Concern over glyphosate in food has become a major topic the last couple years. After the EWG released their report regarding glyphosate in food, many people have become wary of the food products they were purchasing. But it isn’t just cereals and granola bars people have to worry about. According to a new study published in February of 2019, people now need to start being concerned about glyphosate in beer and wine.
The results of the study come on the heels of a study conducted just a few years back. Ten different wine samples were sent to the Microbe Infotech Lab of St. Louis, and they found that both conventional and organic wines were tainted with glyphosate (1). The new study, conducted by the education group, U.S. PIRG, confirms these findings.
Glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup are some of the most commonly used agricultural chemicals in the world. The concerns surrounding the chemical aren’t far-fetched, and as we continually see organic products coming up as positive for glyphosate, it makes us question – are any foods safe from this dangerous chemical?
Barley, Grape Crops Highly Contaminated
One of the best ways of telling whether your favorite foods have been contaminated with glyphosate is by looking at crop statistics. In fact, glyphosate-based herbicides are widely used in some of the most popular foods consumed today. Wheat, soy, almonds, corn, you name it. The crops also don’t have to be deemed “Roundup ready” in order to be sprayed.
Glyphosate is often used as a pre-harvest herbicide and harvest aid on cereal crops like wheat, oats and vegetable seed oils like canola and sunflower. It is also used as weed control on crops like oranges and grapes.
As an aside here, let’s just keep in mind that the term “weed” is a human construct, derived from our interactions with these plants. While weeds do innately compete with our desired plants for nutrients, water and space, that doesn’t mean they aren’t necessary. Maybe it’s time farmers and all those who garden start working with nature as opposed to against it. It is only then that we’ll see better results for both ourselves, and the environment.
Back to crops sprayed with glyphosate. If you take a look at this chart from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you’ll see that barley crops are sprayed with over 600,000 pounds of glyphosate annually, and grapes are sprayed with over 1,500,000 pounds of glyphosate, annually.
As you might already know, barley is the crop used to make beer, and grapes are the crop used to make wine. With this information in mind, it is of no surprise to me that most wine and beer samples contain glyphosate.
Glyphosate in Beer and Wine
To explore how much Roundup the average person drinks, the U.S. PIRG tested 15 beers and 5 wines for glyphosate, the weedkiller’s active ingredient. Of the 20 samples tested, all but ONE contained glyphosate, and 3 out of 4 organic beers and wines contained glyphosate.
The testing results revealed the following. Glyphosate was measured in parts per billion (ppb). Also, keep in mind that while this list is not complete, it is reasonable to assume that almost all conventional wines contain some level of glyphosate.
Glyphosate in Wines
1. Sutter Home Merlot: 51.4 ppb
2. Beringer Founders Estates Moscato: 42.6 ppb
3. Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon: 36.3 ppb
4. Inkarri Malbec: Certified Organic: 5.3 ppb
5. Frey Organic Natural White: 4.8 ppb
Glyphosate in Beer
1. Tsingtao Beer: 49.7 ppb
2. Coors Light: 31.1 ppb
3. Miller Lite: 29.8 ppb
4. Budweiser: 27 ppb
5. Corona Extra: 25.1 ppb
6. Heineken: 20.9 ppb
7. Guinness Draught: 20.3 ppb
8. Stella Artois: 18.7 ppb
9. Ace Perry Hard Cider: 14.5 ppb
10. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: 11.8 ppb
11. New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale: 11.2 ppb
12. Sam Adams New England IPA: 11 ppb
13. Stella Artois Cidre: 9.1 ppb
14. Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager: 5.7 ppb
15. Peak Beer Organic IPA: no detected level
The highest level of glyphosate found in PIRG’s samples was 51 ppb. You might be asking – how is this allowed? Doesn’t the government protect our food from dangerous, cancer-causing chemicals? The answer is yes, they do, but the real question is why they’re allowing this chemical in our food at all. Is there really any safe limit for a chemical that is labelled as a Group 2A carcinogen, aka. “probable human carcinogen”?
Is Any Level of Glyphosate Safe?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safety limit for glyphosate is 100 times greater than the amounts found in the beer and wine samples. The EPA doesn’t actually have a limit for the levels of glyphosate in beer and wine, but they do allow glyphosate residues on over 150 different food and feed crops at levels of 0.2 to 400 ppm (200 to 400,000 ppb) (2).
While these amounts are much higher than that found in wine and beer, there is the concern of how much wine and beer people are drinking. Since some people drink a large quantity of beer and wine in one sitting, they should be cautious of the levels of glyphosate they may be potentially consuming.
A new study, called The Global Glyphosate Study, set out to determine whether the levels of the toxic chemical set as “safe” by the U.S. EPA are actually safe. What they found was that the amounts set as safe by the EPA are not actually safe. Instead, they’re linked to microbiome imbalances and damage to DNA (known as genotoxicity). The results occurred even when there were small exposures to the pesticide for short periods of time.
A strong and healthy microbiome is essential for good physical and mental health, so adding glyphosate into the mix can seriously interfere with how our body feels and functions.
Curiously enough, the EPA banned glyphosate over 30 years ago, but then mysteriously reversed its decision after studies were put out by Monsanto “proving” glyphosate’s safety. There is even evidence to suggest that these studies were faked for the benefit of Monsanto and corporate greed over sale of their products. The records suggest that Monsanto may have ghostwritten the so-called “independent” research. The documents also imply that a senior level official at the EPA may have worked to cover up a review of the safety of the company’s glyphosate-based herbicides.
It could very well be the case that many of the studies we see today regarding glyphosate’s “safety” are not reflecting true results. This is actually the case for many scientific studies that sway their results for the benefit of the researcher, and/or the companies and institutions that fund such studies.
Dangers of Glyphosate
A recent study released by the University of Washington showed that you’re 40 percent more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after glyphosate exposure. They found that even small amounts of the chemical in our foods and drinks is concerning.
“Our analysis focused on providing the best possible answer to the question of whether or not glyphosate is carcinogenic,” said Leanne Sheppard, a professor in the UW departments of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences and Biostatistics (3). “As a result of this research, I am even more convinced that it is.”
Research shows that even 1 part per trillion has potential to stimulate breast cancer cell growth and hormone disruption (4). Other studies have also confirmed how glyphosate negatively effects the endocrine system (5), and causes hemolysis and hemoglobin oxidation in human blood cells in the lab (6).
In one Statement of Concern, published in the journal Environmental Toxicology in 2016, the authors noted that:
1. Products containing glyphosate contaminate drinking water sources, precipitation, and air, especially in agricultural regions.
2. The half-life of glyphosate in water and soil is longer than previously recognized.
3. Glyphosate and its metabolites are widely present in the global soybean supply.
4. Human exposures to glyphosate-based herbicides are rising.
5. Glyphosate is now authoritatively classified as a probable human carcinogen.
6. Regulatory estimates of tolerable daily intakes for glyphosate in the United States and European Union are based on outdated science.
It isn’t just glyphosate that’s the problem. In fact, it is often the case that the adjuvants added to glyphosate-based herbicides are more toxic, and more harmful, than glyphosate itself. It is problematic, given that not many people talk about the other chemicals involved in these different herbicides and pesticides.
Two studies determined that herbicides like Roundup, were more likely to cause cell-cycle dysregulation, a hallmark of cancer, than glyphosate alone (7, 8). Not only that, but a study published in 2009 showed that some formulations of Roundup were more toxic to human umbilical, embryonic, and placental cells than glyphosate by itself (9).
Two human health researchers, Dr. Sarah Gunatilake and Dr. Channa Jayasumana have published papers linking glyphosate exposure to chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu) in Sri Lankan farmers. Their paper “Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka?” was published in 2014. This was followed up by two more studies in 2015, which found people who drank water from wells where glyphosate and heavy metal concentrations were higher had a fivefold increased risk of CKDu.
The researchers have always taken a strong stance against glyphosate-based herbicides, highlighting the dangers of herbicide adjuvants. In a 2018 article published in the Daily Mirror, Gunatilake noted that adjuvants added to glyphosate-based herbicides “are 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate itself.” He then said:
The point I’m trying to raise is that glyphosate without adjuvants is not very useful. Therefore, manufacturers have added these toxic chemicals into glyphosate and nobody is talking about them! Over the last 25 years, the pesticide industry had us hoodwinked by referring only to glyphosate and not to the adjuvants or additives included in these herbicides.
There is more than enough evidence pointing to the fact that we shouldn’t be needlessly exposing ourselves to glyphosate. And while as a people, we have the power to stop using these chemicals on our lawns, we don’t necessarily have power over glyphosate used by farmers. It is the agricultural use of glyphosate-based herbicides that create scenarios like glyphosate ending up in organic crops. Once these herbicides and pesticides start tainting organic crops, what do we have left? And what about those who can’t afford organic?
Glyphosate Global Contamination
Roundup, and generic versions of it, have become the most widely used agricultural chemicals in history. Over 1.8 million tons of glyphosate have been used in the United States since it was introduced back in 1974. Worldwide, nearly 9.4 million tons of the chemical have been used on crops as of 2014 (10).
It’s no wonder, then, why the herbicide is showing up in our food and bodies. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association measured levels of glyphosate in the urine of one hundred people. The study subjects were involved in the study since the 1970’s, which allowed the researchers to go back and look at historical and current levels of glyphosate in urine over decades. They found that in the years from 1993-1996, there was around 0.024 ug/L of glyphosate in urine. In between the years of 2014 and 2016, the levels spiked dramatically to around 0.314 ug/L of glyphosate in urine.
As weeds become more and more resistant to Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides, stronger formulas, and more frequent sprayings become necessary. As we are exposed to higher levels of glyphosate, concentrations of the chemical build up in the body over time. This could mean dangerous consequences not only for our health, but the health of the planet.
One recent study by the U.S. government sampled waterways in 38 states, and found glyphosate in the majority of rivers, streams, ditches and wastewater treatment plants tested. It also found in 70% of rainfall samples (11).
Risk of overspray from other farms and contamination through rainfall or irritation water is the main reason why we’re seeing glyphosate-positive tests coming from organically grown food and beverage products. This doesn’t mean that organic is necessarily bad. We often see that if an organic product is tainted with glyphosate, the levels are significantly lower than that found in conventional produce. For example, conventional wine was found with over 51.4 ppb of glyphosate, whereas organic wine was found with a mere 4.8 ppb. Organic will always be the better choice.
Frey Vineyards, the nation’s first certified organic winery, was the organic wine that tested positive for low levels of glyphosate. In a statement, Frey said its farming practices have never included the use of chemical herbicides, including glyphosate. “Sadly, glyphosate in trace amounts is now found in rainwater across the country because of its application to conventionally farmed agricultural land,” the farm stated. “Glyphosate in trace amounts can be found in many food products across the United States. We urge consumers to speak up to ban all use of glyphosate.”
This highlights the fact that we can’t avoid glyphosate, period, until a regulatory action or permanent ban is put into effect. The best we can do, until then, is choose organic products. Even growing your own food is fed and supplied by waterways that are tainted with glyphosate.
While it is difficult to battle up against such massive corporations as Monsanto (now Bayer), there are many groups working to ban glyphosate and other pesticides and herbicides. The Environmental Working Group, CALPIRG, and Avaaz are some organizations working to ban this dangerous chemical. I urge each and every one of you to support these groups and opt for certified organic farming. Voting with your dollar is an incredibly effective means of letting the government know that we won’t stand for anything less.
In the meantime, you can check out my article on how to remove glyphosate from the body.