Following a growing public awareness about the potential dangers of glyphosate, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is moving to start testing food for residues of the herbicide, according to the website Civil Eats. Glyphosate is the nation’s most widely used agricultural weed-killer, known primarily as the active ingredient in the Monsanto brand Roundup.
The FDA told Civil Eats that it would start looking at glyphosate levels in soy, corn, milk, and eggs to determine the levels of the chemical that remain on food that is designated for human consumption. Until now, the federal agency declined to check for glyphosate, claiming that the tests were too expensive and unnecessary.
The herbicide has been used extensively in U.S. crop production since the 1970s, and was originally considered safe for humans because it kills plants by affecting metabolic processes that humans do not possess. It is used primarily with Monsanto’s genetically modified “Roundup Ready” crops, which constitute the overwhelming majority of corn and soy production in the United States, but is also used with non-GMO agriculture as well as by governments and residential consumers for weed control. About 250 million pounds of the chemical are sprayed on agricultural fields every year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
However, a growing number of reports have recently pointed a finger at glyphosate for causing negative effects on human health. Most notably, the World Health Organization determined last year that the herbicide is “probably carcinogenic in humans.” Other studies have linked pesticide exposure in pregnant women to developmental impairments in children. Research from New Zealand found that use of glyphosate can play a role in the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and a scientist at MIT has even claimed that she found a link between glyphosate and autism in children.
Nevertheless, the FDA traditionally has excluded glyphosate from its pesticide residue testing program, an omission that was criticized by a Government Accountability Office report in 2014. A one time test by the USDA in 2011, the report noted, “detected glyphosate residues in about 90 percent of the 300 soybean samples and the glyphosate metabolite in over 95 percent of the samples.”
Given the ubiquity of the herbicide, it can be difficult even for people who are conscious about their diet to completely avoid exposure. Fortunately, consumers who are worried about the levels in their bodies have options at their disposal: The Organic Consumers Association has a test that can be used to measure the amount of the chemical in urine and in drinking water.
People who find they have herbicides in their system, or who wish to avoid the possibility in the future, can take steps to purify their bodies and lead a more detoxifying lifestyle. The most important component of the plan is to eat an organic diet, free from GMO crops or other foods that have been exposed to herbicides or pesticides, and consume herbs like cilantro that assist the body in ridding itself of harmful accumulations of chemicals.
The Monsanto company has historically pointed to studies that appeared to show that low levels of glyphosate is not harmful to humans, but as a growing body of evidence starts to show otherwise, more people are paying attention to what chemicals they put in their bodies — and the FDA is starting to come on board.