U.S. Plans To Hike Allowed Glyphosate Levels In Food Supply

U.S. plans to hike allowed glyphosate levels in food supply (GM Watch, July 2, 2013):

1. U.S. weighing increase in herbicide levels in food supply
2. GMO crops mean more herbicide, not less

NOTE: The US EPA is preparing to massively raise the allowed residue level for glyphosate in some food and feed crops, including soy (see item 1 below).

The article below says the new EPA regulation would allow “oilseed” crops such as flax, canola, and soybean oil to contain glyphosate at levels up to 40 parts per million (ppm), up from 20 ppm, which is over 100,000 times the concentration needed to induce the growth of human breast cancer cells in vitro, according to a recent study:

It also raises the allowable glyphosate contamination level for food crops such as potatoes from 200 ppm to 6,000 ppm.

Meanwhile, a new report by Food & Water Watch analyses official USDA and EPA data to find that the quick adoption of GM crops by farmers has increased herbicide use over the past 9 years in the U.S. The report can be downloaded here:

1. U.S. weighing increase in herbicide levels in food supply
By Cydney Hargis
IPS News, 2 Jul 2013
Links to sources in original

Environmental safety groups are stepping up efforts to prevent a reportedly dangerous yet widely used herbicide from being sold in the United States, even as the country’s primary environmental regulator is considering increasing the amount of the herbicide allowed in the U.S. food supply.

The agricultural giant Monsanto has for years relied on its flagship product, a weed-killer known as Roundup. The primary ingredient in Roundup is an herbicide called glyphosate, which Monsanto has used to selectively kill weeds while allowing genetically modified versions of sugarcane, corn, soy, and wheat crops to grow.

“We are increasingly seeing more and more samples of surface water coming up with residues [of glyphosate], and this is affecting frogs that live there,” Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch, an advocacy group, told IPS. “Potatoes and carrots are also picking it up in the soil – there are multiple routes of exposure.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the federal regulatory agency, is currently preparing to increase the allowable amount of glyphosate in crops like carrots, sweet potatoes, and mustard seeds. A public comment period on the proposal to do so ends Monday night, and the EPA has reportedly already received some 9,000 comments.

The new EPA regulation would allow “oilseed” crops such as flax, canola, and soybean oil to contain glyphosate at levels up to 40 parts per million (ppm), up from 20 ppm, which is over 100,000 times the concentration needed to cause cancer according to a recent study. It also raises the allowable glyphosate contamination level for food crops such as potatoes from 200 ppm to 6,000 ppm.

Glyphosate has previously been shown to be an “endocrine disruptor”, which the National Institutes of Health has shown to have long-term effects on reproductive health. They can be very dangerous at low levels, thus restricting the amount allowed will not be effective.

“The EPA is failing to protect human health and the environment by neglecting to regulate the excessive use of herbicides,” a current Food & Water Watch petition states. “Instead, it is just changing its own rules to allow the irresponsible and potentially dangerous applications continue.”

Monsanto, meanwhile, claims glyphosate is safe because it only acts on a biological process that is present in plants, not animals.

“We are very confident in the long track record that glyphosate has,” Jerry Stainer, Monsanto’s executive vice president of sustainability, has stated in the past. “It has been very, very extensively studied.”

Yet new research says glyphosate interferes with gut bacteria, which can disrupt immunity and vitamin synthesis.

Indeed, according to EPA analysts, the consequences linked to exposure to the chemical include lung congestion and shortness of breath. Further, according to a study published in April, scientists have linked exposure to glyphosate to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, and cancer.

“Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body,” the study states.

“Part of the problem is that there is no ethical way to prove that [glyphosate] is as toxic as it is,” Sayer Ji, director of GreenMedInfo, an advocacy group, told IPS. “Yet meanwhile, no new research is proving it’s safer, but rather the opposite. I think the EPA is really damaging its credibility.”

According to Lovera, the EPA tends to be very slow in taking new studies into account. (The EPA was unable to provide comment for this story before deadline.)

180 million pounds

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 180 million pounds of glyphosate are applied to U.S. soil annually. Herbicide use has increased by 26 percent since 2001, according Food & Water Watch.

Instead of pushing more environmentally friendly techniques to combat weeds – such as varying crops from year to year or using crop covers – biotech companies have focused on inventing genetically engineered crops that can withstand the use of Roundup and other herbicides.

Yet the impacts of this massively increased use of chemical inputs on environmental systems and human communities are only slowly being understood.

Scientists have repeatedly found that the numbers of migrating monarch butterflies, for instance, are today at their lowest point in decades. Environmental advocacy groups say this is because milkweed plants – the only plant on which these butterflies lay their eggs – are being killed off by these herbicides.

Nor are plants and animals the only ones reportedly being affected by this increased use of glyphosate.

In its Farm Family Exposure Study, GreenMedInfo [GMW correction: In fact this is a Monsanto-sponsored study] looked at the glyphosate concentration in the urine of 48 farmers, their spouses and 79 of their children on the day before, the day of, and for three days after a glyphosate application on their farms.

Of the farmers studied, 60 percent had detectable levels of the chemical the day of the application. So too did four percent of their spouses and 12 percent of their children.

“For consumers in the United States, the best way to get around this is to look for organic labels on food, because they are not allowed to use Roundup,” Lovera told IPS. “That’s one of the biggest distinctions between conventional and organic products.”

2. GMO crops mean more herbicide, not less
Beth Hoffman
Forbes, 2 July 2013

Over the past 15 years, farmers around the world have planted ever larger tracts of genetically engineered crops.

According to the USDA, in 2012 more than 93 percent of soy planted was “herbicide tolerant,” engineered to withstand herbicides (sold by the same companies who patent and sell the seeds).  Likewise, 73 percent of all corn now is also genetically modified to withstand chemicals produced to kill competing weeds.

One of the main arguments behind creating these engineered crops is that farmers then need to use less herbicide and pesticide.  This makes farms more eco-friendly, say proponents of genetically modified (GM) crops, and GM seeds also allow farmers to spend less on “inputs” (chemicals), thereby making a greater profit.

But a new study released by Food & Water Watch yesterday finds the goal of reduced chemical use has not panned out as planned.  In fact, according to the USDA and EPA data used in the report, the quick adoption of genetically engineered crops by farmers has increased herbicide use over the past 9 years in the U.S.  The report follows on the heels of another such study by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook just last year.

Both reports focus on “superweeds.” It turns out that spraying a pesticide repeatedly selects for weeds which also resist the chemical.  Ever more resistant weeds are then  bred, able to withstand increasing amounts – and often different forms – of herbicide.

At the center of debate is the pesticide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto‘s Round Up.  Food & Water Watch found that the “total volume of glyphosate applied to the three biggest GE crops — corn, cotton and soybeans — increased 10-fold from 15 million pounds in 1996 to 159 million pounds in 2012.”  Overall pesticide use decreased only in the first few years GE crops were used (42 percent between 1998 and 2001) and has since then risen by 26 percent from 2001 to 2010.

By 2011 there were also three times as many herbicide-resistant weeds found in farmer’s fields as there were in 2001.

This has meant huge profits for agribusinesses developing and selling genetically engineered seeds, herbicides, and pesticides. Seed revenues have septupled (increased seven fold) since 1998.

Fixing the problem is of course not going to be easy.  But Food & Water Watch lists several suggestions, including the recommendation that the USDA “dedicate research dollars to developing alternatives for sustainable management of herbicide-resistant weeds.”

This is a solution that needs far more attention, and could be an economic boon for agriculture and green jobs across the country.  It is also an idea I will discuss more later next week.

3 thoughts on “U.S. Plans To Hike Allowed Glyphosate Levels In Food Supply”

  1. As one who has a rare form of bone cancer, I cannot help but wonder if the chemicals and trash in all our food had anything to do with it. We used to have a good FDA, but no longer.
    I used to think people who raged about those who seek to depopulate the world as maniacs. I no longer think so, I would no longer be surprised at anything, this world has become a terrible place to live, and I may be better off dying sooner than later. I never thought I would see this country decline so quickly. This is what happens when a populace gets too rich, too comfortable, and allows the government to run itself. Too many were too busy to vote or pay attention. Now, it is too late. More are aware, but all our rights are gone.
    A few years after the crash, many more people are awake, their wealth depleted, their equity gone, and perhaps without employment. Millions have lost homes, jobs, retirements, everything they thought they had. Unfortunately, many more are going to find themselves in the same boat, those folks with more than one house, who think they have it made. They are the next target, just as they were in Cyprus. Now that the precedent of money confiscation has been set, it will happen far more frequently, and to those with more money than those who lost all from 2000-2002, and 2008-09. They need more money to feed their greedy addictions.
    Another thing happening with interest rates tells me we are close to the end of this BS recovery. Mortgage rates have gone up over 12 basis points in the last 30 days. So much for any real estate recovery……as of Wednesday, the rates for those with sterling credit were at 4.58%……..the highest in many years.
    The US government has been keeping our national debt afloat by printing money and keeping our debt current keeping it current with this worthless paper. Higher interest rates will make it far more expensive, and it cannot continue. Our dollar is buying less and less each day. Food prices are skyrocketing, along with fuel and energy costs. They are not calculated in the inflation rating, so it is just another lie. Everyone eats, and requires power. We are in dire straits, down to finding ways to fleece people more and more to keep some money trickling into the markets…….most of it is going out, not in. Only 15% of the entire stock market consists of true investors, the rest, electronic manipulation.
    Now, they will attempt to follow in the UK’s footsteps of allowing student loans to double to 6.8% and selling the loans to investors on Wall Street. That is how desperate the situation has become.
    A dear friend of mine (who was also a fine chef) died of my disease a few months ago. Bone cancer affects only 3% of those who get cancer, but I bet you the rates are going to rise, not fall. If this trend is allowed to continue, many more will die. Poison kills, and allowing it in our foods for corporate profit is criminal.
    Thanks for all you do. I know you work a full time job and keep this site going, too. It is much appreciated, there are people who are tired of the endless lies.


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