Glyphosate contamination of food and water: should we be concerned?
On March 20th, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a unit of the World Health Organization, released their report that classified glyphosate as a 2A carcinogen — probably carcinogenic to humans.
In particular, the IARC reviewers cited studies from the U.S., Canada and Sweden suggesting that people exposed to glyphosate had a higher incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, even after correcting for exposure to other chemicals. Researchers have also linked glyphosate to a long list of serious health conditions and chronic diseases, including breast cancer, birth defects, kidney disease, and endocrine disruption.
Glyphosate is a toxic synthetic chemical herbicide, commonly purchased as Roundup® weed killer. It is registered with the EPA for use on many food and non-food crops, as well as non-agricultural use such as landscape maintenance. The explosion of Roundup Ready® crops – corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets, and alfalfa that are genetically modified to withstand direct application of the herbicide – has led to exponential increases in the amount of glyphosate applied to food, feed, and fiber crops on agricultural land across the U.S. At least 283.5 million pounds were sprayed on American farmlands in 2012, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Glyphosate is also used as a “ripener” or desiccant to speed up harvesting of wheat, sugarcane, barley, and other crops.
Controversy: What is “safe”?
The common assumption is that “the dose makes the poison.” This bit of medical dogma, which is attributed to Paracelsus in the 16th century, assumes a linear relationship that may not hold true. A growing number of academic researchers say that lower doses may in fact pose higher risks for some compounds, especially the large group of synthetic chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors. Frederick vom Saal, a neurobiologist at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and his colleagues believe that “very low doses of these compounds in the environment are contributing to a wide range of human health problems — including obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and infertility and other disorders related to sexual development (Fagin, 2012).”
Unsurprisingly, Monsanto Company, the agrochemical-biotech giant who introduced Roundup to the market in 1974 and controls patents on Roundup Ready crops, insists that glyphosate is “safe.” Federal regulators at the EPA, USDA, and FDA have not only failed to challenge the industry’s assertion, but just two years ago, the EPA(2013) raised the allowable limit of glyphosate residues on various commodities and food crops in response to Monsanto’s petition.
Knowledge is power.
The initial discovery of glyphosate in breast milk, urine, and drinking water as reported by Mom’s Across America & Sustainable Pulse (2014), has led to the launch of a full investigation and validated testing method. Up till now, regulators and industry proponents have dismissed the potential for glyphosate toxins to bio-accumulate. A new validated glyphosate testing method sponsored by Feed The World will allow the general public to find out with certainty what levels of glyphosate are found in their bodies and in their tap water.
Please consider testing; it is the essential next step to a fact-based response. It is especially critical for parents of young children and persons with compromised health conditions.