We recently found out about glyphosate in children’s cereals, oatmeals and granola bars, and many people finally decided to opt for organic breakfast products to avoid the potentially carcinogenic chemical. But a new study, published in February of 2019, now shows that glyphosate is hiding out in beer and wine, too.
Monsanto’s Roundup is the most commonly used “agrichemical” in the world. Scientists and public health groups are detecting its toxic active ingredient, glyphosate, in many widely consumed foods and beverages. Even organic products aren’t safe from this probable human carcinogen. This newest study has us asking — are any foods safe from this dangerous chemical? And why is the contamination problem so widespread?
Glyphosate: Beer, Wine Test Results
In an effort to evaluate how much Roundup we’re drinking, the education group U.S. PIRG tested 15 beers and 5 wines for glyphosate, the weed-killer’s active ingredient. Of the 20 samples tested, all but one contained glyphosate.
Here are the testing results for twenty beer and wine samples. Glyphosate was measured in parts per billion (ppb). Keep in mind many brands weren’t tested, so this is not a complete list.
Glyphosate in Wines
- Sutter Home Merlot: 51.4 ppb
- Beringer Founders Estates Moscato: 42.6 ppb
- Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon: 36.3 ppb
- Inkarri Malbec: Certified Organic: 5.3 ppb
- Frey Organic Natural White: 4.8 ppb
Glyphosate in Beer
- Tsingtao Beer: 49.7 ppb
- Coors Light: 31.1 ppb
- Miller lite: 29.8 ppb
- Budweiser: 27 ppb
- Corona Extra: 25.1 ppb
- Heineken: 20.9 ppb
- Guinness Draught: 20.3 ppb
- Stella Artois: 18.7 ppb
- Ace Perry Hard Cider: 14.5 ppb
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: 11.8 ppb
- New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale: 11.2 ppb
- Sam Adams New England IPA: 11 ppb
- Stella Artois Cidre: 9.1 ppb
- Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager: 5.7 ppb
- Peak Beer Organic IPA: no detected level
These results may have you asking — why is this allowed? Don’t we have agencies in place to protect our food from dangerous, potentially cancer-causing chemicals? We do.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safety limit for glyphosate is 100 times greater than the amounts found in beer and wine samples. Although the amounts of glyphosate found in these beer and wine samples may not be dangerous when consumed in normal amounts, it proves that we’re drinking a chemical with potential health risks, even when we choose to buy organic products.
And many public health organizations believe the EPA’s limit is set far too high to properly protect public health. In fact, quietly over the years, EPA has steadily increased the amount of glyphosate residues allowed in the food chain.
Existing research also suggests that even consuming glyphosate within the declared safety limits can be hazardous to your health. For one thing, we know consuming even small amounts of glyphosate can destroy beneficial bacteria in the gut.
In its 2015 report, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer dubbed glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen.” And a University of Washington study released this month by the University of Washington shows that you’re more than 40 percent more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after glyphosate exposure, finding 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,” Lianne Sheppard, a professor in the UW departments of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences and Biostatistics, said in a statement. “As a result of this research, I am even more convinced that it is.”
And as the authors of this latest study pointed out, even low levels could pose problematic. Research shows that even 1 part per trillion holds the potential to stimulate breast cancer cell growth and hormone disruption.
Frey Vineyards, the nation’s first certified organic winery, founded in 1980, did have an organic wine test 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 glyphosate pollution is largely unavoidable, and that some sort of regulatory action or ban is necessary. This is particularly when you consider its impact on not only human health, but the health of pollinators that keep the food system from crashing. After all, if it’s disturbing the microbiota of honeybees, what’s it doing to us?
It is a difficult battle when up against giant corporations such as the makers of Roundup. However, there are many local and national groups working to ban glyphosate. We urge concerned people to support these groups and embrace certified organic farming, for the health of our children, our environment, and our food supply.
Why is Glyphosate Everywhere?
At this point we know that it’s very difficult to produce beer, wine, corn and soy-based foods, and conventional wheat and oat products without glyphosate contamination. And if I had to guess, in time there will be even more studies showing the chemical is hidden in other popular foods.
But why are we finding glyphosate in so many of our products? Initially, Roundup and other glyphosate-based weed killers were used in U.S. agriculture on “Roundup ready” crops. These crops were designed to withstand the weed killer so that when the entire field was sprayed, the weeds died and the crops survived.
But the weeds (referred to as “superweeds”) outsmarted the chemical and became resistant, now requiring more and more Roundup to die. So now the Roundup “dosage” and applications rates are on the rise.
Aside from that, glyphosate is used as a “desiccant” on many non-organic wheat and oat crops. It’s used to “burn down” the crops close to harvest, drying them out quicker and speeding up the time between field and store shelf. The problem with that? Spraying glyphosate on food crops so close to harvest means there’s more glyphosate in the final food product we eat.
Since the introduction of glyphosate in 1974, the U.S. experienced the application of nearly 1.8 million tons of the chemical. Worldwide, farmers applied more than 9 million tons tons on fields, as of 2014. What does this mean for us? It means that glyphosate is starting to show up in our food, in our water and in our bodies. It’s even in the rain.
Glyphosate is even showing up in organic foods and products, which was found in this most recent study. And while it’s comforting to know the levels in the organic wine and beer were much lower than non-organic counterparts, This may be due to airborne drift from nearby farms and vineyards. Glyphosate is capable of drifting several hundred feet. The chemical may also be entering organic farm soil through irrigation water and rain.
The bottom line — it has been difficult to avoid this massively used weed killer. What can we, as consumers, do about this? It certainly helps to choose organic products over conventional ones. Although organic foods and drinks do sometimes contain glyphosate, the levels are typically much lower.
We also need to voice our concerns about Roundup and other glyphosate-containing herbicides and the safety of our foods. Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture does not test any products for glyphosate and the EPA should reevaluate their safety limits until there is clear evidence that the chemical is not a human carcinogen.
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