UPDATE: Environmental Protection Agency May Begin Testing Food For Glyphosate Residue

Following a recent study which found the popular herbicide Glyphosate  ‘probably’ causes cancer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stated they may begin testing food for residue of the product.

On Friday the EPA released a statement to Reuters discussing the possible changes.

“Given increased public interest in glyphosate, EPA may recommend sampling for glyphosate in the future.”

The move comes after a study in March by the World Health Organization‘s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The IARC published a report in The Lancet Oncology detailing evaluations of organophosphate pesticides and herbicides. The report concluded that there was “limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.” The evidence for this conclusion was pulled from studies of exposure to the chemical in the US, Canada and Sweden published since 2001.

The researchers found “convincing evidence that glyphosate can also cause cancer in laboratory animals.” The report points out that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) had originally classified glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic to humans in 1985. The IARC Working Group evaluated the original EPA findings and more recent reports before concluding “there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.” Despite the WHO’s findings, the EPA approved Monsanto’s use of glyphosate as recently as 2013.

Glyphosate is not only the most widely-used herbicide, it is a key ingredient in Bio-Tech giant Monsanto’s popular RoundUp products. Reuters reports that Philip Miller, Monsanto’s vice-president of global regulatory affairs, was unsure “how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe.” The corporation says scientific data does not match the claims and called for an emergency meeting between Monsanto and WHO officials.

However, WHO scientists say they stand behind their assessment. Aaron Blair, a scientist emeritus at the National Cancer Institute and lead author of the study, told Reuters“There was sufficient evidence in animals, limited evidence in humans and strong supporting evidence showing DNA mutations and damaged chromosomes.”

The battle around glyphosate is also closely linked to the debate around Genetically Engineered or Modified foods. The herbicide is typically used on GM crops such as corn and soybeans that have been specifically modified to survive the harmful effects of the herbicide. Corporations like Monsanto are heavily invested in the success of the chemical. The herbicide has been found in food, water, and in the air in areas where it has been sprayed.

Currently, the EPA tests thousands of food for pesticide residues, but does not test for glyphosate. This is because the EPA, and the European Union, believe glyphosate to be safe. The agency also told Reuters that the decision to test depends on the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Pesticide Data Program. However, Peter Wood, spokesman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told Reuters that the “EPA makes the determination which commodities and pesticides are tested.” Until the WHO study, the EPA was unwilling to believe glyphosate might be harmful and previously said the chemical did not pose a risk to human health.

What are your thoughts? Is the fear of glyphosate and Monsanto legitimate? Is it unnecessary?