You’re a new mom. You just brought home the most precious thing you’ve ever possessed in your entire life. You want to do everything right and be the best mom for your baby. You want to give your baby the best chance at having a great start to life. That starts with breastfeeding your little bundle of joy. Despite bumps in the road, you’re dedicated to it because you recognize the benefits.
Then someone tells you that your breast milk is full of glyphoste – the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round-Up – and you’re literally feeding a herbicide to your baby.
This scare was first brought to public attention in April of 2014 when it was aired as part of an Australian television show called “Tales of the Unexpected.” A segment of the show relayed information from a “pilot study” commissioned by Moms Across America and the “news” network Sustainable Pulse, both of which are both notorious anti-GMO organizations. Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America, has since used the report to bolster her claims against glyphosate and genetically modified organisms.
According to Sustainable Pulse’s report, they tested breast milk from only 10 women to determine whether it contained glyphosate; 3 of the samples tested allegedly had “high” levels of the chemical present in their milk. The study’s main conclusion was that glyphosate accumulates in our bodies, despite what every regulatory agency in the world had indicated. As a result of that accumulation, the glyphosate was present in breast milk and passed along to the nursing child.
Even more sensational and scary, the report by Sustainable Pulse makes the claim that glyphosate is so prevalent in the environment that there is really no way to avoid it! One of the moms, whose breast milk was used as a sample, actually goes out of her way to eat only organic and non-GMO foods in an effort to avoid chemicals. Imagine that – even though she does everything she can to avoid glyphosate, she’s still accumulating it in her body and, ultimately, providing it directly through her son when feeding.
Unsurprisingly, the report requests that government agencies and scientists re-evaluate glyphosate based on these claims and, hopefully, ban it from use.
Problems with the Claim
As I’ve already alluded to, there are quite a few problems with this report that call into question its credibility and legitimacy. Fundamentally, we should remember that even Sustainable Pulse and Moms Across America admit that this was only a so-called pilot study meant to spur additional research. This was not meant as a scientific study.
Let’s be honest – if it was and they really had proof that glyphosate was accumulating in our bodies and being fed to our infants, they could have easily submitted it to the EPA, which does regular reviews of all approved chemicals and any new data and research, and it probably would have caused quite a stir. Instead, they published the report in Sustainable Pulse and now use it as part of their anti-GMO mantra.
It turns out, this report is seriously limited and really needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Academics Review points out that it lacked control groups, As reported by Dr. Amy Tuteur, an obstetrician gynecologist, no scientists were involved in the sample collection, testing, or analysis. The report was never peer reviewed or published, a sign of legitimacy in the scientific community. Furthermore, no collection or sampling data was even recorded or noted, a basic requirement for all scientific research.
There are also further problems with the report, aside from its lack of scientific credibility, that deserve being mentioned. Thankfully, Academics Review has done a nice job of looking at this report and putting it into perspective. For example, we’ve done a lot of testing on glyphosate and its impact on human beings, and this report is inconsistent with those findings. More importantly, even if true, we have to keep in mind that the presence of glyphosate does not mean that we have a serious problem:
The mere presence of glyphosate in serum, urine or mother’s milk is not a cause for alarm unless the levels are above those known to do harm. Over 4 decades of research studies and real-world use, including studies on large numbers of people who have been exposed to glyphosate, have allowed regulators to understand and set safe levels of exposure. Research has also established that the low levels of glyphosate sometimes found in bodily fluids pose no threat to health. WHO, EFSA, EPA and other regulatory agencies around the globe have concluded that trace levels of glyphosate in food should be of no more health concern than the presence of myriad potentially toxic chemicals that occur naturally in food.
I’ve previously written about tolerances, how they’re determined and what they mean here.
Whether such a report warranted a real scientific response or not, it got one.
Michelle McGuire, an associate professor at the Washington State University School of Biological Sciences, led a team of researchers that conducted a study meant to determine whether glyphosate accumulated in human breast milk, as alleged by Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse. It should be noted that McGuire does have some expertise in this area – she’s an executive committee member for the International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation, and a national spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition. You can learn more about her impressive career here.
Not surprisingly, the study conducted by Dr. McGuire demonstrates that Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse was a false flag. The conclusion: “The study detected neither glyphosate nor any glyphosate metabolites in any milk sample, even when the mother had detectable amounts of glyphosate in her urine.” As reported at Science Daily:
“The Moms Across America study flat out got it wrong,” said McGuire, who is an executive committee member for the International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation and a national spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition. “Our study provides strong evidence that glyphosate is not in human milk. The MAA findings are unverified, not consistent with published safety data and are based off an assay designed to test for glyphosate in water, not breast milk.”
The biggest difference between the report prepared showing a glyphosate-breast milk link and the research conducted by Dr. McGuire is that the latter followed established scientific principles. Unlike the original report, Dr. McGuire’s study kept track of where samples were collected and the history of the person submitting the samples. She even tested farm women that had applied glyphosate herbicides in the past! Still, there was no evidence of glyphosate present in their breast milk.
Dr. McGuire presented her findings at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Conference on July 23, 2015 in Big Sky, Montana. The Environmental Protection Agency also used Dr. McGuire’s study as part of its assessment reviewing the safety of glyphosate.
[Note: If you’d like to know the reaction by anti-GMO activists to Dr. McGuire’s research, I suggest checking out this article (in addition to Dr. Tuteur’s article previously linked) which highlights that she was subjected to a FOIA request, as well as attacks on her character and scientific credibility.]
Purposefully Scaring New Moms
It sickens me that activists opposed to genetic engineering are so willing to use whatever methods – ethical or not – to scare people, especially new moms. These women (and new dads, too) are under enough stress and pressure. But this is exactly the type of thing that Moms Across America tries to accomplish – creating false and salacious claims without any scientific basis to try and sway public opinion. What group is possibly a better target than new moms (or dads) that want to give their babies the best start possible.
This is the type of fear-mongering that is just completely unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. At all.