A new study by US researchers shows that urine levels of the pesticide glyphosate dropped an average of 70% after participants switched to an organic diet for just six days.

The study, Organic Diet Intervention Significantly Reduces Urinary Glyphosate Levels in U.S. Children and Adults, was a carried out by researchers at the Health Research Institute and the nonprofit organizations Commonweal Institute and Friends of the Earth. It is believed to be the first to examine how an organic diet affects exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, the world’s most widely used herbicide. The study also suggests that for the general population, the food they eat is a primary way they are exposed to this pesticide.

The study followed four racially diverse US families from Minneapolis, Minnesota; Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; and Oakland, California. Urine samples were collected from parents and children eating their typical diet of conventional food for six days, and again during a controlled diet of all organic food for six days. In addition to glyphosate reductions, the study found a 77% reduction in the main chemical that this pesticide breaks down to in our bodies, AMPA (aminomethyl phosphonic acid).

Image: Friends of the Earth

Dramatic drop
“It’s striking that levels of this toxic pesticide dropped so dramatically after less than a week. Given our results and related studies on how an organic diet rapidly reduces pesticide exposure, we could expect to see similar reductions in glyphosate levels in most Americans if they switched to an organic diet,” said study co-author Kendra Klein, PhD, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth. “That’s the good news. The bad news is that most of us are eating glyphosate-laden food continuously, resulting in daily doses of the chemical from breakfast through dinner.”

The researchers say that while the study sample is small, the findings are statistically significant and offer important new data indicating more widespread glyphosate exposure than previous studies. The study team found glyphosate in 100% of the participants, including children as young as four, and found that the average level of glyphosate in children was approximately five times higher than in adults.

Make organic the norm 
“We all have the right to food that is free of toxic pesticides,” said Klein, “but our federal regulatory system is broken and is not protecting us. We urgently need our elected leaders to make healthy organic food the norm for everyone by passing policies that support farmers to shift from pesticide-intensive to organic farming.”

“During the coronavirus pandemic, the inequities of our food system have become ever more clear,” said Sharyle Patton, Director of the Commonweal Biomonitoring Resources Center and co-author of the study. “Research shows that communities of colour are at higher risk of serious complications and death from coronavirus as a result of already suffering from higher rates of diet-related diseases. Now more than ever, we need public policies that ensure that all communities have access to healthy, organic food.”