Weed killer, it's what's for breakfast! Glyphosate found in 43 of 45 conventional oat products tested by EWG.
I don't think I need to detail the problems with Monsanto's weed-killing Roundup here. The product's active ingredient, glyphosate, is a systemic, broad-spectrum herbicide that kills things not genetically modified to resist it. (That is, it doesn't kill the genetically modified plants grown exclusively from Monsanto seeds.)
But briefly, among other things, the World Health Organization says that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans." California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is adding to its list of chemicals known to cause cancer. And just last week, a San Francisco jury awarded Dewayne Johnson $289 million in damages in a case against Monsanto after ruling that the company intentionally concealed the health risks of its Roundup products. There are reportedly another 4,000 cases against the agricultural giant for similar allegations.
And now, according to independent laboratory tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG), glyphosate has been found in a number of popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars. The researchers found the ingredient in all but two of 45 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats. More than two thirds of them had glyphosate levels higher than those considered acceptable by EWG scientists.
EWG's child-protective health benchmark for daily exposure to glyphosate in food is 160 ppb – one very popular brand of oats was found to contain 1300 ppb.
“I grew up eating Cheerios and Quaker Oats long before they were tainted with glyphosate,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “No one wants to eat a weed killer for breakfast, and no one should have to do so."
While oats are an inexpensive and easy food that have been linked to all kinds of health benefits, clearly eating herbicides is not so great. "EWG’s findings raise the prospect that millions of American children are being exposed to a suspected carcinogen at a time when their bodies are rapidly developing," notes a statement from the group.
“It is very troubling that cereals children like to eat contain glyphosate,” said Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., EWG toxicologist and author of the report. “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.”
Thankfully, organic oats scored better – as one might expect. Still, about 30 percent of the samples tested of foods made with organically grown oats also had glyphosate – though all at levels below EWG’s health benchmark. It is believed that organic foods may be victim to Roundup drift from nearby farms, or may become cross-contaminated during processing.
Now of course we have to present the EPA's side: The EPA denies that glyphosate may increase the risk of cancer. Surprise, surprise. (Here we will also mention the fact that documents presented in Johnson's trial showed how the agency and Monsanto worked together to promote the claim that the chemical is safe. Such tangled webs they weave...)
EWG is urging the EPA to review the evidence linking glyphosate to increased cancer risk and other deleterious health effects – the organization also says that the EPA should limit things like the practice of applying the chemical just before harvesting. This extra dousing is done to hasten drying of the grain and allows farmers to harvest crops as much as two weeks earlier than they normally would. But given the direction that environmental legislation has been going since, say, January of 2017, the best bet may be to look towards the companies that use these ingredients rather than the government.
“We will petition the Environmental Protection Agency to do its job and end uses of glyphosate that resulted in the contamination we report today,” Cook says. “But we very much doubt our petition will be acted upon by President Trump’s lawless EPA. So we’re calling on the companies to make these iconic products with clean ingredients."
And if you are feeling like your vote hasn't mattered much recently, you can of course cast a ballot with your wallet. As Cook points out, “It’s up to consumers to call on companies to rid their products of glyphosate."
You can read the report here, and see which products tested high for the herbicide. I always try to buy organic oats and cereal. From now on, it's organic or bust.