Are EPA approved levels of glyphosate residue in our foods too high?

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Carrots, Woodley Wonderworks for Flickr CC
Carrots, Woodley Wonderworks for Flickr CC

WASHINGTON, April 6, 2014  – Acceptable levels of glyphosate residue found in fruits and vegetables have been increased by The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  This happened in 2013 when the media was clamoring against the Senate’s passing of the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act,” the EPA quietly promoted the rule change regarding glyphosate levels without much attention from the media or public.

Regulation raises glyphosate levels in oilseed crops, which include sesame, flax, and soybean, from 20 parts per million (ppm), to 40 ppm.  It also raises the allowable glyphosate contamination level for sweet potatoes and carrots from 0.2 ppm to 3 ppm for sweet potatoes and 5ppm for carrots, that’s 15 and 25 times the previous levels.

The change in tolerance levels affects several other agricultural products, including animal feed, root crops and fruit trees.  While the regulation is effective beginning May 1, 2013, there was an open comment session, closing July 1, that received over 10,800 comments against the proposed change in regulation.  It is unlikely, however, that the comments will have any bearing on the decision, which is already final.

Glyphosate, a powerful herbicide, is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, and is the word’s best selling herbicide, used in over 150 crops in over 90 countries.  Today glyphosate can be found in products like Roundup, Touchdown, Rodeo, and others.


Monsanto began marketing glyphosate under the Roundup trade name in the 1970s.  Roundup quickly became popular and gained even wider use with the introduction of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops, which are genetically modified (GM) to withstand glyphosate, enabling farmers to use more of the herbicide to kill weeds without harming the crops. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), use of glyphosate has tripled since 1997, due largely to Monsanto’s introduction of Roundup Ready crops.

By 2007, glyphosate was the most widely used herbicide in US agriculture and second most widely used herbicide in the home and garden sector.  In that year, the agricultural sector applied 180 to 185 million pounds, the home and garden sector applied five to eight million pounds, and industry, commerce and government applied 13 to 15 million pounds of glyphosate.

The rise in tolerance levels for glyphosate residue came as a result of a petition prepared by Monsanto in early 2012.  While FDA did not perform independent tests on whether higher residue levels of glyphosate were dangerous to humans or the environment, it relied on tests and data provided by Monsanto.

Alarmed, many activists believe that a rise in tolerance levels will allow farmers to spray food with more chemicals, which will increase health and environmental risks.  While Monsanto (and by default the EPA) guarantees the safety of glyphosate in general and Round Up in particular, recent independent studies conclude the opposite.

Even the EPA’s technical factsheet on glyphosate states that chronic long-term exposure can cause kidney damage and reproductive effects.  It also states that and there is “inadequate evidence” as to whether it can cause cancer.

A 2013 MIT study argues that glyphosate residue in food and water induces disease by disrupting normal cellular detoxifying functions.  According to the study, “negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.”  The damage is manifested in increased risk of gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

In another recent European study, commissioned by Friends of The Earth (FoE) and GM Freeze, volunteers from 18 countries submitted urine samples to be tested for traces of glyphosate.   All of the volunteers lived in cities and had never used or handled glyphosate prior to the test.  Laboratory tests concluded that 44% of people had traces of glyphosate in their urine. The rate of positive samples varied by country, with Malta, Germany, the UK, and Poland having the highest rates and Switzerland and Macedonia having the lowest rates.

Finally, who other than Monsanto will benefit from this raise in tolerance levels in the long run?  While farmers may benefit for a short while because being able to spray more herbicide may give them a larger crop yield, it may be possible that other countries will refuse to import U.S. produce due to the higher tolerance levels.

After all, it was a little over a month ago that Japan refused to buy U.S. wheat after a strain of unapproved Monsanto GMO wheat was unexplainably found in an Oregon field.  A week before that China incinerated three shipments of U.S. corn after discovering it contained unsanctioned GMO corn.

It is unclear whether the EPA took the above independent and other studies into account when making its decision to raise glyphosate residue tolerance levels in many of the foods we eat.  Monsanto and corporate agriculture will argue, as they usually do, that the new tolerant levels are “insignificant” and could not harm humans.  Many disagree.

The bottom line is that the items in your produce department may be a little more poisonous today than they were a few months ago.

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  • beccadog

    The U.S. EPA should read The Effect of Glyphosate on Potential Pathogens and Beneficial Members of Poultry Microbiota in Vitro. The study looks at levels of bacteria in the gut of livestock and humans and discovered that beneficial bacteria is highly susceptible to bacteria, while the highly dangerous antibiotic resistant bacteria is highly resistant to glyphosate at levels as low as one part of million.

    Far higher levels ARE ALLOWED IN OUR FOOD, are building up in groundwater, surface waters and rainwater near Iowa and Louisiana plus points eastward.

    Glyphosate was patented as a descaling agent by Stauffer Chemical in the 1960’s to remove the residue from industrial pipes and boilers; as a mineral chelator and an herbicide by Stauffer Chemicals; Prior to the molecule being purchased by Monsanto and patented as an herbicide and mineral chelator that binds minerals in the soil and makes them unavailable for the plants, animals, and people who need the nutritious minerals to build bone and for their well being. Monsanto also patented glyphosate as an antibioticin 2010. And as this antibiotic, glyphosate is destroying the GUT of animals and people. See the German study above and now the very low levels that this destruction is occurring.

    According to Dr. Don Huber, a soil and plant pathologist and microbiologist retired from Purdue University, Glyphosate is the most CHRONICALLY TOXIC herbicide on the market and should have never been permitted in the first place. This chemical is causing undue harm not only to people (including infants and children), but to livestock, pets, beneficial organisms in the soil –it is sterilizing our farm lands, and killing beneficial organisms used by organic farmers/gardeners to grow food –all so Monsanto can reap more dollars at the expense of the health and well being of the nation.

    The USA is losings its trustworthy status and like the corporation many serve is becoming the most hated country in the world..

  • beccadog

    Mistake made right off the bat in my post. “The study looks at levels of bacteria in the gut of livestock and humans
    and discovered that beneficial bacteria is highly susceptible to
    bacteria.” This should read highly susceptible to GLYPHOSATE. While the highly dangerous antibiotic resistant bacteria is highly resistant to GLYPHOSATE.

    Obama claims he wants to get to the end of antibiotic resistant bacteria. He should look no further than this study (which is now at the National Institutes of Health. Everything points a direct finger to the most widely used chemical in the world and the second more creator of resistant superweeds (Dow’s 2,4-D has long been first in creating super weeds and every chemical used by both corporations on weeds is already showing resistant while more and more people around the USA, North America, and the world are being poisoned for Monsanto’s profit and control of the world.