A recent study has found that the herbicide glyphosate, sold under the trade name Roundup (and others), is present in alarming levels in breast milk of American females. The study found that samples of mother’s milk from women in the United States contained levels of the weed-killer that were 760 to 1,600 time greater than the amount of pesticides allowed by the European Water Directive. Those levels are still less than the 700 ug/l maximum contaminant level (MCL) that the Environmental Protection Agency has decided is safe.
The findings are sure to be controversial. The EPA contamination level was decided on the much-challenged assumption that glyphosate was excreted and did not accumulate in the human body. Those non-accumulation findings were based on studies sponsored by, among others, Monsanto, the maker of Roundup.
The breast milk results are sure to be challenged on the basis of who commissioned the studies. The samples were tested by Microbe Inotech Labs of St. Louis at the request of Moms Across America, an organization whose goal is “to raise awareness and support Moms with solutions to eat GMO Free as we demand GMO labeling locally and nationally simultaneously.” Glyphosate, in the form of Roundup, is the herbicide used in conjunction with most genetically engineered crops. Those crops have been bred to be resistant to Roundup even as it kills other broadleaf plants. It is also sold for use on lawns and family gardens.
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The study also found that urine from American mothers contained levels of glyphosate ten times higher than urine from European women.
The study was supported and reported on by Sustainable Pulse, an online advocacy group and news service that follows GMO and sustainable agriculture issues.
The study as reported at the Mom’s web site, contained this confounding warning from Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
“It is certainly disheartening to know that glyphosate is present in breast milk, but lest you think this means you should not nurse your baby, please be aware that soy-based formula probably also contains glyphosate, possibly in even higher concentrations. The US government has conducted very few studies measuring the amount of glyphosate residue in food, but a report issued by the Department of Agriculture in 2011 showed that over 90% of 300 samples of soy contained glyphosate, and nearly 96% contained AMPA, a derivative of glyphosate.
Studies have suggested that glyphosate is linked to cancers, endocrine disruption, DNA damage, leukemia, birth defects, and neurological problems such as Parkinson’s disease. It is also widely believed that Roundup is a threat to the very farm lands on which our food is grown. Inert ingredients in Roundup also pose problems. Scientific American reported in 2009 that the polyethoxylated tallowamine carried by Roundup can “kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.”
According to Sustainable Pulse, Monsanto’s sales of Roundup jumped 73 percent to $371 million in 2013. Glyphosate pesticides, sprayed on GMO soy, corn, canola, cotton, and others, are the most widely used pesticides in the world.
Roundup’s effectiveness has recently been questioned as weeds develop resistance to the product.
No doubt, there will be efforts to dismiss and smear the study. In December, the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology retracted its report of a French study that found that groups of lab rats fed a lifetime diet of either Monsanto’s NK603 corn treated with Roundup or exposed to varying levels of Roundup herbicide in drinking water died earlier and had higher rates of tumors and organ damage than control after heavy industry criticism regarding details of the study’s methods. No doubt the Mom’s funded study will also be attacked.
But the Mom’s study, together with all the evidence accumulating against Roundup, is a cry for action. We must demand studies independent of Monsanto and other corporate interests be immediately undertaken. This includes testing baby formula for traces of the chemical. Until then, the EPA should climb out of Monsanto and big agriculture’s pocket and put in a ban, as the Organic Consumers Association demands, so that all possibility of danger to our health, our air, and our water is removed.
Am I dreaming? Maybe. But it’s about time we find out just who’s in charge of the government that’s sworn to protect us. Wealthy business interests? Or the people? The health of our children demands it.
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