By Carey Gillam
Residues of the main ingredient in Monsanto's flagship herbicide Roundup has been found in honey in the key farm state of Iowa.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began glyphosate residue testing in a small number of foods earlier this year after the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in March 2015. The "special assignment," as the FDA refers to the testing project, is the first time the FDA has ever looked for glyphosate residues in food, though it annually tests foods for numerous other pesticides.
Research by FDA chemist Narong Chamkasem and John Vargo, a chemist at the University of Iowa, shows that residues of glyphosate have been detected at 653 parts per billion (ppb), more than 10 times the limit of 50 ppb allowed in the European Union. Other samples tested detected glyphosate residues in honey samples at levels from the low 20s ppb to more than 123 parts per billion ppb. Some samples had none or only trace amounts below levels of quantification. Previous reports had disclosed glyphosate residues in honey detected as high as 107 ppb. The collaborative work was part of an effort within the FDA to establish and validate testing methodology for glyphosate residues.
"According to recent reports, there has been a dramatic increase in the usage of these herbicides, which are of risk to both human health and the environment," Chamkasem and Vargo stated in their laboratory bulletin.
Because there is no legal tolerance level for glyphosate in honey in the U.S., any amount could technically be considered a violation, according to statements made in FDA internal emails, obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may soon move to set a tolerance, however. The agency has set tolerance levels for glyphosate residues in many foods the EPA expects might contain residues of the weed killer. When residue levels are detected above the tolerance levels, enforcement action can be taken against the food producer.
"EPA is evaluating the necessity of establishing tolerances for inadvertent residues of pesticides in honey," the agency said in a statement. "EPA has examined the glyphosate residue levels found in honey and has determined that glyphosate residues at those levels do not raise a concern for consumers."
Despite these reassurances by the EPA, at least two lawsuits have been filed over this issue. The Organic Consumers Association and Beyond Pesticides filed suit Tuesday against the Sioux Honey Association Cooperative, a large Iowa-based group of bee keepers who produce the nationally known brand Sue Bee Honey.
Sue Bee bills itself as "America's Honey," but the lawsuit alleges that the labeling and advertising of Sue Bee Products as "Pure," "100% Pure," "Natural" and "All-natural" is "false, misleading and deceptive." Some of the glyphosate residues detected in the FDA tests were found in the Sue Bee brand, according to the FDA documents obtained through FOIA requests.
Lawsuit Filed Against Sioux Honey Over ‘100% Pure’ & ‘Natural’ Labels on Products Contaminated with #Glyphosate… https://t.co/HTpLLeS3vc— GMWatch (@GMWatch)1478097449.0
The claims are similar to another lawsuit, which seeks class action status, that was filed against Sioux Honey Association in late September in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Quaker Oats was sued earlier this year on a similar claim regarding glyphosate residues. The FDA has also found glyphosate residues in oatmeal, including several types of infant oat cereal.
FDA Tests Confirm Baby Foods Contain Residues of Glyphosate via @EcoWatch https://t.co/BlI1M7UNf4— Mark Hyman, M.D. (@Mark Hyman, M.D.)1475598525.0
Considering corn is the key crop grown in Iowa and most of the U.S. corn crop is genetically modified to tolerate being sprayed directly with glyphosate, it is not surprising that glyphosate residues are showing up in honey in Iowa and other farm states.
"It's a chemical intrusion, a chemical trespass into our product," said Darren Cox, president of the American Honey Producers Association. "We have really no way of controlling it. I don't see an area for us to put our bees. We can't put them in the middle of the desert. They need to be able to forage in ag areas. There are no ag areas free of this product."
Sioux Honey Association President David Allibone said no one from the FDA has communicated with his group about the chemical residues found in honey and he said he could not discuss the issue further because of the litigation.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday acknowledges the difficulties beekeepers face. They "are often the victims of and have little recourse against, contamination of their hives caused by pesticide applications in the fields where bees forage," the lawsuit states.
The glyphosate residues showing up in food are surprising and worrisome, according to dietitian Mitzi Dulan, a nationally known nutrition and wellness expert.
"I think more testing should be done so that we are armed with the knowledge and then we can decide what we want to put into our bodies," Dulan said. "I do believe in minimizing pesticide exposures whenever possible."
Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed yesterday, said regulators need to do more to address the issue.
"Until U.S. regulatory agencies prohibit Monsanto and other manufacturers of glyphosate from selling pesticides that end up in the food supply, we need to protect consumers by demanding truth and transparency in labeling," Feldman said.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
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What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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