U.S. bill would ban pre-harvest glyphosate on oats

A member of the U.S. House of Representatives wants the federal government to ban the use of glyphosate on oats before harvest.

Late last week, representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut introduced the Keep Food Safe from Glyphosate Act. The bill would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to routinely test food for glyphosate residues. It would also prohibit spraying of glyphosate, on oats as a pre-harvest drying agent.

The language in the bill mentions the use of glyphosate on oats several times.

It says glyphosate residues on oats should not exceed 0.1 parts per million (100 parts per billion), which is 300 times lower than the current standard of 30 p.p.m.

The bill would also require a labelling change on glyphosate-based herbicides.

All labels for pesticides containing glyphosate must include the following: “Unlawful to apply this product prior to harvest of oats,” the text of the bill says.

DeLauro, a Democrat, chairs the congressional food safety caucus and is a senior Democrat on the agriculture appropriations subcommittee, which is responsible for funding the USDA.

The language in the Keep Food Safe from Glyphosate Act is similar to arguments made by the Environmental Working Group, which is well known for its annual Dirty Dozen report — a list of food with high levels of pesticide residues.

Critics say the EWG is nothing but a lobby group for the organic food industry.

“Virtually all of their press releases promote profoundly anti-scientific messages,” said Brian Dunning, a science writer and executive director of Skeptoid Media.

“They are anti-vaccine, anti-cellphone, anti-biotech, anti-sunscreen and climb aboard every pop-culture train promoting some gross exaggeration or misrepresentation of anything toxic.”

Still, the EWG is highly skilled at getting its message into the mainstream media. Last summer it released the results of a study on glyphosate residues in instant oatmeal, granola bars and other food made from oats.

Most of the samples had residues well below one p.p.m., but the New York Times and other prominent outlets ran stories based on the EWG report with headlines saying Cheerios and Quaker Oats are contaminated with glyphosate.

The EWG claims glyphosate is hazardous to human health because the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the United Nations’ World Health Organization, determined in 2015 that it is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Many scientists and government regulators, including Health Canada and the European Food Safety Authority, have condemned the IARC classification. They have publicly stated the IARC classification was based on flawed methodology and some argued that IARC scientists deliberately ignored studies showing glyphosate is safe.

Earlier this year, Health Canada reiterated its position on glyphosate.

“No pesticide regulatory authority in the world currently considers glyphosate to be a cancer risk to humans at the levels at which humans are currently exposed,” it said in January.

Nonetheless, the EWG is supporting DeLauro’s bill and the organization mentioned Canadian growers in a news release.

“In the past two decades, the Environmental Protection Agency has increased the level of glyphosate residue allowed on oats from 0.1 p.p.m. to 30 p.p.m., largely to accommodate Canadian oat farmers who use it,” the release said.

“We know farmers can harvest oats without glyphosate.… This needlessly risky practice must stop,” said Colin O’Neil, EWG’s legislative director.

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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