My husband shared an article with me yesterday from our local ABC affiliate. The article claimed that “unsafe” levels of a common weed killer, glyphosate, were found in a number of oat products like cereals, granola bars, and oatmeal. (You can read the article here.)
While the basic gist of the article may not be surprising to those of us who’ve had our eye on the whole Roundup (glyphosate) issue, some interesting things jumped out at me immediately when I read through the piece. First, and probably most shocking to me personally was the detectable amounts of Roundup that were found in “organic” products. Tests were performed on 16 “organic” products, and 5 of them came back with Roundup contamination! How did this happen?
Most of us know about “Roundup-ready” corn and soybeans. These are crops that are genetically engineered to grow despite being sprayed with glyphosate. A number of folks don’t know, however, about Roundup’s use with non-GMO cereal crops. Crops like wheat (and apparently barley and oats) are sprayed with Roundup just prior to harvest so that the plants die and dry at the same time. This allows farmers to harvest their crops quicker thus earning more money over a growing season.
My assumption was, however, that “organic” foods should be free of glyphosate. After all, organic practices don’t allow farmers to spray their crops with the stuff. That isn’t how it has worked out in reality though apparently. With so many farmers using Roundup, it is apparently pretty tough to avoid cross-contamination at processing plants, and since crops are grown in nature, we can’t eliminate the risk of Roundup being carried by the wind.
What does this mean for us? Well, it means that when we’re talking about cereal grains, buying organic doesn’t mean we’re buying glyphosate-free products. So folks who think they’re being “healthy” by eating their oatmeal every day are getting a nice dose of weed killer with their food. YUM!
Another part of the discussion involved glyphosate and cancer risk. Personally, as much as I’d like to hate on Monsanto and Roundup, I haven’t decided what I think about glyphosate and cancer. What I have decided is that it’s not good for me, and I don’t want to be eating it on a routine basis. I’ve seen studies that link it to gut permeability issues, and that’s enough to give me concerns about something that’s supposedly safe enough to drink and eat.
Something else that also surprised me was the fact that the FDA has been testing foods for glyphosate levels for two years now, but they haven’t wanted to share the results. Even when requests were made through the Freedom of Information Act, the most we got from the FDA was acknowledgement that “a fair amount” of glyphosate was found in their testing. So helpful, right?
This article has definitely given me a reason to think about a few things though. While I believe that grains of all kinds aren’t meant to be human food, this doesn’t change the fact that I need to buy grain. I feed it to my livestock, and I pay a premium for transition grains from my feed mill. This means that I’m buying grains that are farmed with “organic” practices, but they can’t yet be certified as organic because of waiting periods and the like. Avoiding glyphosate is the number one reason that I’ve opted for the transition grains, but is that really what’s happening here? It’s hard to say.
Now, I won’t get all excited about glyphosate amounts that are 20 or 30 parts per billion because of cross-contamination, but I don’t like it, and it’d be nice if there were a way around it that wasn’t prohibitively expensive. For now though, I’m just keeping in mind that knowledge is power, and hopefully there’ll be a point where my children can get food that isn’t contaminated by weed killer.