In a past post, we talked about Roundup—the world’s most common weedkiller. In that article, we discussed the emerging evidence around its adverse impacts on human health.
Since that article, US courts have issued decisions linking glyphosate—the active ingredient in Roundup—to cancer, and countries like Germany and France have begun the process of banning or phasing out the herbicide. Bayer, which acquired Monsanto (the maker of Roundup) in 2018, has also set aside nearly $11 billion to settle glyphosate-related lawsuits.
This past summer, in the wake of these suits, the company announced it will be removing all glyphosate-based products from retail stores by 2023.
While this announcement is significant, this stuff isn’t likely to disappear quickly. And removing glyphosate from retail stores doesn’t mean that farmers won’t continue spraying it on their fields.
Indeed, the agricultural industry has become heavily reliant on this herbicide over the past half century. Its popularity stems largely from Roundup Ready crops. In the 1970s, when Roundup first appeared on the market, Monsanto created crops genetically engineered to survive glyphosate. These glyphosate-resistant—or Roundup Ready—crops allowed farmers to spray their fields and kill nearly everything but the crop. Fast forward, and millions of pounds of glyphosate are doused on our crops every year.
But what goes around comes around: glyphosate isn’t only on our lawns, parks, and fields—it’s also in our food.
That’s right. Lab tests of common cereals, hummus brands, and granola bars found residual levels of glyphosate in the majority of brands. It’s also in our bodies: a study published earlier this year found that 99.8% of urine samples from nearly 7,000 individuals in France contained glyphosate.
So, what levels of glyphosate are safe for consumption? Depends on who you ask.
The EPA’s current regulatory limit for glyphosate in food ranges from 0.1 to 400 parts per million (ppm). The limit for oats, for example, is 30 ppm. The Environmental Working Group (EWG)—a nonprofit research and advocacy group for environmental public health—considers 160 parts per billion (ppb) the safe limit for human consumption, a threshold much lower than EPA guidelines. The World Health Organization considers glyphosate “probably carcinogenic to humans,” whereas the US EPA has found glyphosate “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” Ultimately, there is no consensus in the scientific community about what level of glyphosate consumption or exposure—if any—is safe, and more research is needed.
In the absence of more stringent regulations and clarity around this herbicide’s toxicity, the burden of safety falls largely on food manufacturers. As with food allergens, routine testing and warnings are key to ensuring our food’s safety. Who knows, maybe someday soon the Amulet will be testing our food supply for glyphosate. 😉
— Abi and the Allergy Amulet Team
Allergy Amulet CEO, Abigail Barnes, holds a Master of Environmental Management from Yale University and a JD from Vermont Law School. She is a licensed attorney and previously worked as a paralegal at the law firm that collaborates with Erin Brockovich to identify environmental class action lawsuits.