A bill introduced this month to the U.S. House of Representatives would impose a strict limit on the amount of glyphosate, an herbicide linked to cancer but important to increasing crop yield sizes, allowed in food.
The bill would also ban the chemical’s use as a pre-harvest drying agent, used by farmers in Indiana and around the world to dry out a crop to allow it to be harvested sooner. The proposed legislation also calls for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to annually test fruits, vegetables and other foods for glyphosate.
Glyphosate is the main ingredient in one of the world’s most popular herbicides, Roundup. The chemical has been linked to several types of cancers and tumors in people who directly used the product. A recent study found that exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides can increase the risk of contracting non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 41 percent in humans.
The chemical has also been linked to shortened pregnancies and underdeveloped babies.
Last year, a study by the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit environmental health organization, found glyphosate was present in most oat-based food marketed to children. Some products made with organically grown oats were also found to contain glyphosate.
“American families deserve to know that the food they are eating and feeding to their children is safe,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the bill’s author and senior Democrat on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the USDA’s oversight and funding. “But that is not the case because the Trump Administration refuses to test our food for dangerous chemicals like glyphosate – an herbicide linked to increased risk of cancer. That is unconscionable. Congress needs to pass the Keep Food Safe from Glyphosate Act to ensure corporations are not profiting at the expense of Americans’ health.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration told the Indiana Environmental Reporter last year that the FDA would expand testing for glyphosate and the herbicides 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and dicamba. The FDA told IER there were no violations of government-set maximum levels for glyphosate.
“Preliminary results for samples collected under the 2016 special assignment showed no pesticide residue violations for glyphosate in any of the four commodities tested (soybeans, corn, milk, and eggs),” said Peter Cassell, the FDA’s press officer, in a statement. “This year, FDA has expanded capacity for testing for glyphosate, 2,4-D and dicamba as part of the general panel of pesticides the agency samples and the related results will be included in the 2018 and future pesticide monitoring reports.”
The FDA’s 2016 Pesticide Residue Monitoring report proved there were no violations of the set tolerances, but also revealed how prevalent glyphosate really was. The 2016 report was the first to include glyphosate. Researchers found that glyphosate was the fourth-most present pesticide chemical found in the 6,946 human foods monitored for the study. In a focused sampling of soybeans, corn, milk and eggs, the chemical was detected in 63.1 percent of tested corn and 67 percent of tested soybeans. Glyphosate was not found in milk or eggs sampled.
The FDA has not released reports for fiscal years 2017 or 2018.
Herbicides containing glyphosate are important to farmers because they kill weeds that decrease crop yields, especially for Indiana’s two historically largest crops, corn and soybeans.
Glyphosate-based herbicides are also applied to cereal crops just before harvest. The herbicide dries out the crop so it can be harvested sooner.
“No parent should worry about whether feeding their children healthy oat-based foods will also expose them to a chemical linked to cancer,” Colin O’Neil, legislative director for the Environmental Working Group said in a statement. “We know farmers can harvest oats without glyphosate, and to protect kids’ health, this needlessly risky practice must stop.”
Roundup’s manufacturer, Monsanto Co., marketed its product as a “breakthrough for farming.” By some estimates, the company controlled about 60 percent of all glyphosate-based herbicide sales, eventually making Roundup available for use in non-agricultural areas.
That would eventually lead to thousands of lawsuits concerning Roundup’s carcinogenicity and how much the company knew about glyphosate’s possible adverse effects.
Last year, a jury ordered Monsanto to pay a school groundskeeper In California $289 million in damages after a jury decided that Roundup was responsible for his terminal non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Monsanto appealed and the damages were reduced to $78 billion.
Last week, a federal jury in California found that Roundup was a “substantial factor” in Edwin Hardeman’s contracting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using the product for 26 years.
German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG bought Monsanto Co. and is now financially responsible for costs incurred by the lawsuits.
“We are disappointed with the jury’s initial decision, but we continue to believe that the science confirms that glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer,” the company said in a statement. “We have great sympathy for Mr. Hardeman and his family, but an extensive body of science supports the conclusion that Roundup was not the cause of his cancer. Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.”
More than 11,000 people across the country have filed suit against Monsanto Co./Bayer AG.