A new report from the Environmental Working Group found that popular cereals and snack bars tested contained levels of glyphosate, the main ingredient in the weed killer Roundup.
The report states that the levels found in the products tested, including Cheerios and Nature Valley products, were “higher than what EWG scientists consider protective for children’s health.”
Glyphosate is a key ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup, a commonly used commercial pesticide, commonly used on corn, soybean and oat crops. Since August, three courts have ruled against Bayer-Monsanto, the producer of the pesticide, that the product lead to cancer in the instances of three plaintiffs. Last May, a California court awarded a couple $2 billion in damages after determining their cancer was caused by the weedkiller Roundup.
More than 13,000 similar lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto or its parent company Bayer. Earlier this month, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came up with new rules to “help farmers target pesticide sprays on the intended pest, protect pollinators, and reduce the problem of weeds becoming resistant to glyphosate.” But the agency has denied the link between the pesticide and cancer and the chemical is still approved federally for commercial use.
“EPA has found no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate,” Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in an earlier statement.
However, in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” As for California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, it classified glyphosate as a known carcinogen in 2017.
According to The Hill, The Environmental Working Group's study found the chemical on all of the 21 oat-based products it tested with Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch exhibiting the highest level of glyphosate at 833 ppb, or parts per billion. EPA guidance establishes a maximum legal residue level of glyphosate in oats at 30,000 parts per billion (ppb). An EPA spokesperson denied that the levels found in the cereal was alarming.
"The EWG samples listed in the linked article are all well below the EPA tolerance. Residues of glyphosate on any food or feed item are safe for consumers if they are below the established tolerances. The presence of a detectible pesticide residue does not mean the residue is at an unsafe level," the spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.
Some farmers use glyphosate on oat crop to dry it out, making it easier to harvest, explains Jamie Alan, PhD, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University. “This is why oat cereals tend to have higher levels than wheat cereals might,” she says.
According to Prevention, Alan says that it’s “reasonable” to look for organic alternatives to popular oat cereals and products, which are much less likely to contain glyphosate. However, with a bowl of Cheerios here and there, you’re probably okay. “It’s not very likely that this will have long-lasting deleterious effects,” Alan says. “The glyphosate is there, but it is in relatively small amounts.”