The FDA has decided to start testing food for glyphosate residue, the most widely used herbicide in the U.S., after pressure from organizations like the U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO). Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round-Up weed killer, is likely to cause cancer in humans, according to the WHO, yet has been used by food producers to control weeds for decades. The FDA already tests food for other pesticide residue, but it has ignored testing for glyphosate, due to the expense of testing.
According to Carey Gillam’s article published in February, the FDA needed $5 million in startup costs to get testing going. That seems like peanuts compared to the billions in healthcare costs that associated illnesses can cause over time. Five countries—South Africa, France, Chile, Brazil and Sri Lanka—either outright banned the sale of toxic weedkillers or GMO strains produced by Monsanto, or demand the company hold to truth in advertising standards.
Glyphosate and health
Glyphosate is used just about everywhere. It’s on the food we eat, and as a general purpose weed killer in parks, playgrounds and common areas everywhere. Exposure is high. The produce has links to cancer, ADHD, autism, IBS, liver disease and much more. While Monsanto maintains that these claims have no real basis, it’s hard to ignore the overwhelming amount of evidence-based claims out there. Since exposure risk is so high, it’s hard to protect yourself by simple avoidance.
Political history of glyphosate
Here’s the backstory, as outlined in this New York Times article. The EPA declared that glyphosate is a probable cause of cancer in humans almost 30 years ago. The finding was later reversed, citing that the study at the heart of the claim may not have been as strong as originally thought. The WHO recently decided that glyphosate is indeed carcinogenic in humans, going back to the original study in question. Lost? Me too. Obviously, Monsanto jumped on WHO claiming that they came to their conclusion because they have their own agenda. Truly, the results of studies published have links to cancer, but can be either conclusive or inconclusive depending on who is analyzing them. It depends on the standards set by the reviewer.
This is Monsanto’s official response to Carey Gillam’s inquiry for her article, FDA to Start Testing for Glyphosate in Food, published on CivilEats.com this February.
“While FDA hasn’t officially confirmed to us that they plan to move forward with residue testing, glyphosate’s 40-year history of safe use has been upheld by the U.S. EPA and regulators around the world following decades of study and review. No data have ever indicated residue levels of more than a fraction of EPA’s very conservative Allowable Daily Intake or any level of concern. If FDA does move forward with additional testing in a scientifically rigorous manner, we are confident it will reaffirm the long-standing safety profile of this vital tool used safely and effectively by farmers, landowners and homeowners around the world.”
An article published by BBC news in January 2005 described a $1.5M fine billed to Monsanto. They tried to bribe an Indonesian official into skipping government-mandated environmental impact studies of GMO cotton that would have held up their business in the country. In short, they threw money at their problem so they could make more money.
Whether Monsanto has cleaned up their act since 2005 is unclear, and this blemish on their record (among countless others) leaves cause for concern over the glyphosate industry. Who’s to say the EPA was not…financially convinced….to support glyphosate use? After all, Monsanto has a $5 billion dollar stake in the successful use of glyphosate. We would hope that a government agency would be free of corruption (ha!), but how can we, the consumer, be sure that it is safe? Without delving into complete conspiracy theory mode, maybe we should take a closer look. Monsanto was willing to pay to push a product through safety checks before, who’s to say it’s not happening now?
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Do your own research! Make your own decision for peace of mind that what you are consuming is safe. You cannot necessarily rely on the judgements of others who may have financial interest in the product in question. When in doubt, stick to products that don’t use chemicals. Buying organic when you can will help limit exposure. For weed killer in your own yard, try good old boiling water, or vinegar spray. That won’t kill you.