The headline to a July 25, 2017 story in the New York Times announces “Traces of Controversial Herbicide Are Found in Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.” Glyphosate herbicide in ice cream? How could this be?
In her story, Stephanie Strom explains the “who, how, and why” of the testing of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for glyphosate. The levels found were very low – around 1 part per billion – but the fact that any was found borders on shocking.
How could Roundup residues wind up in ice cream?
Experts consulted by Strom speculate that the glyphosate likely got into the ice cream via ingredients used in flavorings that contain peanuts, wheat, and other grain-based products.
Peanuts, wheat, some edible beans, and a surprisingly diversity of other crops are sprayed late in the production season with glyphosate, in the hope of speeding up harvest operations. These so-called “harvest-aid” uses of glyphosate help farmers complete harvest operations before inclement weather hits in the fall. But this benefit comes at a price – very high residue levels in the crop that is harvested just days after the herbicide is applied.
The glyphosate found in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream also could have been from low levels in the milk used to make it. Dairy cows across the country are fed prodigious quantities of corn silage. Some corn fields are harvested for silage just a few weeks after a Roundup application, leading to a high dose during certain parts of the year for some lactating dairy cows.
A significant portion of the nation’s alfalfa hay crop is planted to Roundup Ready varieties, and sprayed 1-2 times with glyphosate. A cutting of hay done a couple of weeks after an application could have over 100 parts per million glyphosate in it. The applicable tolerance for glyphosate in alfalfa hay allows up to 200 . The vast majority of soybeans grown in the U.S. contain between 1 and 5 of glyphosate. Levels of glyphosate likely concentrate even higher in certain animal feeds made from parts of soybeans. And last, glyphosate is now a common contaminant in human and livestock drinking water.
So, given how widely and how heavily glyphosate is used by U.S. farmers, it is not surprising that it is findings its way into dairy cow feed, a wide range of food ingredients, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and you and me.
Source: Stephanie Strom, New York Times, July 25, 2017, “Traces of Controversial Herbicide Are Found in Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.”