Impossible Burger Attacks Moms for Publishing Pesticide Results

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

impossible burger glyphosate residues

Story at-a-glance -

  • When tested by consumer advocacy group Moms Across America (MAA), concerning levels of the herbicide glyphosate were found in the Impossible Burger
  • The total result of glyphosate and AMPA, the main metabolite of glyphosate, in the Impossible Burger was 11.3 parts per billion (ppb)
  • The Impossible Burger is made mostly of genetically engineered (GE) soy protein, a highly-processed ingredient that’s not real food
  • Rather than acknowledging that glyphosate in their food could be a problem, Impossible Foods engaged in a veritable smear campaign against Moms Across America, calling it an “anti-science, fundamentalist group that cynically peddles a toxic brew of medical misinformation”
  • Alternative meat products are not natural, nor are they superior to real food grown in accordance with nature

Impossible Foods is billing its Impossible Burger as a healthier, more sustainable option than beef, but when tested by consumer advocacy group Moms Across America (MAA), concerning levels of the herbicide glyphosate were found in the food.1

It's not at all surprising, considering the Impossible patty is made mostly of genetically engineered (GE) soy protein, and in the U.S. about 94 percent of soybean acres are planted with such GE seeds, which are designed to tolerate glyphosate, i.e., Roundup, herbicides.2

This alone pokes holes in their attempts to greenwash an otherwise highly processed fake food, but the company's response to MAA's findings is even more disconcerting.

Impossible Foods Resorts to Insults, Name-Calling to 'Defend' Their Fake Burger

Impossible Foods' rebuttal to MAA's glyphosate testing has taken a page out of Monsanto's playbook: When a study shows reason for concern, immediately attempt to discredit the source using any means necessary, including insults and name-calling.

Rather than acknowledging that glyphosate in their food could be a problem — especially in light of the recent court cases against Bayer (which acquired Monsanto in 2018) totaling billions in judgments due to people who developed cancer as a result of Roundup use — they engaged in a veritable smear campaign against MAA.

In their Unofficial Correction of Moms Across America, Impossible Foods states, "MAA is an anti-GMO, anti-vaccine, anti-science, fundamentalist group that cynically peddles a toxic brew of medical misinformation and completely unregulated, untested, potentially toxic quack "supplements" … ."3

Really? In actuality, Moms Across America is a group of moms on a mission to raise awareness about toxic exposures and create healthy communities. They've previously commissioned research that's revealed glyphosate lurking in everything from almond milk and hummus to orange juice and veggie burgers — information consumers should know.

Impossible Foods also highlighted MAA's point that a staggering number of Americans have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), to which they rebutted, "Huh? This is a complete non-sequitur."4

Perhaps they're not aware, then, that as more and more glyphosate has been sprayed on agricultural lands, parks and backyards, entering our food and water supplies, NAFLD rates have trended upward, from a prevalence of 15% in 2005 to 25% in 2010.5

Glyphosate not only has been linked to liver damage at ultralow doses,6 but people with a more severe form of NAFLD called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, had significantly higher residues of glyphosate in their urine, according to one recent study.7,8

As for MAA's statements that glyphosate-based herbicides have been "proven to be carcinogenic," Impossible Foods stated this is "a ridiculous claim" and "No regulatory authority in the world considers glyphosate to be carcinogenic to humans at current exposure levels," tell this to the victims behind the at least 13,400 lawsuits that have been filed claiming exposure to glyphosate-containing Roundup caused health problems, including cancer.

The first three lawsuits have already ended in favor of the plaintiffs, leaving Bayer saddled with billions in damages. Zen Honeycutt, MAA's executive director, brought up a good point, which is who will end up responsible for glyphosate's toxic burden if the lawsuits leave Bayer bankrupt:9

"If Bayer goes bankrupt due to the outcome of about 14,000 lawsuits filed against them for the carcinogenic effects of glyphosate herbicides, who will become liable for harm to the public? I wonder if it will be retailers and food brands who continue to expose the public to toxic glyphosate herbicides."

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What Is the Impossible Burger?

Impossible Foods creates meatless burgers that "bleed" like real meat, due to the addition of soy leghemoglobin, or heme. This, the company says, it what makes meat taste like meat and, in plants, leghemoglobin is the protein that carries heme, an iron-containing molecule.

Originally, Impossible Foods harvested leghemoglobin from the roots of soy plants, but deemed that method unsustainable. Instead, they turned to genetic engineering, which they use to create a yeast engineered with the gene for soy leghemoglobin.

"This process allows us to make heme at scale with the lowest achievable environmental impact," according to the company.10 The full ingredients list of their "new" recipe, which was released in January 2019, is as follows:11

"Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12. Contains: Soy"

You can find Impossible products in more than 5,000 restaurants in the U.S., Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore, in locations ranging from fine dining establishments to food trucks and theme parks.12 Even fast food outlets like Burger King and White Castle have jumped on the meatless fake burger bandwagon, with the former featuring the new Impossible Whopper that bills itself as "100% Whopper, 0% Beef."

The glaring issue with fake foods such as these is that they're claiming to be a healthier alternative to conventional burgers, but in fact are nothing more than highly processed pseudo-food — not the real food that so many Americans are after.

So How Much Glyphosate Is in Impossible Burgers?

MAA commissioned Health Research Institute Labs (HRI Labs), an independent laboratory that tests both micronutrients and toxins found in food, to determine how much glyphosate is in the Impossible Burger and its competitor, the Beyond Burger, which is made from a heavily processed concoction of ingredients like pea protein isolate, canola oil, gum Arabic, modified food starch and cellulose from bamboo.

Like the Impossible Burger, the Beyond Burger is a far cry from real food. The total result of glyphosate and AMPA, the main metabolite of glyphosate, in the burgers was 11.3 parts per billion (ppb) in the Impossible Burger and 1 ppb in the Beyond Burger.13

It's a lower level than has been found in some other foods, namely those containing oats. Glyphosate is used as a desiccant on many non-GMO crops, such as wheat, oats and barley, in order to dry them out quickly prior to harvest.

In some cases, non-GMO foods may be even more contaminated with glyphosate than GMO crops like soy, because they're being sprayed just weeks prior to being made into your cereal, bread, cookies and the like.

Tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) revealed the highest glyphosate level — 2,837 ppb — was found in Quaker Oatmeal Squares breakfast cereal,14 a level that makes Impossible Burger's glyphosate level seem good by comparison — but that's precisely the sad point.

Glyphosate has been so heavily used worldwide that it's being found everywhere, and companies are trying to pass off the fact that this herbicide is in their food as normal and somehow acceptable. No matter the amount, consumers are eating fake burgers that contain herbicide residues, and Impossible Foods wants you to believe that's just fine.

But consider this: Every time you eat something contaminated with glyphosate, it adds to your daily body burden for that chemical. Impossible Burger's 11 ppb will add to the possibly 2,837 ppb in your breakfast cereal, along with likely amounts in many other foods you eat on a daily basis. This can all add up to an increased risk of disease. EWG noted:15

"Our recommended maximum daily intake of glyphosate in food is 0.01 milligrams. For a 60-gram portion of food, this daily intake limit translates to a safety standard of 160 ppb of glyphosate. This health benchmark is based on the risks of lifetime exposure, because small, repeated exposures can add up if someone eats food containing glyphosate every day."

Replacing Animal Foods Isn't the Solution

After revealing the glyphosate residues in the Impossible Burger, MAA called upon consumers to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cancel the license for glyphosate in light of the increasing health risks. Impossible Foods responded:16

"Nothing is more important for human health, global food security and the future of the world than replacing the use of animals in food production. In fact, most of the agricultural pesticides used in the US are applied to crops fed to livestock. So no single step would do more to reduce pesticide exposure then eliminating the use of livestock in food production. That's our mission."

This again misses the point. It's clear that alternatives are needed to the concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) involved in producing most meat. Conservation group WWF told The Guardian that they had found that 60 percent of global biodiversity loss is due to meat-based diets straining resources.17,18

However, the solution isn't to remove animals from the system but rather to include them in accordance with the laws of nature. Rather than housing livestock separately from other animals and crops, livestock is integrated into a symbiotic, complementary system that mimics the way nature works.

Animals are, in fact, a very necessary part of a sustainable agriculture system. Allen Williams, Ph.D., a sixth-generation farmer and chief ranching officer for Joyce Farms, explained, "The way we do this at Joyce Farms is by mimicking the dense herds of grazing ruminants that used to roam across America, grazing and trampling plants into the soil. This trampling provides an armor of plant life for the soil and feeds the soil microbes."19

Meanwhile, on biodynamic farms, which use no genetic engineering or chemical pesticides, crops and livestock are integrated, animals are treated humanely, and all have access to the outdoors, free-range forage and plenty of space to move around. Further, at least 10 percent of farm acreage is set aside for biodiversity.20

Investors in Impossible Foods Are Far From Agricultural Gurus

Grass fed, regenerative and biodynamic farming is the direction the food supply needs to be moving for true sustainability — a point Impossible Foods is missing entirely. But why would we think otherwise?

The investors in alternative meat products are not exactly gurus in the sustainable agriculture scene — far from it. Take Memphis Meats, which is creating meat replacements grown in a lab via mass culturing stem cells from animals, often in a solution containing bovine serum, hormones, growth factors and other food additives.21

Agricultural giant Cargill Inc. and billionaires Richard Branson and Bill Gates are among those who have given millions to Memphis Meats. Other investors in Memphis Meats include General Electric CEO Jack Welch, venture capital firm DJF (which has also invested in Tesla, SpaceX and Skype) and billionaires Kimbal Musk (brother of tech billionaire Elon Musk) and Kyle Vogt (co-founder of a self-driving car startup).

Similarly, investors in Impossible Foods include Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, Google Ventures, Horizons Ventures, UBS, Viking Global Investors, Temasek, Sailing Capital and Open Philanthropy Project (Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook, is one of their main funders22), along with a handful of celebrities and athletes.23

It seems the idea of putting patents on the food system is appealing to a number of billionaire investors, but does the idea of an elite few controlling the food system via patented lab-grown meat and GE meat alternatives sound appealing to you?

Fake Meat Is Highly Processed — See Through the Hype

Fake meat marketers would have you believe that the key to saving the environment and protecting animals is to embrace GE meat alternatives and lab-grown meat, but don't believe the hype. These products are not natural, nor are they superior to real food grown in accordance with nature.

As for sustainability, Friends of the Earth (FOE), a grassroots environmental group, noted that Impossible Foods is making confusing promotional claims, sustainability among them:24

"The Impossible Burger is marketed as 'sustainable,' … despite the lack of data on energy consumption, emissions, or dependency on industrial feedstocks like genetically engineered corn used to feed the genetically engineered yeast that produce key ingredients."

There's also a lack of transparency regarding disclosure of processing aids used to make some alternative meat products, as they do not have to be listed on labels.25 These products are manufactured from start to finish and involve the use of man-made ingredients.

The complex mix of nutrients and cofactors that exist in real food cannot be recreated by an assembly of individual components. As a general rule, man-made foods are vastly inferior to natural, whole foods and always will be.

So, if you're looking for a healthy meal, and one that protects the environment at the same time, look for Demeter (biodynamic) and American Grassfed Association (AGA) certifications, which are both indicative of high-quality, sustainable and environmentally sound food.