Iowa honey found to contain high levels of pesticide residue


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Iowa’s honey was found to contain up to ten times the amount of Glyphosate than is allowed by the European Union. (Keith McDuffee/Flickr)
Jenna Ladd | November 3, 2016

Residue from a commonly used Monsanto pesticide have been found in Iowa’s honey.

Glyphosate, a key ingredient in Roundup, was classified as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015. Following that declaration, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chemist Narong Chamkasem and University of Iowa chemist John Vargo began testing for residue in Iowa’s honey. Their research found Glyphosate levels in honey as high as 653 parts per billion (ppb), which is ten times the level of Glyphosate residue limit of 50 ppb in the European Union. Most of Iowa’s honey had between 23 ppb and 123 ppb of residue, whereas previous testing only found a maximum of 107 ppb Glyphosate in honey. The report stated, “According to recent reports, there has been a dramatic increase in the usage of these herbicides, which are of risk to both human health and the environment.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not yet established a tolerance for the weed killer in honey. In a statement, EPA said, “EPA is evaluating the necessity of establishing tolerances for inadvertent residues of pesticides in honey. EPA has examined the glyphosate residue levels found in honey and has determined that glyphosate residues at those levels do not raise a concern for consumers.”

The Organic Consumers Association and Beyond Pesticides filed a lawsuit against one of Iowa’s top honey producers, Sioux Honey Association Cooperative for the prevalence of Glyphosate in their products. The honey, called Sue Bee Honey is labeled as “pure,” “100% natural,” and “All natural.” Prosecutors contend that such language is false advertising given the amount of pesticide residue found in Sue Bee Honey during the FDA’s study.

Darren Cox, president of the American Honey Association, said, “It’s a chemical intrusion, a chemical trespass into our product.” He added, “We have really no way of controlling it. I don’t see an area for us to put our bees. We can’t put them in the middle of the desert. They need to be able to forage in ag areas. There are no ag areas free of this product.”

Jay Feldman is Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides and a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Sioux Honey Association Cooperative. He said, “Until U.S. regulatory agencies prohibit Monsanto and other manufacturers of glyphosate from selling pesticides that end up in the food supply, we need to protect consumers by demanding truth and transparency in labeling.”

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