Traces of weed killer in products like Roundup found in popular beers, wine
The weed-killing chemical found in products such as Bayer AG’s Roundup has been cropping up in some of Americans most popular foods.
Now that glass of vino or brew also may be tainted, according to a new report by U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Some wines or beers likely contain traces of the weed killer glyphosate, the Denver-based advocacy organization reported.
Shawn M. Kelly, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, said the state is aware of the report but noted there is no product recall associated with its findings.
“Whether or not this chemical causes cancer continues being debated in health and legal circles in the United States and around the world,” Kelly said in an email to the Tribune-Review.
The research group tested 15 popular beers and five wines, finding trace amounts of glyphosate in all the samples but one: Peak Beer.
The beverage industry and Bayer CropScience disputes the findings, calling them misleading.
The highest levels found were still significantly below federal standards created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and set for a range of crops including corn, soybean, grains and some fruits and vegetables.
EPA levels are measured in parts per million. The PRIG report’s findings captured trace amounts in the parts-per-billion range.
“The levels are not, in themselves, a concern,” Kara Cook , the report’s author, told the Trib. “That is not the issue. We don’t know the cumulative effect. The problem is we’re finding it everywhere, and we don’t know what the effect of that is.”
Cook added, “The message is, we’re using so much of this stuff on everything that you can’t get away from it.”
Bayer last year bought Monsanto, the longtime maker of Roundup, for more than $60 billion. Glyphosate is a main ingredient in Roundup, but the chemical also is contained in other products made by other manufacturers.
Among findings of the PRIG report:
• Three of the four organic beers and wines tested contained the weed killer, although glyphosate is not used in organic farming.
• Large, name brands such as Coors, Miller Lite, Corona and Budweiser had glyphosate levels above 25 parts per billion, or ppb.
• The highest glyphosate level — 51 ppb — was found in Sutter Home wine.
The Beer Institute, an industry association, noted the findings were well below EPA’s risk tolerance. Jim Caudill, a Beringer wine spokesman, questioned the validity of the report, saying it “is not a scientific study.”
Dr. William Reeves, a Bayer toxicologist, said the findings were at least 100 times below levels shown to have no negative effect. A 125-pound adult would have to drink 308 gallons of wine a day to reach the EPA exposure limit, he said.
“All levels reported are far below the limits EPA established to protect human health,” Reeves said in a statement.
Glyphosate, however, has been linked in studies to an increased cancer risk. The World Health Organization in 2015 declared the widely-used weed killer a carcinogen.
German-based Bayer AG has vowed to fight more than 11,000 lawsuits involving Roundup, the Associated Press reported last month. In August, a San Francisco jury awarded a man $289 million after determining Roundup caused his cancer.
Its formula touted as targeting an enzyme found in plants, but not people or pets, Roundup and glyphosate can be found everywhere.
Nationally, the pesticide has gained widespread use, with farmers having used more than 250 million pounds on U.S. crops in 2016, according to U.S. Geological Service figures. Its use in Pennsylvania has been particularly dramatic.
In 1992, Pennsylvania farmers sprayed a little more than 100,000 pounds of glyphosate on crops. By 2016, that number had skyrocketed to 2.2 million pounds, conservative USGS estimates show.
Kelly, of the state liquor control board, said, “This study confirming small levels of glyphosate in alcoholic beverages — just have similar studies confirming the same in many of the cereals, snacks, and other products many of us eat every day — adds to the ongoing dialogue about what’s in much of the food we eat and beverages we drink.”
Nicole C. Brambila is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Nicole at 724-226-7704, [email protected] or via Twitter .