GAO Report Blasts FDA’s Inadequate Pesticide Monitoring of Fruits, Vegetables

Agency Fails to Even Test for Some of Nation’s Most Widely Used Pesticides

PORTLAND, Ore.—(ENEWSPF)–November 6, 2014.  A new report released today by the U.S. Government Accountability Office sharply criticizes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for failing to adequately monitor pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables. In particular, the report highlights the agency’s failure to disclose that it does not even monitor some of the most commonly used pesticides, including glyphosate, the most heavily used pesticide in the United States.

“The FDA is supposed to be protecting the American people from dangers in their food and it’s clear they’ve dropped the ball when it comes to pesticides,” said Lori Ann Burd, endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

According to the GAO report, use of glyphosate — widely known as Roundup — has increased sharply with the widespread adoption of genetically engineered crops such as corn and soy, and its residues are found on 90 percent of soybean crops. Glyphosate is one of the leading causes of the 90 percent decline in monarch butterflies because it destroys milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s sole food source. The Center recently filed a petition for monarch butterflies to be protected under the Endangered Species Act.    

The GAO also found that the FDA fails to include monitoring for 2,4-D in its annual reports. EPA recently approved the use of Enlist Duo, a blend of glyphosate and 2,4-D, for use on genetically engineered corn and soy crops. A World War II-era poison developed for chemical warfare, 2,4-D, was one of the ingredients in the defoliant known as Agent Orange. The GAO report anticipates an exponential increase in use of 2,4-D concurrent with the adoption of this next generation of genetically engineered herbicide tolerant crops.

Already, the U.S. uses around 300 million pounds of glyphosate annually and 50 million pounds of 2,4-D and the Agriculture Department has estimated Enlist Duo’s approval will increase 2,4-D’s use more than three-fold within just six years.  

“FDA must take action to correct the failures uncovered by this GAO report,” said Burd. “As scientists continue to uncover information regarding the harmful effects of pesticides on human health and the environment, the American public deserves to be able to rely on FDA to provide the basic monitoring required to protect the health of people, wildlife and our waterways.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.