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Organic diet ‘dramatically reduces exposure to toxic pesticides’

A report has found that levels of glyphosate in adults and children fell significantly after just one week of eating organic

A report has found that levels of glyphosate in adults and children fell significantly after just one week of eating organic

Going organic can reduce the amount of glyphosate – the world’s most widely-used weed killer – in our bodies by 70 per cent within six days, a peer-reviewed study has found.

The study, published in the journal of Environmental Research and funded by Friends of the Earth, tracked levels of glyphosate in four families living in different parts of the US.

Urine samples were collected from parents and children eating their typical diet of conventional food for six days, and again during a controlled diet of all organic food for another six days.

Researchers identified glyphosate in all participants, but found levels of the pesticide dropped by an average of 70 per cent after just six days on an organic diet. The study was limited in scope, involving as it did just four families.

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“It’s striking that levels of this toxic pesticide dropped so dramatically after less than a week. Given our results and related studies on how an organic diet rapidly reduces pesticide exposure, we could expect to see similar reductions in glyphosate levels in most Americans if they switched to an organic diet,” said study co-author Kendra Klein, PhD, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth.

“That’s the good news. The bad news is that most of us are eating glyphosate-laden food continuously, resulting in daily doses of the chemical from breakfast through dinner.”

Glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide in the world, but the science concerning its safety is inconclusive. In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency, concluded that the herbicide was “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

In 2016, a joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN found that, while there was “some evidence of a positive association between glyphosate exposure and risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma” it was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet”.

It’s striking that levels of this toxic pesticide dropped so dramatically after less than a week

However, in 2018, a man who claimed weed killer containing glyphosate had caused his cancer was awarded $289m (£221) by a state jury in the US, which found the manufacturer Monsanto, a subsidiary of Bayer AG, had failed to adequately warn of the risks of using Roundup, which contains glyphosate.

Monsanto lost its appeal against groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson in July, but the Californian court significantly reduced the damages the company had to pay to $20.4m (£15.6m). The company maintains glyphosate-based herbicides are safe.

For low-income families, eating organic food – which is often more expensive than non-organic produce – may not be an option. Friends of the Earth called on governments to address the broken regulatory system.

“We urgently need our elected leaders to make healthy organic food the norm for everyone by passing policies that support farmers to shift from pesticide-intensive to organic farming,” said Klein.

Image: Emiel Molenaar

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