St. LOUIS, MO
Should men have urine tested for the presence of glyphosate? Or should women have breast milk tested for it?
Such testing has not gained widespread public attention, but the service is offered by Microbe Inotech Laboratories, a company in St. Louis that has been in business since 1991. The firm specializes in the testing of water and soil samples.
Testing of urine at the laboratory began just over a year ago, according to research laboratory manager Benjamin Winkler. He explained that developing a validated testing method was the major challenge in conducting a test to detect glyphosate.
That test involves an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The process includes the addition of a glyphosate-specific antibody and a color solution that allow an identification of the glyphosate concentration in the sample, the company outlined in a notice that accompanies the analysis report given to persons who submit samples for testing.
Several hundred urine samples have been tested at the laboratory, but it is not promoting the service as such, Winkler said. He added that most of the samples have been submitted as a result of efforts by a few organizations or through "word of mouth" contacts.
One of those groups is Moms Across America, which is a division of the California State Grange (a rural organization that also has a few chapters in Wisconsin). The standard cost of the test is $145, but members of MAA are charged $110.
MAA, whose motto is "Empowered Moms, Healthy Kids," has been encouraging its members and other persons to begin testing their water, urine and breast milk for traces of glyphosate, which is the active ingredient of the widely used weed control herbicide that was originally trademarked as Roundup.
To spread its message of concern, MAA participated in 172 parades across the country in 2013 and is striving to boost that number in 2014. The Wisconsin State Farmer reached MAA founder Zen Honeycutt while she was in Connecticut to coordinate plans for a parade there.
Honeycutt cited the case of her son, who had a glyphosate concentration of 8.75 parts per billion in a urine test. Six weeks later, his reading in a follow-up test was 0, she said.
What happened in the meantime was that Honeycutt stopped feeding him baked products containing wheat. She suspected that glyphosate was present in the wheat, which had been sprayed with glyphosate to kill the standing crop and thereby quicken the drying of the grain for harvesting.
When told that such a practice is not common on wheat grown in the Upper Midwest, Honeycutt quipped that maybe she should search for products made from wheat grown in Illinois. She also observed that in most cases it is difficult for bakers to know where the wheat they use was grown and what practices were involved in its production.
Honeycutt pointed out that the federal Environmental Protection Agency EPA does not have a standard for an acceptable concentration of glyphosate in urine or breast milk. "There should be none in breast milk," she said.
The EPA has a standard for glyphosate concentration in water, but critics point out that it is 7,000 times higher than the maximum enforceable level in place in Europe. One report indicated glyphosate was found in 13 of 21 water tests conducted in the United States but at levels well below those found in urine.
A report from Europe indicates glyphosate was found in urine samples obtained in 18 of its countries in 2013. In the early testing in the United States, 13 of 35 urine samples had glyphosate concentrations above the minimum detectable level for water that is used in Europe.
Literature on glyphosate indicates humans can ingest it through food, inhale it or absorb it through the skin. Honeycutt, who considers food to be the top risk and water not to be a risk, also mentioned a 10 part per billion concentration of glyphosate in the urine of a woman from Hawaii who lives adjacent to agricultural land where glyphosate is applied.
Among the concerns of MAA, a similar group calling itself Thinking Moms Revolution, Sustainable Pulse (a website) and others about the possible spillover effects of glyphosate are endocrine disruption in humans, interference with normal growth rates of children, leaky gut syndrome, food allergies, autism, reduction of sperm count and disruption of insulin production that can lead to diabetes type 1.
From April through June of 2014, numerous stories were printed and broadcast about the first detection of glyphosate in breast milk. Those findings occurred both in the United States and Australia.
Of the tests in the United States, glyphosate was found in the breast milk of 3 of the 10 women who submitted samples. They lived in Florida, Virginia and Oregon. Those concentrations were 760 to 1,600 times above the maximum acceptable concentration level set for glyphosate in water in Europe.
The feedback on the breast milk stories included debunking statements referring to scientific studies that found glyphosate is not toxic or a carcinogen; indicated that any glyphosate is rapidly excreted in urine and has not been shown to accumulate in breast milk; and questioned the testing methods and study parameters.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement indicating the detection of glyphosate in urine or blood does not necessarily mean that its presence will cause disease or other bad effects.
Media interplay in the wake of the breast milk stories pointed out that Roundup, manufactured by Monsanto, was subjected to and passed numerous tests for safety before it entered the commercial market. Roundup was developed in 1974 and quickly became a very popular herbicide for weed control in agriculture and on much residential and commercial property.
Overwhelming percentages of the major crops grown in the United States in 2014, including 94 percent of the soybeans, 89 percent of the corn and 91 percent of the cotton, have genetically modified organism traits that allow them to tolerate the application of a herbicide. Glyphosate continues to be the leading active ingredient in those herbicides.
For its part, MAA asks that everyone who obtains a test for glyphosate, regardless of the result, post the number in the "Action" tab on the organization's website at www.momsacrossamerica.org. Honeycutt can be reached by phone at 949-307-6695 or by email to email@example.com. Thinking Moms Revolution, a group that is mainly concerned with autism, also has a website.
The phone number for the Microbe Inotech Laboratories is 800-688-9144. Ben Winkler can be reached at ext. 104 there.
Another person keenly interested in this topic is independent agronomy consultant Dieter Harle, who is based in Bettendorf, IA, and has a number of clients in Wisconsin. His urine test that was processed at Microbe on May 22 registered at 8.4 parts per billion of glyphosate.
Harle's viewpoint is that farmers should be undertaking practices other than the application of herbicides for weed control in their crops. He also challenges the growing of GMO crops as such. Harle invites discussion of those and related topics via a phone call to 563-940-1440 or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.