By Carol A. Kemper, MD, FACP

Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, Stanford University, Division of Infectious Diseases, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center

Dr. Kemper reports no financial relationships relevant to this field of study.

SOURCE: ProMED-mail post, Sept. 15, 2016. Contaminated honey — USA: Glyphosate. Available at: Accessed Nov. 12, 2016.

Weeds. Weeds. Anyone with a garden understands. Even my neighbor, with his “organic” pinot vineyard, has given up, and uses Roundup, which contains the active weed killer glyphosate. Of course, his vineyard worker only sprays it “between” the vines (while he is wearing a Hazmat suit). Commercial agriculture depends on Roundup, and crop seeds have been genetically modified to withstand its use. While there is not much research on the effects of Roundup on bees, the chemical may remain in the ground for some time, and the spray creates an aerosol, which can be carried by the wind. I tried keeping bees for years on the property, but they kept vanishing.

Now, the FDA reports finding small amounts of the weed killer glyphosate in samples of U.S. honey. The amount of glyphosate found was as much as 107 parts per billion in some samples, which is small but nonetheless more than that permitted by the European Union (< 50 parts per billion). The FDA has not stipulated a limit for glyphosate in food substances, such as honey. And, up until this year, no testing for this chemical was performed on food substances in the United States. Independent agencies, which have identified Roundup in cereal, oatmeal, and flour samples, may have focused the FDA’s attention on this concern. Obviously, the bees are collecting it with their nectar, and bringing it back to the hive. How much is a risk to humans is not clear.