People of a certain age probably remember a time when eating bread, pasta and other foods made from wheat flour wasn’t a problem. Then suddenly, about 15 years ago, the term “gluten intolerance” entered the everyday lexicon. Not coincidentally, it was about 25 years ago that the amount of glyphosate used on food crops began to increase dramatically.

In a 2016 report originally published in Environmental Sciences Europe, agricultural economist Charles Benbrook pointed out that “Two-thirds of the total volume of glyphosate applied in the U.S. from 1974 to 2014 has been sprayed in just the last 10 years.”

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the Monsanto product Roundup, which is typically sprayed on GMO crops such as maize, soybeans and cotton. However, it has also been sprayed on wheat, a non-GMO crop. Between 1990 and 2014, the total amount of glyphosate sprayed on wheat increased by nearly 4000%, rising from approximately 420,000 pounds to nearly 16.6 million.

According to a 2012 survey from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS, an agency within the USDA), two-thirds of winter wheat and nearly all spring wheat (including durum) are treated with herbicides – and most of those contain glyphosate.

Considering that wheat is not a GMO crop, the question is: why glyphosate?

Dr. Stephanie Seneff began researching this question a few years ago. Seneff, a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been studying the effects of Monsanto’s Roundup on human health. Last year, she discovered a direct connection between the growing use of glyphosate and alarming increase in autism.

In the course of her research, she found that farmers have been spraying their wheat crops just prior to harvest in order to (A) kill off the plants once the grain has been harvested, thus making it easier to clear the field for the next crop, and (B) exposing the wheat to glyphosate causes the dying plant to release more seeds, meaning increased yields. In addition, glyphosate kills rye grass, which most wheat farmers consider a nuisance (although it assists in re-balancing the soil – something farmers don’t always consider).

The bottom line: glyphosate is present in virtually all wheat products sold in the U.S. This chemical destroys beneficial “gut flora,” which in turn negatively affects both digestion and immune function. Last year, Dr. Seneff said, “I just do not understand how the U.S. government refuses to acknowledge that we’re basically slowly poisoning and killing our population.” Of course, that was before the present Administration took over. Now, the answer to Seneff’s question is abundantly clear – they are fully aware that glyphosate is poisoning people, but since there are corporate profits at stake, they simply don’t care.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.