Residues of the main ingredient in Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup have been found in honey in Iowa, sparking an immediate lawsuit.
The environmental website EcoWatch reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began glyphosate residue testing in a small number of foods earlier this year after the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.
It is the first time the FDA has looked for glyphosate residues in food.
“EPA has examined the glyphosate residue levels found in honey and has determined that glyphosate residues at those levels do not raise a concern for consumers,” EPA said in a statement.
There is no legal tolerance level for glyphosate in honey in the U.S. and any amount could technically be considered a violation, according to FDA internal emails.
At least one lawsuit has been filed over the issue.
The Organic Consumers Association and its partner Beyond Pesticides filed suit against the Iowa-based Sioux Honey Association Cooperative that produces the nationally known brand Sue Bee Honey.
The lawsuit alleges that the labeling and advertising of Sue Bee Products as “Pure,” “100% Pure,” “Natural” and “All-natural” is false, misleading and deceptive when in fact those products test positive for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.
“As organic farmers have been alleging for years, glyphosate doesn’t just land where it’s sprayed, end of story,” the association says. “It drifts – into places where it’s not wanted. Including maybe, nearby properties owned by beekeepers?
“We sympathize with the beekeepers. We also encourage them to join with consumers in pressuring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get busy and ban this chemical.
The EPA, which is required to review every pesticide once every 15 years, promised a decision on glyphosate by the end of July 2015, only to later push the deadline to end of 2015.
“Now, here we are near the end of 2016, and the EPA, apparently more concerned about protecting Monsanto’s profits than it is about protecting human health and the environment, refuses to act.,” the association says.
EcoWatch says research by FDA chemist Narong Chamkasem and University of Iowa chemist John Vargo found glyphosate residues at 653 parts per billion (ppb), more than 10 times the limit of 50 ppb allowed in the European Union.
Other samples tested detected glyphosate residues in honey samples at levels from the low 20s ppb to more than 123 ppb. Some samples had none or only trace amounts below levels of quantification. Previous reports had disclosed glyphosate residues in honey detected as high as 107 ppb. The collaborative work was part of an effort within the FDA to establish and validate testing methodology for glyphosate residues.
“According to recent reports, there has been a dramatic increase in the usage of these herbicides, which are of risk to both human health and the environment,” Chamkasem and Vargo wrote in their laboratory bulletin.
There is no legal tolerance level for glyphosate in honey in the U.S. and any amount could technically be considered a violation, according to FDA internal emails. EcoWatch says the emails were obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.
The Environmental Protection Agency said it is evaluating the need to establish tolerances for inadvertent residues of pesticides in honey.