Update: last updated November 14, 2018 to reflect the latest test results from EWG in late October.
Concern over glyphosate in food is on the rise after Monsanto was found guilty in covering up their cancer-causing product, Roundup. Monsanto has been under scrutiny ever since they were ordered to pay $289 million in damages to plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson.
Just after the first successful trial in taking down Monsanto, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a haunting report on the levels of glyphosate in food. According to the independent laboratory tests commissioned by the EWG, popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars come with a heavy dose of the cancer-causing weedkiller, Roundup.
Why Should We Care About Glyphosate in Food?
Glyphosate is the main ingredient found in the popular weed-killer Roundup. Back in 2015, a famous study published by the International Agency for Research of Cancer (IARC) came to the conclusion that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans (1).”
The link between glyphosate and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is particularly strong. One study, published in 2008 by Swedish researchers, found that exposure to glyphosate tripled the risk of a subtype of non-Hodgkin called small lymphocytic lymphoma (2).
Another study published in 2003 showed a suggestive link between glyphosate-based herbicide use and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The more pesticides a subject used, the more non-Hodgkin lymphoma incidences increased. Subjects who used five or more of the nine pesticides were “twice as likely to be NHL cases than controls (3).”
Glyphosate also interferes with the ability of a plant to uptake nutrients from the soil. Glyphosate, which is a patented chelating agent, binds with nutrients in the soil, and prevents plants from absorbing them. It also acts as an antibiotic (7), which can kill bacteria both in the soil, and our own guts (both of which are incredibly important for plant and human health).
Regardless of the evidence, Monsanto still states that “Glyphosate has a 40-year history of safe and effective use. In evaluations spanning those four decades, the overwhelming conclusion of experts worldwide, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been that glyphosate can be used safely.” Despite the lawsuit, it seems Monsanto is still in denial.
Products and Brands Filled with Glyphosate
Aside from the EWG report on glyphosate in food, other companies have also done independent testing for glyphosate residues in everyday food products. In 2016, Food Democracy Now! and The Detox Project commissioned tests that found high levels of glyphosate in many American foods – even products that are certified organic or non-GMO.
Below is a complete list of foods that contain glyphosate residues. I’ve combined data from both the report EWG released, as well as the reports released from Food Democracy Now! and the group’s “Detox Project.”
EWG Report (source):
– Back to Nature Classic Granola
– Quaker Simply Granola Oats, Honey, Raisins & Almonds
– Back to Nature Banana Walnut Granola Clusters
– Nature Valley Granola Protein Oats ‘n Honey
– KIND Vanilla, Blueberry Clusters with Flax Seeds
• Instant Oats
– Giant Instant Oatmeal, Original Flavor
– Quaker Dinosaur Eggs, Brown Sugar, Instant Oatmeal
– Umpqua Oats, Maple Pecan
– Market Pantry Instant Oatmeal, Strawberries & Cream
• Oat Breakfast Cereal
– Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal
– Lucky Charms
– Barbara’s Multigrain Spoonfuls, Original, Cereal
– Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran oat cereal
• Snack Bars
– KIND Oats & Honey with Toasted Coconut
– Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars, Oats ‘n Honey
– Quaker Chewy Chocolate Chip granola bar
– Kellogg’s Nutrigrain Soft Baked Breakfast Bars, Strawberry
• Whole Oats
– Quaker Steel Cut Oats
– Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
– Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats
– Nature’s Path Organic Old Fashioned Organic Oats
– Whole Foods Bulk Bin conventional rolled oats
– Bob’s Red Mill Organic Old Fashioned Rolled Oats (4 samples tested)
EWG Second Report (source):
– Quaker Simply Granola Oats
– Quaker Instant Oatmeal Cinnamon & Spice
– Quaker Instant Oatmeal Apples & Cinnamon
– Quaker Real Medleys Super Grains Banana Walnut
– Quaker Overnight Oats Raisin Walnut & Honey Heaven
– Quaker Overnight Oats Unsweetened with Chia Seeds
– Quaker Oatmeal Squares Brown Sugar
– Quaker Oatmeal Squares Honey Nut
– Apple Cinnamon Cheerios
– Very Berry Cheerios
– Chocolate Cheerios
– Frosted Cheerios
– Fruity Cheerios
– Honey Nut Cheerios
– Cheerios Oat Crunch Cinnamon
– Quaker Chewy S’mores
– Quaker Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
– Quaker Breakfast Squares Soft Baked Bars Peanut Butter
– Quaker Breakfast Flats Crispy Snack Bars Cranberry Almond
Moms Across America (source):
– Tropicana Orange Juice
– Minute Maid Orange Juice
– Stater Bros Orange Juice
– Signature Farms Orange Juice
– Kirkland Orange Juice
Food Democracy Now! and The Detox Project (source):
– Original Cheerios
– Honey Nut Cheerios
– Annie’s Gluten Free Bunny Cookies Cocoa & Vanilla
– Kellog’s Corn Flakes
– Kellog’s Raisin Bran
– Kashi Organic Promise
– Kellog’s Special K
– Kellog’s Frosted Flakes
– Cheez-It Original
– Cheez-It Whole Grain
– Kashi Soft Bake Cookies, Oatmeal, Dark Chocolate
– Ritz Crackers
– Triscuit Crackers
– Oreo Original
– Oreo Double Stuf Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
– Oreo Double Stuf Golden Sandwich Cookies
– Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips (Frito-Lay)
– Lay’s: Kettle Cooked Original
– Doritos: Cool Ranch
– Fritos (Original) (100% Whole Grain)
– Goldfish crackers original (Pepperidge Farm)
– Goldfish crackers colors
– Goldfish crackers Whole Grain
– Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies
– Oatmeal Cookies Gluten Free
– 365 Organic Golden Round Crackers
– Back to Nature Crispy Cheddar Crackers
Other Brands/Products and Miscellaneous:
How To Steer Clear of Glyphosate in Foods
Glyphosate contamination cannot be removed by washing (it is absorbed into the plant while it’s growing). It also is not broken down by cooking or baking.
In order to avoid glyphosate in food, follow the pointers below:
1. Always Look for Non-GMO Project Verified
If you’re purchasing a processed food item (that is, something boxed, bagged or canned), you can make sure it doesn’t contain GMO ingredients by looking for the Non-GMO Project Verified symbol (see below). However, just because something is Non-GMO verified doesn’t mean that it isn’t necessarily clean of glyphosate. Glyphosate is a herbicide, and is sprayed on everything from wheats and oats to oranges and grapes.
The best way to ensure your products are GMO and glyphosate-free is to look for organic products with this Non-GMO verified label. That way, you know you’re eating a good product.
2. Certified Organic is Better Than Non-Organic
By purchasing certified organic foods, you’ll be rest assured that your food doesn’t contain any glyphosate-containing chemicals. Unfortunately, glyphosate use is so rampant, that some organic foods may contain small amounts of glyphosate residues. Damaging herbicide drift can travel far, especially when it is applied in mornings when the spray gets hung up and moves with the air mass across fields (due to air temperature differences) (8). Glyphosate also leaks into the watershed, which means it travels far, and can contaminate surrounding organic fields.
This is probably why Bob’s Red Mill Organic Oats were found with small levels of glyphosate residues. Their response to this?
“Because we at Bob’s Red Mill are dedicated to bringing all of our customers natural, healthy products, whether organic or conventional, we have inquired directly with farmers and with our suppliers to determine if glyphosate desiccation is used by the farmers supplying our products. The majority of our conventional wheat is grown close to home in the Pacific Northwest where growing seasons are typically longer and the practice of desiccation is as such rarely used. We’ve been told desiccation is not a practice used by our individual farmers. The growing, harvest and communal storage practices sometimes used by the wheat industry in general make it nearly impossible, however, for our multi-source suppliers to guarantee the practice of glyphosate desiccation is not used with all of the conventional wheat the suppliers sell to us.We are able to assure our customers, however, that glyphosate desiccation is not a practice used for our organic products as the use of glyphosate is not permitted at any time in the cultivation of our organically grown ingredients. Our Customers who desire to be certain that glyphosate has not been used may wish to choose instead from our extensive line of certified organic products.” (source)
They then go on to state: “We are able to assure our customers, however, that glyphosate desiccation is not a practice used for our organic products, as the use of glyphosate is not permitted at any time in the cultivation of our organically grown ingredients. Our customers who desire to be certain that glyphosate has not been used may wish to choose instead from our extensive line of certified organic products.”
However, their organic products do contain glyphosate, as pointed out in the studies above. As a result, Bob’s Red Mill is facing a federal class action lawsuit.
The good news is that organic foods contain much lower levels of glyphosate compared to their conventional counterparts. This one example doesn’t mean that organic products are bad. Bob’s Red Mill didn’t take their standards seriously when it came to organic products, so all we can do is hope that other companies do.
3. Grow Your Own & Farmer’s Markets
Another great way to ensure your food is grown glyphosate-free is by growing your own food (or sourcing it from farmers you trust at farmers’ markets). By growing your own food, you’ll feel more self-reliable, which is a super great feeling. You’ll also become more connected to the food you eat, as you’ll appreciate the time it took to grow that squash or tomato!
4. Look for Glyphosate Residue Free Labels
The Detox Project, a research and certification platform that uses an FDA-registered food-testing lab to test for toxic chemicals launched their own “Glyphosate Residue Free” label. This label offers more transparency and assures the purchaser that they’re not getting any glyphosate in the food they’re buying. While these labels aren’t mainstream, the Detox Project is working with food manufacturers and grocery chains to get this label on more products.