The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Alarming Levels of Glyphosate Found in Popular American Foods
By Carey Gillam
Independent tests on an array of popular American food products found many samples contained residue levels of the weed killer glyphosate. The nonprofit organizations behind the tests—Food Democracy Now and The Detox Project—released a report Monday that details the findings. The groups are calling for corporate and regulatory action to address consumer safety concerns.
According to the report, the herbicide residues were found in cookies, crackers, popular cold cereals and chips commonly consumed by children and adults. The testing was completed at Anresco, a U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) registered lab and used liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS), a method widely considered by the scientific community and regulators as the most reliable for analyzing glyphosate residues.
The announcement of the private tests comes as the FDA is struggling with its own efforts to analyze how much of the herbicide residues might be present in certain foods. Though the FDA routinely tests foods for other pesticide residues, it never tested for glyphosate until this year. However, the testing for glyphosate residues was suspended last week.
Glyphosate has been under the spotlight since the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the herbicide as a probable human carcinogen last year. Glyphosate is the world's most widely used herbicide and is the key ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup and hundreds of other products. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finalizing a risk assessment for glyphosate to determine if future use should be limited.
The tests conducted by Anresco were done on 29 foods commonly found on grocery store shelves. According to the report, glyphosate residues were found in:
- General Mills' Cheerios at 1,125.3 parts per billion (ppb)
- Kashi soft-baked oatmeal dark chocolate cookies at 275.57 ppb
- Ritz Crackers at 270.24 ppb
Different levels were found in Kellogg's Special K cereal, Triscuit Crackers and several other products. The report notes that for some of the findings, the amounts were "rough estimates at best and may not represent an accurate representation of the sample." The food companies did not respond to a request for comment.
"Frankly, such a high level of glyphosate contamination found in Cheerios, Doritos, Oreos and Stacy's Pita Chips are alarming and should be a wake-up call for any parent trying to feed their children safe, healthy and non-toxic food," Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now!," said.
The EPA sets a "maximum residue limit" (MRL), also known as a tolerance, for pesticide residues on food commodities, like corn and soybeans. MRLs for glyphosate vary depending upon the commodity. Finished food products like those tested at Anresco might contain ingredients from many different commodities.
The nonprofits behind the report said that concerns about glyphosate comes as new research shows that Roundup can cause liver and kidney damage in rats at only 0.05 ppb, and additional studies have found that levels as low as 10 ppb can have toxic effects on the livers of fish.
"With increasing evidence from a growing number of independent peer-reviewed studies from around the world showing that the ingestion of glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup can result in a wide range of chronic illnesses, it's urgent that regulators at the EPA reconsider the allowed levels of glyphosate in American's food and work to limit continued exposure to this pervasive chemical in as large a section of the human population as possible," Dr. Michael Antoniou, a molecular geneticist from London, UK, said in reaction to the report released Monday.
"The information gathered by this glyphosate food testing project is very timely and provides valuable information for consumers, elected officials and scientists, like myself, in evaluating the toxicity of real world levels of exposure to this most widely used pesticide," Antoniou continued.
The groups criticized U.S. regulators for setting an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for glyphosate at much higher levels than other countries consider safe. The U.S. has set the ADI for glyphosate at 1.75 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight per day (mg/kg/bw/day) while the European Union has set it at 0.3. The EPA is supposed to set an ADI from all food and water sources that is at least 100 times lower than levels that have been demonstrated to cause no effect in animal testing. But critics assert that the EPA has been unduly influenced by the agrichemical industry.
The groups said that the federal government should conduct an investigation into the "harmful effects of glyphosate on human health and the environment," and the relationships between regulators and the agrichemical industry that has long touted the safety of glyphosate.
"It's time for regulators at the EPA and the White House to stop playing politics with our food and start putting the wellbeing of the American public above the profits of chemical companies like Monsanto," Murphy said.
Monsanto has repeatedly said that there are no legitimate safety concerns regarding glyphosate when it is used as intended, and that toxicological studies in animals have demonstrated that glyphosate does not cause cancer, birth defects, DNA damage, nervous system effects, immune system effects, endocrine disruption or reproductive problems. The company, which has been reaping roughly $5 billion a year from glyphosate-based products, said any glyphosate residues in food are too minimal to be harmful.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the FDA have echoed Monsanto's reassurances in the past, citing the chemical's proven safety as justification for not including glyphosate residue testing in annual programs that test thousands of food products each year for hundreds of different types of pesticides. But the lack of routine government monitoring has made it impossible for consumers or regulators to determine what levels of glyphosate are present in foods, which has raised many questions about the safety of the chemical.
A key reason glyphosate residues persist in so many food products has to do with its widespread use in food production. Glyphosate is sprayed directly on many crops genetically engineered to tolerate the herbicide, such as corn, soybeans, sugar beets and canola. Glyphosate is also sprayed directly on many types of conventional crops ahead of harvest, including wheat, oats and barley. In all, glyphosate is used in some fashion in the production of at least 70 food crops, according to the EPA, including a range of fruits, nuts and veggies. Even spinach growers use glyphosate.
The groups that released the report are calling for a permanent ban on the use of glyphosate as a pre-harvest drying agent because of the residue levels.
A recent analysis done by a senior FDA chemist found glyphosate residues in several types of oatmeal products, including baby food, and in several honey samples. The glyphosate residues found in honey were higher than allowed in the European Union.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.