Study: Switching to Organic Diet Dramatically Lowers Glyphosate Levels in Adults, Children

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

WASHINGTON – If people switch to an all-organic diet, the levels of the most widely used weedkiller in the world swiftly and dramatically plummet in their bodies, according to a new study reported on today by Environmental Health News

Researchers with the Health Research Institute and the national nonprofits Commonweal Institute and Friends of the Earth tested urine samples of seven adults and nine children from various demographic backgrounds and locations in the U.S.

The samples were collected while participants were on a diet of conventional foods and again after each had switched to eating only foods grown and produced organically.

The levels of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Bayer’s Roundup herbicide, dropped quickly just a few days after the adults and children began their transition to an all-organic diet. On average, the levels of glyphosate and its breakdown product aminomethyl phosphonic acid fell by more than 70 percent in both children and adults, with reductions seen after just three days of an organic diet.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research, is one of the first that documents the precipitous decline of glyphosate in the human body after a change to an organic diet.

The team of researchers collected and tested 158 urine samples and found that the levels of glyphosate in children before they had switched to a diet of organic foods were roughly five times higher than in the adults.

“The often-repeated claims by chemical agriculture and big food companies that there isn’t much difference between conventional and organic foods is wildly inaccurate, and this study is further proof of it,” said EWG Toxicologist Alexis Temkin, Ph.D. “The levels of toxic crop chemicals like glyphosate that contaminate a wide swath of conventional foods are a main pathway of exposure for most adults and children. The only way to dramatically reduce all Americans’ exposure to this toxic weedkiller is for the Environmental Protection Agency to ban uses of the herbicide that lead to high levels in foods people eat.”

In March 2015, as the EPA was working on its own risk assessment, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC – an arm of the World Health Organization – classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The 17-member panel of scientists reviewed nearly 1,000 peer-reviewed, published studies on the potential carcinogenicity of the chemical. The EPA ignored many of those studies.

Not only did the EPA ignore the IARC’s findings, and the underlying research that informed the panel’s conclusion that the weedkiller probably causes cancer in people, but some EPA officials may have colluded with Monsanto to try to block the release of another federal government risk assessment.

In 2018, Bayer AG acquired Monsanto for $63 billion along with its signature product, Roundup. Since the acquisition, Bayer has lost three separate lawsuits, with juries finding for the plaintiffs, who claim glyphosate caused their cancer. Bayer recently announced a class action settlement for between $8 and 10 billion to settle thousands of similar suits.

In April 2019, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry released an analysis that gave weight to studies connecting glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and recommended monitoring children’s exposure to this toxic weedkiller.

In July, EWG released an analysis of laboratory testing that shows glyphosate in more than 90 percent of non-organic hummus and chickpea samples. 

Roundup is sprayed on different crops and during different parts of the growing season. For consumers, most worrisome is the spraying of glyphosate, shortly before harvest, on many beans and grains as a drying agent. Previous tests by EWG and other public interest groups have found glyphosate in popular breakfast cereals and other foods American adults and children love to eat.

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Visit www.ewg.org for more information.

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