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U.S. Weighing Increase in Herbicide Levels in Food Supply

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

Environmental safety groups are stepping up efforts to prevent a reportedly dangerous yet widely used herbicide from being sold in the United States, even as the country’s primary environmental regulator is considering increasing the amount of the herbicide allowed in the U.S. food supply.

The agricultural giant Monsanto has for years relied on its flagship product, a weed-killer known as Roundup. The primary ingredient in Roundup is an herbicide called glyphosate, which Monsanto has used to selectively kill weeds while allowing genetically modified versions of sugarcane, corn, soy and wheat crops to grow.
“Part of the problem is that there is no ethical way to prove that [glyphosate] is as toxic as it is.” -- Sayer Ji of GreenMedInfo

“We are increasingly seeing more and more samples of surface water coming up with residues [of glyphosate], and this is affecting frogs that live there,” Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch, an advocacy group, told IPS. “Potatoes and carrots are also picking it up in the soil – there are multiple routes of exposure.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the federal regulatory agency, is currently preparing to increase the allowable amount of glyphosate in crops like carrots, sweet potatoes and mustard seeds. A public comment period on the proposal to do so ends Monday night, and the EPA has reportedly already received some 9,000 comments.

The new EPA regulation would allow “oilseed” crops such as flax, canola and soybean oil to contain glyphosate at levels up to 40 parts per million (ppm), up from 20 ppm, which is over 100,000 times the concentration needed to cause cancer according to a recent study. It also raises the allowable glyphosate contamination level for food crops such as potatoes from 200 ppm to 6,000 ppm.

Glyphosate has previously been shown to be an “endocrine disruptor”, which the National Institutes of Health has shown to have long-term effects on reproductive health. They can be very dangerous at low levels, thus restricting the amount allowed will not be effective.