(Beyond Pesticides, July 1, 2013) Twenty-two groups, including Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health, Consumers Union, and the National Organic Coalition join Beyond Pesticides in urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to increase the allowable residue limits (tolerances) for glyphosate (Roundup) on certain food commodities, saying an increase in glyphosate tolerances and associated increases in glyphosate use puts the public at additional unreasonable risk. Given the recent science that has come out on glyphosate, human and environmental risks cannot be ignored, the groups say. Increasing tolerance limits would increase the dietary exposure risks from this chemical, which is unacceptable given that commercially viable alternatives are in place for growing food and controlling weeds. EPA is poised to raise the allowable limits of the herbicide glyphosate in certain food commodities like carrots, sweet potato, and mustard seeds.
Some of the allowable limits, or tolerances, will more than double. Increasing the levels of Roundup on food will pave the way for an overall increase in the use of this chemical in agriculture. Roundup is toxic to human and environmental health. In fact, a recent MIT study finds that glyphosateâ€™s interference with important enzymes in the body can lead to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimerâ€™s disease. Drinking water contaminated with Roundup can lead to congestion of the lungs and increased breathing rate, as well as kidney damage and reproductive effects. Increasing tolerances on glyphosate means not only higher dietary exposure but also more glyphosate use.
Beyond Pesticides Is Telling Â EPA the following: Â
According to the letter, while EPA in the tolerance setting process has focused on human health effects from dietary exposure, the agency as a part of this process must consider that its tolerance decision also drives the allowable use patterns of glyphosate. Therefore, this tolerance decision affects overall environmental health, which EPA is obligated to consider in its rulemaking when adjusting tolerances. Without this analysis of environmental impacts associated with tolerance setting, EPA is not fulfilling its statutory responsibility under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to protect against “unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.” [7 U.S.C. 136a] Food tolerances should serve as a deterrent to pesticide misuse and abuse. Theoretically, tolerance limits help ensure that pesticide applications do not exceed federal application rates, and that the human population is not exposed to residues that can adversely impact health. These set limits must be based on human health data and should not be amended without complete information or to simply accommodate special interests.
While major commodities like corn and soybeans are not affected by the tolerance adjustments, increasing tolerances can pave the way for further increases in glyphosate applications given the prevalence of genetically engineered (GE) crops tolerant to glyphosate (Roundup Ready crops) and the simultaneous increase in glyphosate resistant weed species across the country.
Adjusting tolerances for crops like carrots, sweet potato, and oilseed crops should not be done without adequate review of all the current independent, peer-reviewed science on glyphosate. While EPA suggests that increases in glyphosate exposure and use do not pose unreasonable risks to human and environmental health, recent independent, scientific, peer reviewed data paint a very different picture.
Given that alternative methods of growing food and managing weeds are available, like those that exist in organic agriculture, it is unreasonable for EPA to increase human exposures to Roundup. Read the letter here.
Organic Solutions Pave a Way Forward
Sustainable, integrated farming solutions and systems must be instituted more broadly –where emphasis on feeding and maintaining healthy soils, cooperating with nature, and moving away from toxic chemical inputs are standard. The underlying standards of organic farming require that practices â€śmaintain or improve soil organic matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances.â€ť This is the only viable and sustainable path forward that can take us off the toxic treadmill. Supporting and buying organic produce is the only way to ensure you and your family are protected from the dangers of Roundup in your food.
For more information on this issue, contact Beyond Pesticides at [email protected]des.org or 202-543-5450. For the future of food, our health, and the environment, tell EPA to say “No” to more Roundup in our food by July 1st, 2013.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.