Sweet corn flakes, cookie sandwiches, salty pita chips... your favorite supermarket junk foods taste like delicious nostalgia, pure comfort in a box. They also probably have just a hint of the weed killer glyphosate, because it was found in tons of popular cereals and snack foods. Surprise!
OK, so no one can really taste glyphosate in foods like Cheerios, but it's some potent stuff. It's the key ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, and the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer labeled it a possible carcinogen in 2015. Now, glyphosate has been found in alarming levels on some of the most popular packaged food brands, thanks to an independent study from Food Democracy Now's Detox Project.
The group looked at 29 pantry staples, and tested them for traces of glyphosate. Of the foods sampled, Cheerios was the most saturated with the herbicide at 1,125.3 parts per billion. Party snack staple and hummus' better half, Stacy's Simply Naked Pita Chips, scored second highest with 812.53 ppb.
You probably didn't need advanced laboratory tests for weedkiller to tell you these foods aren't exactly healthy, but Cool Ranch Doritos, Oreos, and Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies all returned remarkably high glyphosate parts per billion scores.
Chemical used to kill weeds is perfectly safe for you, says EPA
So some of the tastiest foods in the world contain a widespread herbicide. Big deal, you once ate that slice of pizza that had fallen cheese side down on the sidewalk, and you're still fine! How bad could a little weedkiller be?
Not bad, according to the EPA; the agency claims glyphosate has "low toxicity" for humans, although it's still undergoing a review. An EPA report from 1993 suggests a daily intake of 2mg per kilogram of body weight would be safe. The European Food Safety Authority, on the other hand, suggests only a max intake of 0.5 mg per kg of body weight (it's clear who has the better agriculture system).
In general, something that's used to kill a species of plants is probably not the healthiest compound to eat in large quantities, and should we really be relying on recommendations from 1993? Ross Perot says, "No!"
Considering glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide worldwide, it would make sense that amounts of it wind up in some of your favorite foods. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn't currently test for it, meaning there's no limit or standard for what's acceptable. How are you supposed to navigate all those parts per billion on your own? The agency did add glyphosate to the other list of pesticides it tests for in early 2016, but it suspended testing efforts because of technical and logistical complications. Your health and safety can wait, people!
The Government Accountability Office has already taken the FDA to task for its lax pesticides testing, but there's not exactly a clamoring in the government for more careful regulation of America's food supply. In other words, it's not just crazy "detox" weirdos who have a problem with glyphosate; the government itself thinks America does a bad job testing for it and protecting its citizens. And even though defenders of Roundup will tell you it's completely safe, put them on the spot and you may find them singing a different tune.
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