CFIA glyphosate testing shows Canada’s food is safe

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s tests on glyphosate residues in food show what those who follow the science had expected — Canada’s food is well protected.

Said Aline Dimitri, the CFIA’s deputy chief food safety officer and executive director, “…what this (report) is saying to us is that the Canadian food system is safe.”

But given that glyphosate is now the subject of intense debate — indeed, it can be argued that politics, especially in the European Union, now overshadow the science on glyphosate — it’s essential that reports such as the CFIA’s withstand the microscope of criticism.

In that sense, there are issues.

The CFIA did the responsible thing. It initiated tests on glyphosate residue in food in 2015 after the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Heath Organization that co-ordinates research on cancer, classified glyphosate as a “probably carcinogenic to humans.” (It did so emphasizing the laboratory-based “hazard” approach rather than the risk-based approach that considers real-world exposures.)

Because many other scientific agencies did not agree with this conclusion, the debate over glyphosate has simmered. Indeed, a 2016 report issued by the WHO in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organization concluded that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.”

The science hasn’t changed through numerous studies. Typical lifetime consumption of caffeine is likely to have more toxic effects than expected lifetime exposures to glyphosate through diet.

And considering that the maximum residue limits in Canada are usually set at least 100 times below what can reasonably be expected to have any effect, the CFIA glyphosate report joins the long list of studies that consider it safe for use as directed.

The agency tested 3,188 samples — as it turns out, with an emphasis on imported foods — and found that glyphosate exceeded the MRLs in only 1.3 percent of those samples. Many of those exceedances were in grain. Buckwheat, quinoa, millet, rye, amaranth, barley, rice, spelt, kamut and teff were tested.

However, a glaring omission from grain testing was wheat, oats and corn, all of which are commonly subject to glypho-sate use before harvest.

About 30 million acres of wheat, oats and corn are grown in Canada each year. We now know that testing on flour, oats and corn will be conducted next with results expected in 2018.

Still, given that these crops are ubiquitous in Canadians’ diet, especially as ingredients — as opposed to kamut and teff — their omission in this round of testing is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser.

There is also the issue that science is getting better at detecting infinitesimally small glyphosate residues, which can now be identified in parts per billion, a measurement of no significance. It’s more prudent to focus on the MRLs, explaining that some ingredients tested used a “default” MRL of .1 part per million, which itself is 50 times lower than the actual MRL for wheat and 200 times lower than the MRL for soybeans. Detection of residue in these default MRLs is inconsequential.

The context of this report is vital. The CFIA is trusted by Canadians, so officials should provide as much information, in full context, up front.

And farmers should heed the advice of Sask Wheat Chair Bill Gehl, who advised they “tweak” their practices to ensure proper application of glyphosate, especially ensuring that moisture levels are appropriate.

Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen, Brian MacLeod, D’Arce McMillan and Michael Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.

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Comments

  • Harold

    If the CFIA were advocating for me, I wonder what levels of Glyphosate in the food would be acceptable; zero? I wonder who rules the roost? The CFIA clearly are not working for me or any other Canadian. The CFIA should be transfered to Monsanto’s Board Room and the taxpayers wouldn’t have to foot the bill for those who don’t work for us anyways. Another benefit of moving the CFIA into the appropriate office is at least when we hear “damage control” propaganda taxpayers didn’t have to finance that too.

  • KenPetkau

    Of course the Luddites will not believe the CFIA research as it does not fit their agenda.

    • Harold

      Who are the “Luddites”; Canadians? Is the CFIA part of the military arm and Canadians mere defiant protesters? If the CFIA were to vanish; what are we; Dead? All knowledge would vanish? All science would close their doors? Is the CFIA the open door into all science and without them there is none? There are more sources into science than the talking heads of the CFIA. In adventure, how does the Board Room of the CFIA compare to the education of 35 million Canadians; 1 to 3 million?
      Canadians have tried faith and hope only to be slapped hard but now growing numbers are looking for facts.
      The CFIA is a rubber stamp. The agenda is to keep Glyphosate in the market place. There is no other agenda. Glyphosate proven unsafe removes the agenda. Creating an agenda to remove an agenda is a foolish thought.

    • Rob Bright

      The CFIA is nothing more than another regulator captured by industry. Anyone naive enough to believe the CFIA is a legitimate, evidence-based organisation is the true Luddite. (An uncritical belief in the “modern” alphabet regulators qualifies as just another antiscience, faith-based, naivete.)

  • RobertWager

    The latest re-evaluation of glyphosate that supports it safe use
    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_decisions/rvd2017-01/index-eng.php

    • StopGMO

      Health Canada has been bought and is as corrupt as the FDA is. No difference.

    • E. Sandwich

      A recent peer reviewed study published on the Nature website shows that Roundup causes fatty liver disease at concentrations over 430,000 times lower than what is allowed in the food supply.

      Glyphosate is a potent endocrine disruptor that has no safe dose. It causes DNA breaks and irreversible cellular death. It mimics glycine in the body. It causes rapid aging, multiple diseases, and early death.

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