As the Impossible Burger is rising to prominence as a popular meatless option, it’s facing criticism from naysayers for its ingredients.
The timing of the Moms Across America campaign is, shall we say, opportune. Earlier this month came news of the incredible $2 billion lawsuit victory in California by Alva and Alberta Pilliod, who used the Monsanto herbicide RoundUp. Both Pillods developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma. And the jury apparently believed the disease was attributable to glyphosate, the active ingredient in the RoundUp.
Moms Across America’s specific allegation is the Impossible Burger tested positive for glyphosate. The group says it was “shocked” to learn the level of glyphosate detected in the Impossible Burger was 11 times higher than that in the Beyond Meat Burger, based on testing it ordered.
Impossible Foods doesn’t shy away from the fact that its Impossible Burger is a GMO product. Therein lies the true dispute. How you feel about the science of non-organic and GMO foods will likely drive which side you agree with on this issue.
To refute Moms Across America’s allegation, Impossible Foods issued a line-by-line response.
Does Impossible Foods deny the presence of glyphosate? Nope. A teeny bit is indeed there. However, it says glyphosate can commonly be found in minuscule levels in both organic and non-organic foods. In fact, it says:
“[The glyphosate] detected in both the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger were less than 1/1,000 the limit set by EPA for glyphosate residue in dried pea (8,000 ppb) and soybeans (20,000 ppb), respectively. They were even almost 100-fold lower than the glyphosate limits set by USDA for ORGANIC certification of pea protein (400 ppb) and soy protein (1,000 ppb) — i.e., the glyphosate levels measured in both products would easily pass the glyphosate-residue requirements for organic certification of soybeans or peas, respectively.”
More importantly, here’s the foot-stomper. Impossible Foods says the level of glyphosate found in a single Impossible Burger was almost 1,000 times lower than the “no significant risk” level for glyphosate ingestion (1,100 micrograms per day) set by notoriously conservative California Proposition 65. That level is also notably lower than the safe daily limits set by the Food and Agricultural Organization/World Health Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Because the available supply of ingredients from domestically grown, non-GMO soybeans can’t keep up with demand for the Impossible Burger, Impossible Foods developed a newer formulation of “American-grown, milled and processed GM soy that meets the highest global standards for health, safety and sustainability.”
Moms Across America tested that new formulation and decided it didn’t like what it found. But it seems to me that because the soy used is now GMO, there’s no chance Moms Across America would have liked it anyway.
It’s worth reading through the Impossible Foods response, if only to note that the company can point to the Moms Across America assertions it claims are completely incorrect. And it can direct readers to what is says are the actual scientific facts backing up its position.
So why all the hate from Moms Across America? Impossible Foods calls the group “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’ including $60 bottles of ‘hydrogen water,’ coal extracts and other bogus products, ripping off customers using scare tactics and distorted ‘facts’ about science and medicine.”
A review of Moms Across America’s website confirms a few things. The group is, in fact, largely anti-vaccine. On its FAQ page, Moms Across America says this about vaccines:
“At Moms Across America, we believe that the intention of vaccines, like that of GMOs, was originally noble. However, like GMOs, they are simply not working as intended. … We believe that parents know what is best for their child’s health rather than an elected official in the state or federal capital and it is the parent’s right to choose medical treatments for their child.”
OK, Moms Across America lost me right there. Your mileage may differ, but I am a vaccine fan. Measles outbreak, anyone? How about the resurgence of polio? Yes, that’s a real thing. Come on, people. Vaccines work. When you don’t get them, your sick kid endangers every other kid, as well as vulnerable, immune-compromised adults.
Moms Across America is also anti-GMO. Lots of people are these days, but not everyone. If you’re a supporter of science — especially right now when it’s threatened at the highest levels of government — remember that a heck of a lot of scientists believe GMOs are not problematic.
“When we think about the classical definition of GMOs, we are talking about GMO 1.0,” Irish biochemist Dr. Richard Murphy told the Genetic Literacy Project. “Whereas now, we are at GMO 5.0. So the technology has moved on, but people’s opinions on GMO haven’t moved beyond the 1.0 version. And that is an issue. Not only a communication issue, but an understanding issue as well.”
Wherever you fall on this argument about the ingredients in an Impossible Burger, remember it’s not a health food. It’s almost certainly healthier than the red meat it’s replacing, but you can’t eat a steady diet of this burger and hope to achieve your healthiest self.
Eat your fruits and veggies. Have an Impossible Burger every so often as a treat. Stop worrying so much. Get past the Great Glyphosate Burger Panic of 2019.
Photo credit: Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons