The question that the results of EU testing naturally bring up is whether the observed levels of glyphosate have any relevance to health.
From the perspective of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the answer is no. However, from the perspective of more recent, peer-reviewed biomedical research, the answer is yes.
In this new research published in Nature Scientific Reports1, scientists in Europe fed rats 0.1 ng RoundUp herbicide per ml of water daily, which delivers 0.05 ng glyphosate per ml of water daily. In this two-year study, this lead to elevated triglyceride levels, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and also progression to the more serious non-alcoholic steatohepatosis (NASH).
The dose of glyphosate used in this study is tiny. A 300 g rat drinks about 24 ml water per day, so the rats in this study consumed only 1.2 ng glyphosate/300 g body weight/day, or 4 ng/kg body wt/day. To give you a sense of how small 1.2 ng is, one drop of water is equal in weight to 50 million ng. Four ng glyphosate/kg body weight/day was sufficient to trigger fatty liver disease.
In contrast the EFSA considers it safe to consume 300,000 ng glyphosate/kg of body weight/day. Thus, the EFSA’s “safe” level is 75,000 times higher than the dose that caused symptoms of fatty liver disease in rats.
Assuming that humans respond to glyphosate at doses similar to rats, this new research indicates that over a long period of time, a glyphosate dose of only 140 ng/day could trigger fatty liver disease in a 35 kg child and a 280 ng/day dose could do the same for a 70 kg adult.
As shown in the attached Certificate of Analysis, the Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream, found on UK grocery shelves, contained 1.23 ng glyphosate/ml. The 35 kg child would have to eat only a modest serving of this ice cream—just 114 ml daily (about 2 scoops)—to consume 140 ng glyphosate, and eating a serving of 228 ml would provide the 70 kg adult with 240 ng.
There are other studies that also relate glyphosate exposure to both kidney and liver disease2,3, and fatty liver disease has become a global epidemic during the last 20 years.
We can conclude two things from the above analysis: First, the levels of glyphosate present in at least some of the Ben and Jerry’s flavors may be a potential health risk. Additional research is needed to assess this more fully, but current evidence raises this concern. Second, the levels of glyphosate designated as safe by the EFSA are unrealistically high. Such assurances do not serve the public, but create a false sense of security and thus are a public health hazard. There is growing evidence that regulators both in the US and Europe have been unduly influenced by Monsanto and more broadly by the chemical and ag-biotech industry.
The regulatory levels of glyphosate and other herbicides and pesticides have been set in both the EU and US based on outmoded models of toxicology and biochemistry that fail to take into account the properties of endocrine/hormone disrupters like glyphosate, which can have health damaging effects at even the very low levels observed in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
For glyphosate, scientists have published evidence for adverse effects at these very low levels. It should be remembered that, globally, glyphosate is the most-used herbicide on the market. Ben and Jerry’s, along with many other sources, contributes to levels in the human diet that are likely to impact health and likely to contribute to the epidemic of chronic disease that exists today.
There is another core issue, in addition to health and safety: From the perspective of transparency, it is of great concern that glyphosate is present at any level in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. It was found in all three of the UK samples tested.
The wide-spread presence of this agrochemical in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream indicates that this brand is not using “natural” methods, but, instead, is using industrial / chemical farming methods with all of their associated social, environmental and health impacts.
1 Mesnage R, et al, “Multiomics reveal non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats following chronic exposure to an ultra-low dose of Roundup herbicide.” Scientific Reports (a Nature publication). 2017:7:39328. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep39328
2EPA: Basic information about glyphosate in drinking water. 2014, http://waterepagov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/glyphosatecfm
3Jayasumana C, et al, “Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka?” Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(2), 2125-2147; doi: 10.3390/ijerph110202125