While glyphosate is best-known as a herbicide (weed killer) used on crops genetically engineered to be resistant to it (eg. soy, corn, canola), its presence in breakfast cereals and other products made from oats, wheat, and other Non-GMO crops is due to its application as a pre-harvest desiccant (drying agent), explained The Detox Project director Henry Rowlands.
However, a flurry of lawsuits over trace levels of glyphosate in everything from oatmeal to granola bars has put pressure on the industry to use alternative drying methods (Kellogg, for example is seeking to phase out the use of glyphosate as a pre-harvest drying agent in its major wheat and oat supply chains by 2025).
“Glyphosate is already being used less as a desiccant,” said Rowlands, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after teaming up with SGS to provide glyphosate testing to achieve certification against the standard in Europe, North America and Asia (the testing threshold for the certification is 10 parts per billion) and striking a deal with SPINS to provide market data for the certification.
“In 2020 I have heard from a range of farm group sources in the US that there is likely to be a drop of up to 25% of this specific use of glyphosate-based herbicides.”
In a statement on its website Kellogg says: "We know that some consumers have questions about the use of the herbicide glyphosate (also known by its brand name Round Up) as a drying agent a few weeks before harvest, particularly with wheat and oats. This practice is done by some farmers in certain circumstances – like harvesting the crop more quickly if weather is challenging.
"Although this practice is not widespread in our wheat and oat supply chains, we are working with our suppliers to phase out using glyphosate as pre-harvest drying agent in our wheat and oat supply chain in our major markets, including the US, by the end of 2025.
The Detox Project – which launched in 2017 and has since certified 1,500+ products from 70+ brands from Oatly to Foodstirs as ‘glyphosate residue free’ – was it with a flood of industry inquiries following a well-publicized report from the EWG on glyphosate in oat products, a high-profile ruling requiring Monsanto to pay $289m in damages to a man who alleged its glyphosate-based herbicide caused his cancer, and a flurry of lawsuits vs big food brands over glyphosate residues.
Courts give short shrift to glyphosate residue lawsuits
While more food companies are pressuring farmers to stop using glyphosate as a desiccant to dry crops such as oats, courts remain skeptical of class actions challenging trace residues of the herbicide in foods and beverages.
Cases vs General Mills, Quaker Oats and Florida’s Natural Growers - or example - have all been tossed on the grounds that reasonable consumers would not be surprised to find trace levels of pesticides well below government thresholds in some foods.
In a July 2017 ruling tossing out a group of lawsuits against General Mills querying ‘natural’ claims on Nature Valley products containing trace levels of glyphosate, Judge Michael J. Davis said it was “implausible that a reasonable consumer” would believe that the products “could not contain a trace amount of glyphosate that is far below the amount permitted for organic products.”
Read more HERE about glyphosate and safety (see box at bottom of article).