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Daily News Blog

28
Mar

USDA Cancels Plans to Test for Glyphosate Residues in U.S. Food this Year

(Beyond Pesticides, March 28, 2017) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has abandoned its plans to test the U.S. food supply for the presence of glyphosate residues, according to a story from veteran reporter Carrey Gillam in The Huffington Post. The decision comes amid heated controversy over the carcinogenicity of glyphosate, which was cleared by a California judge for listing under California’s Prop 65 earlier this year. The federal government’s pesticide monitoring program, which is run jointly by USDA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was criticized by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2014 for its failure to test for the widely used herbicide.

In early 2016, Beyond Pesticides met with EPA regulators to discuss testing for glyphosate residues in the U.S. food supply. At the time, officials said that FDA was testing honey, and USDA would be conducting more extensive food testing beginning in 2017. USDA had tested soybeans for glyphosate residue in 2011, finding that 90% of samples contained residues between .26 ppm and 18.5 ppm, barely under the allowed food tolerance level of 20ppm. A 2014 Boston University study had indicated that both organic and conventional honey contained glyphosate concentrations despite there being no food tolerance levels set for their presence in the product. As a result of a Freedom of Information Act Request, Ms. Gilliam reported in The Huffington Post that, during FDA’s investigations into tainted honey, the agency found it “difficult to find blank honey that does not contain residue.” In November 2016, FDA suspended its glyphosate testing program, citing the need to “ensure that methods are validated” before resuming, according to Ms. Gillam.

Shortly before FDA announced it was suspending its testing program, Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association filed a lawsuit against the Sioux Honey Association for deceptive and misleading labeling of its honey products. The lawsuit specifically cites products that the company labels “Pure,” “100% Pure,” and “Natural” despite FDA testing showing the presence of glyphosate residues.

The Huffington Post indicates that USDA had planned to begin testing glyphosate and its major, toxicologically relevant metabolite AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid) in corn syrup on April 1. In its response to Ms. Gilliam about changes in its testing program, a USDA spokesman indicated, “The final decision for this year’s program plan, as a more efficient use of resources, is to sample and test honey which covers over 100 different pesticides.” Glyphosate, it was indicated, would not be one of those 100s of pesticides.  The agency’s response is eerily similar to what was written in a blog published in 2015 by Monsanto’s Senior Toxicologist Kimberly Hodge-Bell, where she wrote, “[E]xpending resources to measure levels that are not of concern and will not trigger regulatory action is a misuse of valuable resources.”

The change is concerning, given evidence from unsealed court documents earlier this month, which raise questions of collusion between Monsanto and government officials at the EPA. The files were part of the discovery process in a lawsuit against Monsanto by plaintiffs who link their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnoses to glyphosate exposure. According to The New York Times, the court documents “include Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators [and] suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics.”

In response to the controversy, U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) issued a statement calling for the Department of Justice to investigate potential misconduct by EPA employees. Monsanto and the chemical industry have been active in attempts to suppress evidence that its flagship product causes cancer. Much of the industry’s ire is directed at the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which, since its formation in 1965, has evaluated the carcinogenic potential of a range of materials and consumer products. In 2015, it determined that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, with sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity based on laboratory studies. Earlier this year, the American Chemistry Council, an umbrella group that represents Bayer, Dow, DuPont, and Monsanto, called on WHO to rein in IARC, asserting the agency conducts “dubious and misleading work” when classifying potential carcinogens. However, IARC’s rigorous approach has been lauded by independent researchers throughout the world. Beyond Pesticides’ reviewed the agencies process for evaluating carcinogens in its summer 2015 issue of Pesticides and You. Independent scientists continue to sound the alarm on glyphosate, with a recent essay in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health titled, “It is time to reassess current safety standards for glyphosate-based herbicides?”

Beyond Pesticides encourages local advocacy efforts that reduce and eliminate the need for glyphosate and a range of toxic herbicides. Whether on lawns, landscapes, or in agriculture, there are viable alternative practices and products that can replace synthetic herbicide use. Get started in stopping glyphosate and other harmful pesticide use in your community by visiting Beyond Pessticides’ Tools for Change webpage, and signing the Pesticide-Free Community pledge. In the supermarket, vote with your wallet and purchase organic, which never allows glyphosate or other toxic synthetic pesticides in their production.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: The Huffington Post

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