Tag Archives: glyphosate

Survey: Major U.S. food retailers flunk out on pesticide test

Of the top U.S. food retailers, 17 have received an “F” for failing to have a publicly available policy to reduce or eliminate pesticide use to protect pollinators.

Aldi, Costco (COST) and Whole Foods (WFM) received passing grades in this category, according to a report and scorecard released this week that looks at policies and practices regarding pollinator protection, organic offerings and pesticide reduction.

“U.S. food retailers must take responsibility for how the products they sell are contributing to the bee crisis,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth environmental group. “The majority of the food sold at top U.S. food retailers is produced with pollinator-toxic pesticides. We urge all major retailers to work with their suppliers to eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides and to expand domestic organic offerings that protect pollinators, people and the planet.”

The report, “Swarming the Aisles: Rating top retailers on bee-friendly and organic food,” comes amid consumer pressure on food retailers to adopt more environmentally-friendly sourcing policies.

A coalition led by Friends of the Earth and more than 50 farmer, beekeeper, farmworker, environmental and public interest organizations sent a letter urging food retailers to eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides and increase USDA certified organic food and beverages to 15 percent of overall offerings by 2025, prioritizing domestic, regional and local producers.

This effort follows a campaign that convinced more than 65 garden retailers, including Lowe’s and Home Depot, to commit to eliminate bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides.

Bees and other pollinators are essential for one in three bites of food consumed in the United States. Without pollinators, grocery stores would run short of strawberries, almonds, apples, broccoli and more.

A growing body of science points to the world’s most widely-used insecticides, neonicotinoids, as a leading factor in pollinator declines, and glyphosate, the most widely-used herbicide worldwide, as a key culprit in monarch butterfly declines.

New data from a YouGov Poll released today by Friends of the Earth and SumOfUs found that 80 percent of Americans believe it is important to eliminate neonicotinoids from agriculture.

Among Americans who grocery shop for their household, 65 percent would be more likely to shop at a grocery store that has formally committed to eliminating neonicotinoids.

The poll also revealed that 59 percent of American grocery shoppers believe it is important for grocery stores to sell organic food, and 43 percent would be more likely to shop at a grocery store that sells more organic food than their current grocery store.

“Over 750,000 SumOfUs members have spoken out advocating that U.S. Hardware stores take action to protect our pollinators. And after years of pressure, Home Depot and Lowe’s have finally enacted more bee-friendly policies,” said Angus Wong, lead campaign strategist at SumOfUs, a consumer watchdog group. “And the findings of this poll show that a vast majority of consumers want to eliminate neonicotinoids from their grocery stores too. This is why food retailers must commit policies that protect our bees immediately.”

The report found that while consumer demand for organic and pesticide-free food continues to show double-digit growth only four of the top food retailers — Albertsons, Costco, Target (TGT) and Whole Foods — have adopted a publicly available company commitment to increase offerings of certified organic food  or to disclose data on the current percentage of organic offerings or organic sales.

In addition to these retailers, Aldi, Food Lion, part of the Delhaize Group (DEG) and Kroger (KR) disclosed data on the current percentage of organic offerings or organic sales.

None of the retailers have made a publicly available commitment to source organic from American farmers.

“To protect pollinators, we must eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides from our farming systems and expand pollinator-friendly organic agriculture,” said Dr. Kendra Klein, staff scientist at Friends of the Earth. “Organic farms support 50 percent more pollinator species than conventional farms. This is a huge opportunity for American farmers. Less than one percent of total U.S. farmland is in organic production — farmers need the support of food retailers to help them transition dramatically more acreage to organic.”

Sixteen of the top 20 food retailers were predominately unresponsive to requests for information via surveys, calls and letters.

Primary sources of information for this scorecard include publicly available information, including company websites, company annual reports, SEC filings, corporate social responsibility and sustainability reports, press coverage and industry analyses.

On the Web

The reportSwarming the Aisles: Rating top retailers on bee-friendly and organic food, survey results, tips for consumers and letters to retailers can be found at www.foe.org/beeaction.

Groups sue General Mills, say herbicide in Nature Valley granola bars

Three nonprofit organizations this week sued General Mills for allegedly misleading the public by labeling Nature Valley brand granola bars as “Made with 100% NATURAL whole grain OATS.” The lawsuit says the herbicide chemical glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup and hundreds of other glyphosate-based herbicides, is present in the granola bars.

The plaintiffs include Moms Across America, Beyond Pesticides and Organic Consumers Association and they are represented by The Richman Law Group, which filed the complaint under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

“As a mother, when I read ‘100% Natural,’ I would expect that to mean no synthetic or toxic chemicals at all,” said Zen Honeycutt, founder and executive director of Moms Across America. “Glyphosate is a toxic chemical that the EPA recognizes as a ‘reproductive effector’ which ‘can cause liver and kidney damage’ and ‘digestive effects.’ It is unacceptable that Nature Valley granola bars contain any amount of this chemical.”

A national survey conducted by Consumer Reports in 2015 finds that 66 percent of consumers seek out products with a “natural” food label under the false belief they are produced without pesticides, genetically modified organisms, hormones, and artificial ingredients.

“Glyphosate cannot be considered ‘natural’ because it is a toxic, synthetic herbicide,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “Identified by the World Health Organization  as a carcinogen, it should not be allowed for use in food production and certainly not in food with a label that suggests to consumers that the major ingredient – oats – is 100 percent natural, when it is produced with and contains the highly hazardous glyphosate.”

“Food grown with dangerous pesticides like glyphosate isn’t natural. Consumers understand this. That’s why sales of natural products are booming. Unfortunately, companies’ misleading claims trick consumers into buying just what they’re trying to avoid. This has to be stopped,” added Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association

The case specifically cites the use and presence of the weedkiller glyphosate in General Mills’ Nature Valley Granola products.

The chemical is used during the production of oats, the major ingredient in these products, which are marketed as “natural” and labeled “Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats.” As a result, glyphosate is present in the natural-labeled products.

Proponents of glyphosate herbicide use say the residue levels found in many foods and beverages in the United States are below the EPA allowable levels established in 2014 and therefore consumers have no reason to be concerned.

However, a 2015 study published in the journal Environmental Health found chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate as low as 0.1 parts per billion leads to adverse effects on liver and kidney health.

A study released in early 2016 found glyphosate can cause changes to DNA function resulting in the onset of chronic disease, including diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.

The lawsuit alleges that, when marketing Nature Valley products, General Mills misleads and fails to disclose to consumers of the use and presence of glyphosate and its harmful effects.

The plaintiffs are asking a jury to find that General Mills’ “natural” labeling is deceptive and misleading and therefore a violation of law, and require its removal from the market.

Editor’s note: This report will be updated.

UN experts: Glyphosate unlikely to cause cancer

The pesticide glyphosate, sold by Monsanto in its Roundup weed killer product and widely used in agriculture and by gardeners, is unlikely to cause cancer in people, according to a new safety review by United Nations health, agriculture and food experts.

In a statement likely to intensify a row over its potential health impact, experts from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization said glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans” exposed to it through food. It is mostly used on crops.

Having reviewed the scientific evidence, the joint WHO/FAO committee also said glyphosate is unlikely to be genotoxic in humans. In other words, it is not likely to have a destructive effect on cells’ genetic material.

Diazinon and malathion, two other pesticides reviewed by the committee, which met last week and published its conclusions on Monday, were also found to be unlikely to be carcinogenic.

“In view of the absence of carcinogenic potential in rodents at human-relevant doses and the absence of genotoxicity by the oral route in mammals, and considering the epidemiological evidence from occupational exposures, the meeting concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet,” the committee said.

Glyphosate is also “unlikely to be genotoxic at anticipated dietary exposures”, it added.

The group reaffirmed an acceptable daily intake (ADI) of up to 1 milligram of glyphosate for every kilogram of body weight.

CONTRADICTORY?

The conclusions appear to contradict a finding by the WHO’s Lyon-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which in March 2015 said glyphosate is “probably” able to cause cancer in humans and classified it as a ‘Group 2A’ carcinogen.

Seven months after the IARC review, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an independent agency funded by the European Union, published a different assessment, saying glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans”.

The United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which first assessed glyphosate in 1986 and has reviewed it several times since then, had also previously concluded it has “low toxicity for humans”.

The differing findings thrust glyphosate into the centre of a row involving EU and U.S. politicians and regulators, the IARC experts, the WHO and environmental and agricultural scientists.

The EU’s pesticides committee is due to meet later this week to decide whether to re-license glyphosate. The U.S. EPA is being investigated for withdrawing a report saying the chemical is probably not carcinogenic.

In a question-and-answer document issued alongside the joint FAO/WHO statement, the WHO denied that the conclusions by the joint group and by IARC were contradictory. It said they were “different, yet complementary”, with the IARC assessment focussed on hazard while the other looked at risk.

“IARC reviews published studies to identify potential cancer hazards,” the WHO said. “It does not estimate the level of risk to the population associated with exposure to the hazard.”

In contrast, it said, the joint FAO/WHO committee looks at published and unpublished studies to assess the health risk to consumers from dietary exposure to pesticide residues in food.

FDA to begin testing food for world’s most commonly used pesticide

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will begin testing food for glyphosate, the world’s most commonly used pesticide.

This marks the first time that a U.S. agency will routinely test for glyphosate residue in food. The news follows the release of a U.S. Government Accountability Office report criticizing the FDA for failing to disclose its failure to test for glyphosate in an annual pesticide residue report.

“In the wake of intense scrutiny, the Food and Drug Administration has finally committed to taking this basic step of testing our food for the most commonly used pesticide. It’s shocking that it’s taken so long, but we’re glad it’s finally going to happen,” said Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, a national environmental advocacy group. “More and more scientists are raising concerns about the effects of glyphosate on human health and the environment. With about 1.7 billion pounds of this pesticide used each year worldwide, the FDA’s data is badly needed to facilitate long-overdue conversations about how much of this chemical we should tolerate in our food.”

Leading scientists published an article about the exploding use of glyphosate around the world in the latest issue of the journal Environmental Health.

In the paper, they point to concerns over rapidly increasing use, outdated science and the World Health Organization’s finding that glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup, is a probable human carcinogen and glyphosate is a leading cause of massive declines in monarch butterflies.

The authors called on regulatory agencies to take a fresh look at the real-world impacts of glyphosate and to start monitoring its levels in people and in food.

“The alarm bell is ringing loud and clear. The current cavalier use of glyphosate, and lax regulation, cannot remain in place,” said Donley. “It’s long past time to start reining in the out-of-control use of this dangerous pesticide in the United States and around the world.” 

Just last week, 35 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing concerns regarding the potential negative health and environmental impacts of a pesticide, Enlist Duo, that combines glyphosate and 2,4-D. EPA is currently reanalyzing its decision to register the dangerous pesticide following a remand order from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Monsanto also is embroiled in a legal battle with California over the state’s move to list glyphosate as a carcinogen under Proposition 65 law.

As the legal battle plays out, a new report from CBD has found that more than half of the glyphosate sprayed in the state was applied in the California’s eight most impoverished counties.

Monsanto’s glyphosate most widely used weed-killer

Monsanto’s signature herbicide glyphosate, first marketed as “Roundup,” is now the most widely and heavily applied weed-killer in the history of chemical agriculture in both the U.S. and globally, according to a report published today.

The paper, published Feb. 2, in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, reports that to date 8.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate have been used globally. Glyphosate use has risen almost 15-fold since so-called “Roundup Ready” genetically engineered crops were introduced in 1996.

In 2014, enough glyphosate was sprayed to leave more than three-quarters of a pound of the active ingredient on every harvested acre of cropland in the U.S., and remarkably, almost a half pound per acre on all cropland worldwide (0.53 kilogram/hectare).

The paper by Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., titled “Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and Globally,” is available free online at Environmental Sciences Europe. 

“The dramatic and rapid growth in overall use of glyphosate will likely contribute to a host of adverse environmental and public health consequences,” Benbrook wrote.

Last year, 17 of the world’s top cancer researchers voted unanimously to elevate glyphosate’s cancer profile on behalf of the World Health Organization. After the panel of experts reviewed all of the publicly available research, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the weed-killer as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”  Following WHO’s action, the state of California is currently in the process of listing glyphosate as a known human carcinogen under its Proposition 65 law.

As Benbrook’s paper notes, other recent studies have found connections between glyphosate exposure and a number of other serious health effects, including liver and kidney damage and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, among others. 

Remarkably, 74 percent of all glyphosate sprayed on crops since the mid-1970s was applied in just the last 10 years, as cultivation of genetically engineered corn and soybean crops exploded on both U.S. and global croplands.  

Glyphosate was first sold commercially in 1974, but its use by farmers was limited at first because the active ingredient killed both weeds and crops. The subsequent development and approval of genetically engineered (GE), herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops dramatically changed how farmers could apply it. Starting in 1996, Monsanto and other seed companies began marketing GE-HT versions of three major crops – cotton, corn, and soybeans – making it possible for farmers to apply glyphosate for months after crops started growing.

The use and efficacy of HT technology, particularly in its first decade, led to its rapid and near-universal adoption in the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Brazil, and a half-dozen other countries. As a result, glyphosate use by U.S. farmers rose from 12.5 million pounds in 1995 to 250 million pounds in 2014, a 20-fold increase. Globally, total use rose from 112.6 million pounds in 1995 to 1.65 billion in 2014, a nearly 15-fold jump.

“My hope is that this paper will stimulate more research on glyphosate use and human and environmental exposure patterns to increase the chance that scientists will quickly detect any problems that might be triggered, or made worse, by glyphosate exposure,” Benbrook added.

“This report makes it clear that the use of glyphosate, combined with the dominance of genetically engineered crops, has produced a looming public health threat both in the U.S. and around the world,” said Mary Ellen Kustin, senior policy analyst at EWG. “Farmers have sprayed billions of pounds of a chemical now considered a probable human carcinogen over the past decade. Growers spray glyphosate several times a year on the majority of U.S. cropland. The sheer volume of use of this toxic weed-killer is a clear indication that this chemical dependency is a case of farming gone wrong.” 

EPA to withdraw controversial weed killer that was approved for Wisconsin

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking steps to withdraw approval of a controversial new weed killer to be used on genetically modified corn and soybeans.

The EPA announced in a court filing that it had received new information from manufacturer Dow AgroSciences that a weed killer called Enlist Duo is probably more toxic than previously thought.

EPA had approved Enlist Duo for use in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, and was likely to OK it for other states.

In a filing with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, EPA said it “might not have issued the existing registration had it been aware” of the new information when it originally approved the product a year ago to be used with new strains of genetically modified corn and soybeans. EPA asked the court for the authority to reverse its decision while it reconsiders the herbicide in light of the new information, including whether wider buffer zones might be required to protect non-target plants.

The seeds are engineered to resist the herbicide, so farmers can spray the fields after the plants emerge and kill the weeds while leaving crops unharmed.

EPA’s move was welcomed by environmental and food safety groups that had sued to rescind approval of the potent new herbicide. But it is sure to create anxiety for the agriculture industry, since many weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, an herbicide now commonly used on genetically modified corn and soybeans. Enlist includes a combination of glyphosate and an updated version of an older herbicide named 2,4-D.

“With this action, EPA confirms the toxic nature of this lethal cocktail of chemicals, and has stepped back from the brink,” said Earthjustice Managing Attorney Paul Achitoff. “Glyphosate is a probable carcinogen and is wiping out the monarch butterfly, 2,4-D also causes serious human health effects, and the combination also threatens endangered wildlife. This must not, and will not, be how we grow our food.”

Dow AgroSciences issued a statement calling for rapid resolution of the matter, citing “the pressing needs of U.S. farmers for access to Enlist Duo to counter the rapidly increasing spread of resistant weeds” and predicting that “these new evaluations will result in a prompt resolution of all outstanding issues.”

EPA’s decision means that Enlist Duo, which is currently on the market, won’t be in wide use for plantings next spring. EPA hasn’t said whether farmers already in possession of the herbicide will be able to use it, and that could be a topic for future litigation, said Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety.

Critics say they’re concerned the increased use of 2,4-D could endanger public health and more study on the chemical is needed. The USDA has predicted that the use of 2,4-D could increase by an estimated 200 percent to 600 percent by the year 2020.

EPA had earlier said when approving the new weed killer that agency officials had used “highly conservative and protective assumptions to evaluate human health and ecological risks.” The EPA said at the time that the herbicide met safety standards for the public, agricultural workers and endangered species.

Now, EPA says it has “has received new information from Dow AgroSciences — the registrant of Enlist Duo — that suggests two active ingredients could result in greater toxicity to non-target plants.”

2,4-D is now used on other crops, including wheat, and on pastures and home lawns. It is the world’s most popular herbicide and the third most popular in the United States, behind atrazine and glyphosate.

Groups opposed to expanded use of 2,4-D’s say they are concerned about its toxic effects and the potential for it to drift. Corn and soybeans are the nation’s largest crops, and the potential for expanded use is huge. Critics also expressed concern that weeds eventually would become resistant to the combination herbicide as they have to glyphosate, something EPA had planned to revisit.

EPA had earlier required a 30-foot buffer zone where the herbicide couldn’t be sprayed and ordered farmers to stop spraying when wind speeds exceeded 15 miles an hour.

WHO labels popular weed-killer a probable carcinogen

The most widely used type of weed-killer in the United States has been labeled a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The decision by the France-based cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, which considered the status of five insect and weed killers including glyphosate, which is used globally in industrial farming.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which makes its own determinations, said it would consider the French agency’s evaluation.

The French agency has four levels of risks for possible cancer-causing agents: known carcinogens, probable or possible carcinogens, not classifiable and probably not carcinogenic. Glyphosate now falls in the second level of concern.

The new classification is aimed mainly at industrial use of glyphosate. Its use by home gardeners is not considered a risk. Glyphosate is in the same category of risk as things like anabolic steroids and shift work. The decision was published online late last week in the journal, Lancet Oncology.

According to the French agency, glyphosate is used in more than 750 different herbicide products and its use has been detected in the air during spraying, in water and in food. Experts said there was “limited evidence” in humans that the herbicide can cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma and there is convincing evidence that glyphosate can also cause other forms of cancer in rats and mice. IARC’s panel said glyphosate has been found in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, showing the chemical has been absorbed by the body.

Monsanto and other producers of glyphosate-containing herbicides, strongly disagreed with the decision. “All labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health,” said Monsanto’s Phil Miller, global head of regulatory and government affairs, in a statement.

The EPA’s 2012 assessment of glyphosate concluded that it met the statutory safety standards and that the chemical could “continue to be used without unreasonable risks to people or the environment.”

The French agency’s experts said the cancer risks of the weed killer were mostly from occupational exposure.

“I don’t think home use is the issue,” said Kate Guyton of IARC. “It’s agricultural use that will have the biggest impact. For the moment, it’s just something for people to be conscious of.”