Did you hear the big news?
On August 10, 2018, a jury in California awarded $289 million to a school groundskeeper who developed cancer after years of exposure to the weed killer Roundup. It was a blow to the chemical company Monsanto, who makes the popular insecticide. But there was some bigger news to come. In case you missed it, just a few days later, Monsanto was put on in the spotlight again. The results of a study revealed a chemical called glyphosate (the key ingredient in Roundup) was found in many popular breakfast foods and snacks in unsafe amounts, including oat cereals, granola bars, and other snacks we eat every day!
The glyphosate debate
If you Google the words Monsanto, Roundup in foods, or glyphosate, you’ll likely find headlines on both sides of the issue, with passionate opinions for and against. The debate is heating up as Monsanto vows to appeal the California lawsuit, but many others are waiting in the wings.
On one side, the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans“. Monsanto maintains that many studies show no definitive link between glyphosate and cancer. They point out they are legally operating well within Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for safety levels.
In 2017, the EPA said glyphosate is “unlikely to be carcinogenic to humans” when used according to the label, but advocacy groups like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) would beg to differ. The EWG, who funded the study, tested more than a dozen brands of oat-based foods (Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and Quaker Oats, to name a few) with the goal of informing Americans of any potential health risks.
At this point you may be confused. Do we believe the WHO, the EPA, or the EWG (not only are those acronyms confusing, but the science behind glyphosate is somewhat conflicting, too)!
So how do we sift through the noise?
Does it just depend on who you ask?
And just how worried should we be about all this anyway?
Worth the risk?
The EWG’s stance on the matter is that no matter how small the risk, even if there is a sliver of possibility that it could be harmful, glyphosate should not be in our food at all – and especially not in breakfast cereals marketed to children. They (and many others) have long been urging lawmakers to ban the use of pesticides in U.S. altogether.
Glyphosate is already banned in many countries, and in fact, it is banned from organic farming in the United States. Still, there were actually a few organically grown products in the EWG study that were found to contain some glyphosate. Even the rolled oats from the bulk bin at Whole Foods showed traces of the stuff!
How could that happen?
Sometimes traces of glyphosate can be found in organic food due to overspray or soil contamination affecting a “clean” field that sits directly next to a field that uses the chemical. Other times, cross-contamination happens when facilities processes foods from various sources using the same equipment.
How is glyphosate used?
Glyphosate has been widely used on soybean and corn crops since the 1970s. Most of the seed for those crops has been genetically modified to withstand the effects of the herbicide, but glyphosate is not only used as a weed killer. It is also sprayed on non-GMO crops like wheat, barley, oats, and beans, and even almonds. Its large scale use helps dry out the crops so they can be harvested more quickly and get to market in less time.
While many of the crops are harvested in the midwest, glyphosate is used in other states, as well. In 1986, California voters approved adding glyphosate to their “Proposition 65” list, which warns consumers about potentially harmful chemicals that could cause cancer and birth defects.
Many other cities across the United States are choosing to eliminate the use of glyphosate in public spaces such as golf courses and public parks.
How does glyphosate affect our body?
Of course not every person who is exposed to Roundup or glyphosate will be stricken by cancer. That said, there is still cause for concern, because the jury is still out on just how well-linked glyphosate is to a condition called “leaky gut”.
We all have millions of bacteria living in our digestive tract (otherwise known as our “gut”). Genetically modified food, and glyphosate in particular, can be harmful to the friendly gut bacteria that works so hard to keep us healthy and strong as we age. When our gut health is jeopardized, we can experience symptoms of inflammation, as tiny holes permeate our intestinal lining. When this happens, bacteria and toxins can “leak” through the intestinal wall, leading to a whole host of chronic illnesses.
In order to remain healthy, the ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria needs to stay in proper balance. With the plethora of processed food eaten in our standard American diets already, it’s all too easy to let this balance get thrown off. Any time we introduce chemicals into our diet, we run the risk of NOT maintaining a healthy gut, which is essential for proper immune function, digestion, and even our mental health.
The glyphosate food list:
So which products tested positive for glyphosate?
This latest study isn’t the first one done on glyphosate levels in foods. According to the EWG website, in 2016, the non-profit Food Democracy Now tested for glyphosate in single samples of a variety of popular foods. “Alarming levels of glyphosate were found in a number of cereals and other products, including more than 1,000 ppb in Cheerios.”
Here is the most recent list from the EWG study, and yes, unfortunately, Cheerios showed up again. So did products like Nature Valley Granola, and even some KIND bars.
Check out the list below (and if you want a PDF to save for later – AND access to my insider’s vault of other free resources, click here):
Products with potentially dangerous glyphosate levels
- Back to Nature Classic Granola
- Quaker Simply Granola Oats (Honey, Raisin and Almonds)
- Nature Valley Granola Protein (Oats ‘n Honey)
- Giant Instant Oatmeal Original Flavor
- Quaker Dinosaur Eggs Instant Oatmeal
- Great Value Original Instant Oatmeal
- Umpqua Oats – Maple Pecan Flavored
- Market Pantry Instant Oatmeal
- Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal
- Lucky Charms (without marshmallows)
- Barbara’s Multigrain Spoonfuls Cereal
- Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran Cereal
- Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars (Oats ‘n Honey)
- Quaker Steel Cut Oats
- Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
- Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats
Products with “safe” glyphosate levels
- Back to Nature Banana Walnut Granola Clusters
- KIND Vanilla, Blueberry Clusters with Flax Seeds
- Kellogg’s Nutrigrain Soft Baked Breakfast Bars (Strawberry)
- Nature’s Path Organic Old Fashioned Organic Oats
- Whole Foods Bulk Bin Conventional Rolled Oats
- Bob’s Red Mill Organic Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
Products with no glyphosate detected
- Nature’s Path Organic Honey Almond Granola
- Simple Truth Organic Instant Oatmeal (Original)
- Kashi Heart to Heart Organic Honey Toasted Cereal
- Cascadian Farm Organic Harvest Berry Granola bar
- 365 Organic Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
So what should we do?
First of all, know this: For every research study there seems to be an abundance of support on either side, and this glyphosate debate is no exception.
While government agencies and chemical companies duke it out, I would encourage you to always be an informed consumer. Read the studies as they come out and continue reading your food labels, so you can make good decisions when it comes to what you choose to eat (or not).
With what you currently know, if you are choosing to steer clear of glyphosate, here are some tips for avoiding it, and for avoiding pesticides in your food in general (all great tips for good health anyway):
- Eat more whole foods
- Avoid processed food when possible
- Shop the outer edges of the grocery store, or support your local farmer’s market
- Look for antibiotic-free meats and dairy products
- Buy grass-fed beef and poultry instead of factory-farmed animals
- Maybe even start your own garden for your favorite vegetables (and share with your neighbors)!
And as far as killing those weeds in your yard, instead of reaching for the Roundup, I found the some popular alternatives with a quick Amazon search, at these (affiliate) links:
Being a savvy consumer means realizing every study released has its fair share of advocates and opponents. It’s sometimes easy to tell who has a vested interest in swaying public opinion one way or another. Our own government has apparently been conducting their own “unofficial” glyphosate studies for the past couple of years, too, according to an April 2018 article published in The Guardian (the results have not been released as of the writing of this article).
In the meantime, with all the recent press about glyphosate, I have a feeling there is about to be a big shift in the way products are packaged and sold. I wouldn’t be surprised to see “glyphosate free” labels on food products lining our grocery store shelves in the near future.
With millions of agricultural dollars and the fate of our food supply at stake, the one thing we know for sure is this is not gong to be last we hear on this subject.
Time will tell whether a full glyphosate ban will ever go into effect across our country, but remember this: You don’t have to wait for the government or yet another study before becoming an advocate for your own health!