Environment

California Is Risking Public Health by Improperly Assessing Safety of Monsanto Herbicide

California's proposed "safe level" of glyphosate, the main ingredient in RoundUp, does nothing to protect citizens from harm.

Little boy protesting Monsanto Roundup pesticide
Photo Credit: Joe Brusky/Flickr CC

As a California mother, I am encouraged that the CalEPA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is even considering the "safe levels" of glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world. However, I was dismayed to learn the disturbing news that was revealed at the OEHHA public hearing I attended this week in Sacramento regarding the proposed "No Significant Risk Level” or NSRL for glyphosate exposure.       

Lawyer Pedram Esfandiary from law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, which represents more than 300 clients in cases against Monsanto for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, stated that OEHHA had not thoroughly followed the California Code of Regulations Section 25703(a)(2), which requires OEHHA to consider epidemiological data in their assessment of an NSRL. 

Moreover, Esfandiary noted that OEHHA only considered one animal bio-assay study whereas other studies exist which demonstrate the development of tumors at lower exposure levels, namely Wood et al (2009) and Lankas (1981).

Timothy Litzenburg, a lawyer from the Miller Firm, LLC, also representing clients in lawsuits against Monsanto, observed that industry meetings with regulators, such as Monsanto’s meeting with OEHHA regarding the NSRL, should be open to public scrutiny, especially since Monsanto presented data during the meeting with OEHHA in support of an NSRL.

At the CalEPA glyphosate hearing over 40 public citizens, mothers and grandmothers with sick children, lawyers representing citizens, a plaintiff suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, health and environmental advocates spoke before the panel. CA Guild president Bob McFarland, who previously used Roundup in his yard and now has non-alcoholic fatty liver disease asked, "What is the safe level of exposure to poison?”

An advocate for glyphosate-free towns spoke on the huge rise of thyroid cancer, which has been linked to glyphosate, in Hispanic men under 50 who work on the almond farms in Central Valley. 

A grandmother shared how her granddaughter is in such poor health she can only be fed feeding tube liquid, the same liquid that has tested positive for glyphosate at levels 1100 times higher than has been shown to destroy gut bacteria. The gut bacteria is the stronghold of the immune system.

The statements regarding the widespread exposure to glyphosate herbicides and the health conditions of their loved ones moved many in the audience to tears.

Problems with the assessment process were also addressed. A doctor addressed the fact that the assessment takes into consideration the safe level for a 70kg adult, not children. Another pointed out that the assessment is based on exposure through dietary means, not contact with Roundup sprayed on park grass or drift from a nearby farm. A representative from the United Farm Workers pointed out that OEHHA’s assessment of a safe level only considered glyphosate, which is never used alone, but with other surfactants and ingredients which have also been shown to be toxic.

The health, environmental issues and issues of improper assessment, were all separately addressed, without much duplication, in the 3-5 minutes of the 40-plus speakers. It was obvious that the impact of glyphosate herbicides affects many people, animals and the environment in many different ways, making it of serious concern for all Californians and Americans.

I personally got up and shared that the current level of glyphosate children are already exposed to in their daily diet, according to testing conducted by the FDA, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Alliance for Natural Health, GMO Free USA, Food Democracy Now and theDetox Project, and Moms Across America far exceeds the proposed NSRL. 

The amount of glyphosate residues on food allowed by the federal EPA are more than five times higher for a typical toddler's diet than the proposed NSRL. 

OEHHA’s proposed level does nothing to actually protect citizens from harm. Due to the bioaccumulation of glyphosate, only a zero level would accomplish this.

Three individuals spoke on behalf of Monsanto and two in favor of the proposed NSRL, one farm bureau representative said that "Roundup is an important tool" in their farming practices, ignoring the health risks brought up in the meeting. 

A representative from Monsanto said that they request an "infinite no significant risk level," claiming a human could be exposed to an infinite amount of glyphosate and not be harmed.

Comments on the proposed safe level of 1100 micrograms per day of glyphosate exposure are open through June 21, 2017.

Zen Honeycutt is founder of Moms Across America.

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