WASHINGTON DC / BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) June 17, 2013 – Friends of the Earth International today urged governments around the world to limit the use of the weed killer glyphosate, after laboratory test results released last week showed that people across 18 European countries have traces of the weed killer in their bodies. [1]

Media briefing on glyphosate and reasons for concern available at:

The unprecedented tests carried out by Friends of the Earth Europe revealed that 44% of samples from 182 volunteers in 18 European countries contained traces of the herbicide [2].

Glyphosate is one of the most widely-used weed killers in the world, used by farmers, local government and gardeners, and is sprayed extensively on genetically modified crops.

In the United States and Latin America, farmers are using increased amounts of pesticides, -including glyphosate- due largely to the heavy adoption of genetically modified crops. [3]

The biggest producer of glyphosate is US biotech giant Monsanto which sells it under the brand name “Roundup”.

Lisa Archer, Food and Technology Program Director of Friends of the Earth US said:

“Discovering traces of glyphosate in Europeans raises serious questions. How did it get there? Why aren’t governments testing for it? And is it also present in Americans citizens? Unlike Europe, the US grows vast amounts of glyphosate-resistant crops, which have resulted in a massive application of herbicides and superweeds.. Some of them are already out of control. Monsanto’s unauthorised genetically modified wheat recently discovered in US fields is the latest alarm bell and confirms the need for stricter controls on agribusiness.”

In May 2013 a strain of genetically-engineered glyphosate-resistant wheat was found on a farm in Oregon, USA. The wheat was developed by Monsanto which tested it between 1998 and 2005. The wheat has never been approved nor marketed. Trading partners have since introduced restrictions or testing of US wheat imports. [4]

Adrian Bebb, spokesman for Friends of the Earth Europe said:

“Agribusinesses that promote GM crops and pesticides like to pretend they have things under control – but finding this weed killer in peoples’ urine suggests we are being exposed to glyphosate in our everyday lives, yet don’t know where it is coming from, how widespread it is in the environment, or what it is doing to our health.”

“Governments around the world need to limit glyphosate use, step up their investigations, and ensure that people and the environment are put before the interests of a few agribusiness corporations,” he added.

According to 2010 figures, 70% of all the corn that was planted in the United States had been genetically modified to be herbicide resistant; as well as 78% of cotton and 93% of all soybeans.

In Europe there has been widespread opposition to GM crops, with only one GM crop grown commercially, although there are 14 applications currently being considered by the EU to grow glyphosate-resistant crops.

In Argentina, 200 million litres of glyphosate-based pesticides are used yearly on soy plantations alone.


Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe, Tel: + 49 1 609 490 1163 or email

Lisa Archer, food and technology program director, Friends of the Earth US, Tel: +1 – 510-900-3145 or email


[1] This is the first time monitoring has been carried out across Europe for the presence of the weed killer in humans. All of the volunteers who gave samples live in cities, and none had handled or used glyphosate products in the run up to the tests.

For more information read this Wall Street Journal story:

[2] Urine samples were collected from 182 volunteers in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the UK. Volunteers were all city-dwellers and included vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets. No two samples were tested from the same household. The samples were analysed by Dr Hoppe at Medizinisches Labor Bremen in Germany (

[3] See Reuters story “Pesticide use ramping up as GMO crop technology backfires: study”

[4] USDA APHIS, 29 May 2013. ‘USDA Investigating Detetions of Genetically Engineered (GE) Glyphosate-resistant wheat in Oregon’