Monsanto Weed Killer Is Discovered in Major Cereal Brands

A study finds the world’s most widely used herbicide turning up in a bunch of morning favorites.
(Photos: Tim Hawley/Getty Images; Robert Morrissey/Getty Images; Francis Hammond/Getty Images)
Apr 19, 2016· 2 MIN READ
Jason Best is a regular contributor to TakePart who has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Just how much of Monsanto’s most popular weed killer are you eating every morning for breakfast?

In an unsettling report released Tuesday by the Alliance for Natural Health, the nonprofit advocacy group details the results of a study that shows a host of breakfast foods—from cereal to eggs to coffee creamer—contain residues of glyphosate, the chemical herbicide more commonly known by Monsanto’s trade name for it, Roundup. The report comes one year after the cancer-research arm of the World Health Organization made headlines by classifying glyphosate, which has long been regarded by U.S. regulators as posing little risk to public health, as a probable human carcinogen.

The ANH tested 24 store-bought breakfast items, including organic products, and found glyophosate residues in almost half of them. Given that glyphosate is the most widely used agrochemical on the market, sprayed on upwards of 90 percent of staple crops such as corn and soybeans, the findings might at first glance seem like a surprise that really comes as no surprise.

But what’s alarming is that glyphosate residues were found on a bunch of products that either in and of themselves or based on their primary ingredients aren’t typically associated with heavy use of the herbicide. Conventionally grown wheat, for example, which would be used to make whole-wheat bread, isn’t a crop on which glyphosate is often heavily applied, and you’d certainly expect organic multigrain bagels to be free of the chemical. Yet both were shown to have traces of the herbicide. Furthermore, the ANH analysis found glyphosate in organic dairy-based coffee creamer and eggs—and the amount detected in cage-free organic eggs actually exceeded the federal government’s tolerance levels for the chemical. Overall, the results further underscore the out-of-control pervasiveness of glyphosate across the American farmscape.

So how do the results of the ANH tests compare with the federal government’s own tests of the amount of glyphosate lingering in our food? Good question. In a classic case of the feds’ all-too-typical cart-before-the-horse approach to regulating agrochemicals, big chemical makers like Monsanto have been allowed to nearly flood the market with glyphosate for the past 20 years, yet it wasn’t until this past February that the Food and Drug Administration announced it would finally begin testing food sold in the U.S. for glyphosate residue. (Meanwhile, the level of acceptable residue, which is set by the Environmental Protection Agency, was relaxed a few years ago.)

Thus, it’s hard to say how worried the average American should be about scarfing down his morning bowl of glyphosate-laced corn flakes or sipping his coffee spiked with glyphosate-laced creamer. The ANH freely acknowledges that the amounts of glyphosate found in the products it tested all fall well below the levels the federal government deems acceptable for each specific food, with the exception of those eggs. Yet whether those levels are stringent enough to protect public health is a topic of increasingly intense debate, especially in the wake of glyphosate’s designation as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. As the ANH report points out, the standards set by the EPA for glyphosate “have not been rigorously tested for all foods and all age groups. Nor have the effects of other [chemical] ingredients in glyphosate formulations been evaluated.”

“Evidence linking glyphosate with the increased incidence of a host of cancers is reason for immediate reevaluation by the EPA and FDA,” the authors added.