Organic diet and pesticide exposure

A study in the US from 2020 shows that urine levels of the pesticide glyphosate dropped an average of 70% after participants switched to an organic diet for just 6 days.

Organic diet and pesticide exposure

What is glyphosate?

Glyphosate is an herbicide. It is applied to the leaves of plants to kill both broadleaf plants and grasses. The sodium salt form of glyphosate is used to regulate plant growth and ripen specific crops.

People apply it in agriculture and forestry, on lawns and gardens, and for weeds in industrial areas.

Recent research indicates that the increase in use of glyphosate has been paralleled by an increase in exposure of the human population, at least in the US. In addition to carcinogenicity, glyphosate has been implicated as an important contributor, among other pesticides, to kidney toxicity.

Organic diet reduces exposure to pesticides

The study, published in Environmental Research is titled Organic Diet Intervention Significantly Reduces Urinary Glyphosate Levels in U.S. Children and Adults. It was undertaken by researchers at the Health Research Institute and the nonprofit organisations Commonweal Institute and Friends of the Earth and looks at how organic diet impacts on exposure to glyphosate.

Key highlights of the research:

  • Diet is a primary source of glyphosate exposure.
  • Organic diet reduced glyphosate and AMPA exposure in U.S. families.
  • The reduction was rapid, reaching baseline in three days.

Diet interventions have provided consistent evidence that an organic diet reduces exposure to pesticides.

During days one through five, study participants followed their typical conventional diet (conventional phase). During days six through eleven, participants were provided with certified organic food while at home, work, school, or daycare (organic phase). Diet substitution included all beverages other than water, all food categories, and oils, condiments, and spices. The final urine samples were collected on the morning of day twelve, after which participants could choose to eat either organic or conventional food.

When families went on an organic diet the amount of glyphosate in their urine decreased significantly as well as a 77% reduction in the main chemical that this pesticide breaks down to in our bodies, AMPA (aminomethyl phosphonic acid).

Key findings:

  • First, in both children and adults, organic diet intervention led to a rapid decrease in urinary glyphosate and AMPA levels within three days. This demonstrates that diet is the primary source of glyphosate exposure for the general population and that controlling dietary input by shifting to an organic diet is a clear-cut approach to reducing exposure.
  • Second, the study found that levels of glyphosate and AMPA were higher in children than in adults. This is important because it reaffirms the importance of protecting young people from exposure to glyphosate as well as other pesticides.


Environmental Research: "Organic diet intervention significantly reduces urinary glyphosate levels in U.S. children and adults", October 2020

Sign up to our newsletter