The Environmental Working Group and other food companies sent a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency this week, calling for more stringent limits on the amount of glyphosate residues allowed on oats and a prohibition on the pesticide’s use as a pre-harvest drying agent.
In the petition, the group is asking the EPA to set a protective limit on glyphosate residues of 0.1 parts per million. Currently, the legal limit set by the EPA is 30 parts per million.
The advocacy group was joined in the petition by food companies such as MegaFood, Ben & Jerry’s, Stonyfield Farm, MOM’s Organic Market, Nature’s Path, One Degree Organic Foods, National Co+op Grocers and Happy Family Organics, according to the petition.
“No parent should worry whether feeding their children healthy oat-based foods will also expose them to a chemical linked to cancer,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s SVP for government affairs. “Using glyphosate as a desiccant is not necessary, but only a convenience for growers. That’s not worth taking a chance with our children’s health.”
Glyphosate is a herbicide commonly found in the weed-killing product Roundup. The EWP said glyphosate is mostly used as a weedkiller on genetically modified corn and soybeans, but is increasingly being sprayed on oats just before harvest as a drying agent, or desiccant.
According to a 2015 report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, it classified the herbicide glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Following the report, Monsanto, the agriculture company that developed Roundup, disagreed with the findings and said in a statement that glyphosate has a more than 40-year history of safe use.
A study in August commissioned by the EWP examined the levels of glyphosate found in popular oat-based food such as cereal and granola.
It found glyphosate in all but two of 45 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats. Of that, approximately three-fourths of those samples had glyphosate levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health with an adequate margin of safety, according to the study. About one-third of 16 samples made with organically grown oats also had glyphosate, all at levels below EWG’s health benchmark.
Shazi Visram, founder of Happy Family Brands, one of the companies to sign the petition, said a new glyphosate standard should be set to match its uses and impacts today.
“As a mom of two young children and as a maker of organic baby food, I urge the EPA to protect us appropriately from this chemical glyphosate that may have serious consequences to our health and more importantly, the lifelong health of our children,” she said. “Progress must always be made to ensure their safety and well-being. To me that means we are always strengthening our standards. So first and foremost we should maintain the standard that was 300 times stronger over 20 years ago.”
Matthew McCarthy, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, also called on the EPA to take steps to address the use of glyphosate.
“The citizen petition submitted to EPA today is an important step in confronting the overuse of glyphosate in our food system,” he said. “We call on EPA to quickly take the steps necessary to ensure that unwanted levels of pesticides don’t wind up the food Americans eat.”
A California groundskeeper DeWayne Johnson,46, was granted a $289 million award in August after alleging Monsanto’s glyphosate weed killers, including Roundup, caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The company is facing more than 8,000 lawsuits.