Glyphosate-free labelling on the rise

One Degree Organic Foods, as its name suggests, makes and sells organic foods. The British Columbia company manufactures organic bread, cereal, granola and other grain-based products.

Since it’s organic, it’s likely the wheat, oats and other ingredients are produced without pesticides.

But “likely” isn’t good enough for the owners of One Degree Organic Foods, especially when it comes to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide.

All One Degree products are labelled with a certified organic logo and something called the Bio-Checked Non Glyphosate Certified seal.

“We’re a bit manic about two things…. First, how do we maximize nutrition in the grains that we use…. The other thing we’re quite manic about, is eliminating toxins,” said Danny Houghton, chief customer officer of Silver Hills, located in Abbotsford, B.C.

“It’s an added layer, above and beyond the organic certification.”

Silver Hills is the parent company of Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery, One Degree Organic Foods and Little Northern Bakehouse, which produces gluten-free bread

“The non-glyphosate commitment is something that undergirds all of our brands,” Houghton said, explaining that the Bio-Checked standard requires Silver Hills to sample incoming shipments of grain and test for glyphosate residue.

One Degree Organic’s website shows that it buys oats, wheat and corn from farmers in Alberta.

If there’s a problem with a shipment, Silver Hills speaks with the farmer or stops doing business with that supplier. It seems redundant to put a “glyphosate free” logo on a package of organic granola, but there are cases of herbicide drift and organic fraud.

“It’s already worked at a real level for us,” Houghton said. “(We) had a supplier of a certified organic product that came from another country… and it was flagged for heavy uses of glyphosate.”

In March 2015, glyphosate and its use in crop production became controversial, when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a division of the World Health Organization) classified the herbicide as probably carcinogenic to humans.

The designation remains contentious, as regulatory bodies around the globe, including Health Canada, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the European Food Safety Authority, reviewed the scientific evidence and decided the herbicide is safe.

“No pesticide regulatory authority in the world currently considers glyphosate to be a cancer risk to humans at the levels at which humans are currently exposed,” Health Canada said in January 2019.

But in the last few years, U.S. court decisions have fueled public interest in glyphosate.

In August 2018, a California court awarded $289 million to a school groundskeeper who claimed that exposure to Roundup caused his cancer. That case spawned thousands of similar lawsuits. In 2020 the number of filed and un-filed glyphosate safety claims against Bayer, the maker of glyphosate, reached more than 125,000.

“One Degree Organics, which dons the BioChecked seal, is seeing this assurance pay off — the company saw a 21 percent increase in dollar volume over the last 24 weeks ending Aug. 9,” said Silver Hill’s public relations’ firm, in an email. | Screencap via onedegreeorganics.com

Last June Bayer committed about $11 billion to settle the U.S. lawsuits.

Keeping pesticide residues out of its bread may be part of Silver Hills’ goal of “eliminating toxins”, but a glyphosate-free logo is also an effective marketing tactic.

“One Degree Organics, which dons the BioChecked seal, is seeing this assurance pay off — the company saw a 21 percent increase in dollar volume over the last 24 weeks ending Aug. 9,” said Silver Hill’s public relations’ firm, in an email.

Data from SPINS, a market research company, shows that the market for glyphosate-free products has reached US$204 million — an increase of 58.2 percent, year over year.

That’s a tiny amount compared to the market for non-GMO foods:

  • The non-GMO Project label is on more than 50,000 food projects.
  • The non-GMO Project items represent more than US$26 billion in sales.

However, more food companies are thinking about or putting “no-glyphosate” labels on their products and heavy hitters in the media are paying attention.

In September, marthastewart.com wrote about glyphosate and food labels, noting that more that 1,500 products are now sold with the Detox Project’s glyphosate-free logo.

“According to Harry Reynolds, The Detox Project director, the certification is one of the fastest-growing in the U.S.,” said marthastewart.com.

There is a cost to testing grain shipments for residues and putting a logo on all of its products, but Silver Hills believes that consumers deserve to know if their bread contains glyphosate or not.

As well, glyphosate-free is an “important talking point” to spark a conversation with consumers, Houghton said.

“(It) underscores a unique selling proposition, for our family of brands.”

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