gm potatoes

Food and environment campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason has just produced the report ‘Shockingly high levels of weedkiller found in popular breakfast cereals marketed for British children’. In this 68-page document, she draws from new research in the UK that mirrors findings from the US about the dangerous levels of glyphosate found in food, especially products aimed at children (glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weedicide Roundup). Readers can access this report here (which contains all relevant references).

Mason begins by reporting on research that significant levels of weedkiller were found in 43 out of 45 popular breakfast cereals marketed to US children. Glyphosate was detected in an array of popular breakfast cereals, oats and snack bars.

Tests revealed glyphosate was present in all but two of the 45 oat-derived products that were sampled by the Environmental Working Group, a public health organisation. Nearly three in four of the products exceeded what the EWG classes safe for children to consume. Products with some of the highest levels of glyphosate include granola, oats and snack bars made by leading industry names Quaker, Kellogg’s and General Mills, which makes Cheerios.

Back in April, internal emails obtained from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed that scientists had found glyphosate on a wide range of commonly consumed food, to the point that they were finding it difficult to identify a food without the chemical on it. In response to these findings, however, The Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that there was no indication that the claims related to products sold outside the US.

In view of this statement by the Guardian, Mason was involved in sending samples of four oat-based breakfast cereals marketed for children in the UK to the Health Research Institute, Fairfield, Iowa, an accredited laboratory for glyphosate testing.

After testing the samples which were sent, Dr Fagan, the institute’s director, said:

“The levels consumed in a single daily helping of any one of these cereals, even the one with the lowest level of contamination, is sufficient to put the person’s glyphosate levels above the levels that cause fatty liver disease in rats (and likely in people).” (Access the Certificate of Analysis here.)

Just as concerning were results for two ‘organic’ products from the US that were also tested at the time: granola had some glyphosate in and ‘organic’ rolled oats had even higher levels of the chemical.

Mason argues that the fact such high levels of glyphosate have been found in cereals in Britain should ring alarm bells across Europe, especially as the distribution of glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid in agricultural top soils of the European Union is widespread.

A question of power

As in her previous documents, Mason describes how regulators in the EU and the UK relicensed Roundup for the benefit of the industry-backed Glyphosate Task Force. Even more alarming is that, on the back of Brexit, she notes that a US-UK trade deal could result in the introduction of Roundup ready GM crops in the UK. Indeed, high-level plans for cementing this deal are afoot.

Mason offers worrying data about the increasing use of biocides, especially glyphosate, as well as the subsequent destruction of the global environment due to their use. As usual, she produces a very data-rich report which draws on many sources, including official reports and peer-reviewed papers.

Of course, there is a strong focus on Monsanto. Aside from the use of glyphosate, she also documents the impact of the company’s presence in Wales, where she lives, with regard to the dumping of toxic chemicals (PCBs) from its manufacturing site there between 1949 and 1979, the effects of which persist and still plague the population and the environment.

Mason asks:

“Monsanto has been bought up by Bayer, so the Monsanto name has disappeared but where are the Monsanto executives hiding?”

She is aware of course that such figures don’t have to hide anywhere. The company ‘got away with it’ in Wales. And its recent crop of executives received huge ‘golden handshakes’ after the Bayer deal despite them having perpetuated a degenerative model of industrial agriculture. A model that has only secured legitimacy by virtue of the power of the global agritech lobby to lock in a bogus narrative of success, as outlined in the report ‘From Uniformity to Diversity’ by The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems.

As that report notes, locking farmers into corporate-dependent treadmills, state support of (export) commodity cropping via subsidies and the discounting of the massive health, environment and social costs of industrial agriculture ensures that model prevails and makes it appear successful. If you base your food regime on short-term thinking and a reductionist yield-output paradigm and define success within narrow confines, then the model is a sure-fire winner – for corporate growth (profit) if little else.

Without being able to externalise the health, social and environmental costs of its actions and products, this model would not be viable for the corporations involved. Widening the parameters to properly evaluate ‘success’ entails asking the industry questions that it finds very difficult to gloss over, not least what has been the cost of input-(biocide)dependent yields of commodities in terms of pollution, health, local food security and caloric production, nutrition per acre, water tables, soil quality and structure and new pests and disease pressures?

Why have African countries been turned from food exporters to food importers? Why is land in South America being used for Roundup Ready crops to feed the appetite for meat in rich countries, while peasant farmers who grew food for themselves and local communities have been displaced?

And what are the effects on once thriving rural communities; on birds, insects and biodiversity in general; on the climate as a result of chemical inputs and soil degradation; and what have been the effects of shifting towards globalised production chains, especially in terms of transportation and fossil fuel consumption?

The global food regime degrades public health and the environment, and it has narrowed the range of crops grown, resulting in increasingly monolithic, nutrient-deficient diets. Yet the powerful industry lobby calls for more deregulation and more techno-fixes like GMOs to ‘feed the world’. This is in spite of the fact that hunger and malnutrition are political: these phenomena are in large part the outcome of a global capitalist food regime that, with help from IMF/World Bank geopolitical lending strategies and WTO rules, has undermined food security for vast sections of the global population by creating a system that by its very nature drives inequality, injustice and creates food deficit areas.

Moving to a more sustainable model of agriculture based on localisation, food sovereignty and agroecology calls for a different world view. Proponents of industrial agriculture are resistant to this because it would harm what has become a highly profitable system based on the capture of political, research and media institutions.

And this is where we return to Rosemary Mason. If there is an overriding theme within her work over the years, it is corruption at high levels which facilitate much of the above. For instance, she notes the determination of the UK government, working hand in glove with global agribusiness, to ensure certain biocide products remain on the market and to help major corporations avoid any culpability for their health- and environment-damaging practices and chemicals.

Mason and various whistleblowers and writers have over the years described how these corporations have become institutionally embedded within high-profile public bodies and scientific research policy initiatives. Regulatory delinquency, institutionalised corruption and complete disregard for the health and well-being of the public is the order of the day.

GMOs and a post-Brexit deal with the US

If the UK is about to introduce GM crops into its fields on the back of a post-Brexit deal with the Trump administration, then it should take heed of what the ex-director of J.R. Simplot and team leader at Monsanto Dr Caius Rommens says in his new book:

“The main problem about the current process for deregulation of GMO crops is that it is based on an evaluation of data provided by the developers of GMO crops. There is a conflict of interest. I propose that the safety of GMO crops is assessed by an independent group of scientists trained at identifying unintended effects.”

This former high-level Monsanto researcher of potatoes now acknowledges that genetic engineers had limited insight into the effects of their experiments. Genetic engineering passes off the inherent uncertainty, unintended consequences and imprecision of its endeavours as unquestionable certainty. And the USDA accepts industry information and reassurances.

After finding that most GMO varieties of potatoes that he was involved in developing were stunted, chlorotic, mutated or sterile, and many of them died quickly, Rommens renounced his genetic engineering career and wrote a book about his experiences, ‘Pandora’s Potatoes: The Worst GMOs’.

In an interview with GMWatch, Rommens is asked why regulators in the US, Canada and Japan, which have approved these potatoes, are ignoring these aspects.

Rommens responds:

“The standard tests needed to ensure regulatory approval are not set up to identify unintended effects. They are meant to confirm the safety of a GM crop, not to question their safety. None of the issues I address in my book were considered by the regulatory agencies.”

A damning indictment of regulatory delinquency based on ‘don’t look, don’t find’. GMOs have nonetheless become the mainstay of US agriculture. Now the industry is rubbing its hands in anticipation of Brexit, which would pry the UK from the EU and its precautionary principle-based regulation of GMOs.

The push to open up Britain to globalisation in the 1980s ushered in a free-for-all for global capital to determine the future direction of a deregulated UK. Three decades down the line, the consequences are clear for food, agriculture, democracy and public health. The worrying thing is that thanks to Brexit, it could be the case that even worse is yet to come!

Colin Todhunter is an independent writer –

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B. Subscribe to our Telegram channel



  1. Sally Dugman says:


    Dramatic Correlation Shown Between GMOs And 22 Diseases …

    Nov 17, 2014 – Monsanto has genetically modified foods so that they are resistant to glyphosate, … But the authors point out “we have data for 22 diseases, all with a high … for a list of diseases that can be directly linked to glyphosate, via its …

    The Revolving Door: FDA and the Monsanto Company –

    Feb 11, 2013 – , commissioner of the FDA from 1981 to 1983, and consultant to Searle’s public relations firm, which later merged with Monsanto. … Well aware of its accused ‘revolving door’ connection with the FDA and other government agencies, Monsanto has issued several press releases denying collusion with the government.

    A Look At How The Revolving Door Spins From FDA To Industry – NPR…/a-look-at-how-the-revolving-door-spins-from-fda-to-industry
    Sep 28, 2016 – More than a quarter of the Food and Drug Administration employees who approved cancer and hematology drugs from 2001 through 2010 left …

    Monsanto’s Friends in High Places – The remarkable revolving door career of Michael Taylor at the FDA and Monsanto. Many companies hope to send an employee into a government agency to influence regulation. … Michael Taylor is among a number of people with Monsanto ties who have worked in government in recent years.

    The remarkable revolving door career of Michael Taylor at the FDA ……/monsanto’s-friends-high-places-remarkable-revolving-…

    Monsanto’s carcinogenic Roundup ingredient found in Cheerios, Quaker Oats, and other cereals –About one-third of the 16 samples made with organically grown oats also had glyphosate | 15 Aug 2018 | Days after a California jury awarded a school groundskeeper more than 289 million in damages after he claimed Monsanto’s best-selling weedkiller Roundup gave him cancer, the controversial ingredient — glyphosate — has been detected in popular kids’ breakfast cereals, including Cheerios, Lucky Charms and Quaker Old Fashioned Oats, according to an activist group. Lab tests conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit advocacy group that specializes in toxic chemicals and corporate accountability, indicated almost three-fourths of the 45 food products tested detected high levels of glyphosate, which has been identified as a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization in 2015.

    Ecological economists, such as Herman E. Daly, stress that as the external costs of pollution and resource exhaustion are not included in Gross Domestic Product, we do not know whether an increase in GDP is a gain or a loss.

    External costs are huge and growing larger. Historically, manufacturing and industrial corporations, corporate farming, city sewer systems, and other culprits have passed the costs of their activities onto the environment and third parties. Recently, there has been a spate of reports with many centering on Monsanto’s Roundup, whose principle ingredient, glyphosate, is believed to be a carcinogen.

    A public health organization, the Environmental Working Group, recently reported that its tests found glyphosate in all but 2 of 45 children’s breakfast foods including granola, oats and snack bars made by Quaker, Kellogg and General Mills.

    In Brazil tests have discovered that 83% of mothers’ breast milk contains glyphosate.

    The Munich Environmental Institute reported that 14 of the most widely selling German beers contain glyphosate.

    Glyphosate has been found in Mexican farmers’ urine and in Mexican ground water.

    Scientific American has reported that even Roundup’s “inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.”

    — From Is Capitalism Killing Us? –

    Tiffany Finck-Haynes,
    Pollinators and pesticides program manager,
    Friends of the Earth Action wrote:

    A new report shows that glyphosate — a.k.a. Monsanto’s Roundup® — is linked to an alarming increase in bee deaths. But the Trump administration is still doing nothing to stop Monsanto from poisoning our environment with this toxic pesticide.

    Bees pollinate one in three bites of food that we eat. Their decline puts our whole food system at risk. What’s more, glyphosate threatens monarch butterflies. And the World Health Organization lists it as a carcinogen.

    The evidence is clear: We have to ban glyphosate NOW. Bees, butterflies, and our health can’t wait. At Friends of the Earth Action, we’re working to get this pesticide out of our food system — but we need your help.
    Help ban Monsanto’s Roundup®:’

    The amount of Roundup® being used each year has increased significantly. Use jumped from only 11 million pounds in 1987 to nearly 300 million pounds in 2016.

    Meanwhile, monarchs have declined by 90% in the last 20 years. And a key culprit is the massive increase in the use of glyphosate. It’s a simple formula: More Roundup® = less milkweed = fewer monarchs.

    And it’s not just monarchs. Bees are also dying at alarming rates. Beekeepers lost nearly 50% of their hives last year, and 40% of wild pollinators are on the brink of extinction. These pollinators are essential to our entire food system. Their decline is a canary in the coal mine, warning us about the dangers of the pesticide-intensive way we grow our food.

    The impacts on people can be catastrophic too. Right now, over 8,700 people with cancer are suing Monsanto. They allege that their exposure to Roundup® is to blame for their cancer. One case has gone to trial and Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages, but Monsanto is calling on the judge to overturn the decision.

    Stop Monsanto from poisoning our food system with Roundup®:

    Roundup® is wiping out butterflies and putting our health at risk — but it’s making $5 billion every year in profits for Monsanto. So surely the company is doing everything it can to protect those profits.

    Friends of the Earth Action members like you have been leading the fight against Monsanto to eliminate these pesticides. You’ve called on food companies like Ben & Jerry’s to get glyphosate out of the products they sell. These companies can help speed up the transition to organic agriculture.

    Meanwhile, we’re working with supermarkets to get toxic pesticides like this out of the food they sell and increase their organic offerings. This summer, Costco announced that it’s taking steps to do that. And Kroger — the nation’s second largest food retailer — said it will eliminate bee-toxic pesticides from its garden plants. These companies aren’t going nearly far enough, but this progress shows that if we keep the pressure on, we can push them to do more.

    And we’re working at the state and local level to fight Monsanto. The company is trying to stop communities from eliminating glyphosate and other toxic pesticides locally with a poison rider in the Farm Bill. But we’ve gotten over 60 mayors and city officials to urge members of Congress to reject this toxic policy.

    Together, we can save bees and monarch butterflies from extinction. We can move to a truly sustainable, healthy, organic food system that works for pollinators, people and the planet. But we need you with us.

    Help save bees and butterflies from extinction:

    Standing with you,
    Tiffany Finck-Haynes,
    Pollinators and pesticides program manager,
    Friends of the Earth Action

  2. Sally Dugman says:

    Do not let GMO’s in your country or if they are, please try to delimit them.

    Check it out. Click the link and if you need a no-cost GMO lawyer, GO FOR IT! … If you are not in USA, these lawyers can advise you.

    Boston Roundup Cancer Lawsuit

    Plaintiffs in Boston Monsanto Roundup lawsuits say the company chose profits over human life by … File a Roundup Lawsuit Against Monsanto in Boston.