Dec 31, 2013

Are 'Harmful' weedkiller in your bread and cereal bars?

The Ecologist: Safe, pure and wholesome?

According to GM Freeze, 100% of the Jordans cereal bars tested were found to contain glyphosate. The group also says that at least 85% of tested products made by Warburtons – the well known bread company – contained traces of the herbicide.

The Government's sampling programme is not exhaustive and is designed to provide only a snapshot of residues in a variety of products at a specific time. Still, the figures speak for themselves.

Of 40 Warburtons products sampled, 34 tested positive for glyphosate. These included Warburtons white, brown and wholemeal loaves, and its crumpets. The products were sold in leading supermarkets including Tesco, Morrisons and Asda.

All five samples of Jordans cereal bars contained the herbicide. they included Jordans cranberry and raspberry, crunchy honey and almond, and red berry varieties, purchased in Sainsburys and Tesco.

The testing was carried out in 2012 but the results were only recently published in full. 

Glyphosate linked to health problems

The weedkiller residues were present in small quantities - between 0.1 and 0.8 mg/kg. This is well below the permitted EU maximum residue levels (MRLs) for cereal crops, which currently span 10 - 20 mg/kg.

However campaigners say the sheer number of positive tests for both companies "raises questions" about the use of glyphosate in their supply chains. They also highlight the absence of any MRL for herbicide levels in the bread and bakery products themselves.

"We are concerned because glyphosate has been implicated as a potential endocrine disruptor", GM Freeze director Helena Paul told The Ecologist.

"This means that it may produce adverse effects on human and animal development and reproduction, the immune system and the nervous system and these may occur at very low doses."

The group says there is a growing body of evidence suggesting the herbicide could be linked to health problems and that there should be a ban on its use on food crops and a review of the MRLs to minimise exposure to consumers.

Environmentalists point to studies which they say found that glyphosate herbicides can be toxic to humans, even at lower doses, affecting both embryonic and placental cells.

"Laboratory tests on rats have highlighted damage to testosterone levels in male offspring, while studies on cell cultures found that glyphosate blocks receptors for male sex hormones, and that it inhibits production of oestrogen", according to Friends of the Earth, which published a report on the issue earlier this year.

And a recent article on The Ecologist highlighted reports from Denmark that the health of pigs was being adversely affected by eating feeds containing elevated - but still legal - levels of glyphosate.

Monsanto: it's harmless!

Manufacturers of glyphosate vigorously dispute such claims. They insist that the herbicide is safe, and accuse campaigners of touting flawed research, or manipulating the findings to suit their own agenda.

"Extensive animal and in-vitro (test-tube) data has demonstrated that glyphosate does not cause cancer or tumors, nor is an endocrine disrupter", Thomas Helscher, spokesman for Monsanto - a major supplier of glyphosate products under its 'Roundup' brand - toldThe Ecologist.