Truth Frequency Radio
Nov 13, 2014


In its report to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy (part of the Committee on Energy and Commerce), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) makes the stunning statement that “FDA […] does not test for several commonly used pesticides with an EPA-established tolerance […] including glyphosate, the most used agricultural pesticide.” The report was given to the House committee on October 7, but was not released to the public for another month. The report was requested by Rep. Paul Tonko, who serves New York’s 20th Congressional district. Rep. Tonko is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established “tolerances,” or “maximum amount[s] of pesticide residue that [are] allowed to remain on or in a food,” in order to safeguard the public from potential health hazards carried by these potent chemicals. However, as the GAO notes in its report, the FDA is not required by law to test produce (crop products) for all pesticides. Additionally, although the FDA does test some imported produce, it tests a very small sample: “less than one-tenth of one percent of imported shipments.” Also, states the GAO,

FDA does not use statistically valid methods consistent with OMB [Office of Management and Budget] standards to collect national information on the incidence and level of pesticide residues.

Problems with FDA monitoring of chemical residue in food are not limited to fruits and vegetables, but extend to animal products as well. The GAO notes that the FDA FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) only tested meat, poultry, and processed egg products for some of the pesticides for which the EPA has established tolerances. The GAO’s recommendations center on explicit disclosure of the serious limitations of the FDA’s monitoring and statistical sampling methodology.

Other concerns, however, may exist, even if the FDA chooses to implement the GAO’s recommendations. For example, the GAO report examined only apples, bananas, broccoli, cantaloupe, green beans, lettuce, peaches, pears, potatoes, and sweet bell peppers when looking at pesticide monitoring in produce. For many Americans, the chief crop consumed (in various forms, including high-fructose corn syrup) is a grain: corn. According to the National Growers Association, the average per-person consumption of corn in the US is 25 pounds per year. Even a popular fruit such as an apple does not measure up: just over 17 pounds of apples are consumed per person per year in the US (44 pounds if apples for juicing are included). Pesticides commonly used on corn include atrazine (with its known health detriments) and zeta-cypermethrin.

Additionally, simply disclosing that glyphosate residue is not measured will not solve the problem of not knowing how much glyphosate the average American consumes with his produce. Much remains to be discovered about glyphosate, but several relevant items are already known: glyphosate herbicides “potently affect [the] cardiovascular system in mammals,” glyphosate-containing herbicide RoundUp causes long-lasting DNA damage in fish, and glyphosate formulated with a spray adjuvant has greater cytotoxicity than glyphosate alone.

The FDA cites a five-million-dollar startup cost for glyphosate residue testing as a chief reason that the agency does not test for this potent chemical. However, as the Health and Human Services budget (which contains FDA’s budget) for “Foods” is roughly $900 million, it seems possible that the agency could find the money for glyphosate testing somewhere. With 185 million pounds of glyphosate sprayed on US crops in 2007 — and likely more in the current year, as the 2007 figure is double the figure for 2001 — it would seem prudent to discover just how much of it ends up on American dinner tables and in American children’s lunches.