Glyphosate in our food: What is it & why should we care?
Who cares about glyphosate?
Health-conscious consumers read food labels and study nutrition to make informed choices on which foods to buy. This endeavor appears to have become increasingly difficult as the facts are hard to find and even harder to interpret depending upon who you ask. Glyphosate, for example, is showing up in our food with significantly differing opinions reporting on its health impacts. Recent claims include a study that found nearly 50% of popular breakfast foods examined contained the substance, alongside shocking amounts found in even organic products like cage-free eggs and breads—an uncomfortable indication that it’s moved up the food chain beyond a weed killer’s typical role.
Who has the facts?
The world’s most widely used herbicide, glyphosate, was originally studied by our own EPA thirty years ago—with first results reporting it as a possible carcinogen, and later re-evaluations asserting it as safe in 1991. Its presence in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer makes it interesting when studies partially funded by Monsanto report results of diminished health impacts—while studies conducted by the World Health Organization show a clear link to cancer. Glyphosate is generically used in several other products besides Roundup as well.
According to Nathan Donley of the Center for Biological Diversity, “EPA’s determination that glyphosate is non-carcinogenic is disappointing, but not terribly surprising—industry has been manipulating this process for years. The analysis done by the World Health Organization is more open and transparent and remains the gold standard.” The IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer), headquartered in France, reviews levels of carcinogenicity in chemicals, food and occupations. Their recent studies indicated two organophosphates, tetrachlorvinphos and parathion, which were found to be “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” and three others—malathion, diazinon and glyphosate, which were labelled as “probably carcinogenic to humans”—leading to their hazardous categorization. Later remarks by Robb Fraley of Monsanto, a lead supplier of the world’s glyphosate, accused the IARC of “cherry picking data” and ignoring other studies on the subject.
What does the FDA say?
For the first time, the FDA announced in February 2016 that it will soon begin testing for glyphosate in “soybeans, corn, milk, and eggs, among other potential foods” commonly sprayed with or affected by the substance, according to an interview with the FDA’s Lauren Sucher. This change occurred in the midst of growing public concern over the safety of glyphosate and a subsequent surge of independent and private studies being conducted.
We can anticipate further international discussion on the impacts of glyphosate on health as well as potential government restrictions on its use. Uncovering the facts about what’s in our food and its effect on our health seems increasingly difficult when big money influence is involved. Let’s hope the FDA will accurately report their findings in upcoming studies on the subject so we can make informed, healthy choices for our families.