From beer to wine to breakfast food, the pesticide glyphosate is showing up in a lot of places that consumers don’t expect to find it. The chemical, a key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, was declared a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer last year. Since then, a number of food and environmental activist groups have started testing for it in an array of products and finding it—albeit in small amounts—almost everywhere. Now a group of consumers are suing Quaker Oats, which is owned by PepsiCo, over the glyphosate that testing paid for by the plaintiffs found in the company’s Quick 1-Minute oats product.
“There is nothing unlawful about Quaker Oats’ growing and processing methods,” according to the suit, which was filed in Federal District Court in New York and California on Monday. “What is unlawful is Quaker’s claim that Quaker Oats is something that it is not in order to capitalize on growing consumer demand for healthful, natural products.” The oats are marketed as “100% natural,” and the Quaker Oats website tells consumers that oats, which are a very hearty crop, “require less herbicide spray than many other grains.”
The suit puts the growing controversy over glyphosate (and, to a lesser extent, “natural” labels , which are not regulated) in front of the courts. While the class-action status of the complaint seeks financial damages, the larger question is twofold: Why is glyphosate showing up in oats and so many other foods, and does it present a health risk?