Ben & Jerry's announced it will stop using ingredients made with crops that are chemically dried with glyphosate—the primary ingredient in Monsanto's widely used Roundup weedkiller—and will source 100 percent organic dairy following reports that several of its flavors tested positive for the controversial chemical.
In a statement, the company said it was "disappointed" to learn of the test results even though only very low and "safe levels" were detected.
"We were disappointed to learn that recent testing in the United States and Europe revealed trace levels of the commonly-used herbicide glyphosate in several of our flavors. Disappointed, but not totally surprised," the company said. "Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in agriculture and is everywhere—from mainstream food, to natural and organic food, and even rainwater—and that's the issue."
The chemical caught the world's attention back in 2015 when the World Health Organization's cancer assessment arm classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans."
Monsanto has vehemently denied the cancer link and argues its product is safe.
Ben & Jerry's has a track record of supporting sustainable food systems. For instance, the ice cream brand only uses cage-free eggs, sources fair trade ingredients, has banned genetically modified organisms (GMO) ingredients by origin and supports mandatory labeling of GMOs. The milk and cream it uses comes from family farmers who do not treat their cows with the synthetic hormone rBGH.
Last year, the Burlington, Vermont-based company introduced a line of certified vegan ice cream made with almond milk not just satisfy the lactose-intolerant crowd, but environmentally conscious ice cream lovers, too.
"At Ben & Jerry's, we've worked hard to be responsive to our fans' desire for a more sustainable and less industrialized kind of farming," the company said. "That's why we've taken many steps over the years to move towards a less chemically intensive and more transparent food system."
The company detailed two steps it is taking:
1. No more ingredients using glyphosate-dried crops. Ingredients like wheat and oats are commonly sprayed with glyphosate as a drying agent before harvest. This practice is the most common and likely pathway for the presence of glyphosate in the food system. By no later than 2020, we will stop sourcing ingredients that have been made with crops chemically dried using glyphosate. We understand and share our fans' desire to limit the amount of chemicals in the food system, which is why this step is important. In addition, we intend to advocate for policies that would end use of glyphosate as a chemical drying agent.
2. Sourcing organic dairy. We are excited to bring an innovative, new product line to market in 2018 that will source 100% organic dairy in the base mix. We believe this sends an important signal to our fans and suppliers of our support for a more sustainable approach to agriculture. We anticipate our new line will represent up to 6% of our total U.S. sales.