Debbie Friedman buys organic for lots of reasons, but she has a new one.
A recent report found that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not routinely test produce for the presence of a widely used weed killer in the world: glyphosate.
“I mean, that’s what we’re paying taxes for is to make sure our food is safe,” said Friedman.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. Annual use of the chemical has soared in the past two decades with nearly 1.5 billion pounds applied to crops and gardens worldwide.
While the FDA routinely looks for pesticide residue on food, glyphosate is not included on the list.
“We learned through our review that the FDA was not monitoring the pesticide residues for glyphosate and that was a little surprising because it’s so commonly used,” said John Neumann, of the Government Accountability Office
But, why not?
“The FDA cited the cost of testing for glyphosate,” said Neumann
In a report, the GAO rebuked the FDA for failing to test for glyphosate and for not disclosing that fact to the public.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set limits on the amount that can remain on or in food.
“We found that there are over 170 different fruits and vegetables that are cleared for using glyphosate so there could be residues on any of those as well,” said Neumann.
That concerns pediatrician Dr. Michelle Perro.
“To not test for the most commonly used pesticide is – – what are we doing,” said Perro.
Since it was approved in 1974, the weed killer has been regarded as safe. But last year, cancer experts with the World Health Organization classified the chemical as probably carcinogenic to humans.
Not everyone agrees.
Scientists with Monsanto, the company that makes Roundup, take strong issue with the World Health Organization’s report.
“I can tell you glyphosate is safe” Monsanto Toxicologist Dr. Donna Farmer said. “The data that they look at, they cherry pick it and then they interpret some of the studies completely different than the researchers that actually did it.”
The EPA just released its new review of the pesticide. Staff scientists with the agency concluded that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. An expert panel is now set to review the findings.
Meanwhile, the FDA started testing for glyphosate, but only in four commodities: eggs, milk, soybeans, and corn. So far, the weed killer is not found in eggs or milk. But, it was detected in soybeans and corn at allowable levels.
The news is not so sweet for honey. In a separate report, an FDA scientist found glyphosate in several unnamed brands of American honey. Glyphosate is not registered to be used on beehives. Experts believe the bees could have introduced it to the hives. The researcher also found the weed killer’s presence in unnamed samples of infant oat cereal.
As to whether the FDA plans to include glyphosate in its regular monitoring of all produce, at this point, no one knows.
Neumann believes it should.
“Consumers will want to have this information so they can know whether or not their food supply is safe,” he said.