In August the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its findings of glyphosate contamination found in popular oat-based foods. EWG found that out of 61 conventional and organic food products tested, 48 were contaminated with the potentially carcinogenic herbicide glyphosate. Furthermore, 43 out of 45 conventional food products were contaminated with 31 of them above the EWG 160 parts per billion safe limit. Most major corporate media outlets happily ran with the EWG findings which constituted a move away from typical censorship, or just plain ignoring, of such reports. Perhaps the extended media coverage the EWG findings enjoyed was due to the recent, still buzzing $289M lawsuit loss delivered to Bayer AG-Monsanto in San Francisco due to cancer caused by the company’s Roundup herbicide product. ​

To be fair, other reports over the last few years have alerted the public to widespread glyphosate contamination of our food supply but were met with subdued media coverage. Huffington Post covered the limited data compiled in 2016 by a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chemist and presented at a meeting in Florida showing residues of glyphosate in popular oat-based products. The FDA’s testing program was later suspended and the chemist was pulled from further agency glyphosate testing.

Documents from 2015 and 2016 obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request showed all honey products tested in an FDA-conducted examination contained glyphosate residues. Also in 2016, Food Democracy Now and the Detox Project released their findings of popular American food products and their levels of glyphosate contamination while calling for corporate and regulatory action. The Center for Environmental Health’s independent testing also found glyphosate contamination in all tested samples of conventional American cereal products.

With the big legal win against glyphosate recently in San Francisco, and an estimated 8,700 more legal actions lined up according to Bayer AG, another legal approach is rooting. One day after EWG’s findings were released, a Florida class-action lawsuit was filed against General Mills Inc. The plaintiff claims she wouldn’t have purchased both Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios, products of General Mills, had she known that the cereals contained glyphosate. The suit alleges General Mills knew or should have known that glyphosate could cause cancer. Additionally, the Cheerios class-action lawsuit claims that General Mills actively tried to cover-up the presence of the chemical herbicide from consumers and engaged in deceptive business practices by not alerting the public to the possible danger posed by the cereal.

Recently another lawsuit was filed in San Francisco against food manufacturer Bob’s Red Mill. Like the General Mills lawsuit, this new legal action alleges Bob’s Red Mill knew its oat products contained or likely contained glyphosate, but didn’t disclose it on the label. “Consumers have a reasonable expectation that material product information, such as the presence of a probable carcinogen like glyphosate, will be provided by a product manufacturer, especially when the manufacturer affirmatively identifies the health-related attributes of its products such as “Gluten Free”, “Whole Grain”, and “Friend of the Heart,” the complaint states, adding that the labeling amounts to “misleading half-truths.”

Sustainable Pulse reported:

“This wave of class actions against food companies has caused many food brands to start seeking The Detox Project’s Glyphosate Free certification, according to their Director, Henry Rowlands;  “The Detox Project has received a massive rise in enquiries from food brands regarding Glyphosate Residue Free certification, ranging from baby food to honey to supplement brands. So far we have 15 brands from around the world fully certified but over 50 brands have been in touch during the last week.

Are we witnessing a grassroots, consumer-led movement that is reshaping the food industry where government and regulatory oversight has failed?

Recently HighWire host Del Bigtree interviewed author and investigative journalist Carey Gillam. Gillam has been investigating these issues since 1998 when Reuters first assigned her to start covering food, agriculture and the big business of GMO seeds and the chemicals used with them. Having tracked the research and data that plays into both human health and environmental impact, as well as investigating the FDA and USDA, Gillam states:

What I found so frustrating over the years is, while they [regulatory agencies] would test for hundreds of different insecticides and fungicides and herbicides, they never would test for glyphosate…the most widely used agrochemical in the world – the most widely used herbicide in history.”

We are at a crossroads from the sustained saturation of toxic, inadequately tested agrochemical products in our everyday life. Unlike the generational toll on human health from Big Tobacco and asbestos corporations of times past, the toxic reach of agrochemical companies is becoming inescapable. As Gillam says, “It’s in our food, it’s in our bodies and we are told by the companies and the regulators that they work very closely with that we shouldn’t worry about this. But our independent scientists are telling us we need to worry about this and we need to be engaged and informed.

Industry and regulatory bodies stand by the fact that these levels found in our food are only trace amounts and pose no threat to human health. However, as host Bigtree rationalized in the recent interview, “This is literally three meals a day. A trace amount only remains trace if you only came in contact with it once.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry should serve as a forbidding warning as the public expands its awareness around widespread agrochemical toxicity. The researchers tested to see whether elevated maternal levels of persistent environmental pollutants are associated with autism among offspring. The study looked at DDE, a metabolite of the insecticide DDT that was banned in the 1970s. The study found that mothers with the highest levels of DDE in their blood had more than doubled the odds of having children that developed autism and intellectual disability. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most of the population had detectable blood serum levels of DDE.

In closing, here are the university press release statements from the study’s lead author Alan Brown, M.D. of Columbia University Medical Center:

We think of these chemicals in the past tense, relegated to a long-gone era of dangerous 20th Century toxins. Unfortunately, they are still present in the environment and are in our blood and tissues. In pregnant women, they are passed along to the developing fetus.

How will we look back at glyphosate and its impact on our health and environment in the coming decades?

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