By Caroline Cox
Many parents cheered about 10 years ago when Michelle Obama took on the important task of improving school meals. Of course, every child should have a healthy lunch and breakfast. Most of us have school cafeteria stories; I still remember the feeling of failure I had decades ago when I realized my daughters never had time to eat more than their dessert before joining the stampede for recess.
Ms. Obama's work—and the work of many other concerned parents, teachers and staff—sparked significant improvements in school menus, some of which are now being undone by the current administration (allowing children to eat food with more salt and less whole grain). Schools must once again take another step forward.
If you haven't met glyphosate (Roundup) yet, allow me to introduce you. Glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide in the U.S. Its use has skyrocketed during the last 20 years because of the popularity of genetically-modified crops that are tolerant of this weedkiller. Health concerns about glyphosate have also skyrocketed since 2015, when the World Health Organization evaluated its ability to cause cancer.
The above graph was created by the Center for Environmental Health using data from the study "Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally" by Charles M. Benbrook.
Glyphosate's evaluation as a probable carcinogen is scary and was recently validated by a jury that awarded a school groundskeeper a multimillion-dollar judgment against Monsanto/Bayer because he had developed cancer after years of Roundup use. The decision has paved the way for thousands of other cancer patients and families to seek justice and compensation in court.
Even scarier, recent research has demonstrated that glyphosate can disrupt our body's hormones, those vital molecules that manage growth, development, behavior, sex and more.
Exposing children, with their developing bodies, to a chemical that can cause cancer and hormone dysfunction is wrong. It's especially wrong for children simply eating breakfast at school, who often are from low-income families. This fact has spurred the nonprofit Center for Environmental Health (CEH), where I serve as the senior scientist, to measure glyphosate contamination in breakfast cereals and bars served at schools. Although our study was small, the results were striking.
We found significant contamination in 70 percent of the products we tested, including big name brands like Quaker, whose glyphosate contamination was more than six times the safety threshold developed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Cheerios, whose glyphosate contamination was more than five times the EWG safety threshold.
Our findings corroborate a growing list of recent studies demonstrating the presence of glyphosate in children's foods, including preliminary findings by CEH in August, as well as those by the EWG, Moms Across America, Food Democracy Now and the Food and Drug Administration.
Because our study was small, and there is not much government testing of glyphosate contamination in popular grocery items, there may be other contaminated products at your school or grocery store. We just don't know. We did recently find glyphosate contamination in King Arthur bread flour. King Arthur is the fourth largest seller of flour in the country, consumed by approximately 16.61 million Americans this year. King Arthur's bread flour is used for more than just baking bread—the company also claims "it strengthens whole-grain pastries, makes cookies crispier, and when combined with all-purpose flour, creates chewier pizza crusts and more tender muffins." If we found it in commonly sold wheat flour, where else might it be?
Fortunately, there is a straightforward way to reduce the amount of glyphosate that our students consume. Certified organic foods are grown without glyphosate and the ones that we have tested are uncontaminated. Thus, we are asking schools to buy these organic cereals and bars. Some organic food is more expensive than conventionally grown food, but even a partial switch reduces the amount of this pesticide that students are eating and increases the market for organics, setting up the economies of scale that will lower prices.
Further, switching to organic cereals in the short term and advocating for stronger chemical regulation in the long term is beneficial to all eaters, especially people who are exposed to the highest levels of pesticides because of their work, such as groundskeepers and farmworkers.
What can parents do? Here are three steps to help protect you and your family:
- Buy organic cereals for your family whenever they are affordable and available for you.
- Ask your children's schools to add organic cereals to their menus. For advice about effective ways to do this, contact us at [email protected].
- Tell the CEO of General Mills to get rid of glyphosate in Cheerios and other cereal products by switching to organic oats. Children aren't test subjects and parents deserve warning labels.
Monsanto (now Bayer) made hundreds of millions of dollars in 2017 from herbicide sales. We need to demand a change. Cancer-causing chemicals do not belong in children's meals, whether served at home, at school or a child care center.
‘Should I Throw Out My #Cheerios?’ and Other Questions About Roundup in Children’s Food #roundup @cancer… https://t.co/pf9nI1dgql— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1535536932.0
Caroline Cox is the senior scientist at the Center for Environmental Health.
By Zen Honeycutt
A California federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the public does not need a warning label to inform us that cancer-causing and harmful chemicals in glyphosate herbicides are in our food or products, temporarily relieving manufacturers from the responsibility of being honest with their customers. At a time when more and more American families are struggling with diseases and their high cost, one man decided that it was an injustice to the chemical companies to have to tell us about the presence of their chemicals.
Senior United States District Judge William B. Shubb released his ruling regarding the case of Wheat Growers and Monsanto against the California Environmental Protection Agency (CA EPA), Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and the CA attorney general to remove glyphosate, the declared active chemical ingredient in Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world, from the CA Prop 65 carcinogen list, a law approved by California voters by ballot initiative in 1986.
The judge ruled that OEHHA can keep glyphosate on the Prop 65 carcinogen list but the manufacturers such as Monsanto and food producers will not have to label their products with a warning label. Normally, the law states that products containing chemicals on the list, above a certain level, must label their products within a year from the listing. The label would state, "WARNING this product contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer or reproductive harm." The temporary preliminary injunction granted by the judge halts the impending labeling by manufacturers of products and foods containing glyphosate and allows them not to inform their customers of this fact ... that glyphosate has been found to cause cancer in animals and to be a probable human carcinogen.
The result is that OEHHA acknowledges glyphosate-containing products can cause cancer, but cannot require the manufacturers of such products to warn consumers because it could negatively affect corporate profits.
This one judge, one man, who could not even pronounce "glyphosate" at the beginning of the hour long hearing, has just changed the law and effectively hidden the known cancer-causing effects of glyphosate from not only Californians, but from an entire nation looking to California to lead the way in health regulations.
One must ask: Why doesn't this judge want you to know what you are eating? Why wouldn't he think it wise to inform the public that cancer causing chemicals are in our food? Is it not a matter of public interest that the chemicals in this herbicide, itself an antibiotic by patent, has been proven to be neurotoxic, genotoxic, endocrine disruptors, which can lead to mental illness and increasing depression and acts of violence, are in our children's peanut butter sandwich? Why aren't couples with infertility being told that the wheat snacks they are eating are likely keeping them from getting pregnant? Why aren't parents allowed to know that the non-organic orange juice and oatmeal they are giving their baby or the hummus that they eat for lunch contains high levels of glyphosate herbicide which has been proven at ultra low levels to cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease?
The answer appears to be that the judge did not consider the evidence before him. He stated that "on the evidence before the court the required warning for glyphosate does not prove to be accurate and uncontroversial" citing that "almost all other agencies have proven that glyphosate is not carcinogenic." This is simply untrue. Health and regulatory agencies of Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, El Salvador, England, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland and six Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman have issued outright bans on glyphosate, imposed restrictions or have issued statements of intention to ban or restrict glyphosate-based herbicides, including Roundup, over health concerns and the ongoing Roundup cancer litigation.
The Feb. 26, 2018 OEHHA Prop 65 ruling clearly panders to the chemical company, Monsanto, who argued that the listing and labeling of their products would lead to "irreparable harm" because public and private "enforcers" would sue, causing them to lose vast amounts of resources and loss of sales. What about the irreparable harm to Mary, California mother of two, whose father and son were both exposed to Roundup during backyard garden use, and both contracted non-Hodgkin lymphoma?
What about the irreparable harm to the mothers who spoke up at the Monsanto Tribunal whose sons were undergoing more than 60 surgeries for birth defects which were linked to exposure to glyphosate herbicide during their pregnancy? What about the irreparable harm to our nation due to the health issues and skyrocketing health care costs which have been connected to glyphosate herbicides?
Did the judge consider the evidence of collusion between Monsanto and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employees to cover up the carcinogenicity of glyphosate from the public? Or did he ignore the ghost writing, manipulation of science and lack of safety of the final formulation of glyphosate herbicides?
The impact of this ruling is that, unless further legal action is taken, consumers will not see warning labels on food informing them that they contain the cancer-causing glyphosate herbicide. Activists and non-profit organizations that have been testing food items for glyphosate will not be able to hold food companies accountable and sue on the grounds of not labeling their products. Consumers will not see a label on Roundup, warning them of cancer-causing chemicals within the products and they will continue to use Roundup where their children, grandchildren and pets play.
This ruling magnifies an enormous problem within our government. We elect politicians into office and expect them to protect us, and they don't. In addition, judges are appointed by our elected officials, and the opinion of that one person can supersede the law of an entire state or nation. This judge, appointed by President Bush in 1990, did not display any knowledge of the effects of this chemical or the process in which a chemical is listed as a carcinogen. When he asked if the chemical was harmful, the lawyer on the OEHHA side did not give a sufficient response. Monsanto's lawyer argued vehemently that the carcinogenic issue was contested and the decision of one agency should not require them to "falsely" label their products. Clearly, all Monsanto had to do was instill doubt regarding the harmful effects of the chemical in order to win their case.
OEHHA's Sam Delson commented on the case, "While the court granted the request for a preliminary injunction regarding the warning requirement, the court denied the request for a preliminary injunction on the listing itself. The court stated, 'plaintiffs have not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the listing of glyphosate violates the First Amendment … ' We are pleased that the listing of glyphosate remains in effect, and we believe our actions were lawful. We have not decided whether to appeal the ruling."
Once again, big corporations have influenced the policies of our regulatory agencies and are getting away with hiding the truth about harmful chemicals and our food supply. Once again, activists wonder what it will take to have justice in our country, safe food, and a nation we can be proud of. Clearly, if we wait for our government to do the right thing we will be waiting forever. The answer continues to be ... it is up to consumers to get informed, to test even more, share information, and refuse to buy products which contain harmful chemicals and stop supporting a system of corruption and poison.
'Dangerous Drift-Prone Pesticide' Threatens Millions of Acres, Hundreds of Endangered Species: Farmers and Conserva… https://t.co/uIJ5st8T5A— The Progressive (@The Progressive)1518497399.0
Zen Honeycutt is founder and executive director of Moms Across America.
- Siding With Monsanto, GOP Threatens to Cut Off WHO Funds Over ... ›
- Judge Blocks California From Putting Cancer Warning on Roundup - EcoWatch ›
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Court Rules Against General Mills Motion to Dismiss, Says It's Reasonable Consumers Wouldn't Consider Glyphosate-Containing Nature Valley Granola Bars 'Natural'
Moms Across America, Organic Consumers Association and Beyond Pesticides announced Monday that the District of Columbia Superior Court has rejected General Mills' motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the three nonprofits against the maker of Nature Valley granola bars. The recent ruling upholds the right of nonprofits to bring these types of complaints against corporations. It also reinforces the notion that consumers can reasonably expect a product labeled "100% Natural" to be free of herbicides.
These three nonprofit groups sued General Mills in August 2016, for misleading the public by labeling Nature Valley brand granola bars as "Made with 100% NATURAL whole grain OATS" after tests revealed the presence of the chemical herbicide glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup and hundreds of other glyphosate-based herbicides. The suit was brought on behalf of the nonprofits' members in Washington, DC, under the District of Columbia's Consumer Protection Procedures Act.
"This is a huge win for consumers," said Organic Consumers Association's international director Ronnie Cummins. "In making this ruling, the judge reinforced the right of consumers to have reasonable expectations about what a company means by 'natural.' The 'natural' food industry is estimated at $90 billion a year. By slapping the word 'natural' on products that contain pesticides and other unnatural substances, corporations deceive consumers, and cut into the market share for authentically labeled healthy and certified organic products."
Key findings from the DC Superior Court ruling include:
- The Court recognized that the 2012 Amendments to the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) may have expanded the means by which nonprofits may bring representative actions.
- The Court rejected General Mills' argument that courts should defer to the FDA on possible future ruling re: "natural" food labeling, holding that it was up to the courts to decide what is or isn't misleading to consumers.
- The Court also noted that it does not appear likely that the FDA will issue a ruling on "natural" anytime soon—rejecting a common argument made by so many food producers seeking to avoid liability for their misrepresentations.
- The Court held that a reasonable jury could find that General Mills' "Made With 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats" claims were misleading to consumers.
Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, agrees. "In this case, consumer law is critical to rein in companies that deceive consumers with 'natural' labeling when their products contain ingredients that are grown with pesticides," Feldman said.