A couple weeks ago the story broke that the breakfast cereal Cheerios® from General Mills is one of the products in which glyphosate was found in trace amounts. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in a Monsanto herbicide called RoundUp used in agriculture to control or kill weeds. Glyphosate has also been suspected by some of causing cancer.
One of the things you might not know about RoundUp is that it is used to prepare crops just before they are harvested. In the case of the oats we ingest, RoundUp is sprayed on the body of the plant to kill off leaves and foliage just before the oat seeds are harvested. This ostensibly saves the oats from what they call pre-dessication issues. The practice of spraying oat plants is highly advocated by the folks at Monsanto on grounds that it saves grain harvesters a lot of trouble in dealing with excess material.
It also makes a lot of money for Monsanto in RoundUp sales.
RoundUp is an interesting product because it is used in many different kinds of applications. Most of my habitat management friends in the environmental community use RoundUp to knock back unwanted plants. It is used as a weedkiller to kill off persistent nuisance plants such as buckthorn, garlic mustard or purple loosestrife, all of which can take over natural areas and cause native plant communities to die out. They like it because it works.
Habitat managers have long claimed to like RoundUp because it is reputed to have a short lifespan or period in which it remains active. Then it supposedly disappears. Yet there is raw and disturbing evidence these beliefs are not true. The active ingredient in RoundUp, known as glyphosate, is turning up in groundwater in much higher concentrations than people anticipated. Concerns about glyphosate have been percolating for years, as evidenced by this 2012 article that raises concerns about the amount of this chemical that is turning up in the environment around the world.
And now, the active ingredient in RoundUp is appearing in commonly consumed products such as Cheerios.
There have been a number of studies done on the subject of glyphosate and its possible links to cancer. Some studies claim there is very little risk of cancer from the chemical glyphosate at all. Others suggest that the amount of glyphosate that it would take to cause cancer in humans is pretty large. As this article on Mashable explains, the jury is technically still out on whether glyphosate is a harmful product in the small amounts detected in products such as Cheerios.
However, there is considerable evidence that suggests exposure to RoundUp in high levels can and cause cancer. If you want to know why that’s true, simply follow the money. And the lawyers. One website titled Youhavealawyer.com specializes in legal representation for farm workers whose cancer can be traced to high levels of exposure to the herbicide RoundUp. Obviously, every case has its own specific facts to determine whether a person is entitled to compensation for their illness. In every case, the legal world bears the burden to provide proof of the link between any product and cancer.
Yet the evidence seems clear enough with the product RoundUp to drive significant business for that group of lawyers. We all know they don’t work for free. This is what their website says:
The product liability lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. are reviewing potential class action lawsuits and individual injury cases for individuals diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma or other cancers that may have been caused by side effects of Roundup. In early 2015, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on cancer (IARC) warned that the weed killer glyphosate was a probable carcinogen. As a result of Monsanto’s failure to adequately warn about the potential cancer risk, financial compensation may be available through a Roundup lawsuit for individuals diagnosed with:
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Multiple Myeloma
- Other Cancers
To review whether you or a loved one may be eligible to pursue a claim, request a free consultation and claim evaluation.
So there’s a campaign afoot to hold Monsanto accountable for the potential side effects of its product known as RoundUp.
We’ve also seen that there are many such companies who engage in less-than-ethical distribution or pollution with carcinogenic chemicals. We have Erin Brockovich (the real person, and the movie) to thank for making the case that certain types of chemicals (chromium, for example) in our groundwater water can cause people to become very sick. In fact, links between air and water pollution and cancer is an ongoing story in America.
So while the amounts of glyphosate in Cheerios might be miniscule, advocates for safe foods find its mere presence disturbing. In that context, one has to wonder whether the practice of spraying oat plants just before harvest is really all that necessary. If the presence of glyphosate in oats could be prevented by changing that practice, wouldn’t that be a wise idea?
For athletes and other people who claim to maintain “healthy eating” habits, it does not give comfort to find out that a supposedly “heart-healthy” and relatively sugar-free product such as Cheerios has trace elements of glyphosate lurking within. It’s just disturbing to think about. Yet the truth about our food chain is that we’re likely ingesting some form of agricultural chemicals such as RoundUp at every meal. I’ve been pretty lax over the years in washing fresh fruits and vegetables. Who knows what sprays lurk in the bloom on those products?
But let’s dig deeper. This list of the Top Ten hazards in our food supply is enough to make you sick just reading it. And these concerns are genuine. Cancer rates are high enough in America to cause intense concern in some people about what we’re really eating in foods purchased at grocery stores. For all the billions of dollars spent on cancer research, we still have very few answers about how safe our food actually is to eat. That leaves everyday people to speculate on the nature and source of so much cancer in this world.
One thing is clear: Sugar is surely one of the greatest enemies to healthy lives. Sugars of various types are responsible for all kinds of human disease ranging from obesity to heart disease to diabetes. It stunned me to realize the role sugars play in our systems when I watched my late wife go through a PET Scan to detect any spread of ovarian cancer in her body. The PET Scan test basically detects areas of higher metabolic activity. Sugars such as glucose are pumped into the system and the test detects risk areas because cancers simply love sugars. It feeds them.
Ugh. When you consider the fact that toxins introduced into our bodies can disturb cellular activity and kick cancerous cells into gear, it all is enough to make you suspicious of everything you eat and drink. That’s why people are shocked and disturbed by the knowledge the Cheerios are laced with glyphosate. It’s not that people think eating a bowl of Cheerios will kill them. It’s that the cumulative effect of all these chemicals, hormones and other toxins in our environment and our food system is outright disturbing. We have a right to be concerned. We’re swimming in the stuff.
So companies that make these products do need to be held accountable when their products turn out to be compromised by such chemicals or causing contamination in our food system, air and water, and the human body.
Because I can tell you, it’s no fun to say “cheerio” when someone you love dies from cancer. And yes, we all bear responsibility for our own health. Smoking and drinking too much, or indulging in too many sweets can be just as deadly (or moreso) than trace amounts of glyphosate in our cereal bowls.
It’s when we do try to pay attention to these things and people find themselves still at risk from chemical poisoning that folks get pissed. That’s why a little overreaction may be in order when chemicals turn up in our Cheerios. Contamination of our food chain is pretty prevalent. It may be time to say “cheerio”to such risks in whatever ways we can.