The most used agricultural chemical in history, and classified as a probable human carcinogen, is glyphosate, and found as an active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide. The U.S. is still in the dark about just how much of this chemical residue is found on commonly consumed foods.
They began testing a small number of foods for glyphosate earlier this year and the results are not reassuring. Honey is one of these foods that have always been considered to be pure and natural. An FDA chemist and a colleague from the University of Iowa revealed that glyphosate residues of 653 parts per billion are in some honey samples. That’s more than 10X the European limit of 50 ppb. Other samples were found to contain residues ranging from 20 ppd to 123 ppb.
This is not a crop that is sprayed with herbicide, so how is it getting into our honey? The bees, as pollinators, are traveling from plant to plant and our grasslands area increasingly converted into genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybean fields where glyphosate is amply sprayed, making it easier for them to become contaminated and then transferred to their honey. This is a chemical intrusion, trespassed into our product. Glyphosate has also been detected in blood, breast milk and urine samples and in common breakfast foods including oatmeal, bagels, coffee creamer, organic bread and even organic, cage-free antibiotic-free eggs and been tested positive for glyphosate residues.
This is only one type of pesticide that bees have to contend with. Research has reveled that pollen collected next to cornfields is contaminated with up to 32 different pesticides. The death of bees has been clearly shown by certain classes of pesticides, like neonicotinoids, but it’s clear that exposures to potent chemicals may be causing deleterious and unknown effects.
A new research assessed multiple pesticides accumulated in bee colonies and found that the mixture of chemicals, not the dose, may be the deadliest factor of all. It was published in Nature Scientific Reviews that 93 different pesticide products were found of those that were tested. This is resulting in an increased risk of colony death or loss of the queen bee. Beekeepers lost 44% of their honeybee colonies from April 2015 to April 2016 in the U.S.
Pollinators such as bees are necessary to help 80% of flowering plants to reproduce and are involved in the production of 1 out of every 3 bites of food. Scientists have added genetic material from honeybees to the National Animal Germplasm Program, a gene bank run by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, if the bees disappeared and the food supply would be threatened. A technique was developed to freeze, or cryopreserve, honeybee sperm making it possible to create an emergency supply for the repository and also to breed better bees for the field.
Reduction of pesticide use is critical for bees. The Nature Scientific Reports study noted it is essential to reduce the amount of chemical products that bees are being exposed to. Monsanto has plans to introduce GE corn seeds that will contain 14 GE traits allowing farmers to spray five different varieties of herbicide by 2025. It seems the U.S. is worsening the problem. Why can’t we follow France in limiting the use of insecticides and fungicides where it dropped by 65% during the last two decades while herbicide use decreased by 36%? Just some simple interventions could be invaluable to our U.S. bees. The introduction of ornamental flowering plants could also support bees and other beneficial insects.
Boycotting GE foods and pesticides while planting a beautiful organic and edible flower garden from untreated seeds will help! Be sure the seeds have not been pre-treated with pesticides.
–Dr Fredda Branyon