Time for U.S. Regulators to Get Serious About Safety of Popular Pesticide

It’s about time.

Plans by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the nation’s chief food safety regulator, to start testing food for residues of the world’s most widely used weed killer come at a pivotal point for both the American consumer and U.S. agribusiness as safety concerns rise over use of the herbicide called glyphosate, more commonly known as Roundup.

Until now, the federal government has steadfastly resisted testing foods for residues of glyphosate, even though regulators annually test thousands of food samples for hundreds of other less commonly used pesticides. This resolve against looking for potentially harmful residues has held fast despite the fact that multiple scientific studies in recent years have linked glyphosate to cancer and a range of other health and environmental concerns. Last year, the World Health Organization’s cancer experts declared glyphosate to be a probable human carcinogen after examining many of those studies.

Glyphosate use has been on the rise since Monsanto Co., which patented the herbicide in the 1970s, introduced “Roundup Ready” crops in the mid-1990s. These crops are genetically engineered to be immune to glyphosate – meaning farmers can spray the pesticide directly over their crops. Corn, soybeans, canola and sugar beets are among such Roundup Ready crops, but there are also many non-GMO crops, including wheat, that are sprayed directly with glyphosate before being harvested to help dry them out. Monsanto’s patent on glyphosate has expired but the company still makes roughly $5 billion annually off glyphosate herbicide sales. Other large agrichemical companies, including Dow Chemical and Syngenta AG, also sell glyphosate herbicides.

Farmers and homeowners alike have embraced Roundup for the ease with which it knocks out troublesome weeds. But just how much of the pesticide is making its way into our food supply has —> Read More