Science in Society Archive

Acrylamide In Cooked Foods: The Glyphosate Connection

Recent health alert over toxic acrylamide in cooked foods is linked to glyphosate, Prof. Joe Cummins reveals.

Acrylamide is a building block for the polymer, polyacrylamide, a material well-known in molecular biology laboratories as a gel matrix for resolving DNA fragments in sequence analysis and identifying proteins, both under electric fields. In the world at large, polyacrylamide is used in water purification to flocculate suspended organic matter. Recently the world health organization (WHO) had a closed meeting to review the finding that cooked vegetables had significant levels of acrylamide [1]. The finding received worldwide attention because acrylamide is a potent nerve toxin in humans and also affects male reproduction, and causes birth defects and cancer in animals. The WHO press releases implied that the acrylamide finding was a surprise and that the pollutant probably arose from cooking the vegetables.

Strangely, the WHO releases did not mention the fact that polyacrylamide is a well known additive to commercial herbicide mixtures (25% to 30% solutions) to reduce spray drift and to act as a surfactant [2]. The glyphosate (ie Roundup) herbicides of Monsanto Corporation are of particular concern because the herbicide interacts with the polymer [2-4]. Experiments showed that heat and light contribute to the release of acrylamide from polyacrylamide, and glyphosate was found to influence the solubility of polyacrylamide, so care was advised in mixing the two.

The evidence seems compelling, therefore, that acrylamide is being released from polyacrylamide in the environment, one of the main sources of which is in glyphosate herbicide formulations. Cooking vegetables that had been exposed to the glyphosate herbicide used with herbicide-tolerant crops, or used during soil preparation for normal crops would result in the releasing more acrylamide. Worse yet, additives such as polyacrylamide are designated ‘trade secrets’ in North America and information on the contents of herbicide preparations are not available to the public.

I am surprised at WHO’s feigned ignorance of the polyacrylamide –herbicide connection. WHO should make more effort to consult experts independent of the giant herbicide corporations for a change, so the public could be told the whole truth.

Article first published 01/08/02


  1. Weiss G. Acrylamide in food: Uncharted territory. Science 2002, 297,27.
  2. Smith E, Prues S and Ochme F. Environmental degradation of polyacrylamides:Effect of artificial environmental conditions. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 1996, 35,121-35.
  3. Smith E, Prues S and Ochme F. Environmental degradation of polyacrylamides: II Effects of outdoor exposure. Ecotoxicology and Environmetal Safety 1997, 37,76-91.
  4. Leonard M. Ver Vers. Determination of acrylamide monomer in polyacrylamide degradation studies by high performance liquid chromatography. Journal of Chromatographic Science 1999, 37,486-94

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