The question that these results naturally bring up is whether the observed levels of glyphosate have any relevance to health.
From the perspective of the EPA and European Food Standards Agency, the answer is no. From the perspective of more recent biomedical research, the answer is yes.
The highest level of glyphosate observed was 1.737 ng/ml in Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream. That translates into 410 ng glyphosate in an 8-oz. serving.
According to the EPA, it is safe to consume 1.75 mg/kg body weight/day of glyphosate(1).
The EU is more conservative. The EU’s chronic reference dose (called the average daily intake or ADI in Europe) is 0.3 mg/kg body weight/day (2).
Based on these government thresholds, the levels found in Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream might seem totally irrelevant. But recent research provides another perspective (3).
Researchers in Europe fed rats low levels of glyphosate daily, and found that in just months, the rats began to show early signs of fatty liver disease, which continued to worsen as time progressed. The researchers achieved this result by administering only a tiny dose of glyphosate daily, 0.1 ng glyphosate per ml in the rats’ water.
The level of glyphosate exposure in this study is much lower than those that the EPA and EFSA claim to be safe. A 300 g rat drinks about 30 ml water per day, so the daily dose experienced by the rats in this study was 3 ng/300 g body weight/day, or 10 ng/kg body wt. Thus, while the EPA considers it safe to consume daily 1.75 mg of glyphosate for every kg of body weight, and the European Food Safety authority considers it safe to consume 0.3 mg glyphosate for every kg of body weight, this new research indicates that a much lower level, 1/175,000 th of the dose that EPA claims is safe, will trigger early symptoms of fatty liver disease in rats.
Assuming that humans respond to glyphosate at doses similar to rats, this new research indicates that a dose of only 340 ng/day would trigger early stages of fatty liver disease in a 75-lb. child and a 680 ng/day dose would do the same for a 150-lb. adult.
Since an 8-oz serving of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream contains 410 ng, just one serving is enough to give the 75-lb child 120% of the daily dose required to trigger fatty liver disease, and just a little more than one and one half servings, less than a pint, will do the same for an adult of 150-lb. Fatty liver disease has become a global epidemic during the last 20 years.
There are other studies that also relate glyphosate exposure, even at low doeses, to both kidney and liver disease.
For example, an important long-term feeding study in 2012, by G.-E. Séralini et al, indicates that levels of Roundup/glyphosate lower than those found in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream can cause liver and kidney damage as wells cancer tumors in laboratory animals. The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology forced the retraction of this paper. However, recently disclosed secret Monsanto documents provide strong evidence that this retraction was brought about by Monsanto in a massive, highly unethical multi-pronged attack. (4) The Séralini study was republished in 2014, by Environmental Sciences Europe. (5)
We can conclude two things from the above analysis: First, the levels of glyphosate present in at least some of the Ben and Jerry’s flavors may be a potential health risk. Additional research is needed to assess this more fully, but current evidence points to this concern. Second, the levels of glyphosate designated as safe by the EPA and even the EU authorities are unrealistically high. Such assurances do not serve the public, but create a false sense of security and thus are a public health hazard. There is growing evidence that regulators both in the US and Europe have been unduly influenced by Monsanto and more broadly by the chemical and ag-biotech industry.
The EPA and EU regulatory levels were set based on outmoded models of toxicology and biochemistry that fail to take into account the properties of endocrine/hormone disrupters like glyphosate, which can have health damaging effects at even the very low levels observed in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. For glyphosate, scientists have published evidence for adverse effects from very low levels.
There is another core issue, in addition to health and safety: It is of great concern that glyphosate is present at any level in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. It was found in 10 out of the 11 samples tested. The wide-spread presence of agrochemicals in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream indicates that this brand is not using “natural” methods, but is using, instead, industrial / chemical farming methods with all of their associated social, environmental and health impacts.
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(1) This is called their Chronic Reference Dose or cRfD. Using the conversion factors 1 kg = 2.205 lbs, and 1 ml = 0.0338 fluid ounces, based on this cRfD, one can calculate that the EPA considers it safe for a child of 75 lb to consume 59.53 mg glyphosate per day, and for an adult of 150 lb to consume 119.07 mg glyphosate per day. That child would have to eat 145,000 8 oz servings of Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream to consume that much glyphosate, and the adult would have to consume 290,000 servings.
(2) Using the same conversion factors, we find that, according to EU standards, a child of 75 lb is supposedly safe to consume up to 10.21 mg per day and an adult of 150 lb is safe to consume up to 20.412 mg. The child would “only” have to eat 25,000 8 oz servings of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream, and the adult only 50,000 servings, to take in that much glyphosate.
(3) Mesnage R, et al, “Multiomics reveal non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats following chronic exposure to an ultra-low dose of Roundup herbicide.” Scientific Reports (a Nature publication). doi:10.1038/srep39328, Jan. 2017.
(4) Rowland, Henry, “Monsanto Secret Documents Show Massive Attack on Seralini Study.” Sustainable Pulse, August 1, 2017
(5) Séralini, Gilles-Eric, et al, “Long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize.” Environmental Sciences Europe, June 2014. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12302-014-0014-5