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FDA Finds Weed Killer in Most Corn, Soy at 'Non-Violative Levels'

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released on Monday the final results of a "special assignment" that examined the residue levels of glyphosate and a competing herbicide glufosinate in corn, soy, eggs and milk during the fiscal year 2016.

Their labs detected glyphosate in 63 percent of the corn samples and 67 percent of the soybean samples at "non-violative levels," or in compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) pesticide tolerances. Glufosinate was found in 1.4 percent of the corn samples and 1.1 percent of soybean samples, also within legal limits. No residues of either pesticide were found in the milk and egg samples.


The special assignment was part of the FDA's yearly monitoring report that reviewed 7,413 samples, including 6,946 human foods and 467 animal foods, for residues of 711 pesticides and industrial chemicals. This is the first year the agency tested glyphosate and glufosinate.

FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb was pleased with the report's results.

"Like other recent reports, the results show that overall levels of pesticide chemical residues are below the Environmental Protection Agency's tolerances, and therefore don't pose a risk to consumers," Gottlieb said in a press release.

Glyphosate is the star ingredient in Monsanto's widely used and controversial herbicide, Roundup, that's sprayed on crops that are genetically modified to resist applications of the weedkiller. In addition to killing weeds, it can also serve as a drying agent for crops before harvest.

The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2016, but Monsanto and the EPA consider it safe. The chemical has come under increased scrutiny after a California jury ruled in favor of a former groundskeeper who claimed that constant use of Roundup caused his cancer.

In recent years, tests from consumer groups have found traces of glyphosate in many popular food products including Quaker Oats, alcoholic beverages and bread.

As EcoWatch mentioned previously, even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the FDA routinely test thousands of food samples for residues of commonly used pesticides, the regulators have refused for decades to test for glyphosate because the government considers it safe.

In 2014, the Government Accountability Office criticized both agencies for the failure to test regularly for glyphosate.

As the public's concerns of the pesticide continued to mount, the FDA began in 2016 its own limited testing program—the so-called "special assignment"—for glyphosate residues that only looked for traces in corn, soy, eggs and milk.

The EPA has established tolerances for glyphosate on a wide range of crops, including corn, soybean, oil seeds, grains and some fruits and vegetables, ranging from 0.1 to 310 parts per million.

In April, The Guardian reported that the FDA's own scientists found traces of the ubiquitous chemical in granola, crackers and other everyday foods.

"I have brought wheat crackers, granola cereal, and corn meal from home and there's a fair amount in all of them," FDA chemist Richard Thompson emailed to colleagues in January 2017, per The Guardian.

An FDA spokesperson told the publication those tests were not considered part of the official glyphosate residue special assignment.

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