Glyphosate has gotten some bad press of late, most recently for being named a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Use of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is at an all time high globally. But the weed killer, which is used on both food and non-food crops, is under fire because of health concerns. And as a result, testing foods for glyphosate toxicity may become a reality.
The U.S. government may start testing foods for glyphosate residue as public concern over the pesticide mounts, according to Reuters. The U.S. Department of Agriculture tests for pesticide residue annually, but currently it does not test for glyphosate toxicity.
USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP) is a national pesticide residue monitoring program. Its purpose is to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess dietary exposure. And according to the USDA, “PDP administers the sampling, testing, and reporting of pesticide residues on agricultural commodities in the U.S. food supply, with an emphasis on those commodities highly consumed by infants and children.”
Some food companies have already stepped up to the plate to do their own testing. Healthy Traditions, an online provider of whole, organic foods, has tested a number of its products for glyphosate residue including corn starch, popcorn, whole corn, flour, dried fruits, tomato sauce, raw honey, cane sugar, and maple syrup.
The company says that “[t]oday’s certifications and labeling have become so watered-down and confusing, that we thought it was time to define our own standards, so that the consumer can better understand the commitment we have to high standards that promote a healthy lifestyle.”
A number of alarming new studies have turned consumers off to the use of glyphosate. Last March, The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the French-based cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, listed glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. And a recent study found that being exposed to small amounts of Roundup weed killer—thousands of times lower than what’s permitted in U.S. drinking water—can damage the liver and kidneys.
Glyphosate is used along with a line of genetically modified Monsanto crops called Roundup Ready. Since the seeds have been modified to be immune to Roundup, copious amounts of the herbicide can be dumped on crops. Roundup kills everything around the crop, creating a dead zone. This causes the flora and fauna that once thrived around farms to die off. One particularly vulnerable species is the Monarch butterfly, which has been disappearing in large numbers. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the butterfly population has been reduced by 95 percent in the last 15 years. Monarchs feed on milkweed, a weed that’s been killed off across the country as a result of Roundup.
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