Without farms, we’d have no food. Without weedkiller, some farmers believe they would not be able to meet demand.
That’s the problem.
Chemical compounds found in the common weedkiller Roundup, known as glyphosates, have been traced to a number of children’s food products. The chemical was first introduced in 1974, and is used as a desiccant after the crops are harvested. According to the Guardian, glyphosates have also been linked to cancer.
“It is very troubling that cereals children like to eat contain glyphosate,” said Alexis Temkin, a toxicologist for the Environmental Working Group and author of the report that reveeled their ubiquity in common breakfast foods. “Parents shouldn’t worry about whether feeding their children heathy oat foods will also expose them to a chemical linked to cancer. The government must take steps to protect our most vulnerable populations.”
Where are glysophates found?
At least 45 products tested positive for glysophate. The tainted products include:
- Instant Oats
- Oat Breakfast Cereal
- Snack Bars
- Whole Oats
“Each year, more than 250 million pounds of glyphosate are sprayed on American crops, primarily on ‘Roundup-ready’ corn and soybeans genetically engineered to withstand the herbicide. But when it comes to the food we eat, the highest glyphosate levels are not found in products made with GMO corn,” Temkin’s report continues. “Increasingly, glyphosate is also sprayed just before harvest on wheat, barley, oats and beans that are not genetically engineered.”
Glyphosate kills crops and dries them so they can be harvested quicker. Some of the highest amounts of glyphosate were found in Quaker Oats, a which contributes more than 500 million pounds of whole grains to U.S. consumers every year.
The company denies having any hand in the application of the weedkiller, however.
“Quaker does not add glyphosate during any part of the milling process,” Quaker said in a published statement. “Glyphosate is commonly used by farmers across the industry who apply it pre-harvest. Once the oats are transported to us, we put them through our rigorous process that thoroughly cleanses them (de-hulled, cleaned, roasted and flaked). Any levels of glyphosate that may remain are significantly below any limits and well within compliance of the safety standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Commission as safe for human consumption.”
Why are glyphosates dangerous?
According to the National Pesticide Information Center, glyphosates are a “non-selective herbicide,” and kill most anything they are applied to. The chemical shuts down the shikimic acid pathway, a critical system in plants and bacteria.
What it does to humans is still being researched.
The World Health Organization has designated glyphosate a “probable carcinogen” and it was once on California’s list of compounds “known to the state to cause cancer,” though that label was removed in February after push back from agribusiness, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The argument over whether or not the compounds cause cancer is still being debated in some countries, including the U.S. where at least 750 glyphosate-containing herbicide products are sold commercially.
“Not every health agency in the world and not every spokesperson in the world has agreed that glyphosate can cause cancer,” Olga Naidenko, the Environmental Working Group’s senior science adviser for children’s health told CNN.
Temkin’s outlook is not so sunny. The researcher and the EWG have both called on the EPA to “limit the use of glyphosate on food crops, including pre-harvest application.”
“Oat-based foods are a healthy source of fiber and nutrients for children and adults, and oat consumption is linked to health benefits such as lowered cholesterol and decreased cardiovascular risk,” Temkin writes. “Parents should not have to wonder whether feeding their children these heathy foods will also expose them to a pesticide that increases the risk of cancer.
Glyphosate has also been found in pet food. A class action lawsuit is pending against the makers of Rachael Ray’s Nutrish brand of dog food.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.