A campaign to stop UK bread manufacturers using the pesticide glyphosate has been branded ‘misleading’ for targeting bread. 

The campaign was launched by the Soil Association, after scientists claimed that the widely used weed killer is ‘probably’ carcinogenic.

The ‘Not in our bread’ campaign asks the public to sign a petition urging manufacturers to “stop using wheat sprayed with glyphosate in your products”, which will be sent to firms including Hovis, Warburtons, Allied Bakeries and Brace’s and all major supermarkets.

It stresses that tests by Defra have found glyphosate in “as much as 30%” of UK bread - but the Federation of Bakers has hit back at this, saying levels are so small they are barely detectable.

Gordon Polson, director at the Federation of Bakers (FOB), said: “Where it is found, it is in such small levels it is nearly indetectable. This is constantly monitored by Defra and European safety authorities.

“While it may be legitimate to have a debate about glyphosate, it is misleading to highlight bread.”

The campaign comes as the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said that the Glyphosate herbicide, found in the herbicide product Roundup, was ‘probably’ carcinogenic to humans in a recent study.

An FOB spokesperson said that this was a claim based on ’limited evidence’. They explained: "The statement that glyphosate is ‘probably carcinogenic’ is based on limited evidence, and the German Risk Assessment Authority (which takes the lead for regulating glyphosate in the EU) has confirmed that there is no significant relationship between exposure to glyphosate and an increased risk of cancer."

The Soil Association has called for an immediate ban on pre-harvest use of glyphosate on crops.

A focus on bread

When asked why the campaign targeted bread specifically, and not all wheat containing food, Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association said: “The UK Government’s quarterly testing for pesticides in food has focused on bread for some years now, because of all the foods they test, pesticides have been found most frequently in bread.

“In our press release and campaign materials we also mention flour, biscuits and other wheat based products. But bread is a staple and if Glyphosate ends up in bread it’s impossible for people to avoid it, unless they are eating organic. On the other hand, farmers could easily choose not to use Glyphosate as a pre-harvest spray on wheat crops – just before they are harvested. This is why the Soil Association is calling for the immediate ending of the use of pre-harvest Glyphosate sprays on wheat destined for use in bread.”