Americans are more likely than Europeans to be exposed to Monsanto’s glyphosate weed killer. That’s in large part because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s calculations to determine allowable levels of glyphosate use are much more lax than the European Union’s.
And American growers spray a lot of glyphosate.
According to a new paper in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe, Americans have sprayed more than 2.4 billion pounds of glyphosate in the past decade.
As Dr. Charles Benbrook points out in his paper, Monsanto’s genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops made it possible for growers to spray glyphosate more often – and almost up to harvest time. That leaves more of the weed killer’s residues on the crops.
Moreover, ever since genetically engineered crops came on the market and drove up the use of Roundup, the EPA has been ratcheting up the allowable levels of glyphosate residue for certain crops.
According to Benbrook, “[t]o cover such residues, Monsanto and other glyphosate registrants have requested, and generally been granted, substantial increases in glyphosate tolerance levels in several crops, as well as in the animal forages derived from such crops.”
For instance, between 1999 and 2015 the EPA approved a doubling of tolerable residues on soybean grain and a 49-fold increase on corn grain. And shockingly, since 1993 the agency has approved a 2,000-fold increase in the tolerance level of glyphosate residues on alfalfa grown for animal feed. The agency has also increased the allowable level of glyphosate for wheat – up 5-fold between 2012 and 2015 – running the risk of glyphosate ending up in flour. Testing has also turned up glyphosate in samples of honey, soy sauce, infant formula and even breast milk.
Scientists now know that glyphosate is more toxic than it was thought to be when it was introduced back in the 1990s. Last year, cancer experts convened by the World Health Organization determined that it’s a probable carcinogen. Additionally, Benbrook highlights studies in his paper that suggest glyphosate may be damaging to the kidneys, liver and the body’s metabolic processes.
Americans deserve better than to have huge amounts of toxic herbicides sprayed on farmland, running off into waterways and ending up in food. Instead of subsidizing growers to continue business as usual, Congress should help farmers break this chemical addiction.