Just how much of the residue from over 5.2 billion pounds of pesticides used in growing crops is leftover on your food before you eat it? That’s a good question, and no one really knows because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not perform sufficient tests to find out.
This means that there really is no way to know if the American food supply is safe at all. Federal auditors suggest that the food we eat, and the true amount of carcinogenic chemicals remaining on fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains is still a complete mystery due to lack of testing.
This past Thursday, a government report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office confirmed that less than 1% of all food grown in the U.S. is tested for pesticide residues. The testing is even more dismal on imported fruit – with less than one-tenth of one percent actually being tested for chemicals residues.
The FDA’s ‘testing’ protocol, or more accurately, lack of one, makes their normal claims of ‘our food supply is safe’ statistically invalid. You cannot claim that food grown in a country where more than 78% of our crops are sprayed with Agricultural chemicals is ‘safe’ with a straight face when hundreds of millions of pounds of pesticides can’t be washed off our food.
(Table courtesy of the EPA)
Furthermore, the investigative arm of the US Congress, the GAO, raises concerns about both the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to abstain from testing. There are many strict rules in place for some of these pesticides already, with low residual rates tolerated. But most of the companies that would be found guilty of passing these levels avoid accountability since they are never tested.
Auditors found fault with the FDA and the USDA for failing to disclose this limitation in their annual reports.
It is also ironic, since the USDA tests for pesticide residue in poultry, meat, and processed egg products. Why not produce? Could this have something to do with the government agency’s infiltration by biotech industry professionals? At least we can count on the Environmental Working Group to supply us with some testing results regarding pesticides levels on our fruit and veggies.
While the FDA and USDA are not legally required to test for specific pesticides, they are supposed to be enforcing maximum residue limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency. When limits are violated, food products are subject to seizure.
Obviously, tons of food grown with Monsanto, Bayer, and Syngenta chemicals would be subject to these seizures if the testing actually occurred, which would then have a monetary effect on the companies and possibly alter their ability to fund anti-GMO labeling campaigns.
Rep. Paul Tonko, (D-N.Y.), requested the GAO review of the pesticide program. He said that the results concerned him and urged the agencies to follow the recommendations of the federal auditors.
“GAO’s report indicates that the monitoring programs used by FDA and FSIS are falling short of their objectives. Improvements are needed in pesticide residue monitoring,” Tonko said, adding that both agencies “will need to devote more resources to pesticide residue monitoring to implement GAO’s recommendations.”
Government Ties and Support for Big Biotech
Tonko also surmises that Congress will need to provide the “necessary resources” to the FDA and USDA if they want testing to be expanded. This is unlikely to happen as long as the ‘necessary resources’ will be stifled by ‘military style trade wars, and government corruption’ at every level.
For example, US diplomats have been and are currently working to expand the reach of Monsanto’s chemical empire, not curb it.
Just over 7 years ago, specific nations inside the European Union were meant to be punished for not supporting the expansion of Monsanto’s GMO crops. The request for such measures to be taken was made by Craig Stapleton, who was at that time the US ambassador to France and partner to George W. Bush.
Despite numerous scientific studies linking Monsanto’s GM corn to organ damage and environmental devastation, the ambassador plainly called for ‘target retaliation’ against those not supporting the GM crop. In leaked documents, Stapleton states:
“Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices.”
This is just one example of government-industry collaboration, which has limited pesticide-use and full disclosure.
Will the Report Be Ignored?
This most recent report from government auditors didn’t even criticize the fact that the USDA doesn’t test, but did point out that testing rates were higher between 2010 and 2011.
The GAO credited the department with engaging with the “EPA on changes with (USDA’s) monitoring program to better provide EPA with data it needs to assess the risks of pesticides.”
The FDA said it would consider creating a better testing model to ensure outcomes are “statistically significant” in response to the GAO, but it did not commit to doing so, saying that it had concerns about costs. The GAO also has no authority over the FDA, so the report could simply be ignored.
Even more suspect is that the FDA said it would not follow the GAO’s recommendation to disclose the names of pesticides that the agency doesn’t test for because it said users could “more easily circumvent” the testing program if it did.
The USDA; however, did say that they would disclose the names of the pesticides they test for in their annual report.
The GAO said one of its greatest concerns is that people are led to assume a false picture about true pesticide levels on their food, since the testing does not include many common pesticides –if it is done at all.
Pesticide sales are highest in North America and Europe, with the Middle East purchasing the least. The most commonly applied pesticides are insecticides (to kill insects), herbicides (to kill weeds), rodenticides (to kill rodents), and fungicides (to control fungi, mold, and mildew).
Though they have been used since the times of the ancient Sumerians, the increased use of pesticides in modern times can most assuredly be connected to the Big Ag business model of food production.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.