Environment

FDA Stops Testing for Glyphosate as New Report Finds High Levels Are Found in Food

The pesticide, the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, has been classified as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

STAVELOT, BELGIUM - MAY 6, 2016: Shelves with a variety of Pesticides in a Carrefour Supermarket. Roundup is a brand-name of an herbicide containing glyphosate, made by Monsanto.
Photo Credit: defotoberg / Shutterstock.com

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has suspended testing for glyphosate residues in food, according to a statement made to the Huffington Post. The suspension was announced as a new report was released from Food Democracy Now! and the Detox Project, which has exposed dangerous levels of glyphosate contamination in popular U.S. foods. Glyphosate has been found to cause changes to DNA functioning, resulting in chronic disease, and has been classified as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

In February 2016, FDA announced that it would start testing for glyphosate in food, following sharp criticism from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) for not using statistically valid methods consistent with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards to collect information on the incidence and level of pesticide residues. Now, the agency has suspended testing amid difficulties establishing a standard methodology to use across the agency’s multiple U.S. laboratories, according to Huffington Post. It was also reported that there have been problems with the equipment, with some labs needing more sensitive instruments. FDA spokeswoman Megan McSeveney confirmed the testing suspension to the Huffington Post, and said the agency is not sure when it will resume. Ms. McSeveney stated that they had only been testing for glyphosate residues on certain foods, such as soy, corn, milk, eggs, and popcorn.

The new report, Glyphosate: Unsafe on Any Plate, found high levels of glyphosate contamination in popular American food brands, such as Cheerios, Doritos, Oreos, Goldfish and Ritz Crackers, and Stacy’s Pita Chips. According to the report, the levels that found in these products are above the levels associated with organ damage (above 0.1 parts per billion(ppb)). Among 29 different foods tested, the highest levels detected were found in General Mills’ Original Cheerios, at 1,125.3 ppb. Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips were the next highest, at 812.53 ppb. The testing and analysis was performed by Anresco Laboratories, which is an FDA registered laboratory. Glyphosate residues have been detected in a wide variety of foods and products. In March 2016, Moms Across America released a report on glyphosate residues in California wines and found that all of the ten wines tested positive for glyphosate. Other recent reports of the widespread presence of glyphosate residues find the chemical in breast milkin German beersfeminine hygiene products, and bread, as well as in nearly 100% of Germans tested.

Glyphosate, created by Monsanto, is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by industry. But glyphosate has been shown to have detrimental impacts on humans and the environment. Given its widespread use on residential and agricultural sites, its toxicity is of increasing concern. Roundup formulations can induce a dose-dependent formation of DNA adducts (altered forms of DNA linked to chemical exposure, playing a key role in chemical carcinogenesis) in the kidneys and liver of mice. Human cell endocrine disruption on the androgen receptor, inhibition of transcriptional activities on estrogen receptors on HepG2, DNA damage and cytotoxic effects occurring at concentrations well below “acceptable” residues have all been observed.

In June 2016, at a Congressional briefing sponsored by U.S Representative Ted Lieu, a delegation of independent scientists including this study’s authors, presented their findings, urging lawmakers to call on the EPA to ban RoundUp (glyphosate). Beyond Pesticides participated on the panel, providing testimony on the impact of glyphosate on soil systems, as well as the unreasonable risk it poses to humans, animals, and the environment. Following the congressional briefing, scientists spoke at a closed meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), explaining the biochemical and physiological reasons why exposure to glyphosate is linked to autism, Alzheimer’s, cancer, birth defects, obesity, and gluten intolerance, among other health issues. However, EPA indicated that much of the information provided may not impact their current risk assessment for glyphosate, which is expected sometime in 2017.

Then, in September 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs released its Glyphosate Issue Paper in which the agency is proposing to classify glyphosate as “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans at doses relevant for human health risk assessment.” The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) was scheduled to review EPA’s evaluation of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate on October 18-21, but it was postponed, due to “recent changes in the availability of experts for the peer review panel.”  However, as veteran journalist, formerly with Reuters, Carey Gillam reports in the Huffington Post, the move was likely the result of a letter industry front group CropLife America sent to EPA just days before the postponement, challenging the bias of certain experts on the panel. Croplife America is a national trade association that represents manufacturers, formulators, and distributors of pesticides, and has a vested interest in tamping down consumer concerns over glyphosate’s carcinogenicity. Currently, the FIFRA SAP meeting has been rescheduled for December 13-16, 2016.

In August, Beyond Pesticides, Organic Consumers Association, and Moms Across America filed a lawsuit against General Mills for misleading the public by labeling their Nature Valley brand granola bars “Made with 100% NATURAL whole grain OATS,” after it was discovered that the glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup and hundreds of other glyphosate-based herbicides, is present in the Nature Valley granola bars. In November, after Sue Bee honey products labeled “100% Pure” and “Natural” tested positive for glyphosate residue, Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) filed a lawsuit yesterday Sioux Honey Association, for the deceptive and misleading labeling of its Sue Bee and Aunt Sue’s honey brands. Both lawsuits are intended to move consumer demand away from natural products, which are produced in chemical-intensive production systems that have adverse effects on health and the environment, and toward organic, which eliminates the use of toxic pesticides.

Given the mounting evidence of glyphosate’s hazards, environmental groups like Beyond Pesticides are urging localities to restrict or eliminate the use of the widely-used weedkiller, like Tracy Madlener, a mother of two, successfully did last year. Beyond Pesticides promotes these actions and many more through our Tools for Change page. This page is designed to help activists and other concerned citizens organize around a variety of pesticide issues on the local, state, and national level. Learn how to organize a campaign and talk to your neighbors about pesticides with our factsheets. See Beyond Pesticides’ article Glyphosate Causes Cancer for more information.

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
[x]
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Activism
Drugs
Economy
Education
Environment
Food
Media
World