Glyphosate – A potentially neurotoxic, genotoxic, and carcinogenic chemical which is ubiquitous in our food and environment

Abstract

Glyphosate (IUPAC name: N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine) is a non-selective broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant. It is primarily used to “kill weeds”, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops. Furthermore, it is utilized massively by the agricultural industry on many food crops which people consume on a daily basis (e.g., fruits, vegetables, grains, etc.).

Figure 1. Chemical structure of Glyphosate (chemical formula: C3H8NO5P).

Effects of glyphosate on the ovarian function of pregnant mice, the secretion of hormones and the sex ratio of their fetuses

Study Highlights

•Prenatal exposure to pure glyphosate affected sex ratios of litters.
•Glyphosate caused ovarian histopathological alterations in pregnant mice.
•Glyphosate disrupted the secretion of progesterone and estrogen in pregnant mice.
•Glyphosate disrupted expressions of steroidogenesis-related genes in pregnant mice.
•Glyphosate induced oxidative stress in ovary and serum of pregnant mice.

Visual summary


Abstract

Glyphosate is the active ingredient of the commercial formulation Roundup®, which is used worldwide. This study aimed to investigate the toxic effects of pure glyphosate or Roundup® on pregnant mice and their fetuses during pregnancy. From gestation days (GDs) 1–19, ICR mice were orally administered distilled water, 0.5% glyphosate solution or 0.5%-glyphosate Roundup® solution. The ovaries and serum were collected at GD19. The results showed decreases in body weight gain and, ovary and liver weight in glyphosate-treated mice. Additionally, histopathological alterations in the ovary including increased atretic follicles, interstitial fibrosis and decreased mature follicles were observed in the groups treated with glyphosate. The serum concentrations of both progesterone and estrogen were markedly altered after glyphosate exposure, and there were also changes in the expression of GnRH, LHR, FSHR, 3β-HSD and Cyp19a1 genes at the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis. Furthermore, oxidative stress was observed in the treated mice, increasing the activity of T-AOC, CAT and GSH-Px, as well as the MDA content in both the serum and ovary. With regard to litters, the sex ratio was significantly altered by pure glyphosate. These results show that glyphosate is able to cause several effects on pregnant mice, such as ovarian failure, interference with hormone secretion by affecting the steroidogenesis-related gene expression, and oxidative stress. The sex ratio of litters was also influenced by prenatal exposure to pure glyphosate.

URL:www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749118330197

Glyphosate and Roundup® alter morphology and behavior in zebrafish

Study Highlights

•Glyphosate or Roundup® altered locomotion and aversive behavior in zebrafish larvae.
•Glyphosate or Roundup® reduced the locomotion in adult zebrafish.
•Glyphosate decreased ocular distance in zebrafish larvae.
•Roundup®-exposed adult zebrafish demonstrated impairment in memory.
•Glyphosate and Roundup® reduced agressive behavior in adult zebrafish.

Abstract

Glyphosate has become the most widely used herbicide in the world, due to the wide scale adoption of transgenic glyphosate resistant crops after its introduction in 1996. Glyphosate may be used alone, but it is commonly applied as an active ingredient of the herbicide Roundup®. This pesticide contains several adjuvants, which may promote an unknown toxicity. The indiscriminate application poses numerous problems, both for the health of the applicators and consumers, and for the environment, contaminating the soil, water and leading to the death of plants and animals. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) is quickly gaining popularity in behavioral research, because of physiological similarity to mammals, sensitivity to pharmacological factors, robust performance, low cost, short spawning intervals, external fertilization, transparency of embryos through larval stages, and rapid development. The aim of this study was evaluate the effects of glyphosate and Roundup® on behavioral and morphological parameters in zebrafish larvae and adults. Zebrafish larvae at 3 days post-fertilization and adults were exposed to glyphosate (0.01, 0.065, and 0.5 mg/L) or Roundup® (0.01, 0.065, and 0.5 mg/L) for 96 h. Immediately after the exposure, we performed the analysis of locomotor activity, aversive behavior, and morphology for the larvae and exploratory behavior, aggression and inhibitory avoidance memory for adult zebrafish. In zebrafish larvae, there were significant differences in the locomotor activity and aversive behavior after glyphosate or Roundup® exposure when compared to the control group. Our findings demonstrated that exposure to glyphosate at the concentration of 0.5 mg/L, Roundup® at 0.065 or 0.5 mg/L reduced the distance traveled, the mean speed and the line crossings in adult zebrafish. A decreased ocular distance was observed for larvae exposed at 0.5 mg/L of glyphosate. We verified that at 0.5 mg/L of Roundup®-treated adult zebrafish demonstrated a significant impairment in memory. Both glyphosate and Roundup® reduced aggressive behavior. Our data suggest that there are small differences between the effects induced by glyphosate and Roundup®, altering morphological and behavioral parameters in zebrafish, suggesting common mechanisms of toxicity and cellular response.

Glyphosate was first synthesized in 1950 as a potential pharmaceutical compound. It was discovered to be an herbicide by Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970. Unfortunately glyphosate is found in almost all non-organic food crops (think about it when you buy ‘non-organic food’ in the supermarket next time) and the chemical is now ubiquitous in our environment (it has even been detected in the umbilical cord blood of newborns) because it has been used in agriculture for a long time and has spread throughout the environmental systems. The analogy of a drop of ink in a glass of water (cf. osmosis) is appropriate to communicate the concept of chemical dispersion throughout the environment. Its interactions and synergies with other chemical compounds are currently only poorly understood as the majority of studies focus on isolated compounds. However, since the industrial revolution our environment has been bombarded with countless synthetic chemicals an only time will tell what the cumulative effects on biology and life are. Currently nobody knows how all these chemical compounds interact. In other words, humanity is currently conducting a large scale biochemical experiment without any control group (and without ethical permission or consensus by the participants).
Analysis of concentrations of Glyphosate in pregnant versus nonpregnant women (i.e., in maternal and fetal cord blood)

Cattani, D., de Liz Oliveira Cavalli, V. L., Heinz Rieg, C. E., Domingues, J. T., Dal-Cim, T., Tasca, C. I., … Zamoner, A.. (2014). Mechanisms underlying the neurotoxicity induced by glyphosate-based herbicide in immature rat hippocampus: Involvement of glutamate excitotoxicity. Toxicology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.tox.2014.03.001
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Roy, N. M., Carneiro, B., & Ochs, J.. (2016). Glyphosate induces neurotoxicity in zebrafish. Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology, 42, 45–54.

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.etap.2016.01.003
DOI URL
directSciHub download


For further peer-reviewed scientific studies on the numerous reported neurotoxic effects of Glyphosate in the brain see bibliography below

In the USA there are currently ≈580 lawsuits pending against Monsanto (now BAYER). The lead case in The USA is 3:16-md-02741-VC. The first trial in the federal court is set for Feb. 25, 2019 in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. In the UK Glyphosate is unfortunately still completely unregulated and readily available in regular supermarkets where it is advertised as an effective weed killer for gardeners (inter alia). Moreover, it is applied to almost all non-organic food crops (fruits, vegetables, grains, etc.) we all consume on a daily basis. It is impossible to “wash off” Glyphosate because it penetrates deep into the organism after it is topically applied. Moreover, the human body and brain has great difficulty to detox from Glyphosate and it accumulates in the human body and brain over time. The exact longitudinal effects of Glyphosate are hitherto unknown and therefore pose a significant risk to the environment and human health.

URL: usrtk.org/pesticides/mdl-monsanto-glyphosate-cancer-case-key-documents-analysis/

Investigative documentary: The world according to Monsanto



The Monsanto papers – The secret tactics Monsanto used to protect Glyphosate

Lecture on glyphosate by Dr. Seneff

Dr. Stephanie Seneff is a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. 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. For over three decades, her research interests have always been at the intersection of biology and computation – developing a computational model for the human auditory system, understanding human language so as to develop algorithms and systems for human computer interactions, as well as applying natural language processing (NLP) techniques to gene predictions. She has published over 170 refereed articles on these subjects, and has been invited to give keynote speeches at several international conferences. She has also supervised numerous Master’s and PhD theses at MIT.

In recent years, Dr. Seneff has focused her research interests back towards biology. She is concentrating mainly on the relationship between nutrition and health. Since 2011, she has published over 30 papers, together with colleagues, in various peer-reviewed medical and heath-related journals on topics such as modern day diseases (e.g., Alzheimer, autism, cardiovascular diseases), analysis and search of databases of drug side effects using NLP techniques, and the impact of nutritional deficiencies and environmental toxins on human health.

It is noteworthy how Wikipedia editors try to discredit her valid concerns by using cheap ad hominem arguments which do not address the crux of the problem. It is very difficult to add objective information to her Wikipedia entry (this known as “Wikipedia edit wars“).
But see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephanie_Seneff
Cf. www.globalresearch.ca/monsanto-accused-of-hiring-army-of-trolls-to-silence-online-dissent-court-papers/5588396

The Guardian stated the following:

“The internal correspondence noted by Johnson could support a jury finding that Monsanto has long been aware of the risk that its glyphosate-based herbicides are carcinogenic … but has continuously sought to influence the scientific literature to prevent its internal concerns from reaching the public sphere and to bolster its defenses in products liability actions,” Karnow wrote. “Thus there are triable issues of material fact.”
Monsanto “championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies” that revealed dangers of its herbicides, and led a “prolonged campaign of misinformation” to convince government agencies, farmers and consumers that Roundup was safe, according to Johnson’s lawsuit.

URL: www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/22/monsanto-trial-cancer-weedkiller-roundup-dewayne-johnson

“Biotech giant Monsanto is being accused of hiring, through third parties, an army of Internet trolls to counter negative comments, while citing positive “ghost-written” pseudo-scientific reports which downplay the potential risks of their products.”

On a larger scale, Monsanto allegedly

“quietly funnels money to ‘think tanks’ such as the ‘Genetic Literacy Project’ and the ‘American Council on Science and Health”– organizations intended to shame scientists and highlight information helpful to Monsanto and other chemical producers,” according to the plaintiffs.”

URL: www.globalresearch.ca/monsanto-accused-of-hiring-army-of-trolls-to-silence-online-dissent-court-papers/5588396

From a meta-analytic perspective the scientific evidence against the utilisation of Glyphosate is very strong. In addition, synergistic toxicity needs to be taken in account. Such synergies are unfortunately rarely addressed in the scientific literature (and even less frequently in public/political debates). We know that 1 + 1 is not always 2. Specifically, in the domain of chemistry and neurochemistry. Currently, nobody really knows how Glyphosate interacts with the numerous other chemical we unfortunately find in our environments. Even less is known about the longitudinal effects of such synergies. What we do know is that Monsanto has de facto been found guilty for crimes against nature and humanity in the past.
We should be specifically concerned about the potential genotoxic & mutagenic effects (i.e., damage to the human genome is irreversible). That is, the problem does not only concern this generation but the evolution of the species homō sapiēns as a whole (the Latin binomial ironically translates into “the wise/rational man”). Cross-generational responsibility is an important factor of governmental decision-making and it should be weighted accordingly.

As stated above, we are all exposed to Glyphosate on a daily basis (it is sprayed on almost all non-organic crops and it is widely distributed in our environment). Children are specifically susceptible to the detrimental effects because their blood-brain barrier (which filters exogenous substances) is less developed and because their bodies/brains are much smaller than those of adults.
A comparative historical perspective is very informative in this context. Remember that it took decades for the government to respond to the early warnings about tobacco, asbestos, and X-Rays.

The tobacco time line:
•The health effects of tobacco were first debated in 1856 in the medical journal The Lancet
•Dr. Isaac Adler suggested lung cancer was related to smoking in 1912
•A British medical journal published a study in 1950 finding that smokers were 50 times more likely to get lung cancer
•It wasn’t until 1997 that tobacco companies agreed to fund healthcare costs from smoking

cognitive-liberty.online/tabacco-timeline/

The X-Ray time line:
•Thomas Edison noted injuries from X-Rays in 1896
•Edison’s assistant died from X-Ray exposure in 1904
•Fluoroscopes were used in shoe stores to see through shoes to aid proper fitting in 1930
•The deaths of over 200 radiologists from radioactive cancer were published in 1934
•Radiation levels of fluoroscopes were questioned in 1949
•In 1990 the risk of cancer from radiation was found to be five times greater than previously thought

The Asbestos time line:
•A British factory inspector warned of asbestos harm in 1898
•Rat studies raised questions about harmful effects of asbestos dust in 1911
•U.S. insurers refused to cover asbestos worker’s claims in 1918
•From 1935 to 1949 lung cancer was reported in asbestos workers
•Asbestos was finally banned in the U.S. in 1989

Summa summarum, there is robust and substantial scientific evidence that Glyphosate is potentially neurotoxic, genotoxic, & cancerogenic. As can be seen from the timelines above (viz., tabacco, X-Rays, aspestos) it took many decades and untold casualties before those carcinogens were ever properly addressed. Glyphosate is a much bigger toxin than tobacco, X-Rays or asbestos due to the sheer numbers of people who are exposed to this chemical. As pointed out before, there is strong evidence that it has potentially highly detrimental irreversible effects on human genes and their expression. Genetic effects are by definition irreversible and molecular biology is in no position to correct such influences post festum any time soon (despite CRISPR/Cas9 and other gene editing technologies). The human “gene-pool” should be seen as a public good which needs to be protected. Otherwise future generation will pay a very high price for our irresponsible and irrational short-sighted and profit oriented behaviour (which dominates the current climate of profit-oriented neoliberalism). Further, Glyphosate  posses a very stable chemical structure and it lingers in the environment (and the human body/brain) for a very long time. The numbers of people now being affected is enormous (not just in the UK but worlwide). There isn’t enough time for us to wait for our government or industry to come to the realization that a serious problem exists. We know that they will be reluctant to make such an admission (for various reasons which go beyond the scope of this email). Reasonable precautions must be taken now! The evidence is before us. Research studies tell us there is a problem. We cannot afford to wait until industry and government are forced to admit that Glyphosate is dangerous. We did that with tobacco, X-Rays and asbestos.


References

Cattani, D., Cesconetto, P. A., Tavares, M. K., Parisotto, E. B., De Oliveira, P. A., Rieg, C. E. H., … Zamoner, A.. (2017). Developmental exposure to glyphosate-based herbicide and depressive-like behavior in adult offspring: Implication of glutamate excitotoxicity and oxidative stress. Toxicology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.tox.2017.06.001
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Cattani, D., de Liz Oliveira Cavalli, V. L., Heinz Rieg, C. E., Domingues, J. T., Dal-Cim, T., Tasca, C. I., … Zamoner, A.. (2014). Mechanisms underlying the neurotoxicity induced by glyphosate-based herbicide in immature rat hippocampus: Involvement of glutamate excitotoxicity. Toxicology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.tox.2014.03.001
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Cattani, D., Lúcia, V., Oliveira, D. L., Elise, C., Rieg, H., Domingues, J. T., … Zamoner, A.. (2014). Mechanisms underlying the neurotoxicity induced by glyphosate-based herbicide in immature rat hippocampus: Involvement of glutamate excitotoxicity. Toxicology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.tox.2014.03.001
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Coullery, R. P., Ferrari, M. E., & Rosso, S. B.. (2016). Neuronal development and axon growth are altered by glyphosate through a WNT non-canonical signaling pathway. NeuroToxicology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.neuro.2015.12.004
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Gallegos, C. E., Baier, C. J., Bartos, M., Bras, C., Domínguez, S., Mónaco, N., … Minetti, A.. (2018). Perinatal Glyphosate-Based Herbicide Exposure in Rats Alters Brain Antioxidant Status, Glutamate and Acetylcholine Metabolism and Affects Recognition Memory. Neurotoxicity Research

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/s12640-018-9894-2
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Ji, H., Xu, L., Wang, Z., Fan, X., & Wu, L.. (2018). Differential microRNA expression in the prefrontal cortex of mouse offspring induced by glyphosate exposure during pregnancy and lactation. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine

Plain numerical DOI: 10.3892/etm.2017.5669
DOI URL
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Lajmanovich, R. C., Junges, C. M., Attademo, A. M., Peltzer, P. M., Cabagna-Zenklusen, M. C., & Basso, A.. (2013). Individual and mixture toxicity of commercial formulations containing glyphosate, metsulfuron-methyl, bispyribac-sodium, and picloram on rhinella arenarum tadpoles. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/s11270-012-1404-1
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Landrigan, P. J., & Belpoggi, F.. (2018). The need for independent research on the health effects of glyphosate-based herbicides. Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1186/s12940-018-0392-z
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Martínez, M. A., Ares, I., Rodríguez, J. L., Martínez, M., Martínez-Larrañaga, M. R., & Anadón, A.. (2018). Neurotransmitter changes in rat brain regions following glyphosate exposure. Environmental Research

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.10.051
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Menéndez-Helman, R. J., Ferreyroa, G. V., Dos Santos Afonso, M., & Salibián, A.. (2012). Glyphosate as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor in cnesterodon decemmaculatus. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/s00128-011-0423-8
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Negga, R., Rudd, D. A., Davis, N. S., Justice, A. N., Hatfield, H. E., Valente, A. L., … Fitsanakis, V. A.. (2011). Exposure to Mn/Zn ethylene-bis-dithiocarbamate and glyphosate pesticides leads to neurodegeneration in Caenorhabditis elegans. NeuroToxicology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.neuro.2011.02.002
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Negga, R., Stuart, J. A., Machen, M. L., Salva, J., Lizek, A. J., Richardson, S. J., … Fitsanakis, V. A.. (2012). Exposure to glyphosate-and/or Mn/Zn-ethylene-bis-dithiocarbamate-containing pesticides leads to degeneration of c-aminobutyric acid and dopamine neurons in caenorhabditis elegans. Neurotoxicity Research

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/s12640-011-9274-7
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Roy, N. M., Carneiro, B., & Ochs, J.. (2016). Glyphosate induces neurotoxicity in zebrafish. Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.etap.2016.01.003
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Yu, N., Tong, Y., Zhang, D., Zhao, S., Fan, X., Wu, L., & Ji, H.. (2018). Circular RNA expression profiles in hippocampus from mice with perinatal glyphosate exposure. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2018.04.200
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Anthropocene

The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth‘s geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change.[1][2][3][4][5]

As of August 2016, neither the International Commission on Stratigraphy nor the International Union of Geological Sciences has yet officially approved the term as a recognized subdivision of geological time,[3][6][7] although the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) of the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS) of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), voted to proceed towards a formal golden spike (GSSP) proposal to define the Anthropocene epoch in the Geologic Time Scale and presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress on 29 August 2016.[8]

Various different start dates for the Anthropocene have been proposed, ranging from the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution 12,000–15,000 years ago, to as recent as the Trinity test in 1945. As of February 2018, the ratification process continues and thus a date remains to be decided definitively, but the latter date has been more favored than others.

The most recent period of the Anthropocene has been referred to by several authors as the Great Acceleration during which the socioeconomic and earth system trends are increasing dramatically, especially after the Second World War. For instance, the Geological Society termed the year 1945 as The Great Acceleration.[9]

 


Further References

Dirzo, R., Young, H. S., Galetti, M., Ceballos, G., Isaac, N. J. B., & Collen, B.. (2014). Defaunation in the Anthropocene. Science

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1126/science.1251817
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Steffen, W., Crutzen, P. J., & McNeill, J. R.. (2007). The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36[614:TAAHNO]2.0.CO;2
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Lewis, S. L., & Maslin, M. A.. (2015). Defining the Anthropocene. Nature

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1038/nature14258
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Zalasiewicz, J., Waters, C., Summerhayes, C., & Williams, M.. (2018). The Anthropocene. Geology Today

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1111/gto.12244
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Crutzen, P. J.. (2006). The anthropocene. In Earth System Science in the Anthropocene

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/3-540-26590-2_3
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Douglas, I.. (2018). Ecosystems and Human Well-Being. In Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-809665-9.09206-5
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Hughes, T. P., Barnes, M. L., Bellwood, D. R., Cinner, J. E., Cumming, G. S., Jackson, J. B. C., … Scheffer, M.. (2017). Coral reefs in the Anthropocene. Nature

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1038/nature22901
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Steffen, W., Grinevald, J., Crutzen, P., & Mcneill, J.. (2011). The anthropocene: Conceptual and historical perspectives. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2010.0327
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Smith, B. D., & Zeder, M. A.. (2013). The onset of the Anthropocene. Anthropocene

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.ancene.2013.05.001
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Helmus, M. R., Mahler, D. L., & Losos, J. B.. (2014). Island biogeography of the Anthropocene. Nature

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1038/nature13739
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Malhi, Y., Gardner, T. A., Goldsmith, G. R., Silman, M. R., & Zelazowski, P.. (2014). Tropical Forests in the Anthropocene. SSRN

doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-030713-155141

Corlett, R. T.. (2015). The Anthropocene concept in ecology and conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution

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Paul J. Crutzen, & Eugene F. Stoermer. (2000). The “Anthropocene”. Global Change Newsletter

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2007.01564.x
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Van Loon, A. F., Gleeson, T., Clark, J., Van Dijk, A. I. J. M., Stahl, K., Hannaford, J., … Van Lanen, H. A. J.. (2016). Drought in the Anthropocene. Nature Geoscience

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2646
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Lorimer, J.. (2012). Multinatural geographies for the Anthropocene. Progress in Human Geography

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1177/0309132511435352
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Biermann, F., Abbott, K., Andresen, S., Bäckstrand, K., Bernstein, S., Betsill, M. M., … Zondervan, R.. (2012). Navigating the anthropocene: Improving earth system governance. Science

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1126/science.1217255
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Zalasiewicz, J. A. N., Williams, M., Steffen, W., & Crutzen, P.. (2010). The new world of the anthropocene. Environmental Science and Technology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1021/es903118j
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Waters, C. N., Zalasiewicz, J., Summerhayes, C., Barnosky, A. D., Poirier, C., Gałuszka, A., … Wolfe, A. P.. (2016). The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene. Science

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1126/science.aad2622
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Zalasiewicz, J., Williams, M., Haywood, A., & Ellis, M.. (2011). The anthropocene: A new epoch of geological time?. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences

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Zalasiewicz, J., Waters, C. N., Ivar do Sul, J. A., Corcoran, P. L., Barnosky, A. D., Cearreta, A., … Yonan, Y.. (2016). The geological cycle of plastics and their use as a stratigraphic indicator of the Anthropocene. Anthropocene

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Zalasiewicz, J., Waters, C. N., Williams, M., Barnosky, A. D., Cearreta, A., Crutzen, P., … Oreskes, N.. (2015). When did the Anthropocene begin? A mid-twentieth century boundary level is stratigraphically optimal. Quaternary International

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Lewis, S. L., & Maslin, M. A.. (2018). Welcome to the anthropocene. IPPR Progressive Review

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Zalasiewicz, J., Williams, M., Smith, A., Barry, T. L., Coe, A. L., Bown, P. R., … Stone, P.. (2008). Are we now living in the Anthropocene. GSA Today

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SANDERSON, E. W., JAITEH, M., LEVY, M. A., REDFORD, K. H., WANNEBO, A. V., & WOOLMER, G.. (2002). The Human Footprint and the Last of the Wild. BioScience

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Verburg, P. H., Crossman, N., Ellis, E. C., Heinimann, A., Hostert, P., Mertz, O., … Zhen, L.. (2015). Land system science and sustainable development of the earth system: A global land project perspective. Anthropocene

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Website keywords: Liberty of thought; Freedom of thought; Sovereignty of consciousness; Psychological self-determination; Neuroethics, Neurorights; Mental integrity; Psychological continuity; Psycho-cybernetics.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is deeply concerned about this course of action including the disproportionate sentence imposed on Mr. Assange.
Read the official UN statement

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“Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and ilis not afraid … Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.”

~ Nobel laureate Lord Bertrand Russell (1920) “Why Men Fight: A Method of Abolishing the International Duel” pp. 178-179
Full text (ebook) available on the Project Gutenberg:
www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/55610


“It must not be supposed that the officials in charge of education desire the young to become educated. On the contrary, their problem is to impart information without imparting intelligence. Education should have two objects: first, to give definite knowledge — reading and writing, languages and mathematics, and so on; secondly, to create those mental habits which will enable people to acquire knowledge and form sound judgments for themselves. The first of these we may call information, the second intelligence. The utility of information is admitted practically as well as theoretically; without a literate population a modern State is impossible. But the utility of intelligence is admitted only theoretically, not practically; it is not desired that ordinary people should think for themselves, because it is felt that people who think for themselves are awkward to manage and cause administrative difficulties. Only the guardians, in Plato’s language, are to think; the rest are to obey, or to follow leaders like a herd of sheep. This doctrine, often unconsciously, has survived the introduction of political democracy, and has radically vitiated all national systems of education.”

Bertrand Russell (1922) “Free Thought And Official Propaganda”
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A definition of “Cognitive Liberty”

The term “Liberty” is etymologically derived from the Latin libertatem  which can translated as civil or political freedom, condition of a free man; absence of restraint;” cognate to liber “free”. Ex vi termini, “cognitive liberty” is semantically synonymous with “the right to psychological self-determination“. It implies that human creatures have the universal freedom (viz., sui iuris) to control and determine their own psychology, i.e., their cognitive processes, emotions, and all aspects of consciousness. It is thus essential to the universal principle of  freedom of thought (Article 91 of the Human Rights Act 1998) which in turn forms the basis (s.c., a condicio sine qua non) for the right to freedom of speech/expression. As Erich Fromm articulated it: “The right to express our thought, however, means something only if we are able to have our own thoughts; freedom from external authority is a lasting gain only if the inner psychological conditions are such that we are able to establish our own individuality” (Fromm, The fear of freedom, 1942; pp.207-208). Self-determination is a cardinal principle in international law (jus cogens).2 Given the significant recent advances in psychology, the neurosciences, computer science, and artificial intelligence, cognitive liberty is becoming a topic of great concern for all human beings. This website is specifically devoted to this timely topic and provides information from a diversity of sources (an integral interdisciplinary approach is adopted to elucidate the topic from a plurality of perspectives). Insights derived from psychology, the cognitive sciences, and the neurosciences enable the manipulation and control of cognition and consciousness, oftentimes specifically targeting unconscious processes. Moreover, advances in computer science and cybernetics (e.g., Bayesian algorithms/deep learning convolutional neural networks) enable science to systematically tailor and “steer” information (the flow of perceptual input) to affect cognition and emotion (and consequently behavior) in prespecified and highly predictable ways. Especially unconscious psychological processes can be effectively exploited because humans are generally unaware of the programmatic excitability of  unconscious mechanisms. This imbalance creates a power-differential between those who know how the human mind can be manipulated (viz., the financial power elite which utilizes media and a large segment of academic science for their purposes; cf. Mausfeld, 2017) and those who do not posses a detailed understanding of psychological manipulation and behavior modification techniques  (i.e., the general populous).  The list of evolutionarily inbuilt psychological weaknesses (vulnerable psychological  exploits) is long and has been extensively studied by several generations of scientist, specially in the domain of behavioral economics (i.e., Kahneman & Tversky’s “heuristics & biases” research agenda).
The following application provides a synopsis of numerous cognitive biases which are well documented in psychology:

Open ‘Cognitive Bias Codex’ application in a lightbox modal window (you can zoom via the mouse-wheel)
The adumbrated psychological & technological developments are unprecedented in the evolution of the human species and have far-reaching ramifications for life on this planet as a whole because it is obvious that human behavior has a significant detrimental impact on the ‘Earth System’ . The relatively novel terms anthropocene & holocene are used in this context of destruction and mass extinction. These terms refer to an important psychological self-reflective insight science has developed, the insight that human behavior destroys the global ecosystem. Because human behavior is governed by psychology it is crucial that human beings are allowed to think freely in order to be able to choose a more rational course of action. Freedom of thought needs to be fostered. Currently, a large proportion of society is transformed into mindless conformist consumers (i.e., by the mass-media and other cybernetic methods of psychological programing). This manipulative modus operandi seriously impedes the unfoldment of virtuous human potential (contrariwise primitive egocentric cognitive schemata are constantly reinforced in the ego-driven system of consumerism which is based on wish-fulfillment , satisfactions, ingestion, introjection, consumption, competition, comparison, and other egoic human “drives”).  In fact, the term homō consumens has been proposed as a more fitting substitute for homō sapiēns; a clearly self-inflated nomenclature which is etymologically derived from the Latin sapere3and thus translates into the wise or rational man – to be taxonomically exact homō sapiēns sapiēns – which duplicates the anthropocentric hubris.


The boiling frog analogy & Sôritês paradoxon

The boiling frog is an analogy describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is thrown suddenly into boiling hot water, it will immediately jump out. However, if the frog is put in cold water which is then slowly and gradually brought to a boil, it will not perceive the danger, sit still, and will therefore be cooked to death. Applied to human cognition & behavior the analogy could be interpreted as follow: If the environment changes gradually (microgenetically) in an incremental step-wise fashion, humans have great difficulty to recognize the change because each step in the evolution of the system (i.e., the change in the environment) is not drastic at all. However, over an elongated period of time the system changes significantly and the additive long-term effect of numerous small changes have extreme consequences. The question thus is: When does the system change from stable to chaotic, i.e., from “from lukewarm to boiling hot”. Per analogiam, the demarcation criterion between hot versus cold (chaotic versus stable) is not clearly defined. In the cognitive sciences this ambiguity is discussed under the header “vagueness of attributes”.4 In philosophy this is an ancient paradox known as Sôritês paradoxon (or the problem of the heap).5 The paradox is based on the seemingly simple question: When does a heap of sand become a heap? (When does the system “switch” from being life-supporting to deadly.)

Sôritês paradoxon can be expressed as a conditional syllogistic argument (modus ponens). N.B. You can replace the variable “grain of sand” with “toxic chemical molecules” in the context of environmental pollution; or with the “cutting down of trees” in the context of global deforestation; or with the “loss of species” in the context of anthropogenic reduction of biodiversity; et cetera pp.

  • 1 grain of sand does not make a heap.
  • If 1 grain of sand does not make a heap, then 2 grains do not either.
  • If 2 grains do not make a heap, then 3 grains don’t.
  • If 999999,99999 grains do not make a heap, then 1 million grains don’t.
  • ∞ ad infinitum…

Deductive conclusion

Ergo (Therefore)

  • 1 million grains don’t make a heap.

The Bald Man (phalakros) paradox is another allegory which illustrates the point: A man with a full head of hair is not bald. The removal of a single hair will not turn him into a bold man. However, diachronically, continuous repeated removal of single hairs will necessarily result in baldness. However, it is unclear when the “critical boundary” has been transgressed. In the psychology of reasoning this is termed the continuum fallacy. The informal logical fallacy pertains the argument that two states (i.e., cold vs. hot; falsum vs. verum) cannot be defined/quantised as distinct (and/or do not exist at all) because between them there exists a continuum of states (cf. many-valued logic/fuzzy logic). The fundamental question whether any continua exist in the physical world is a deep question in physics (cf. atomism). Deterministic Newtonian physics stipulates that reality is continuous. Per contrast, contemporary quantum physics is based on the notion of discrete states (quanta) as the notion of continuity appears to be invalid at the smallest Planck scale of physical existence.

Conditional Sôritês paradoxon in symbolic logic:

Mathematical Induction Sôritês paradoxon:

In linguistic terms, Sôritês paradoxon has been eloquently formulated by Black in 1937:

A symbol’s vagueness is held to consist in the existence of objects concerning which it is intrinsically impossible to say either that the symbol in question does, or does not, apply. …Reserving the terms of logic and mathematics for separate consideration, we can say that all “material” terms, all whose application requires the recognition of the presence of sensible qualities, are vague in the sense described. — M. Black (Vagueness: an exercise in logical analysis, 1937)

In the context of visual perception (psychophysics) Lord Bertrand Russel stated the following:

It is perfectly obvious, since colours form a continuum, that there are shades of colour concerning which we shall be in doubt whether to call them red or not, not because we are ignorant of the meaning of the word “red”, but because it is a word the extent of whose application is essentially doubtful. — B. Russell (Vagueness, 1923)

Figure 1. Sôritês paradoxon in visual brightness perception.

Figure 1 illustrates Sôritês paradoxon applied to visual perception (based on Russel’s argument). Adjacent luminance differences (e.g., tick-mark 1 versus 2) are indistinguishable by the human visual system while larger contrasts (e.g., tick mark 2 versus 3) are easily distinguishable.

For further information see my 2018 paper entitled: Sôritês paradoxon: Contextualism & borderline vagueness

Expand to display additional pertinent references
Voorhoeve, A., & Binmore, K.. (2006). Transitivity, the Sorites Paradox, and Similarity-Based Decision-making. Erkenntnis

, 64(1), 101–114.
Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/s10670-005-2373-1
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Keefe, R.. (2007). Vagueness Without Context Change. Mind

, 116(462), 275–292.
Plain numerical DOI: 10.1093/mind/fzm275
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Litman, L., & Zelcer, M.. (2013). A cognitive neuroscience, dual-systems approach to the sorites paradox. Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence

, 25(3), 355–366.
Plain numerical DOI: 10.1080/0952813X.2013.783130
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Ludwig, K., & Ray, G.. (2002). Vagueness And The Sorites Paradox. Noûs

, 36(s16), 419–461.
Plain numerical DOI: 10.1111/1468-0068.36.s16.16
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Campbell, R.. (1974). The sorites paradox. Philosophical Studies

, 26(3–4), 175–191.
Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/BF00398877
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Hyde, D.. (2011). Sorites Paradox. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


The etymology of the term “Cognition

See also: www.etymology-of-creativity.ga

Cognition: That which comes to be known, as through perception, reasoning, or intuition; knowledge.

mid-15c., cognicioun, “ability to comprehend, mental act or process of knowing,” from Latin cognitionem (nominative cognitio) “a getting to know, acquaintance, knowledge,” noun of action from past participle stem of cognoscere “to get to know, recognize,” from assimilated form of com“together” (see co-) + gnoscere “to know,” from PIE root *gno- “to know.” In 17c. the meaning was extended to include perception and sensation.

1375–1425; late Middle English cognicioun < Latin cognitiōn- (stem of cognitiō ), equivalent to cognit(us ), past participle of cognōscere ( co- co- + gni-, variant stem of gnōscere, nōscere, to learn (see know) + -tus past participle suffix) + -iōn- -ion

Edaward BernaysWalter LippmannBertold BrechtErich Fromm

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses to take toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons—a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million—who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.” (Edward Bernays, Propaganda, 1928)

  • Bernays, E. L. (1928). Propaganda. Horace Liveright.
  • Bernays, E. L. (1936). Freedom of Propaganda. Vital Speeches of the Day, 2(24), 744–746.
  • L’Etang, J. (1999). The father of spin: Edward L. Bernays and the birth of public relations. Public Relations Review, 25(1), 123–124.

“That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough. . . . [a]s a result of psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication, the practice of democracy has turned a corner. A revolution is taking place, infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power…. Under the impact of propaganda, not necessarily in the sinister meaning of the word alone, the old constants of our thinking have become variables. It is no longer possible, for example, to believe in the original dogma of democracy; that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart. Where we act on that theory we expose ourselves to self-deception, and to forms of persuasion that we cannot verify. It has been demonstrated that we cannot rely upon intuition, conscience, or the accidents of casual opinion if we are to deal with the world beyond our reach. …  The public must be put in its place, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and roar of a bewildered herd.” (Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, Chapter XV)

  • Lippmann, W. (1920). Liberty and the News. Museum.
  • Lippmann, W. (1970). The Phantom Public. Politics.

From 1930 onwards, Brecht became part of a wider complex of projects exploring the role of intellectuals (or “Tuis” as he called them) in a capitalist society. A Tui is an intellectual who sells his or her abilities and opinions as a commodity in the marketplace or who uses them to support the dominant ideology of an oppressive society. ] The German modernist theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht invented the term and used it in a range of critical and creative projects, including the material that he developed in the mid-1930s for his so-called Tui-Novel—an unfinished satire on intellectuals in the German Empire and Weimar Republic—and his epic comedy from the early 1950s, Turandot or the Whitewashers’ Congress. The word is a neologism that results from the acronym of a word play on “intellectual” (“Tellekt-Ual-In”).
According to Clark (2006):
“… the critique of intellectuals which Brecht developed… around the notion of ‘Tuismus’ engages a model of the public intellectual in which the self-image of the artist and thinker as a socially and politically engaged person corresponded to the expectations of the public.”

  • Clark, M. W. (2006). Hero or villain? Bertolt Brecht and the crisis surrounding June 1953. Journal of Contemporary History.
  • Hunt, T. C. N.-. (2004). Goodbye to Berlin:  For 200 years, German thinkers have shaped British intellectual life – but their influence is fading fast. The Guardian.

“It is very useful to differentiate between rational and irrational authority. By irrational authority I mean authority exercised by fear and pressure on the basis of emotional submission. This is the authority of blind obedience, the authority you will find most clearly expressed in all totalitarian countries.

But there is another kind of authority, rational authority by which I mean any authority which is based on competence and knowledge, which permits criticism, which by its very nature tends to diminish, but which is not based on the emotional factors of submission and masochism, but on the realistic recognition of the competence of the person for a certain job.”

― 1958. The Moral Responsibility of Modern Man, in: Merrill-Palmer. Quarterly of Behavior and Development, Detroit, Vol. 5, p. 6.


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Further References

Ienca, M., & Andorno, R.. (2017). Towards new human rights in the age of neuroscience and neurotechnology. Life Sciences, Society and Policy, 13(1), 5.

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1186/s40504-017-0050-1
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Rose, N., & Abi-Rached, J.. (2014). Governing through the Brain: Neuropolitics, Neuroscience and Subjectivity. The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.3167/ca.2014.320102
DOI URL
directSciHub download

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