The Soil Association in the UK is urging tillage farmers not to use glyphosate (Roundup, Touchdown) as a pre-harvest spray on milling wheat crops. Three months ago, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), concluded that ‘glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans’.

Glyphosate is one of the three pesticides regularly found in routine testing of British bread – appearing in up to 30% of samples tested by the Defra Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF).

Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, said that the farming industry cannot ignore the World Health Organisation’s findings that glysophate is a probable cause of cancer.

“The risks are too great. Previous voluntary attempts to limit the occurrence of glyphosate in bread have failed, so the Soil Association is calling on farmers to avoid using this herbicide pre-harvest this year on wheat crops, in particular those that might go for milling.”

The Soil Association points out that the levels of glyphosate found in bread are below the maximum residue level (MRL) set by the EU, adding that these standards were set well before this latest determination by the WHO.

Recent research into public opinion shows that the presence of any chemicals in food is one of the main health concerns for consumers, especially those with children.

The Soil Association has also written to all major UK Supermarkets and large bread businesses including to ask them how they plan to produce their bread in the light of this new evidence.

A scientific briefing will be held in London on July 15, to highlight the new IARC findings regarding glyphosate. Hosted by the Soil Association, it will be led by one of the scientists on the IARC panel.