By Karen Howard, CEO and Executive Director of Organic & Natural Health Association @OrgNatHealth
In 2017, the Organic & Natural Health Association initiated a 3-year testing program to determine if glyphosate residue is threatening the dietary supplement supply chain. Our overarching objective is to support our members who seek to source, manufacture and market the best, cleanest, and most effective products possible for the consumers we serve. We believe careful and continual evaluation of the supply chain for contaminants, including glyphosate, through high-quality testing enables us to identify — and correct — potential problems.
We know that organic crops are not being treated with glyphosate, but wonder if drift is contaminating those fields. We are concerned that using glyphosate to desiccate certain crops means glyphosate can creep into the supply chain. And, we find no comfort in the words “no detectable amount” without a definition of the phrase.
So, what does “no detectable amount” mean? The EPA has determined tolerances for glyphosate on corn, soybean, oil seeds, grains, and some fruits and vegetables, ranges from 100 to 310,000 parts per billion (ppb). The FDA tested for glyphosate and glufosinate residue levels, for the first time, in 760 samples of grain corn, soybean, milk, and eggs. It concluded there was no residue level in milk or eggs, and non-violative levels of glyphosate in 63.1 percent of corn, and 67 percent of soybean samples. For the FDA, no detectable level is below 10 ppb, as defined in its recent Pesticide Residue Monitoring Report issued this month.
Our laboratory partner for testing, HRI Labs, can detect levels below 1 ppb. Does it matter? Perhaps. A recent peer-reviewed study revealed that lab rats with glyphosate levels of ³0.1 ppb showed signs of fatty liver disease.
Concerns relating to the health impact of glyphosate are on the rise. Glyphosate recently made national headlines when a court ordered Bayer, which now owns Monsanto, to pay DeWayne Johnson, a former school caretaker, $289 million in damages, asserting Roundup caused his cancer.
The data show that exposure to glyphosate is on the rise.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) tracked people over the age of 50 in southern California from 1993-1996 to 2014-2016. The number of people exposed, and their exposure levels, increased dramatically during the study period.
HRI Labs is doing its own research, using urine from individuals who enroll in their study. To date, 86 percent of study participants had detectable levels averaging 0.52 ppb for men and 0.45 ppb for women. Those who eat organic 75-100 percent of the time had lower levels than those who eat the least amount of organic food, averaging 0.40 ppb vs. 0.71 ppb, respectively. Those who regularly consume non-organic legumes also have higher levels (0.89-0.91 ppb) as compared to those who do not eat legumes at all (0.38 ppb). Interesting to note, Roundup users do not have higher levels (0.48 ppb) than non-Roundup levels (0.49 ppb).
Humans are exposed to glyphosate through the water we drink, foods we eat, and the air we breathe.
It should be no surprise that a recent pilot study conducted by HRI shows pets have levels 40 times higher than us. HRI chief scientist, Dr. John Fagan, stated “Recent biomedical research suggests harm to health at these levels, and even lower.” It appears no creature on earth may be able to completely avoid exposure, including bees.
The University of Texas at Austin recently published a study titled, “Glyphosate Perturbs the Gut Microbiota of Honey Bees.” The researchers write, “Bees rely on a specialized gut microbiota that benefits growth and provides defense against pathogens. Exposing bees to glyphosate alters the bee gut community and increases susceptibility to infection by opportunistic pathogens.” Monsanto owner Bayer AG strongly contests the study’s conclusions, stating it was “questionable whether the concentrations of the substance tested could at all be absorbed by bee populations in the open over a relevant period of time.”
So, what are we to do? The Environmental Working Group has published its analysis of oat-based foods showing, on average, oat-based cereals exceed 400 ppb, reinforcing the benefits of choosing organic for your family. Knowing your level, a phrase I typically reserve for nutrient levels, is now quite easy. You can purchase a water test, or a urine test for your golfers, gardeners, and Dutch the dog, and be a part of the study on HRI Labs’ website.
In the meantime, the member companies of O&N will continue to test the supply chain and work diligently to remove glyphosate from their products. Thus far, the results are trending well. Our testing of organic ingredients and products is showing results almost exclusively below the most rigorous limit of detection of 1 ppb, confirming that efforts to minimize glyphosate are working well. And we are not stopping with glyphosate.
Plans are underway to evaluate the risk of phthalates, hormones, and antibiotics showing up on the shelves in your foods and supplements. Each step of the way, the promise of “organic,” quality grassfed, regenerative and biodynamic, will get closer to products derived from nutrient rich soils free from glyphosate.
Karen Howard, CEO and Executive Director of Organic & Natural Health Association is a visionary and results-focused leader who has spent more than 30 years working with Congress, state legislatures and healthcare organizations to develop innovative healthcare policy and programs. She has held a variety of executive positions, including serving as professional staff for a Congressional committee, and has policy expertise in the diverse areas of integrative and complementary medicine, managed care, healthcare technology and mental health. An advocate at heart, she has worked to strategically advance the mission and vision of organizations through effective advocacy and strong collaboration. Prior to Organic & Natural Health, Howard served as executive director for both the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Schools. During her nearly 10-year tenure at AANP, she built a sustainable infrastructure, significantly improved financial performance, established a strong federal presence and supported multiple state association advocacy efforts for licensure. Also during this time, the naturopathic medicine profession established itself as a key component of comprehensive healthcare for the future. www.organicandnatural.org