U.S. PIRG Education Fund
Roundup is everywhere. As the most commonly used agrichemical in the world, Roundup and its main active ingredient, glyphosate, is showing up in places people do not expect, such as food and drinks.1 In this report, we tested beer and wine and found glyphosate in beer and wine from the U.S., Europe, and Asia. We even found glyphosate in some unexpected places, such as in some organic varieties.
While glyphosate is found in many places, for many years scientists were uncertain if glyphosate was a public health problem.2 But that changed in 2015, when the World Health Organization (WHO) found that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen.3 In 2017, the state of California also decided to list glyphosate as a probable carcinogen based on the WHO study. 4
This news has far-reaching impacts. In 2018, a jury in California found that Monsanto’s failure to warn a man of the dangers of using Roundup was a probable cause of his cancer, and awarded him $289 million in damages. 5 Thousands of other people, mostly farmers, are now alleging that their incurable cancers may have been caused by Roundup.6 And in January 2019, France banned the use of Roundup 360, citing it as a “serious risk” to human health.7 Other countries in the EU are considering other glyphosate bans.8
Despite these risks, the use of Roundup is growing at such a rapid pace that there is enough glyphosate sprayed every year to spray .8 pounds of glyphosate on every cultivated acre of land in the U.S., and spray nearly half a pound of glyphosate on every cultivated acre of land in the world.9
To explore how much Roundup we’re drinking, U.S. PIRG tested beer and wine for glyphosate/Roundup. As we’ve confirmed in this study, Roundup is found in beer and wine. This aligns with past studies on the topic, which found that glyphosate is found in almost all adult beverages. For example, in 2016, beer testing in Germany also revealed residues of glyphosate in every single sample tested, even in independent beers.10 After that study was released, German brewers managed to severely limit the amount of glyphosate used in crops for brewing, and saw marked improvement in a 2017 follow-up study.11,12 A study from 2018 in Latvia came to similar conclusions as the original German study, finding glyphosate in all products tested. 13
We tested 20 products: 5 wines and 15 beers. The wine brands tested included Beringer, Barefoot and Sutter Home. Beer brands tested included Budweiser, Coors, Miller Lite, Sam Adams, Samuel Smith Organic, and New Belgium.
• Of the 20 samples, 19 contained glyphosate. The highest level of glyphosate found was in Sutter Home wine, at 51 parts per billion (ppb).
• Our results also showed that 3 of 4 organic beer and wine contains glyphosate. Although glyphosate is not allowed or used in organic farming, several types of organic products were contaminated, such as Samuel Smith Organic (at 3.5 ppb). Inkarri Estate organic wine contained 5.2 ppb.
• Large, conventional brands such as Coors, Tsingtao, and Miller Lite showed glyphosate levels above 25 ppb.
• One brand, Peak Beer, did not contain detectable levels of glyphosate.
While these levels of glyphosate are below EPA risk tolerances for beverages, it is possible that even low levels of glyphosate can be problematic. For example, in one study, scientists found that 1 part per trillion of glyphosate has the potential to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells and disrupt the endocrine system.14
Our findings suggest that it is very difficult to produce beer or wine without glyphosate contamination, even for organic producers. The Brewers Association, which certifies small independent and craft beers, opposes glyphosate use in their beer according to information they have given to U.S.PIRG:
“Brewers do not want glyphosate used on barley or any raw brewing material, and the barley grower organizations have also come out strongly against glyphosate.”15
Our findings suggest that glyphosate contamination is common in beers and wine sold in the U.S. Due to glyphosate’s many health risks and its ubiquitous nature in our food, water, and alcohol, the use of glyphosate in the U.S. should be banned unless and until it can be proven safe.