Concerns over the health effects of glyphosate — the active ingredient in Roundup and other weed killer formulations — continue to rise as evidence of harm and widespread exposure keeps accumulating.
In recent years, researchers have discovered it may affect your body's ability to produce fully functioning proteins, inhibit the shikimate pathway (found in gut bacteria) and interfere with the function of cytochrome P450 enzymes (required for activation of vitamin D and the creation of nitric oxide and cholesterol sulfate).
Glyphosate also chelates important minerals; disrupts sulfate synthesis and transport; interferes with the synthesis of aromatic amino acids and methionine, resulting in folate and neurotransmitter shortages; disrupts your microbiome by acting as an antibiotic; impairs methylation pathways; and inhibits pituitary release of thyroid stimulating hormone, which can lead to hypothyroidism.1,2
Roundup has also been linked to certain cancers.3 In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a "probable carcinogen" (Class 2A),4 based on "limited evidence" showing the weed killer can cause Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer in humans.
Since then, thousands of individuals have filed suit against Monsanto, blaming Roundup for their Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.5 The first case to go to jury trial resulted in a stunning guilty verdict, and Monsanto was ordered to pay the plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, $289 million in damages.6
According to the ruling, Monsanto "acted with malice or oppression" and was responsible for "negligent failure" by not warning consumers about the carcinogenicity of its product. A judge recently upheld the guilty verdict, but reduced the damages to $78 million.7,8,9 Bayer, which now owns Monsanto, is also facing several class action lawsuits over crop damage caused by dicamba.10
Another Round of Food Testing Raises Concerns About Glyphosate in Food Supply
A second round of food testing11,12 by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) now reveals glyphosate is a staple contaminant in Cheerios breakfast cereals and Quaker Oats products. All 28 samples contained glyphosate; 26 at levels suspected to be harmful to children's health.
In the first round of testing,13 published in August 2018, 43 out of 45 food products made with conventionally grown oats tested positive for glyphosate, 31 of which had glyphosate levels higher than EWG scientists believe would be safe for children. This included Quaker Dinosaur Eggs instant oatmeal, Cheerios cereal, Nature Valley granola bars, Quaker steel cut oats and Back to Nature Classic Granola.
Five of 16 organic oat foods also contained glyphosate, although at levels below EWG's health benchmark of 160 parts per billion (ppb). (For comparison, the legal limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for glyphosate in oats is 30,000 ppb.)
However, while the EWG's proposed safety level is nearly 188 times more stringent than that of the EPA, Alex Lu, an associate professor of environmental exposure biology at Harvard, who has researched pesticides in children's diets, believes EWG's threshold is conservative and may still be too high. "This is especially true for parents buying breakfast cereals for their infants and children," he told Business Insider.14
In this latest round of testing, EWG focused exclusively on Cheerios and Quaker Oats products. Of the 28 products sampled this time around, Quaker Oatmeal Squares (brown sugar and honey nut flavors) fared the worst, containing nearly 18 times more glyphosate than the EWG's safety threshold (2,746 ppb and 2,837 ppb respectively).
In third and fourth place came Cheerios Oat Crunch (cinnamon flavor) and Quaker Overnight Oats, with 1,171 ppb and 1,029 ppb of glyphosate respectively. You can find a complete list of test results on EWG's website.15 As noted by EWG:
"This round of tests confirms and amplifies EWG's findings from the first round, with levels of glyphosate consistently above our children's health benchmark in every sample but two."
There's No Safe Limit for Pesticides for Children
As you'd expect, General Mills (which makes Cheerios) and Quaker (owned by PepsiCo.) insist their products are safe since they comply with EPA standards, and that the glyphosate levels are too minute to pose any health risks anyway.
In a statement to CNN, a General Mills spokesperson said, "The extremely low levels of pesticide residue cited in recent news reports is a tiny fraction of the amount the government allows."16 However, there are a number of problems with this stance.
First of all, just because it's within legal limits doesn't mean it's safe. There's evidence suggesting the EPA has colluded with Monsanto to downplay glyphosate's harmful effects, and since glyphosate has for decades been wrongly believed to be harmless, there's reason to suspect EPA limits — which were set in 2008, well before most of the incriminating evidence against glyphosate came out — may be too high. As noted by EWG:17
"EWG does not believe chemicals linked to cancer belong in children's food. Our recommended maximum daily intake of glyphosate in food is 0.01 milligrams. For a 60-gram portion of food, this daily intake limit translates to a safety standard of 160 ppb of glyphosate. This health benchmark is based on the risks of lifetime exposure, because small, repeated exposures can add up if someone eats food containing glyphosate every day."
Indeed, few people, and children in particular, eat only a single serving of a single food containing glyphosate on any given day, and when just about every food on the market is contaminated with glyphosate, how can anyone claim children are consuming safe or negligible levels?
Urine output of glyphosate shot up by more than 1,200 percent between 1993 and 2016,18 so clearly glyphosate exposure is a growing problem. Even if there were limited danger from glyphosate, no organization or agency is looking at the synergistic effects of combining it with other chemicals in our food supply, including other pesticides.
It's also important to realize there's no known safe limit for any pesticide for children. There is no published scientific evidence to demonstrate any level of safety for children. There are, however, studies indicating that there really is no level at which pesticides are safe for children since:
- Chemicals in parts per trillion amounts can have an effect on fetal development, and may affect a child all through puberty and beyond
- Children's detoxification pathways are not yet fully developed. They do not have the detoxification enzymes in their livers that adults have, so their ability to eliminate even tiny amounts of pesticides and other harmful chemicals is limited