Thursday, May 16, 2019

Adult Beverages and Glyphosate - Getting More Than You Paid For

Last year's news that Monsanto/Bayer was successfully sued by a California man over its glyphosate-containing product, Roundup, shook the company badly.  Lawyers for Dewayne Johnson claimed that exposure to glyphosate caused his cancer, a claim that is not unique given that over 800 cancer patients are suing Monsanto over similar claims.  This follows a 2015 report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which found that the organophosphate pesticides glyphosate, malathion and diazinon "may be carcinogenic to humans" as shown here:

Here, for your illumination, is a commercial for Roundup's Extended Control product:

Please notice how the gentleman in the advertisement is not using any form of protection (i.e. gloves or a mask) while applying the product.  While this is sending a concerning message to consumers, it appears to be the least of the problems that Roundup has created for mankind.

According to a 2016 paper by Charles Benbrook, Roundup is now the most widely and heavily applied weed-killer in history.  Here is a summary showing how much Roundup has been used since it was first introduced for commercial use in 1974 from his paper:

"Since 1974 in the U.S., over 1.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate active ingredient have been applied, or 19 % of estimated global use of glyphosate (8.6 billion kilograms). Globally, glyphosate use has risen almost 15-fold since so-called “Roundup Ready,” genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant crops were introduced in 1996. Two-thirds of the total volume of glyphosate applied in the U.S. from 1974 to 2014 has been sprayed in just the last 10 years. The corresponding share globally is 72 %. In 2014, farmers sprayed enough glyphosate to apply ~1.0 kg/ha (0.8 pound/acre) on every hectare of U.S.-cultivated cropland and nearly 0.53 kg/ha (0.47 pounds/acre) on all cropland worldwide." (my bold)

Here is a table showing how the use of glyphosate has mushroomed in the United States:

To give you a perspective of the increased use of glyphosate, over the one decade-long period from 2005 to 2014 (one-quarter of the four decades since glyphosate was introduced to the market), 1070 million kilograms of glyphosate was used which amounts to a 66.6 percent share of the total amount used between 1974 and 2014 in the United States.

Here is a map showing glyphosate use across the United States in 2015 from the United States Geological Survey:

Here is a bar graph showing the use of glyphosate by year and by crop:

A study of waterways in 38 states by the United States government found that glyphosate was present in the majority of rivers, streams, ditches and wastewater treatment plants and was present in 70 percent of rainfall samples.
With this background, given the nearly ubiquitous use of glyphosate, it is no surprise that a study by the United States Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) found that glyphosate is present in the beverages that we use to relax and unwind; beer and wine.  USPIRG tested 5 wine and 10 beer products of various brands for glyphosate and found that, of the 20 samples, 19 contained glyphosate and that 3 out of 4 organic beer and wine products contained glyphosate even though the use of glyphosate is not allowed in organic farming.  This suggests that even organic producers are having difficulty avoiding glyphosate contamination in their products.

To help you put the level of glyphosate contamination in wine and beer into context, according to the Environmental Protection Agency which is responsible for setting pesticide residue tolerances, glyphosate residues are allowed on 150 different food and food crops at a level of between 0.2 ppm and 400 ppm (200 to 400,000 ppb).  The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has proposed a "No Significant Risk Level" for glyphosate at 1.1 milligrams per day for an adult with a weight of 154 pounds.  These extremely low levels represent an increased lifetime risk of cancer of one in 100,000 adults. 

Here are the results in parts per billion, keeping in mind that most people drink more than one serving of these beverages in order from highest to lowest glyphosate content:


1.) Sutter Home Merlot - 51.4 ppb

2.) Beringer Estates Moscato - 42.6 ppb

3.) Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon - 36.3 ppb

4.) Inkarri Estates Malbec Certified Organic - 5.3 ppb

5.) Frey Organic Natural White Blend - 4.8 ppb


1.) Coors Light - 31.1 ppb

2.) Tsingtao Beer - 49.7 ppb

3.) Miller Light - 29.8 ppb

4.) Budweiser - 27.0 ppb

5.) Corona Extra - 25.1 ppb

6.) Heineken - 20.9 ppb

7.) Guinness Draught - 20.3 ppb

8.) Stella Artois - 18.7 ppb

9.) Stella Artois Cidre - 9.1 ppb

10.) Ace Perry Hard Cider - 14.5 ppb

11.) New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale - 11.2 ppb

12.) Sam Adams New England IPA - 11.0 ppb

13.) Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - 11.8 ppb

14.) Samuel Smith's Organic Lager - 5.7 ppb

15.) Peak Beer Organic IPA - no detected level

While the levels of glyphosate found in adult beverages by USPIRG are not necessarily dangerous in themselves, what is concerning is that glyphosate is present in many of the other food products that we eat.  Given the nearly universal presence of glyphosate in the environment and in the food chain, consumers that make a choice to avoid consuming this very widely used pesticide will have an increasingly difficult time doing so.  Even those consumers that choose organic products assuming that they are getting a "clean" food may find that they are eating more glyphosate than they thought.

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