A growing number of foods commonly found in kitchens across America have tested positive for glyphosate, the herbicide that is the main ingredient in the popular consumer pesticide Roundup, which is widely used in agriculture. But few brands on that list are as startling as the latest: Ben & Jerry’s, the Vermont ice cream company known for its family-friendly image and environmental advocacy.
The Organic Consumers Association announced Tuesday that it found traces of glyphosate in 10 of 11 samples of the company’s ice creams — although at levels far below the ceiling set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Rob Michalak, global director of social mission at Ben & Jerry’s, said the company was working to ensure that all the ingredients in its supply chain come from sources that do not include genetically modified organisms, known as G.M.O.s. None of its plant-based ingredients, for instance, come from a genetically engineered crop like corn or soy, where glyphosate is used in production. The company is also trying to figure out a cost-effective way for the dairy farms that supply its milk to use non-G.M.O. feed.
“We’re working to transition away from G.M.O., as far away as we can get,” Mr. Michalak said. “But then these tests come along, and we need to better understand where the glyphosate they’re finding is coming from. Maybe it’s from something that’s not even in our supply chain, and so we’re missing it.”
Consumer groups around the country, including the Organic Consumers Association, have begun raising awareness of glyphosate in food, because some studies have linked it to a variety of diseases. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a unit of the World Health Organization, declared this year that it “probably” could cause some cancers. The agency reviewed scientific studies involving people, laboratory animals and cells to assess whether glyphosate might cause cancer.
Monsanto and other companies that make products containing glyphosate hotly dispute those studies and say there is no reason for concern. Government and other regulators tend to agree that very low levels are not harmful to humans.
Ronnie Cummins, a founder and the international director of the Organic Consumers Association, said the amount found in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream would not violate any regulations. “Not everyone agrees with the acceptable levels governments have set,” Mr. Cummins said. “And, anyway, would you want to be eating this stuff at all?”
It’s far from clear. Divergent findings over glyphosate’s impact on health have divided governments, scientists, regulators and even the World Health Organization, with its International Agency for Research on Cancer linking it to cancer and another unit of the organization insisting on its safety.