United States government scientists have detected a pesticide linked to cancer in a variety of commonly consumed foods.
Glyphosate is an active ingredient in hundreds of widely used herbicide products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the US has been testing food samples for residues of glyphosate for two years but has yet to release any official results. The Guardian has obtained internal documents through a freedom of information request, which show that the FDA has had trouble finding any food that does not carry traces of the pesticide.
“I have brought wheat crackers, granola cereal and corn meal from home and there’s a fair amount in all of them,” FDA chemist Richard Thompson based in Arkansas wrote to colleagues in an email last year regarding glyphosate. Thompson found that broccoli was the only food he had “on hand” that was glyphosate-free.
The pesticide is sprayed directly over some crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat and oats in the US. Many farmers also use it on fields before the growing season, including spinach growers and almond producers.
Separately, FDA chemist Narong Chamkasem found “over-the-tolerance” levels of glyphosate in corn, detected at 6.5 parts per million (ppm), an FDA email states. The legal limit is 5ppm.
FDA documents show that Chamkasem found glyphosate in numerous samples of honey as well as oatmeal products.
Regulators and agrochemical industry interests say pesticide residues in food are not harmful if they are under legal limits. However, many scientists dispute that, saying that prolonged dietary exposure to combinations of pesticides can be harmful.
The FDA’s official findings should be released later this year or early in 2019 as part of its 2016 annual residue report.