Glyphosate: The Weed Killer Found In Our Food & Water

This is part one of a three-part series on glyphosate. Part two can be read here.

What Is Glyphosate

Glyphosate, the active chemical in the weed killer RoundUp, is the world's most used herbicide. First discovered in 1950, glyphosate's herbicidal properties were not identified until 1970. It was quickly patented by agrochemical and biotech company Monsanto.

Monsanto created the brand name 'RoundUp' and released it to the market in 1974. Roundup is now synonymous with the term glyphosate (and found in garden sheds and barns worldwide). Use of Roundup and its active component glyphosate has exploded and use continues to grow, especially with the advent of glyphosate resistant GMO Crops.

Glyphosate's widespread use is due to its effectiveness at killing weeds. Its chemical name is N-(Phosphonomethyl)glycine. This substance blocks an enzyme plants use to make proteins. Making it toxic to any plant that has not been genetically engineered to resist it.

Spraying the chemical on plant matter will stop its growth and kill the plant in days. This is why its use is so mainstream. It is used in more than 160 countries with over 650,000 tonnes used in the year 2011 alone.

Despite their patent expiring in 2000 Monsanto continues to produce more than half the world's glyphosate supply. Its main strategy for continued sales is through the development of genetically modified (GM) crops. Crops that are resistant to glyphosate exposure.

Although glyphosate is found in 'mum and pa' garden sheds, it's primary use is by agriculture and big farming. 90% of its use in America for the year 2014 was agricultural use (5).

Due to the use of Monsanto's GM glyphosate resistant crops, farmers are now able to plant crops such as corn, cotton, and soy and spray entire fields with glyphosate. Killing weeds without damaging their crop.

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 0.53 kg/ha (0.47 pounds/acre) on all cropland worldwide. (5)

Glyphosate use on food products continues to grow. For example, in 2012 five million acres in California USA alone were sprayed with glyphosate to grow peaches, almonds, grapes, cherries and citrus fruits.

Should we be concerned by the widespread (and ever growing) use of this chemical plant killer? Monsanto claims that the enzyme glyphosate blocks in plants are not found in humans, thus is not toxic when we consume it. Many peer reviewed independent studies have shown otherwise.


Why It's Used

It Kills Weeds

Glyphosate kills plants. Farmers and homeowners primary use the chemical to destroy unwanted weeds. But farmers will also use the glyphosate to clear fields before replanting.

A 2012 survey conducted over 896 farms in Germany, concluded that 84% of farms used glyphosate at least once on their crops (3).


Many councils worldwide use glyphosate to control overgrowth around roads or railways, while also using it in parks, public spaces, schools and sporting fields. Despite its main use in the field of agriculture, the only areas of the world it's not used is where it's banned or restricted (i.e. organic farms).

It Has Desiccation Properties & Assists with Harvesting

Glyphosate is also used by farmers to help dry out their crops before harvesting. This called desiccation.

Glyphosate works as a desiccant where it removes moisture from the plant crop (1, 2). Farmers will spray it on crops such as maize, corn, wheat, sunflowers and potato 1 - 2 weeks before harvest. This helps with the harvesting processing, speeding up processing times. It is especially common in areas of the world that tend to have wet summers such as Germany and the UK. For example, 75% of Rapeseed crops (used to make canola oil) were treated with glyphosate pre-harvest in West England in the year 2009 (4).

As well as acting as a desiccant, the act of spraying glyphosate on nearly ripe crops can cause the plant to concentrate its energy on ripening, producing seeds as the rest of the plant dies. This can be beneficial for the farmer as they can shorten growing times and harvest early if the upcoming weather is poor.

This crop spraying so close to harvest means that a lot of the herbicide is going to be present in large amounts in the resulting food products.

Agriculture organisations are aware of the higher crop residue exposure when glyphosate is used as a pre-harvesting agent. Many of these organisations set out best practice guidelines. One such organisation is 'Glyphosate Facts EU' which is a consortium of companies comprised of manufacturers such as Monsanto Europe and other Biotech producers.

Despite the manufacturers and sellers of glyphosate funding these organisations, the best practice guidelines still warn farmers to be careful with over spraying and spraying too close to harvest. This is due to the increased residue that will make its way into the end product (4).

Although some countries have regulations in place around glyphosate use pre-harvest, the limits are often outdated, based on flawed science, or studies that were funded by Monsanto themselves. Even then these regulations are not applied worldwide.

The USA, for example, has some very lax regulations around using glyphosate pre-harvest. interviewed non-organic farmers in North America and learnt how widespread pre-harvest spraying was:

According to a wheat farmer in Saskatchewan, desiccating wheat with glyphosate is commonplace in his region. “I think every non-organic farmer in Saskatchewan uses glyphosate on most of their wheat acres every year," the farmer speaking on condition of anonymity said.
The vast majority of farmers in Manitoba, Canada's third largest wheat producing province, also use glyphosate on wheat, said Gerald Wiebe, a farmer and agricultural consultant. “I would estimate that 90 to 95 percent of wheat acres in Manitoba are sprayed pre-harvest with glyphosate; the exception would be in dry areas of the province where moisture levels at harvest time are not an issue," he said.
“We are told these (glyphosate residues) are too small to matter but can we believe that?" the Saskatchewan farmer asked. “I think everyone, even farmers that use and love glyphosate, would rather not eat a loaf of bread with glyphosate in it."
Wiebe shares similar concerns. “Consumers don't realize when they buy wheat products like flour, cookies and bread they are getting glyphosate residues in those products," he said. “It's barbaric to put glyphosate in food a few days before you harvest it."
Wiebe believes the use of glyphosate on wheat may be connected to the rise in celiac disease. “We've seen an explosion of gluten intolerance," he said. “What's really going on?"
“Can you imagine the public's response if they knew that glyphosate is being sprayed on the oats in their Cheerios only weeks before it is manufactured?" Ehrhardt asked.

Finally, Dr. Don. Huber, an internationally recognized expert on Roundup Toxicity (43), had this to say about glyphosate as a desiccant:

“This is very serious. When you look at the use of glyphosate as a desiccant, I can’t imagine how it was ever approved by the EPA for that purpose. Glyphosate is a systemic chemical — it is highly water soluble — it moves to the growth points of plants. When you put it out at the late stage of growth, 2 to 3 weeks before harvest, the only place that glyphosate can go is into the seed. That’s why the EPA has to keep increasing their tolerance levels because the levels in our food keep increasing.”(44)

It Increases Yield

Farmers have also found that glyphosate used on sugarcane and sugar beet crops increase the sugar yield. This is due to the drying properties of glyphosate which in turn increase the ratio of sugar to fibre. Enhancing the level of sugar in the juice and cane.

Done properly, the use of glyphosate has a benefit-to-use ratio of 7.5 to 1, with an increase of 300-600 pounds of sugar per acre as per some Louisiana farms (8).

GMO Crops Are Resistant To Glyphosate

In 1996 Monsanto launched a seed that would change agriculture forever. This seed was genetically engineered so that is was resistant to glyphosate. Monsanto marketed these seeds as 'Roundup Ready' - Genetically engineered glyphosate tolerant crops.

Farmers flocked to these new seeds. Gone were the days of selective spraying - spraying between plants, being careful not to kill the crop. Now farmers could plant 'Roundup Ready' crop and spray entire fields with glyphosate products such as roundup. Killing weeds while the crop continued to thrive.

Killing weeds is simple with GMO Crops - Just spray the entire field in chemicals, crop and all!

As a result of this revolutionary new product, GM crops are now grown around the world. I don't want to get into the pros and cons of this new type of seed, I will save that for another blog. Instead, let us focus on glyphosate.

With these new crops being resistant to glyphosate, demand for the herbicide exploded. In fact, two thirds of the total volume of glyphosate applied in the US in 40 years since it's development was applied in the last 10 years (5).

The table below shows the uptick in glyphosate use after 1996 - when 'Roundup Ready' crops were first introduced.

Source - 


As more and more farmers switch to GM 'RoundUp Ready' crops, the use of glyphosate increases.

Source -

Despite the GM crops being resistant to glyphosate, the crops still absorb the chemical in the same way non-GM crops do. But this time around the amount of glyphosate sprayed on the crops is exponentially higher. As farmers continue to spray entire fields with glyphosate, weeds are becoming resistant to it.

As of March 2017, there are now 37 weeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate (6). The team at the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds have put together many great graphs on this growing problem:

As weed resistance increases, GM crop farmers use more glyphosate and other herbicides to control weed growth (7).



Impact On The Environment

Before we look at the potential health impacts of this unnatural synthetic chemical on humans, I want to explore its impact on the environment we live in, play in and grow our food in. 

Glyphosate in the Soil

Monsanto claims that its Roundup product is safe for the environment and that it is 'biodegradable', leaving the 'soil clean'.Their product labels state:

Any product not absorbed by the plant will be deactivated after it hits the soil.(9)

In fact, Monsanto have even stated that Roundup is: more toxic to people and animals than table salt” (Monsanto Europe, December 1995)

But is this the case? In the first years of Glyphosate being on the market, there weren't a lot of independent studies reviewing glyphosate's impact on the soil. 

A 1994 report on glyphosate put together by some of the world's top health organisations supported Monsanto's claims that roundup was safe. They stated glyphosate had low toxicity based on the data available at the time (10).
But a lot has changed since then. In 2009 France's highest court ruled that Monsanto had falsely advertised claims that its Roundup product was 'biodegradable and safe for the soil' (11).

This court case was a result of evidence coming out showing that glyphosate wasn't 'deactivated' upon contact with soil.
FOEEurope released a report on Glyphosate's impact on soil that stated:

Glyphosate also affects soil chemistry. While in some soils, glyphosate binds to soil particles, making it inert, in some soil types it remains active and is broken down by soil microbes, affecting the biological and chemical processes around plant roots, including the ability of the plant to fix nitrogen (12), resulting in the need for increased levels of nitrate fertilisers. (11)

FOE Europe continue (13

Glyphosate is soluble in water(14) but it also binds onto soil particles under certain conditions (15), particularly in clays. So it may quickly wash out of sandy soils, or last for more than in a year in soils with a high clay content (16). Even when bound to soil particles, it may dissolve back into soil water later on, for example in the presence of phosphates(17).
Glyphosate can also form complexes with metal ions (18), potentially affecting the availability of nutrients in the soil. 

Soil testing done by Grain Research & Development Corporation (19) (operated by the Australian Government) confirms positive detections of glyphosate residue in the farmland.

The soil survey of 40 different paddocks from around Australia (12 in WA, 15 in SA and 13 in NSW-QLD) detected residues of 11 chemicals out of the 15 analysed (Figure 2). Glyphosate and its primary metabolite, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) were the most commonly detected residues, with AMPA residues present in every topsoil sample taken

Source - GRDC

Although the half-life of glyphosate is relatively rapid (10-40 d), a significant portion of the glyphosate (and AMPA) is bound to soil and is much less accessible for continued degradation. This, combined with the high frequency of glyphosate use, can lead to a build-up of glyphosate and AMPA in soil.

The Soil Association published a review on 'The Impact of Glyphosate on Soil Health' (20). Their findings state:

Furthermore, the half-life of glyphosate, which gives an indication of its persistence in the soil and water, is believed to be longer than previously though (21). Recent research suggests that the herbicide persists longer with the return of crop residues containing glyphosate to the soil (22).

Before concluding:

Research indicates potential impacts in increasing crop diseases, changing the composition and functioning of soil micro-organism species and ecosystems, and recently published studies are showing a negative impact on earthworms. Scientists working in this field are calling for future research to be carried out. This is urgent given the widespread and heavy use of glyphosate worldwide.

Finally, Roundup Toxicity Expert Dr Don. Huber had this to say about glyphosate in the soil:

They used it for weed control [In US Almond production]. This is common for many perennial crops such as fruit and nuts. There are very high concentrations of glyphosate in the soil under citrus trees. It is not an active herbicide in the soil, because it is already chelated with calcium, magnesium,   manganese, iron and other minerals. 
However, when phosphate fertilizer is applied [on the soil under the trees] it can desorb the glyphosate and become active again. The [newly released] glyphosate can then be absorbed by the trees and plants, and cause damage to the subsequent crop. It accumulates in the growing points [of plants and trees], which contain the reproductive structures. So it will accumulate at quite high levels in seeds and nuts. At the same time, glyphosate is greatly decreasing the nutrient efficiency of the plant from a production standpoint as well as from a nutrient density standpoint.”

Glyphosate In Our Water Ways

Given that glyphosate is being found in soil, it would be expected that some run off residue it making it's way to waterways in the area.

A 2014 study titled 'Glyphosate and Its Degradation Product AMPA Occur Frequently and Widely in U.S. Soils, Surface Water, Groundwater, and Precipitation' (23) looked at 3732 water and sediment samples collected in a 10 year period across the USA. Their results state that:

... glyphosate and AMPA are usually detected together, mobile, and occur widely in the environment. Glyphosate and AMPA were detected frequently in soils and sediment, ditches and drains, precipitation, rivers, and streams; and less frequently in lakes, ponds, and wetlands; soil water; and groundwater.

The lower readings in the soil water and groundwater are no doubt due to glyphosate's binding properties with soil.

More concerning are reports that found over 85% of rainfall samples in the USA contain glyphosate. With concentrations ranging from 0.02 to 1.1 ug/L (23). For context, the European Drinking Water Directive set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for pesticides in groundwater at 0.1 ug/L.

In the European Union - where glyphosate use has is restricted after ongoing legal battles - 50,000 surface water samples show that over 29% were contaminated with glyphosate. Whereas AMPA (glyphosate breakdown product) was found in 50% of the water samples (24).

These findings are supported by various other water sampling studies done around the world.
FOEEurope has compiled a table that shows the summary of data in glyphosate in surface waters which can be seen below:

Glyphosate Around Our Home

90% of Roundup sales are to farmers, but nearly every garden shed I have ever been in has had a container of Roundup sitting on the shelf.
There is no formal government chemical testing done around personal property on a large scale basis, so there was no hard evidence for me to report on here.

However, given how widespread Roundup is, and how carefree most people are when applying it (no masks, coveralls, washing up afterwards etc) it would be fair to say a lot of the population have heightened risk of glyphosate exposure from their yards or neighbours who use glyphosate sprays.

For more on the environmental impact of glyphosate please see this publication: The environmental impacts of glyphosate.

Humans Exposure to Glyphosate

Glyphosate use

As outlined earlier, use of Roundup and other Glyphosate products has risen over the past 2 decades. Between 1987 and 2012, glyphosate use by US farmers grew from less than 11 millions pounds to nearly 260 million pounds.

The following graphics by the USGS - Pesticide Project show the increased use across the US in a 20 year peroid:
Source : Water USGS

And the total use is clearly seen on the following graphic:

For those who want to see numbers back going back to glyphosates entry to the market in 1974 the following table presents the facts. US use in 1974 was 635,000kgs. In 2014 it was 125,385,000kg.

When looking at the global data we see similar trends.

Use of glyphosate skyrocketed after the adoption of GE - Roundup Ready - crops in 1996. With the glyphosate use from 1996 to 2014 making up 94% of all time use of glyphosate, despite this period only being 45% of the time glyphosate has been on the market (24). I'm sure that this disconnect has continued from 2014 but I don't have the data to run the numbers.

Also supporting the widespread use of glyphosate is the drop in price. Monsanto's glyphosate patent expired in 2000, meaning other manufacturers could make and sell the product. This has pushed prices down and helping spread glyphosate's use to all corners of the world.

Glyphosate in Food

We know that use of glyphosate has exploded over the past few decades, and we also know that glyphosate is found in surface water, rainwater, and soil. Worse, we see tractors spraying GM glyphosate resistant crops with millions of litres of glyphosate every year. Sometimes only days before these crops are harvested and sent to markets for human consumption.

So how much of this non-natural chemical is making its way into the food we eat? A lot depends on the particular crop.
GMO Roundup Ready crops like Soybean, Corn and Maize have some of the highest glyphosate exposure during the growing process. But crops that are sprayed with glyphosate in the days before harvest may end up having higher levels of residue.

The USDA puts out an Annual Summary looking at Pesticide levels in food. This is titled 'Pesticide Data Program, Annual Summary' and at the time of writing the 2015 report published in November 2016 was their most recent publication (25).

The report tests pesticide levels in foods based on the standards set out by the Environmental Protection Agency.  The pesticide report opens with the following:

This report shows that when pesticide residues are found on foods, they are nearly always at levels below the tolerances set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The PDP provides reliable data to help assure consumers that the food they feed themselves and their families is safe. Over 99 percent of the products sampled through PDP had residues below the EPA tolerances. Ultimately, if EPA determines a pesticide is not safe for human consumption, it is removed from the market.

Before continuing, it is vital to understand that the EPA tolerances are extremely lax when compared to other agencies around the world.

For example, I have listed the tolerance levels of glyphosate in apples for countries around the world below:

  • New Zealand - 0.01ppm
  • Australia - 0.05 ppm
  • EU - 0.10 ppm
  • Switzerland - 0.10 ppm
  • Japan - 0.20 ppm
  • Israel - 0.20 ppm
  • USA - 0.20 ppm
  • Russia - 0.30 ppm
  • China - 0.50 ppm

Eager to see what the USDA Pesticide report had to say about glyphosate exposure in the US I soon hit a roadblock. After extensive research, I discovered that the USDA did not test for glyphosate in its annual report. Nor did it test for its byproduct AMPA. Glyphosate wasn't mentioned once in this 193-page report.

Digging deeper, I discovered this statement by the USDA around glyphosate testing (26):

Why doesn’t PDP test for some pesticides, such as glyphosate? 
A: USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) work together to identify foods to be tested based on EPA’s data needs. EPA uses PDP data to conduct dietary risk assessments and to ensure that pesticide residues in foods are not a food safety risk. In 2011, PDP tested 300 soybean samples for glyphosate and its metabolite AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid). The results showed that no samples exceeded the tolerance for glyphosate. The results from the Glyphosate testing were published in the PDP 2011 Summary and are discussed on page 25.

I pulled up this summary and found the following (27):

Glyphosate and its AMPA metabolite were also tested in the soybean samples. Portions of each sample were shipped by the GIPSA laboratory to the Colorado laboratory for glyphosate testing, which requires a specialized analytical method. Of the 300 samples tested, 271 (90.3 percent) of samples contained glyphosate at levels ranging from 0.26 parts per million (ppm) to 18.5 ppm. The AMPA metabolite was detected in 287 (95.7 percent) of the samples at levels ranging from 0.26 ppm to 20 ppm. The tolerance for glyphosate in soybeans is 20 ppm – no samples exceeded that tolerance.

Despite 90% of samples containing glyphosate (and 95% containing AMPA), and given that the levels were as high as 18.5 ppm and even higher for AMPA, because it fell under the EPA's (already high) ceiling of 20ppm this was enough evidence for the USDA to not test glyphosate in all food products for the foreseeable future.

Remember, this is an annual report on the levels of pesticides in food. Pesticides include substances that kill weeds (herbicides), insects (insecticides), fungus (fungicides), rodents (rodenticides). Glyphosate is the most used herbicide in the world! (28) In fact, it's the most used agricultural chemical EVER.

But because of ONE small test done on 300 soybeans in 2011, the USDA doesn't bother to test for pesticides in one of the world's most comprehensive food testing report. This is the only glyphosate test that has been done in the 25-year history of the pesticide program.

If you don't believe, check the report yourself. Here is the latest report download the report and do a search for glyphosate.

Despite the glyphosate not being tested by the USDA in their annual pesticide report, Monsanto asked the EPA to raise tolerance levels for the Roundup in 2013. The EPA agreed to increase their tolerance levels (29). Should the USDA ever add glyphosate to their annual pesticide testing, consumers need to be aware that the tolerance levels are already above many countries around the world.

But it doesn't look like the USDA will be adding glyphosate to their list anytime soon.

This statement was released in 2015, 4 years after their soybean test, despite that the use of glyphosate continues to grow year by year. 

Why doesn’t PDP test for some pesticides, such as glyphosate?
A: USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested based on EPA’s data needs. EPA uses PDP data to conduct dietary risk assessments and to ensure that pesticide residues in foods are not a food safety risk. Glyphosate residue is not currently part of PDP sampled pesticides. Currently, FDA is testing corn and soybean grains for glyphosate residues. The FDA glyphosate residues testing will provide results to help determine if EPA needs additional data. When FDA results become available, USDA will consult with EPA to ensure we continue to provide quality data to meet EPA’s data needs

Since this 2015 statement, nothing has changed. And if Monsanto gets their way don't expect much to change. Only hours before this article was published, a Californian court ordered 6 million pages of Monsanto's internal emails and documents be released to the public. The documents are being published and analysed over at the US. Right To Know.

Emails released so far show collusion between Monsanto and EPA reps. Worst, there is clear evidence of Monsanto manipulating scientific evidence - covering up the health dangers of its billion-dollar product.

To see some of these shocking documents head to the FoodBabes website here -

Knowing that the USDA database is no use, and official Monsanto statements are not to be trusted, we have to look elsewhere for data on glyphosate residues in food. Here is what I found from independent studies:

  • The US FDA found glyphosate in honey at levels twice that allowed in the EU. The US doesn't have any tolerance levels so the honey was still 'safe' according to the EPA. (30)
  • Independent tests on Quakers Oatmeal found that glyphosate was found in their product. Though it was below the EPA tolerance level. (31)
  • Glyphosate has been tested positive in german beers (32)
  • Likewise in 10 Californian wines. One of which was a certified organic wine (33). The contamination of conventional (18.74 bbb) wine was nearly 30 times higher than organic wine (0.659ppb).
  • Baby food has been tested positive for glyphosate exposure (36)
  • 85% of Tampons have been found to contain glyphosate (34). Most of the cotton grown in the US is GM cotton.
  • An independent test on breakfast foods done by the Alliance for Natural Health USA found that oatmeal, bagels, bread, cereal, large eggs, and soy creamer all tested positive for glyphosate. With some foods testing well above the EPA tolerance levels. (35).
  • Malt barley coming out of North Dakota farms has to be tested for glyphosate, as levels are often so high it kills the yeast in the brew mix. A good sign that US beer is tainted with glyphosate. (38)
  • 60% of bread sold in the UK contains glyphosate. 

If you are thinking of avoiding all plant matter in the quest to minimise your glyphosate load, think again. Glyphosate has been found in animal muscle meats in a 2104 German study (47). There are numerous ways the glyphosate can make it's way into the animal - eating weeds that have been sprayed from the farmer is an obvious one. A bigger issue is around the animals feed. A lot of feedlot cattle farms feed their animals grains such as corn and soy - grains that could be GMO crops or containing high levels of glyphosate residue.


I could go on and on. It's important to note that the crops exposed to glyphosate - corn, soy, rapeseed - are in majority of the processed food products that we eat today. In my article on PUFA's explore how nearly all restaurants and cafes cook in canola oil (derived from GMO rapeseed). So even if you are eating an organic meal at your favourite restaurant, you may still be exposed to glyphosate through the oil that they cook in.



Is Organic Really Organic?

Discovering that the USDA does not test for glyphosate made we wonder if the USDA Organic regulations also turn a blind eye to glyphosate use. The thought of this being the case sent shivers down my spine.

After countless hours sifting through reports and regulations on the USDA and FDA websites, I found a document titled 'Labeling Organic Products' (39) which outlined:

Organic products have strict production and labeling requirements. Unless noted below, organic products must meet the following requirements: 
1. Produced without excluded methods (e.g., genetic engineering), ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge.
2. Produced per the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List).
3. Overseen by a USDA National Organic Program authorized certifying agent, following all USDA organic regulations.

Point 1 is great news. It means USDA organic foods have to be free of GMOs (37). The most heavily sprayed 'Roundup Ready' crops cannot be used in Organic certified food.

Point 2 establishes that some non-organic ingredients can be used in a product (but the end product cannot be labelled 100% organic, just organic). After checking the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List) (40) I could not find glyphosate or AMPA. And it was clear that the allowed products where natural substances such as Beet Juice and Fish oil.

This is a pleasing find and gives consumers confidence in the USDA Organic label. Yet, there are still issues with Organic food when it comes to glyphosate exposure. As outlined above, some organic foods still show high levels of glyphosate. Here are a few more case studies:

  • Organic Wheat was tested to have 30 - 60ppb of glyphosate. Conventional wheat tested by the same lab found 70-90ppb residue levels (41)
  • Glyphosate was found in US Organic Honey (45)
  • 1 out of 3 organic farmers surveyed stated that they had dealt with GMO contamination on their farm (46).
  • Organic, cage free, antibiotic eggs contained glyphosate at 169ppb. Higher than the 102 ppb that the non-organic eggs tested for by the same lab (35).

Why is this so common? Why are organic crops testing for high levels of glyphosate? We have already established that glyphosate is making its way into our waterways, it can stay in our soil for longer than thought, and it is present in rainfall. The EPA confirms this in the following statement about glyphosate in organic food:

The EPA establishes the maximum allowed levels of pesticides, or EPA tolerances, which may be present on foods. Although most EPA -registered pesticides are prohibited in organic production, there can be inadvertent or indirect contact from neighboring conventional farms or shared handling facilities. As long as the operator hasn’t directly applied prohibited pesticides and has documented efforts to minimize exposure to them, the USDA organic regulations allow for residues of prohibited pesticides at or below 5 percent of the EPA tolerance. (42)

There is no denying it. Glyphosate has become a staple in our food chain. And it's not going away in a hurry. Glyphosate residues remain stable in foods for years, even if the food is frozen or dried (48). Washing the food nor cooking assist with residue removal. (48)
 Source - (46)

Human Contamination by Glyphosate

With all this glyphosate in the environment and the food we eat we need to find out how the body deals with this chemical. If we simply excrete it or render it inert upon contact with our skin or saliva then glyphosates widespread use may not be an issue.

Fortunately, this topic has been investigated extensively. Here is what we know about Human contamination by glyphosate:

  • The US EPA set glyphosates daily chronic Reference Dose at 1.75 mg per kg. The EU's limit is 0.5 mg/kg (up from 0.3). Though scientists have called for this limit to be reduced down to 0.1 mg/kg (54)
  • Animals fed a diet that contains glyphosate residue show glyphosate present in their liver, kidneys, muscle, urine, milk and eggs. (49)
  • A study funded and carried out by the manufacturers of Roundup concluded: "The results from this study indicate that virtually no toxic metabolites of glyphosate were produced since there was little evidence of metabolism and essentially 100% of the body burden was parent compound with no significant persistence of material." (50). But before you run out and down a box of GMO cereal remember that this was a study done by the people who sell glyphosate.
  • Monsanto also funded another study looking at glyphosate on farmers. Again, it's important not to read into these findings too much. The results showed that 60% of individuals exposed to glyphosate had it in their urine 24 hours later with the highest reading being 233ppb. 3 days later 27% of the samples contained glyphosate. As the concentrations were below the EPA tolerances this study was quickly forgotten about.
  • Looking at independent studies we see glyphosate presence in far greater numbers. An Iowa study looked at farmer families and non-farmer families. Not surprisingly, glyphosate was detected in the majority of the samples. What surprised me, however, was that the concentration levels were similar between the non-farming and farming families suggesting that exposure may have been coming from the diet or environment, rather than the actual use of the product. (51).
  • An independent urine sample was carried out by Friends of the Earth. The volunteers, who lived in Europe, had not used glyphosate in the lead up to the test and all resided in cities, not farms. The results were alarming. 70% of the sample population living in the UK or Germany showed glyphosate exposure. (51)
  • A similar study was done with the woman in America. Their results found readings 8 times higher than their EU counterparts (56).
  • A 2000 study titled Safety Evaluation and Risk Assessment of the Herbicide Roundup and Its Active Ingredient, Glyphosate, for Humans found that 15-35% of orally administered material was absorbed (53)

If you read the abstract of this particular study you will be lead to believe that glyphosate actually is no more harmful than table salt. Their final sentence reads: Roundup herbicide does not pose a health risk to humans.

But upon reading the entire paper (52) I noticed that I had seen the authors names before. Where? In the recently released internal documents that Monsanto was forced to release.

Please see the highlighted text below:


Given this, I have to question the authenticity of this Kroes & Munro 2000 Study.

  • A 2009 study on rats found that majority of glyphosate passed through the body intact or as the metabolises byproduct AMPA. (53) But, the researchers did find that some of the chemicals were found in blood and tissues samples.
  • Research in animals shows a large buildup of glyphosate in the kidneys, with readings far higher than concentrates in the blood and liver. C. Benbrook, in Environmental Sciences Europe, states:
The apparent tendency of glyphosate to concentrate in the kidneys, coupled with glyphosate’s action as a chelating agent, has led some scientists to hypothesize that glyphosate can bind to metals in hard drinking water, creating metallic-glyphosate complexes that may not pass normally through kidneys  (55).
  • A 2014 paper found that Glyphosate levels were significantly higher in the urine of humans eating a conventional (non-organic) diet. Also, sick humans showed higher glyphosate residues compared to healthy people. (47) This was supported by a study that found eating an organic diet for a week reduced pesticide levels in urine by 90%.
  • Finally, an independent group called Moms Across America performed testing on various participants in the US. They found glyphosate in mothers breast milk (59). Though there is conflicting evidence on this as other tests have found this not to be the case in the samples they have tested (60).

Closing Thoughts

It is evident that glyphosate is making its way into our body. Given the increasing presence of glyphosate in the environment due to factors such as the rampant uptake of Roundup-ready GMO crops by farmers, the ongoing relaxation of tolerances and testing standard by world organisations, the collusion of Monsanto employees with government agencies, the fact that glyphosate is found in soil and waterways, not to mention record-breaking demand for this pesticide in over 160 countries, it is to be expected that humans are going to come into contact with this chemical.

The studies listed above prove this expectation - individuals from around the world are showing ever increasing levels of glyphosate in their urine or bodies. This is a trend that appears to continue into the foreseeable future.

The billion dollar question that remains is simple - what effect is glyphosate having on our health? This is a question that will be answered in part two of my glyphosate series. If discovered that humans health suffers when exposed to glyphosate then individuals need to made aware and governments need to act accordingly.

If glyphosate is damaging human health, society faces a tough road ahead. Given that glyphosate residue is so widespread in our food supply - even making its way into chemical free organic produce - what can be done? 80-90% of the US food supply may be contaminated. As someone who is passionate about reducing the chemical load on my body, avoiding chemicals like glyphosate on a day to day basis can be extremely difficult.

But maybe my concerns are unneeded. Perhaps the invention of GM, Roundup Resistant crops is the future of feeding healthy happy humans. All this, plus much more is covered in Part 2 - Why You Need To Eat Organic which can be read by clicking HERE.

Looking For A Cheat Sheet Guide?

Are you looking for a simple to follow, one page cheat sheet guide with practical tips to protect yourself from glyphosate? Head over to THIS page and download my FREE cheat sheet guide.

Print it out, share it with the family, carry it with you when you do your shop. These simple to follow tips will help you and your family minimise the negative impact this toxic chemical has on our health. To access this report, please click HERE.


This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is an ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.


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