Glyphosate

As New Zealand's food safety regulator, New Zealand Food Safety's number one priority is the health and welfare of consumers. Find out how we monitor and control the use of the herbicide glyphosate.

Background to glyphosate

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world, including in New Zealand. It kills a wide range of weeds that can affect production on farms, orchards and gardens if left unchecked.

The herbicide is used in about 90 products, with Roundup being the most recognised brand.

Approved uses of glyphosate in NZ

In New Zealand, glyphosate products only have approved label claims for weed control. There are no 'Roundup-ready' crops (i.e. crops which have been bred or genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate).

Regulations, monitoring, and testing

New Zealand Food Safety monitors and controls the use of glyphosate through regulations, by setting maximum residue levels, and by running surveys and tests.

Regulations control glyphosate use

Glyphosate products used on food crops require registration under the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) Act. This includes a thorough scientific assessment of chemistry and manufacturing information, animal and plant safety, and residues in food. Controls such as labelling are placed on the products to manage their risks under the ACVM Act. This regulatory regime follows best international practice.

Setting maximum residue levels

New Zealand Food Safety sets the maximum residue levels (MRLs) for pesticides, which includes herbicides, in foods.

MRLs for agricultural compounds

Monitoring, surveying, and testing

New Zealand Food Safety monitors chemical residues and runs regular surveys. We also periodically test targeted commodities of dietary exposure, good agricultural practice or trade concern. We have tested:

Other regulations on glyphosate set by the EPA

The Environmental Protection Authority (NZ EPA) regulates the manufacture, importing, use, storage, and transportation of hazardous substances, such as glyphosate, for environmental, and health and safety purposes. The NZ EPA has approved glyphosate for use in New Zealand.

No glyphosate found in New Zealand milk

Testing shows no presence of glyphosate in New Zealand milk.

New Zealand Food Safety was approached in 2015 by a group concerned about the possibility that glyphosate residue could be present in New Zealand milk. New Zealand Food Safety considered that it was unlikely glyphosate residues would be present based on the information it held.  Furthermore, if glyphosate residues were detected, it would be very unlikely to be a food safety concern. 

After we were approached, as a precaution we proactively carried out a focused testing programme for glyphosate and its metabolite in milk and cream for retail sale and in unprocessed raw milk. No residues were detected in those tests. The tests were conducted in an accredited laboratory using an approved test method.

All of the results from this focused testing programme are consistent with the testing of milk for glyphosate that has previously been carried out under the New Zealand Government’s National Chemical Contaminants Programme. The results reaffirm our assessment that glyphosate residues in milk are not expected from its use.  On the basis of all this information, consumers should be confident there is no food safety concern.

Pea and wheat crops tested for glyphosate

The Food Residues Survey Programme (FRSP) regularly surveys plant-based foods for agricultural compound residues that are routinely used on farms to control pests and diseases. The aim of the survey programme is to confirm that New Zealand growers and importers are following Good Agricultural Practice. Good agricultural practice means they use the lowest amount of the pesticide to achieve its purpose.

Residue levels are checked against MRLs which are there to enforce good agricultural practice while ensuring food safety.

Results from 2015/2016 survey

New Zealand Food Safety tested for glyphosate residues in pea and wheat crops in the 2015/2016 survey. No glyphosate residues were detected in 60 pea samples. Glyphosate residues were detected in 26 out of 60 wheat samples. Twenty of these samples contained glyphosate above the MRL of 0.1 mg/kg.

The results were assessed and indicated no food safety concern. At the highest level detected (5.9 mg/kg), the average adult would have to consume 14kg of wheat-based products every day for their lifetime to reach the World Health Organization Acceptable Daily Intake for glyphosate.

Further investigations

Because the levels in the wheat samples appeared to be greater than expected, New Zealand Food Safety began an investigation into the possible causes. No clear reasons for the higher residue levels were found. But we did identify that label instructions may not be clear to all users for using glyphosate for pre-harvest weed control in cereal crops.

As a result, New Zealand Food Safety has reviewed the wording on labels for pre-harvest weed control in cereal crops for clarity and consistency. This included a review of residue information for glyphosate when used in cereal crops for weed control.

Read the 2015/16 FRSP report  [PDF, 447 KB]

Honey tested for glyphosate

New Zealand Food Safety has tested honey samples for several years for agricultural compounds, including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and environmental contaminants in honey. In 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 New Zealand Food Safety conducted targeted surveys on honey samples for glyphosate residues.

Most of the samples contained no residues. A small number of raw honey samples showed glyphosate residues above regulatory levels. None of the honey samples tested at the retail level had glyphosate residues above regulatory limits, and there were no food safety concerns.

For context, a 5-year old child who was consuming honey with 0.1 mg/kg of glyphosate residues (the default maximum residue level in New Zealand) would need to eat roughly 230kg of honey every day for the rest of their life to reach the World Health Organization Acceptable Daily Intake for glyphosate.

The results of these surveys show residues levels and prevalence rates comparable to or lower than published in other international reports and studies.

Results for agricultural compounds in honey [PDF, 1.4 MB]

International reviews

New Zealand Food Safety reviews and responds to glyphosate research and statements from major international food safety authorities.

Find out more

Regulation and monitoring of glyphosate [PDF, 315 KB]

Food Residues Survey Programme

National Chemical Contaminants Programme

National Chemical Residues Programme

MPI food monitoring programmes

ACVM Act 1997 – NZ Legislation website

Who to contact

If you have questions about glyphosate, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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