Nine out of 10 urine samples from people in Malta contained traces of the weed killer glyphosate, laboratory tests carried out by Friends of the Earth Malta show.

The results in Malta are mirrored in results across Europe – with 45 per cent of samples from the 10 volunteers in each of the18 countries found to contain traces of the chemical.

All volunteers who gave samples live in urban areas, and none had handled or used glyphosate products in the run up to the tests. This is the first time monitoring has been carried out across Europe for the presence of the weed killer in humans.

Because of the small sample, lifestyle conditions will not form any type of conclusion.

Glyphosate is one of the most widely-used weed killers in the world, used by farmers, local government and gardeners, as well as being sprayed extensively on some genetically modified crops imported into Europe for use as animal feed.

The biggest producer is Monsanto which sells it under the brand name “Roundup”. Despite its widespread use, its presence in food or water is rarely monitored by governments.

Martin Galea De Giovanni from Friends of the Earth Malta said:

“Most people will be worried to discover that there is weed killer in their bodies and will want to know why it is there and what effects it is having. These results suggest that we are being exposed to glyphosate in our everyday lives, yet we don’t know where it is coming from, how widespread it is in the environment, or what it is doing to our bodies.

“This is the most widely used weed killer in Europe and it is surprising that public authorities rarely test our food or water for it. Now that Friends of the Earth Malta has discovered that it is widespread in people’s bodies, it is asking the Maltese Government to immediately step-up their monitoring to make sure we are not being put at risk.”

The latest National Statistics Office figures for herbicide use (2007) show a possible increase in glyphosate usage in Malta (as compared to 2005). The high rates obtained from the Maltese sample demands an even more serious investigation into the source of these herbicides, FoE said.

Fourteen glyphosate-resistant genetically modified crops are currently waiting for approval for cultivation in the European Union. Some estimates suggest that if given the go-ahead, glyphosate use could increase by as much as 800 per cent.

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