Test for Dangerous Pesticide Residue in Food


Target: U.S. Department of Agriculture Chief of Staff Karla Thiemans

Goal: Keep a dangerous compound and likely carcinogen out of foods people eat every day.

A key ingredient in a widely used pesticide is not being tested for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), even though studies have indicated it is potentially harmful to humans. Residues of glyphosate, an ingredient in the popular weed-killer Roundup, have been found in samples of breast milk, indicating that the chemical is accumulating in the human body via food. The U.S. Department of Interior also discovered glyphosate in air and water samples.

Some scientific studies have discovered health concerns related to glyphosate, and the World Health Organization’s cancer research unit has found enough evidence to classify the substance as a probable human carcinogen. These scientists, along with food companies, consumer groups and academics, have been calling for continued and regular testing for glyphosate residues on behalf of the public, yet the USDA has claimed that it is too costly.

Since 1991, the USDA has conducted the Pesticide Data Program, which routinely tests a range of food products – including infant formula and other baby foods – as well as drinking water, and collects residue data on hundreds of pesticides. However, glyphosate is not on the list of regularly tested substances, even though it is in one of the most widely used pesticides, sprayed on common crops such as corn, soybeans, sugar beets and canola. In some cases, it is even sprayed on wheat, even though wheat has not been genetically engineered as glyphosate-tolerant.

Consumers have a right to know what chemicals and residues they might be consuming along with their food. Demand that the USDA regularly test for glyphosate residue in food products.


Dear Ms. Thieman,

The USDA has ignored calls for regular glyphosate testing in American foodstuffs, even though evidence points to the widespread presence of residues and the potentially harmful effects. It is borderline scandalous that while the Pesticide Data Program will annually collect data on hundreds of other pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, data on glyphosate – a potentially carcinogenic material, according to the World Health Organization – is routinely left out as a cost-cutting measure.

The most recent estimates of glyphosate use in the U.S. from 2013 put the amount used at around 300 million pounds, and tests of soybeans in 2011 found that 271 samples out of 300 contained residues. However, according to your agency, this still does not mean that glyphosate testing is a high priority.

The purpose of the program is to assure consumers that what they are feeding their families is safe. How can their safety be assured when testing is not being carried out regularly? Please, begin regular testing for glyphosate in food products.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Scot Nelson

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