Tag Archives: herbicide

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.

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.

Monsanto wins the Rubber Dodo award for anti-environmental record

Monsanto, producer and seller of Roundup and its toxic active ingredient glyphosate, is the recipient of the Center for Biological Diversity’s 2015 Rubber Dodo Award, given annually to those who have done the most to destroy wild places, species and biological diversity.

Glyphosate is now used in more than 160 countries and more than 1.4 billion pounds are applied each year.

It has been classified as a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization and its heavy use, particularly on herbicide-resistant GMO crops, also developed by Monsanto, is considered a leading cause of the recent, drastic 80 percent decline in monarch butterflies.

Previous Rubber Dodo winners include U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services (2014), the Koch brothers (2013), climate denier James Inhofe (2012), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2011), former BP CEO Tony Hayward (2010), land speculator Michael Winer (2009), Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (2008) and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne (2007).

“The science is increasingly clear that glyphosate is damaging wildlife and putting people at serious risk, yet Monsanto continues to aggressively peddle the stuff to farmers and really any customer it can find,” said Kierán Suckling, the center’s executive director. “It’s hard to fathom the depth of the damage that glyphosate is doing, but its toxic legacy will live on for generations, whether it’s through threatening monarchs with extinction or a heightened risk of cancer for people where it’s spread.”

The center recently released an analysis that found more than half of the glyphosate sprayed in California is applied in the state’s eight most impoverished counties, where the populations are predominantly Hispanic or Latino.

“Those sitting in Monsanto’s boardrooms and corporate offices won’t pay the price for this dangerous pesticide. It’s going to be people on the ground where it’s sprayed,” Suckling said. “This kind of callous pursuit of profits is at the core of what’s driving the loss of wildlife and diversity on a massive scale around the globe.”

More than 15,000 people cast their votes in this year’s Rubber Dodo contest. Other official nominees were Volkswagen, Sen. John McCain, Exxon and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

The award is named for the extinct dodo.

Some background from the Center for Biological Diversity: In 1598 Dutch sailors landing on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius discovered a flightless, 3-foot-tall, extraordinarily friendly bird. Its original scientific name was Didus ineptus. (Contemporary scientists use the less defamatory Raphus cucullatus.) To the rest of the world, it’s the dodo — possibly the most famous extinct species on Earth after the dinosaurs. It evolved over millions of years with no natural predators and eventually lost the ability to fly, becoming a land-based consumer of fruits, nuts and berries. Having never known predators, it showed no fear of humans or the menagerie of animals accompanying them to Mauritius.

Its trusting nature led to its rapid extinction. By 1681 the dodo had vanished, hunted and outcompeted by humans, dogs, cats, rats, macaques and pigs. Humans logged its forest cover while pigs uprooted and ate much of the understory vegetation.

The origin of the name dodo is unclear. It likely came from the Dutch word dodoor, meaning “sluggard,” the Portuguese word doudo, meaning “fool” or “crazy,” or the Dutch word dodaars meaning “plump-arse” (that nation’s name for the little grebe).

The dodo’s reputation as a foolish, ungainly bird derives in part from its friendly naiveté and the very plump captives that were taken on tour across Europe. The animal’s reputation was cemented with the 1865 publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Based on skeleton reconstructions and the discovery of early drawings, scientists now believe that the dodo was a much sleeker animal than commonly portrayed. The rotund European exhibitions were likely produced by overfeeding captive birds.

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.”

Unregulated genetically modified wheat popping up in Montana

Unregulated genetically modified wheat has popped up in a second location in the United States, this time in Montana, the Agriculture Department has said.

No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for U.S. farming, and the discovery of unapproved varieties can pose a potential threat to U.S. trade with countries that have concerns about genetically modified foods.

USDA said that the incident is on a smaller scale than a similar finding in Oregon last year that prompted several Asian countries to temporarily ban U.S. wheat imports.

The herbicide-resistant wheat was found on one to three acres in Montana, while the genetically engineered plants found in Oregon were spread over more than 100 acres. And the plants were found at a university research center in Huntley, Montana, where genetically modified wheat was legally tested by seed giant Monsanto 11 years ago. The plants in Oregon were found in a field that had never conducted such tests, prompting questions about how they got there.

The department said it is investigating the discovery of the Montana wheat, which is a different variety than the genetically modified wheat found in Oregon. USDA said the wheat would be safe to eat, but none of it entered the market.

In a final report also released Friday, USDA said it believes the genetically modified wheat in Oregon was an isolated incident and that there is no evidence of that wheat in commerce. The report says the government still doesn’t know how the modified seeds got into the fields.

The discovery of the genetically modified wheat in Oregon in 2013 prompted Japan and South Korea to temporarily suspend some wheat orders, and the European Union called for more rigorous testing of U.S. shipments.

Monsanto Co. suggested last year that some of the company’s detractors may have intentionally planted the seeds. Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, said in June 2013 that sabotage is the most likely scenario, partly because the modified wheat was not distributed evenly throughout the field and was found in patches.

“It’s fair to say there are folks who don’t like biotechnology and would use this to create problems,” he said then.

Bernadette Juarez, who oversees investigative and enforcement efforts for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the department wasn’t able to prove any such scenarios.

“Ultimately, we weren’t able to make a determination of how it happened,” she said.

In a statement Friday, a Monsanto spokeswoman did not repeat Fraley’s 2013 speculation about sabotage but said the report provides closure. Monsanto also said it is fully cooperating with the investigation into the Montana wheat.

Montana State University’s Southern Agricultural Research Center, where the modified wheat was found, also said it has been cooperating with USDA’s investigation.

Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are already genetically modified to resist certain herbicides or to have other traits. But the country’s wheat crop is not, as some wheat farmers have shown reluctance to use genetically engineered seeds since their product is usually consumed directly by people. Much of the corn and soybean crop is used as feed for animals.

Some in the wheat industry have also been concerned that genetically modified wheat, if ever approved, would contaminate conventional wheat, causing problems with exports. Opponents of modified crops used the Oregon wheat as an example of that threat. “Genetic contamination is a serious threat to farmers across the country,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety.