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Spurred by growing concerns about the safety of a popular and widely used pesticide ingredient in Roundup weed killer, top U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials held a special meeting yesterday to discuss the chemical.
EPA officials heard from a group of scientists, environmentalists, concerned mothers and other consumers on the potential side effects Roundup may have on humans and whether restrictions should be placed on use of the main chemical ingredient.
Roundup weed killer is the world’s most popular herbicide. It was developed by Monsanto Corporation in the 1970s. It is used widely in commercial agriculture and home lawns and gardens.
Tuesday’s meeting was preceded by a five-day phone crusade, with members of the the national advocacy group “Moms Across America” bombarding EPA offices with phone calls demanding the agency recall Roundup from the market.
Moms Across America call the chemical a “poison in our food,” and cite studies that indicate that it may harm mammals. Recently, the group revealed the results of an internal study that found high levels of glyphosate in the breast milk of 3 out of 10 women tested.
The group said the results indicate the chemical builds up in our bodies over time. The levels found were 1,600 times higher than those indicated as safe by the European Drinking Water directive.
Moms Across America says the study was not meant to be a full scientific study, but instead inspire researchers and government agencies to launch full peer reviewed studies.
According to the EPA, the results of more than 100 studies show no reason to restrict the chemical. Monsanto has also maintained that the chemical has a track record of being proven safe and effective.
Neil Anderson, chief of the risk management and implementation branch at the EPA Pesticide Re-evaluation Division said some studies showed potential risks, but the EPA did not view them as valid studies.
Environmentalists and plant scientists from several countries say heavy use of glyphosate may potentially cause problems for people, plants and animals. Moms Across America said the chemical is linked to many illnesses and diseases, including mental illness, diabetes, obesity, asthma, allergies, autism and auto immune disease.
According to reports published on the group’s website, the chemical breaks down the blood brain barrier, allowing toxins to enter the brain. The reports also claim it impairs the liver’s ability to remove toxins from the body.
In 2011 U.S. government scientists said they detected significant levels of glyphosate in air and water samples across the country.
Roundup Used Heavily on GMO Crops
Use of glyphosate increased dramatically in the mid 1990s, after Monsanto began using genetically engineered crops that can withstand direct treatment by Roundup. This allowed farmers to kill weeds without harming crops, at the same time exposing a multitude of the nations crops to the chemical.
Crops affected include the majority of corn and soybean crops, along with sugar, beets and canola crops.
Last year, the EPA agreed to raise the permitted tolerance levels of glyphosate residue in food. The agency said studies showed no risk of cancer.
Amid the recent pushback from advocacy groups, the EPA plans to determine if glyphosate should continue to be used, limited or halted by 2015. They also plan to have the preliminary risk assessment completed by the end of this year.
Last year, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology appeared to confirm what Mom’s Across America and many other advocacy groups have long suspected. The findings of their study suggested that Roundup weed killer was linked to a heightened risk of Parkinson’s disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and autism. The study specifically linked the effects of glyphosate to a toxic reaction in humans which may cause serious health injuries.
Researchers said the chemical enhances the harmful effects of other food borne chemical toxins and residues by inhibiting key amino acids disrupting the internal balance of the body.
Other studies have shown levels of glyphosate are much higher in the U.S. than in other countries and primarily attribute that to genetically engineered crops resistant to Roundup.