Pesticides in US Food threaten Everyone

(May 19, 2020) – Last fall, the FDA published its latest annual analysis of pesticide residues that contaminate the fruits, vegetables, and other foods we routinely eat. In a sane world interested in mental, physical, and spiritual health, the data would alarm thinking people and demand the immediate attention of government pesticide regulators like FDA and EPA. The data would contribute to scientific debate over how pesticide residues in food may cause,  or contribute to, human illness, disease, and reproductive problems.

The FDA’s “Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program” report contains 55 pages of data, charts, and graphs. It gives us all insight into how severely North American farmers chemically contaminate our food crops with toxic insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides (pesticides).

Pesticides Pesticides Everywhere

The “Program” found pesticide traces in 84 percent of domestic fruit samples, 53 percent of vegetables, 42 percent of grains, and also in 73 percent of food samples it simply listed as “other.” FDA drew the samples from farming areas in California, Texas, Kansas, New York, and Wisconsin.

99% Strawberries Pesticide Contaminated

Fully 99% of strawberries were found to be contaminated with pesticide residues, along with roughly 94 percent of grapes, grape juice and raisins, 88 percent of apples and apple juice, and 33 percent of rice products.

Imported Fruits, Vegetables less Contaminated

Imported fruits and vegetables showed less pesticide contamination. Some 52 percent of fruits and 46 percent of vegetables from outside the U.S. tested positive for pesticides. The imported samples came from more than 40 countries that included Mexico, China, India, and Canada.

Among the hundreds of different pesticides FDA found in our food were traces of the long-banned insecticide DDT. Much of the food was also found to be tainted with chlorpyrifos, 2,4-D, and Monsanto’s carcinogenic glyphosate.  DDT was banned years ago after it was linked to breast cancer, infertility and miscarriages. Chlorpyrifos, meanwhile, has been scientifically shown to cause neurodevelopmental problems in young children, including mental retardation.

Chlorpyrifos is, in point of fact, so dangerous that the European Food Safety Authority has recommended a ban of the chemical in Europe. It found that there is no safe exposure level. Chlorpyrifos was banned in the U.S. for home use in 2000, and the EPA’s own scientists have called for its ban in farming, also, but Trump EPA officials have opted to overturn a planned ban that Obama had put in place, keeping the poison on the market. The herbicides 2,4-D and glyphosate have both been linked for a long while to cancers and other health problems.

Thailand plans to ban Glyphosate, Chlorpyrifos

Thailand recently said it was banning glyphosate and chlorpyrifos because sound science has established that these pesticides are not worth their risks.

Business as Usual for FDA, EPA: “See no Evil.”

Despite finding pesticide in most of our food, the FDA, EPA, and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) all claim that pesticide residues in food are harmless. (Or maybe that a little poison is good for us?) Meanwhile, millions of lobbying dollars continue to pour into Washington to keep the pesticides poured onto our food. Under that onslaught of cash from the agrichemical industry and a revolving door between industry employment and government “service” jobs with FDA and EPA, the EPA has actually supported continued use of glyphosate and chlorpyrifos in food production, the latter even against the safety advice of many of its own scientists.

Cary Gillam, author of Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, writes: “The regulators echo the words of Monsanto executives and others in the chemical industry by insisting that pesticide residues pose no threat to human health as long as the levels of each type of residue falls under a ‘tolerance’ level set by the EPA.”

According to FDA’s most recent analysis, only 3.8 percent of domestic foods had residue levels that were considered illegally high, or “violative.”

“Tolerance” Levels rise with Pesticide Poisoning Levels

What the FDA failed to say is that both FDA and EPA just keep raising the “tolerance” levels for toxic “residues” when they find the pesticide levels rise each time they’re measured, which they have every year for the last several decades.

For Monsanto’s cancerous glyphosate, for one, the EPA has approved several food residue increases. EPA also routinely makes the determination that the poison need not comply with a legal requirement that states the EPA “shall apply an additional tenfold margin of safety for infants and children” in setting the legal levels for pesticide residues. The  EPA has routinely overridden that requirement in its arbitrary setting and changing of many pesticide tolerances – always happy to raise the tolerance levels to satisfy its corporate clients. To perform such miracles, the EPA simply violates its own rules and says that no such extra margin of safety is needed to protect children.

It’s a simple formula for EPA to please its corporate masters. The higher EPA sets the “tolerance” level, the lower the possibility that regulators will have to report “violative” residues.  In that fashion, our country routinely allows higher levels of pesticide residues in food than other developed nations.

Ms. Gillam explains: “For example, the legal limit for the weed killer glyphosate on an apple is 0.2 parts per million (ppm) in the United States but only half that level – 0.1 ppm – is allowed on an apple in the European Union. As well, the U.S. allows residues of glyphosate on corn at 5 ppm, while the EU allows only 1 ppm.”

And so most Americans eat a host of bug killers at every meal, raising their risk of chronic diseases or worsening the ones they already have. The cumulative effect of all this poison eating can be seen on virtually any street in America. Chronic illness and chronic obesity are the rule in our country rather than the exception, and the poisoned food is a big contributor.

Meanwhile, a team of Harvard scientists have called for in-depth research about potential links between disease and pesticide consumption. They estimate that more  than 90 percent of people in the U.S. carry pesticide residues in their urine and blood from eating pesticide-poisoned food.  A study connected to Harvard found dietary pesticide exposure within a “typical” range was associated both with problems women had getting pregnant and delivering live babies.

Other studies have found other health problems tied to dietary exposures to pesticides, including to glyphosate.  Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world and is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s branded Roundup and other weed killing products.

Pesticide Industry Push Back 

In business as usual, after the latest damning EPA report came out last fall, the pesticide industry hired three science guns (or goons) to exonerate the chemical farming industry. All of them had long-standing ties to corporations that make billions selling poison farming practices.

Issued Oct. 21, 2020, the “”science” report stated “[T]here is no direct scientific or medical evidence indicating that typical exposure of consumers to pesticide residues poses any health risk. Pesticide residue data and exposure estimates typically demonstrate that food consumers are exposed to levels of pesticide residues that are several orders of magnitude below those of potential health concern.”

One of the report’s authors was Steve Savage, an agrichemical industry consultant and former DuPont employee. Another author was Carol Burns, a former Dow Chemical scientists and current consultant for the DowDuPont spinoff Cortevia Agriscience. The third author was Carl Winter, Chair of the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California at Davis. Ms. Gillam reports that UC-Davis has received some $2 million a year from the agrichemical industry, according to a university researcher, though Ms. Gillam did say the accuracy of that figure has not been established.

The fact is, it’s routine at this time for land grant universities to receive millions of dollars from chemical companies that then receive good press from those university employees for their “generous” donations. This is no conspiracy theory; it’s an open secret, as many FOIA requests have proven.

The “science” authors took their report directly to Congress for their corporate benefactors. They held three different presentations in Washington, D.C., which they used to promote their message of pesticide safety for use in “media food safety stories, and consumer advice regarding which foods consumers should (or should not) consume.”

Ms. Gillam reports that the pro-pesticide sessions were held at the office buildings for members of Congress and, appropriately it seems, at the headquarters for CropLife America, the lobbyist for the agrichemical industry.

Not for nothing do these chemical companies “give” our representatives millions of dollars in “contributions.”