An environmental advocacy group is raising the alarm on dozens of breakfast cereals and snack bars, saying they contain trace amounts of a controversial chemical found in weed killers.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) stated in a new report that 26 of the 28 products it tested had levels of glyphosate, that were “higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health.”
An earlier report noted similar levels of the chemical in over 30 foods.
Danger to humans, however, is a matter of dispute when it comes to glyphosate exposure.
“When high doses were administered to laboratory animals, some studies suggest that glyphosate has carcinogenic potential,” stated the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), a cooperative entity set up jointly by Oregon State University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“Studies on cancer rates in people have provided conflicting results on whether the use of glyphosate-containing products is associated with cancer,” NPIC said, adding, “Some studies have associated glyphosate use with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”
“Glyphosate exposure has been linked to developmental and reproductive effects at high doses that were administered to rats repeatedly during pregnancy. These doses made the mother rats sick. The rat fetuses gained weight more slowly, and some fetuses had skeletal defects. These effects were not observed at lower doses,” the NPIC stated.
The EPA’s own guidelines on the chemical state that studies carried out by the agency have not shown glyphosate to cause cancer.
“Several chronic toxicity/carcinogenicity studies using rats, mice, and beagle dogs resulted in no effects based on the parameters examined, or resulted in findings that glyphosate was not carcinogenic.”
The agency has classified glyphosate as a “Group E oncogene—one that shows evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans—based on the lack of convincing evidence of carcinogenicity.”
High doses of the herbicide given to animals have caused health problems, however, including death.
“In developmental toxicity studies using pregnant rats and rabbits,” the EPA said, “glyphosate caused treatment-related effects in the high dose groups including diarrhea, decreased body weight gain, nasal discharge, and death.”
Manufacturers say the amount of herbicide in their products is negligible, CNN reported, and insist their products are safe. None of the foods cited in the EWG report violated allowable EPA limits on glyphosate, according to the report.
Scientists at EWG, however, use a far more restrictive benchmark for allowable toxicity.
California’s proposed glyphosate limit, the most restrictive in the U.S., permits glyphosate levels that are over a hundred times higher than the EWG’s threshold.
The EWG report argues that most of the foods its scientists tested have glyphosate levels that might pose a cancer risk with long-term consumption.
Effects Later in Life
Dr. Alexis Temkin, the lead scientist on EWG report, said the lower threshold includes an added buffer for children, as “exposure during early life can have more significant effects on development later in life.”
Manufacturers argue the EWG threshold does not reflect a level at which glyphosate poses a hazard to human health.
Quaker told CNN in a statement that the “EWG report artificially creates a ‘safe level’ for glyphosate that is detached from those that have been established by responsible regulatory bodies in an effort to grab headlines.”
General Mills told CNN glyphosate levels in its foods do not pose any health risks: “The extremely low levels of pesticide residue cited in recent news reports is a tiny fraction of the amount the government allows.”
“Consumers are regularly bombarded with alarming headlines, but rarely have the time to weigh the information for themselves,” the company said. “We feel this is an important context that consumers should be aware of when considering this topic.”