Beer and wines are made by using various agricultural products(Fruits, Barley, hops, etc). When you’re having a beer or a glass of wine, the last thing you want to think about is that it includes a potentially dangerous pesticide. No matter the efforts of brewers and vintners, we found that it is incredibly difficult to avoid the troubling reality that consumers will likely drink glyphosate at every happy hour and backyard barbeque around the country.
Beer and wine around the world are contaminated by a chemical called glyphosate, according to a report published by the United States-based Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund.
For this study, samples of beer and wine were collected from the US, Europe, and Asia — over 20 brands were tested out of which 19 contained glyphosate (5 wine samples and 15 beer) which includes big players from the industry.
In the case of beers, IPAs are hitting high numbers and whereas cider hit lower numbers.
A study was done by S Thongprakaisang — from Chulabhorn Graduate Institute, Thailand — states that “even 0.1 ppb of glyphosate has the potential to stimulate certain types of breast cancer cells”.
What is glyphosate?
Glyphosate is the most common herbicide in the world and used on barley and many other raw brewing materials. Glyphosate is an herbicide. It is applied to the leaves of plants to kill both broadleaf plants and grasses. The sodium salt form of glyphosate is used to regulate plant growth and ripen specific crops.
Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. People apply it in agriculture and forestry, on lawns and gardens, and for weeds in industrial areas. Some products containing glyphosate control aquatic plants.
How does glyphosate work?
Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide, meaning it will kill most plants. It prevents the plants from making certain proteins that are needed for plant growth. Glyphosate stops a specific enzyme pathway, the shikimic acid pathway. The shikimic acid pathway is necessary for plants and some microorganisms.
Glyphosate in Indian Brewing
India has already faced issues relating to the use of glyphosate, with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) asking its imports division to check consignment of pulses for the presence of herbicide glyphosate.
In Germany using glyphosate directly on barley – Beer’s primary ingredient – is illegal.
The last year in the order it was directed that the samples be tested by regional laboratories and the results shared with FSSAI every 15 days.
Glyphosate use increased by 1500% since genetically modified crops were introduced in India.
Despite being aware of its toxicity, farmers in India want the chemical as it helps them control weeds in their barley farms at a lower cost. Cost of weeding can be as much as three times lower if glyphosate is used instead of manual labor. Farmers use glyphosate on all kinds of crops; they cover the crop plant with plastic baskets to protect them and spray the chemical on the weeds around it.
Currently, there are no set standards for regulating glyphosate levels in India.
FSSAI has decided to use the standards set by Codex Alimentarius — a joint committee set up by the WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) — and set the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for lentils and peas at 2mg/kg and 5mg/kg respectively, but the level of Glyphosate in all Indian beers and wines are still in a black box.
The study assumes significance as the use of such herbicides in agriculture is growing. The fact that even organic products are contaminated with the chemical highlights the importance of better consumer choice.
It is possible that traces of glyphosate can be found in some products, such as beer. However, consumers can be assured that these levels are extremely low.
Based on the residue levels in this report, for instance, a person would need to drink 3,000 beers in one day for levels of glyphosate near to the maximum daily limit for glyphosate.