A study on Glyphsate in 14 of the most popular beers in Germany conducted by the Munich Environmental Institute found this year 80% less of the broad-spectrum herbicide than the year before. While last year an average of 7.6 micrograms of glyphosate was measured in one liter of beer, this year the contamination was reduced to 1.7 micrograms in average. The institute acknowledged that “apparently the breweries tested have done their homework."
Still, the highest value in one of the 14 recently analyzed beers was 5.1 micrograms, which is 50 times higher than the limit of 0.1 microgram per liter for glyphosate in drinking water in Germany. Currently there are no legal limits for glyphosate in beer in Germany.
Critics argue that the limit for drinking water is not relevant for beer because it does not reflect a harmful limit to human health but rather the limit of analytical determination. Since drinking water in Germany is generally one of the less contaminated beverages, applying the lowest possible threshold has never been a problem. Beer, which is produced from malted grain and hops will inevitably always show higher values for pesticides and herbicides like other food made from grain like bread or pasta.
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), a scientific agency of the Federal Republic of Germany which is responsible for preparing expert reports and opinions on food and feed safety as well as on the safety of substances and products, released on Friday an assessment on the findings of the Munich based independent consumer association. The paper with the title “Assessment of glyphosate content in beer” states that “residues of glyphosate in beer are plausible from a scientific point of view and can be expected in principle, since glyphosate is an authorized plant protection product for cereals, whereby residues in beer are allowed up to the limit for cereals taking into account a processing factor.”
The BfR and the president of its executive committee Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel come to the conclusion that “in order to absorb a harmful quantity of glyphosate, an adult would have to drink about 1000 liters of beer a day. Glyphosate contents of 30 micrograms per liter of beer and below, like the ones presently measured do not pose a health risk on the basis of current scientific knowledge.”
The use of glyphosate is highly controversial. In 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) said that glyhosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”. One year later a co-analysis by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation found that the chemical was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet”.
Earlier in March this year, European Chemical Agency (ECHA) declared glyphosate for safe, saying that it sees no cancer risk in glyphosate (inside.beer, 15.3.2017). Also Australia last year permitted the use of glyphosate on barley but only for feed and not for malting purposes (inside.beer, 5.11.2016). As of July 7, glyphosate was again listed as cancer-causing in California under state law (inside.beer, 27.6.2017).
In June last year, the extension of the controversial herbicide glyphosate approval in the EU had failed and only a provisional approval was given for the following 18 months. In mid-May this year the EU Commission announced that it would enter again into discussions with the Member States on extending the authorization by another ten years.