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Consumer Alert: Dangerous Pesticide Found in Many Wines


These days it’s harder than ever to find foods that are free of herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals. And unfortunately, chemicals can wind up in our fruit-based beverages, too, including wine. (Remember a few years ago when high levels of pesticide residues were found in many French wines?)

In fact, based on the results of a recent analysis, even organic wines may contain dangerous chemicals — in this case, contaminated with glyphosate.

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What is Glyphosate?

Glyphosate is the most widely used agricultural chemical in history. It appears in about 700 different herbicides, and is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, which is the most popular compound of its kind. Although it is highly prevalent, glyphosate is far from safe for human consumption.

In fact, recent research has revealed that the chemical compound promotes antibiotic resistance, as it is actually patented as an antibiotic, and therefore designed to kill bacteria. As a result it may cause chronic, uncontrolled inflammation in the digestive system, impairing the production of beneficial bacteria and promoting the spread of bad or pathogenic bacteria.

Moreover, glyphosate is considered to be a probable human carcinogen and may become even more dangerous when paired with other compounds in herbicides. While more research is needed to uncover the true degree of the health risks that it poses, it’s safe to say that it’s not a chemical people want to be ingesting.

What Did the Analysis Find?

The analysis was funded by an anonymous support of Moms Across America, who sent 10 wine samples from California vineyards to be tested for glyphosate. Shockingly, all 10 of the samples tested positive, including organic wines, although they contained significantly lower levels of the toxin.

The analysis detected the highest level of glyphosate (18.74 parts per billion (ppb)) in a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from a conventional vineyard; a rate that was 28 times higher than some of the other samples tested. The lowest level of 0.659 ppb was detected in a 2013 Syrah that was produced by a biodynamic and organic vineyard.

So while the levels of glyphosate were much lower in the organic wines, it was still present in every sample tested. (As an aside, it’s worth noting that glyphosate has been detected in beer previously as well, including in an analysis of the 14 best-selling German beers that was performed by the Munich Environmental Institute.)

How Does Glyphosate Enter Wine?

Even when plants are not directly sprayed with pesticides, they still have the potential to wind up inside. In the case of wine, glyphosate is often sprayed on the ground along the perimeter of grape vines.

While the chemicals would kill the grape vines if sprayed directly on them, they can be used in this fashion to form a strip around the outside of the vineyard. Therefore, even though glyphosate is not used directly on the vines, this dangerous chemical is close enough to contaminate them anyway.

In the case of organic wines, it is most likely that the contamination occurs when the chemicals spread from nearby conventional vineyards. Moreover, glyphosate may remain in the soil for over 20 years, meaning that land that once used chemicals but is now organic could be contaminated as well.

How to Limit Your Exposure

Generally speaking, consuming organic foods and beverages as often as possible is your best protection against unwanted herbicide and pesticide exposure, but for now it may be best to opt for a wine from another region altogether, such as Chile or Italy.

In addition, it is more important than ever to remain a conscientious consumer and stay up to date on different health risks that may be present in foods. Awareness of these issues, and speaking out against the widespread use of herbicides and pesticides, can help you limit your exposure and reduce the use of these products in our country. Choose carefully when selecting your next bottle of wine, and know that organic wines are typically much healthier, but recognize that it may be impossible to eliminate all risk.

Derek is a technical writer and editor with 10 years of experience in the health care field, having first earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware. He is a contributing author on a number of textbooks in the medical field, ran a nuclear cardiology licensing course, and has written a variety of other pieces from online training courses to medical software manuals. Derek pursues his personal interest in health and wellness by playing multiple sports and running marathons. An insatiable traveler, he spent 16 months working and living abroad while traveling through South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia.

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One response to “Consumer Alert: Dangerous Pesticide Found in Many Wines”

  1. […] Consumer Alert: Dangerous Pesticide Found in Many Wines (We’re Sorry) […]