The FDA has resumed testing food for glyphosate residues, as questions about the safety of the RoundUp chemical continue to grow.
In 2016, the FDA launched what it refers to as a “special assignment” to analyze certain foods for glyphosate residues. The move was sparked by the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s criticism of the agency for failing to include glyphosate in annual testing programs which analyzes foods ‘less-used’ chemicals in food.
The testing only lasted a few months, however, due to haggling among agency officials over how to establish a standard testing methodology across the FDA’s multiple U.S. laboratories.
Rumors swirled that the halt on testing was politically motivated – the FDA announced that it would cease testing food for glyphosate after an FDA chemist detected glyphosate in U.S. honey and oat products, including baby food.
Glyphosate is one of the world’s most widely-used herbicides, so it’s not difficult to draw parallels between the discovery of the herbicide in honey and oats, and the FDA’s decision to shelve testing for the product. Why test for less-used herbicides but skip RoundUp, when it is obviously so prevalent?
In April 2017, the USDA was set to start testing some food samples for the herbicide, documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act revealed, but the agency ultimately decided against it.
The FDA quietly resumed it’s testing for glyphosate in early June 2017, as well as for 2,4-D, and other “acid herbicides.” Chemical companies have started to combine 2,4-D and the herbicide dicamba with glyphosate in new weed-killing products. Use of these multi-chemical herbicides is expected to grow, making testing more important than ever.
In addition to being one of the most widely-used herbicides in the world, glyphosate is the most controversial. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans.
But U.S. and other world regulatory agencies have said that conclusion lacks the scientific evidence to back it up. This led to biotech giant Monsanto (the maker of glyphosate-containing Roundup) requesting that the link between glyphosate and cancer be retracted.
Meanwhile, Monsanto is facing hundreds of lawsuits filed on behalf of people who allege glyphosate caused their cancers. The biotech giant is also embroiled in a legal battle over allegations the company colluded with a former high-ranking EPA official to downplay – and, in some cases, completely cover up – glyphosate’s health risks.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.