understanding the basic science, animal studies come first. None of the theories in the article have been tested on

Why did these two authors decide to write this paper and make these claims? It is important to understand that they are part of the very vocal group that opposes GMOs. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism, and opposition to this usually means opposition to GMOs grown for consumption. Other people opposed to GMO foods have made similar claims about their contribution to the increases in many diseases including celiac disease.

There are only nine GMO crops in the United States at the current time. These are alfalfa, Hawaiian papaya, corn, cotton (oil), canola (oil), sugar from sugar beets, soy, corn, zucchini and yellow squash. They have been modified to so they can grow even in the presence of the weed killer glyphosate in Roundup. Corn and cotton have also been genetically modified so that they make an insecticide themselves called Bt-toxin.

Many people are fervently against genetically modified food, partly over the concerns about the presence of higher quantities of the weed killer in these crops. But whether or not glyphosate can be dangerous for humans is not the issue here. The question is whether or not glyphosate causes celiac disease.

If this was the cause of celiac disease, the gluten-free diet would be useless

Wheat has not been genetically modified in this way, only bred into different strains. There is glyphosate found in the GMO crops. If this was the cause of celiac disease, the gluten-free diet would be useless, because people would be replacing gluten-containing food with other foods that also contain glyphosate, possibly at even higher levels. The authors of the paper do say that the gluten-free diet sometimes works. If their theory was correct, it should fail, and a glyphosate-free diet would be the cure. They even use data from the United Kingdom about the amount of glyphosate in various foods.

See also
How More Public Restroom Access Will Improve Life for Those Suffering Gastric Conditions

In 2011, there was more glyphosate in chick peas and lentils, among other so-called dried beans and pulses. Anyone replacing gluten-containing foods with these foods would be getting more of the pesticide.

An internet search shows that people react strongly to this article, the authors’ previous articles, and others with similar content. It would not be reasonable to say that there are no possible risks to GMOs or herbicides, but it is safe to say that there is absolutely no proof that glyphosate is increasing the risk of celiac disease.


(As published)
Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance Anthony SAMSEL 1 and Stephanie SENEFF 2
1 Independent Scientist and Consultant, Deerfield, NH 03037, USA
2 Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA Interdiscip Toxicol. 2013; Vol. 6(4): 159–184. (On the website of this journal, this article is marked as controversial.) doi: 10.2478/intox-2013-0026
Published online in: &
Samsel A, Seneff S. (2013). Glyphosate’s suppression of cytochrome P450 enzymes and amino acid biosynthesis by the gut microbiome: Pathways to modern diseases. Entropy 15: 1416–1463.
Stephanie Seneff’s web page.
“She received the B.S. degree in Biophysics in 1968, the M.S. and E.E. degrees in Electrical
Engineering in 1980, and the Ph.D degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in
1985, all from MIT.”
Hennessy, M. Celiac Disease Foundation, plant geneticist, challenge report linking GMOs to celiac disease, gluten sensitivity. Food December 3, 2013.
Index Mundi. Commodity consumption by year. Olive oil.
Tamar Haspel. Condemning Monsanto With Bad Science Is Dumb. Posted: 04/26/2013 12:51
GM FREEZE. The campaign on GM food, crops and patents. Glyphosate Residues in UK
Food 2011. October 2012.

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  1. After being around for 78 years and seen pretty much everything on the books, I don’t think Glyphosate is something I want to put in my body for whatever reason. I don’t want to be the last one to decide this either! Also I dont think I want to subject my children and grandchildren Et Al to something like this without their knowledge and full consent. I want them to be able to have all the information available which it is not, and then they can make their own decision. I think, ” better safe than sorry). As far as having an MD degree (or not) that the good doctor author has and the authors do not, I have been subjected to many “experimental” theories throughout my years by medical doctors and in the end I often wished I had listened closer to my dear Grandmother. Lots of good ideas came from the “old” country and they don’t include GMO. I think after this I will have to read the original article and see who I agree with most, modern medical science ( which really didn’t invent GMO, chemical companies did) or good old fashioned healthy farming.

  2. Hi Marge, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree with you, and I agree with Dr. Kaplan. Here’s why… We would all agree that putting glyphosate in our bodies is a bad thing. Dr. Kaplan is not saying it isn’t. She’s simply saying that this “research” paper is evidence of only really bad science. As she states at the end of the article, “If this was the cause of celiac disease, the gluten-free diet would be useless.” Just because you can show that two things are increasing at the same time doesn’t mean that one causes the other or vice versa. It only means that they are increasing at the same time.

  3. Increased pestacide use has and is causing so many problems to our health. Anyone not recognising that fact, should not be calling themselves any sort of health professional.

  4. Thanks Stewart! I agree with you – pesticides are definitely a health problem.

  5. I completely agree. Her information is faulty at best, “There are only nine GMO crops grown in the USA”; well there may only be nine grown domestic, but American bio corps import every transgenic crop under the sun. Not only that, but genetically modified corn is in just about every processed food in an America grocery store. The average person consumes bt- protein everyday in some form of corn product.

  6. It sounds like Dr. Kaplan is a paid mouthpiece for Monsanto. The sources she cites are not the only evidence that refute what she is espousing. Monsanto has bought legislation that effectively prevents anyone from acquiring their GM seed for independent study. Monsanto’s studies are only 90 days long. In independent studies ill effects were seen at 13 months. These included tumors, digestive diseases, and many others.
    A good book to read is ‘The World According to Monsanto’ by Marie – Monique Robin. It explains how Monsanto pays doctors like Kaplan to refute any and all negative press about their products.

  7. Thank you for your thoughts Jan. Please keep it clean though. There is no way that Dr. Kaplan is “a paid mouthpiece”. Whether or not we agree or disagree with Monsanto has nothing to do with the science behind “Correlation Does Not Imply Causation“. That’s all she’s saying about this article.

  8. Yes, I agree…But Monsanto and their allies are not going to admit this…

    Monarch Decline and Changes in U.S. Agriculture Figures from EH Williams Feb 7. 2014. Decline in monarch overwintering area compared to rise in US acreage planted in corn and rise is usage of glyphosate herbicide. To compare these on a similar scale, the monarch hectares have been multiplied by 5, and the glyphosate usage has been divided by 2 data sources:,

    Glyphosate Destroys More Than Just Monarch Breeding Grounds

    The environmental destruction caused by glyphosate certainly does not end with the eradication of milkweed, which are critical for monarch breeding and feeding. This chemical, the toxicity of which has been vastly underestimated since its introduction into agriculture, absolutely devastates the soil microbiome. Killing microorganisms is in fact one of glyphosate’s primary mechanisms of action, as it is patented as an antibiotic. Glyphosate is also a potent chelator that sequesters valuable minerals, rendering them inaccessible and unusable for the plant. It ties up minerals like manganese, zinc, and iron, which are essential for the plant’s immune system and growth.

    These minerals are also important for human health. Another problem, which applies to both genetically engineered (GE) and conventional hybridized plants, is that when a plant is altered it may lose its ability to emit the correct signals to warn its neighbors about impending attacks. Hence, they become more vulnerable to infestations.

    Then there’s the issue of rapid resistance developing among weeds… In some areas, highly invasive and crop-destroying superweeds are taking over valuable farm land. This was yet another possibility that was initially pooh-pooh’d by Monsanto. Industry assurances aside, glyphosate resistance has now become an undisputable fact.

    But rather than acknowledging its role in creating the problem, Monsanto and other chemical producers have simply started working on herbicide formulations that are even MORE toxic, and developing new crops that are resistant to a different set of chemicals, including 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), which is one of the primary ingredients in Agent Orange!

    How Glyphosate Affects Your Health

    Just as glyphosate decimates soil bacteria that are critical for plant health and nutrient uptake, the chemical also destroys the microbiome found in the gut of animals and humans. This effect appears to be the missing link that explains the detrimental health effects associated with genetically engineered foods. Recent research even suggests that glyphosate may be the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies. This includes but is not limited to:

    I eat no corn or products that contain corn. Same for soy. These seem to be the two most prevalent GMO crops so far. I also avoid seedless water melon and grapes. Not sure if there is a connection or not.

  9. There is actually an allergy test that can determine the sensitivity to gluten and other foods. I’ve been diagnosed with systemic candida through a wonderful allergist (now retired but has passed on her patients to another doctor)

    Dr. Donaldson used a reliable method by injecting a very small amount of the allergin (she ordered these ) under the top two layers of skin. I still have small scars where the reaction was extreme, including gluten, yeast, soy and so on.

  10. I realize that this is a late response. I just read this for the first time today. Just because GM foods, and glyphosate are bad for our health does not mean we should embrace illogical arguments or faulty reasoning to support this. That helps no one. I agree that when reading the article, it is easy to get upset because we feel so strongly about this subject. I do not see that she is supporting GM crops or glyphosate or Monsanto,(although she does not seem to be convinced of the problems that most of us posting here are). Dr. Kaplan is merely pointing out the numerous errors in the journal artcile. We do want to know the facts, right? We do want to use accurate information when we discuss these important issues. Thanks Angie for posting this.

  11. Thank you Teresa, I appreciate you stepping up to voice your opinion. That’s exactly what the article was about.

  12. Can a regular allergy doctor test for gluten intolerance or other related issues? I can get very very bloated eating any bread, cereal, pasta etc, unless in very small amounts .

  13. It all depends on how specialized your doctor is in that area. They may refer you to someone else who has more expertise. Give your doctors office a call (to save yourself a trip) and see if they offer those tests.

  14. OK. Circumstantial evidence of the rapid rise of gluten sensitivity and full-blown Celiacs, and many other intestinal anomaly conditions since the introduction of genetically altered crops and the use of glyphosate in agriculture may not be scientifically laboratory proven beyond absolute doubt to be related.

    But then again perhaps they are related! Can anyone explain away this coincidence, since this situational increase in both Celiac and non-Celiac conditions per population was not evident before the massive agricultural use of glyphosate and the introduction of GMO’s? If the correlation is not so-called scientifically proven to be evident, then what proven factors have caused this observable coincidence?

    Why is it that a family member with intestinal issues (cramps, massive intestinal bleeding, rapid weight loss, daily headaches, muscle cramps, joint swelling and pain, heart irregularities, brain fog) mostly cleared up when we eliminated all GMO’s and went on a gluten free regime, when the main-stream medical prescribed treatments (drugs etc) failed? He is still healing, and we don’t dare shop for any processed foods without reading labels. For most of our food our family households no longer shop at the grocery stores! We all ate a well-balanced diet prior to this, and continue to eat much the same dietary menu today, using non- grocery store foods and ingredients. So his symptoms were certainly not caused by poor eating habits. But “circumstantially” we have eliminated gmo’s and exposure to glyphosate based and other chemical agricultural sprays. That’s all our families have done, and pretty much most of his symptoms have resolved. He obviously does still have some issues with the absorption of a few trace nutrients, likely due to intestinal villi damage and some gut bacterial imbalances which probiotics and kefir are gradually addressing. He is a young adult who was entirely healthy prior to the mid 90’s when gmo’s and glyphosate became mainstream. His health gradually declined after that. Perhaps his system was more susceptible, but the entire family is feeling generally better on the same regime! No one will convince me or my family that glyphosate and gmo’s had nothing to do with his condition, and everyone’s general health!

    We have run into many other folk who have similar stories, all traceable back to the same time-frame!

    If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck————!! You don’t need to be a qualified lab scientist to recognize the duck!

  15. Using Dr. Anna Kaplan’s words.
    “All of this is based on graphs and charts showing that the increase in glyphosate parallels the increasing incidence of these diseases.” This is not proof. These things may be associated in time, but one does not cause the other.”
    In much the same way that NO ONE dies from Chemotherapy only the complications associated with Chemotherapy.
    “All of this is based on graphs and charts showing that the use of Deadly WWII Chemical Warfare Toxins parallels the increasing incidence of very few surviving Chemo Therapy patients.” This is not proof. These things may be associated in time, but one does not cause the other.”

    Personally I have been put through the gamut of Medical Doctors and the ONLY areas that I know and trust for certain that a Medical Doctor is truly a benefit is in the Emergency Room and the Operating Room. In my personal opinion when citing “facts” and reversing others words and “trying” medications they are ALL guessing.
    Bottom line is that “Medical Doctors” certainly are NOT interested in HEALTHY customers as that would certainly cut into their business.

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