From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency & a Toxic Post-Brexit Trade Deal

Colin Todhunter

402093 01: A protester tears up a genetically modified (GM) oil seed rape plant March 9, 2002 at a demonstration against genetically modified crops at a farm in Long Marsden in Warwickshire, England. The farm is being used as a government test bed for GM crops which the protesters say will pollute the environment with GM pollen. 80 protesters performed a mass trespass onto the farm and tore up the plants before being arrested. (Photo by Sion Touhig/Getty Images)

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!


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Oct 27, 2018 5:11 AM

Even our pets are not safe:

“Researchers at Cornell University found glyphosate in all 18 of the dog and cat food brands they surveyed, including one product that was certified GMO-free.”


“the chemical was present in low concentrations – lower than those typically found in human food”

They want us to start eating dog food! ,)

P A Finn
P A Finn
Oct 25, 2018 8:06 PM

It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if there’s a rising executive within the GM arena with the name Damien Thorn…

Oct 26, 2018 9:16 PM
Reply to  P A Finn

interesting BREXIT angle may be a factor but remember /Monsanto will bribe all politicians to get GM crops into their country including the EU commission As it happens the EU has already approved BT corn can be grown in the EU and it is being grown in Spain so never buy Spanish corn. That the UK government has held out sheds a little hope Also with Trump he favours small trade deals not the ones with 1000’s of pages like TTIP that the EU was pushing through and Obama was about to sign but luckily too late and Trump refused to sign. NOt to say we mustn’t be careful about the small print in any deal or legislation for that matter More worrying that Italy ruled against GM crops being grown in Italy but the EU Court has overturned Italy’s ruling and allowed a farmer to grow BT corn in… Read more »

Oct 25, 2018 2:08 PM

If they can’t justify conscription and genocide as canon fodder to control the revolting serfs again – then other means are required to control the populations. Hence the poisoning of our own citizenery. If we are too ill, physically and mentally, and can be made to die off early, then the robber barons are safe in their many towers. You can bet your house on the fact that THEIR children are not fed the poisonous foods, i wouldn’t be surprised if the same brands were made with the good stuff, so the poor rich mites are not deprived of the fashionable choices! As a matter of general health, why is there no independent testing and analysis of all foods and other products in the country? There ought to be one in every city and county, where regular testing can be done and quickly. The closing down of the national forensic… Read more »

Oct 25, 2018 8:19 AM

Yes, the point is that glyphosate is a weed killer and should not be allowed to be used as a pre-harvest quick-fix to increase corrupt profit. That is simply insane.
Russia’s wheat is organic yet they are world’s biggest producer – so clearly no imperative to use this stuff other than big-govt backed profiteers.
What point profit if we poison our children? Then again, most political leaders are withered vines with no skin in the game so don’t care about our children or the future (May, Merkel, Macron, Sturgeon, etc.)…

Oct 25, 2018 7:45 AM

It is all about the levels of X,Y or Z found in human food. I bet one could even find an atom of uranium in anything edible. Important are the (un)save levels.

John hacket
John hacket
Oct 25, 2018 9:11 PM
Reply to  antonym

This is ofcourse true .One has to know about toxicity and exposure to be able to talk about risk .
Green Taliban Propaganda,thank god adults decide on such matters ,adults and adult farmers

Oct 25, 2018 6:38 AM

“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.”

Is it really not possible to write sentences like these in a way that they are easier to understand? Maybe you’re afraid of writing an article that’s too long, but I’d be more afraid of people tuning out because the writing is too dense.

Oct 27, 2018 5:39 AM
Reply to  john

“The report notes that the model prevails and appears successful for three main reasons. Farmers are locked into corporate-dependent treadmills. The government subsidises commodity cropping. And people ignore the great damage that industrial agriculture does to health, the environment, and society.”

Oct 24, 2018 9:29 PM

Some stuff to read at the breakfast table. . Bon appetite

Oct 24, 2018 9:21 PM
jammy codger
jammy codger
Oct 24, 2018 8:20 PM

While reading this I wondered what the denier community would make of it and here you are, your comments were so perfect I at first thought it was a pisstake, that Dr R Mason is so anti science.
Thing is it’s not just been used as a weed killer but on main grain crops prior to harvest, it kills off the parts that haven’t ripened and makes it easier and quicker to harvest, no wonder its in bread and cereal products. At least in the EU buying organic should give you protection, for now.

jammy codger
jammy codger
Oct 24, 2018 8:32 PM
Reply to  jammy codger

Sorry my comments were for JH, to La’Galloise the Brexit angle was fine , yes the EU is in the grip of big Ag but it could be worse.

Oct 24, 2018 7:37 PM

I wholeheartedly endorse Rosemary Mason’s work and positions on food and agriculture. However, to link these issues too much to Brexit is a step too far. I watched hedgerows being torn up, farms mechanised, agricultural workers laid off in thousands as a child at my grandparents’ smallholding in rural East Anglia during the 1960s; the peasantry simply disappeared and were replaced by a new breed of agribusiness managers, heavily indebted to banks. Indeed some of the fields around where my grandparents lived no longer have any direct connection to human beings, they are owned by hedge funds and farmed by contractors. I came to Brittany, France at the turn of this century in time to see exactly the same thing happening here 40-50 years later: the big peasants gobbling up the little peasants and along with them the hedgerows, the natural environment, flora and fauna, and the whole culture that… Read more »

Oct 25, 2018 6:08 AM

I thought your comment very insightful, but the author is warning that post-Brexit will usher in more deregulation and a re-run of Thatcherite free for all capitalism in the agri-business.

As you rightly say the agri-business in France has gone the same way in the UK over the last 30 years, despite the EU ban on GMO and the attendant unnecessary use of glyphosates. But that is a slightly different issue – one of intensive industrial production of food stuffs which has its own problems as you rightly point out.

John hacket
John hacket
Oct 24, 2018 7:29 PM

Anti scientific bs coupled with anti brexit hysteria .The anti gmo lobby list the scientific argument years back and glyphosate is probably the safest weed Killer out there although one wouldnt drink by the liter as its weed killer .

John hacket
John hacket
Oct 25, 2018 9:13 PM
Reply to  Editor

Its a weed killer

John hacket
John hacket
Oct 25, 2018 9:26 PM
Reply to  Editor
Oct 25, 2018 4:57 AM
Reply to  John hacket

How much glyphosate do you think is safe to give children? Weed killer, after all isn’t for human consumption.The following film has been around for a while.Worth watching.


Tish Farrell
Tish Farrell
Oct 25, 2018 3:19 PM
Reply to  axisofoil

Thank you axisofoil for this link: https://youtu.be/aFVF3MJNOHg?t=8
Everyone should watch this. Talk about the axis of evil.

Oct 25, 2018 10:14 PM
Reply to  John hacket

perhaps your ignorance is bliss and perhaps glyphosate will help you erase any remaining consciousness of ‘hysterical bullshitters’.

You can very easily educate yourself.
You might prefer to not know.
There’s a devil in the details.

Whatever Britain leaving the EU means – if it actually happens – is likely to be a corporately managed outcome unless something shifts at a fundamental level. I suspect all sorts of geopolitical games are behind it. We are only given a sideshow.

As things are, humanity is being mind-captured, predated upon, and farmed for sickness. But the others side of the coin is that they are willing to enter such a contract and actively support it for what they think it gives them.
You are willing to give trust to multibillion dollar chemical companies and the scientists, politicians they can buy or block.

John hacket
John hacket
Oct 26, 2018 5:42 AM
Reply to  binra

All scientific data has shown gmos and the seperate issue of glyphosate to be safe .Many gmos and glyphosate are wildly popular with farmers the peoplewho produce are food .
If you wish to critique capatalism be my guest .
I would remove it completely and would replace it with socialism but do not conflate science and the very real advances in Agricultural Technology with who owns the means of production .
The countless studies proving the safety of gmos and proving the safety of glyphosate by countless scientists are manifestations of some huge conspiracy according to you .Your argument if such is naive and child like which leaves you open to manipulation .

Oct 26, 2018 6:12 PM
Reply to  John hacket

Well I completely disagree with your claim and consider it foolish and extremely dangerous. Those who grow food for profit – Big Ag – operate for profits. Not for nutritional value nor indeed concern for toxic contamination when they are assured by false claims of safety by the established order. While cancer is not my primary sense of the hazards of exposure/ingestion of glyphosate, a multimillion dollar case has just been found against Monsanto with regard to proofs revealed of their own internal documentation that they knowingly hid a knowledge of increased incidence of cancer as a result of exposure to glyphosate. The man who won the case was exposed and has cancer but had no information to allow a proper choice being told it was completely safe. If you knew the full risks and benefits associated with a choice you are in a position to MAKE a choice. But… Read more »

Oct 27, 2018 5:18 AM
Reply to  John hacket

@John hacket
All scientific data has shown colacola and the separate issue of sugar to be safe. Many sodas and sweets are wildly popular with children, and other people who eat food .

Countless studies proving the safety of colacola and proving the safety of meat, milk, IGF-1, cheese (FFS!), sugar, and glyphosate by countless scientists are manifestations of a huge conspiracy paid for by the milk marketeers, monsatan, and others .Your argument is naive and childlike; these conspirators have spent billions of dollars manipulating you.