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Quaker Oats Accused of Being 'Deceptive and Misleading' After Glyphosate Detected in Oatmeal
PepsiCo Inc.'s Quaker Oats has been accused of false advertising by a group of consumers in New York, California and Illinois, who have filed a class action lawsuit challenging the company's claim of being "100 Percent Natural" despite having traces of the weedkiller glyphosate found in its famous oatmeal.
According to the complaint, glyphosate allegedly made its way into Quaker Oats "not simply because it is used as an agricultural weed killer, but because it is sprayed on the oats as a drying agent shortly before harvest."
The plaintiffs, who are seeking refunds from PepsiCo., are not accusing Quaker of illegally using glyphosate but that its “100 Percent Natural" claim is "false, deceptive and misleading" since it contains the controversial chemical.
Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's flagship herbicide Roundup, was declared a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) last year.
“Quaker knows that consumers seek out and wish to purchase whole, natural foods that do not contain chemicals, and that consumers will pay more for foods that they believe to be natural," the court document states.
Bloomberg noted that in 1997, "Quaker Oats oatmeal became the first food product to be allowed by the Food and Drug Administration to carry the claim that it was healthy, according to a study that examined the marketing of health foods."
Quaker advertises its popular whole grain oats for its "wholesome goodness." However, as the complaint states:
No reasonable consumer, seeing these representations, would expect Quaker Oats to contain anything unnatural, or anything other than whole, rolled oats.
Quaker Oats, despite their labels, do contain something other than whole, rolled oats; namely, Quaker Oats contain glyphosate.
Glyphosate is not “Natural" or “100 Percent Natural." Glyphosate is a synthetic biocide and probable human carcinogen, with additional health dangers rapidly becoming known.
Quaker issued a defense to the New York Times, stating, "Any levels of glyphosate that may remain are trace amounts and significantly below any limits which have been set by the EPA as safe for human consumption."
The New York Times reported that in a test paid for by lawyers for the plaintiffs, the Richman Law Group, glyphosate was detected at a level of 1.18 parts per million in a sample of Quaker Oats Quick 1-Minute, or 4 percent of the 30 parts per million that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows in cereal grains.
Glyphosate is the most widely used agricultural herbicide in the world. Farmers sprayed 2.6 billion pounds of Monsanto's glyphosate herbicide on U.S. agricultural land between 1992 and 2012, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The chemical has been detected in several products, from alcoholic beverages and even women's hygiene products. Last month, the Alliance for Natural Health-USA released the results of food safety testing conducted on an assortment of popular breakfast foods, revealing that glyphosate was found in 10 of the 24 food samples tested, including oatmeal, bagels, eggs (including the organic variety), potatoes and even non-GMO soy coffee creamer.
Monsanto has vehemently denied the cancer claims of its blockbuster product and has demanded a retraction of the IARC report.
“Regulatory agencies have reviewed all the key studies examined by IARC—and many more—and arrived at the overwhelming consensus that glyphosate poses no unreasonable risks to humans or the environment when used according to label instructions," the company states on its website.
For instance, in November, the European Food Safety Authority rejected the IARC's classification of glyphosate as a possible carcinogen, declaring that the ingredient is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans."
And on Friday, the EPA published a report online that concluded glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.
However, the document was pulled on Monday. According to Reuters, the agency said that the document was inadvertently published and it had not finished the review of the chemical.
Unsurprisingly, Monsanto is pleased with the release of the document, telling Reuters after the documents had been removed that they were "clearly labeled and signed as the final report of EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee."
Monsanto's chief technology officer Robb Fraley tweeted, "EPA declares (again) that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is not a carcinogen."
He added, “This is the EPA's highest ranking for product safety—they also do nice job of explaining all of IARC's mistakes."
The Center for Biological Diversity, however, has issued a statement accusing the EPA of relying heavily on "industry-funded studies that have not undergone public scrutiny" for its draft analysis whereas the IARC used publicly available research for its own study. The nonprofit conservation organization also pointed out that the IARC took into account studies on actual products that are available on store shelves, while the EPA ignored those studies to focus solely on studies that tested glyphosate as a single ingredient.
“EPA's determination that glyphosate is non-carcinogenic is disappointing, but not terribly surprising—industry has been manipulating this process for years," Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “The analysis done by the World Health Organization is more open and transparent and remains the gold standard."
A lawyer representing the New York consumers in the Quaker Oats lawsuit told Bloomberg that the contrary opinions from government agencies will not affect the suit because their complaint centers on advertising claims rather than the levels of the herbicide in Quaker Oats.
Monsanto is facing a growing number of lawsuits over its widely popular product, including a wrongful death lawsuit filed in March by the widow of a Cambria, California farmer alleging that the St. Louis-based company had known for years that exposure to glyphosate could cause cancer and other serious illnesses or injuries.
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Tensions are continuing to rise in Canada over a controversial pipeline project as protesters enter their 12th day blockading railways, demonstrating on streets and highways, and paralyzing the nation's rail system
Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
- Is California heading for another drought? - Los Angeles Times ›
- CA wildfire season: Will rain, snow weather forecast end risk? | The ... ›
- California Fires Now Rage All Year as Drought Creates Tinderbox ... ›
- California weather stays dry as rain and snow come up short | The ... ›
- California Emerged From Drought and Is Still Catching Fire - The ... ›
A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?