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Laboratory Testing Reveals Substantial Amounts of Glyphosate in Foods and Population

As food has become increasingly adulterated, contaminated and genetically engineered, the need for laboratory testing has exponentially grown. John Fagan, president of Health Research Institute Labs (HRI Labs), is an expert in this area. As explained by Fagan, HRI Labs "makes the invisible, visible, giving you the ability to see what is in your food and your environment."

Fagan studied biochemistry and molecular biology at Cornell University, where he also got his Ph.D. After doing research for eight years at the National Institutes of Health, he went into academia and conducted cancer research using genetic engineering as a research tool. This experience is ultimately what raised his concerns about genetic engineering, especially as it pertains to food.

As a result, he created the first lab for GMO testing in the U.S., followed by labs in Europe and Japan. He's also trained laboratories in 17 other countries in GMO testing. "What this did was make GMOs visible. Before that testing was there, nobody could tell whether those soybeans, or that corn was genetically engineered or not," Fagan says. "After GMO testing was available, people had a choice."

HRI Labs tests both micronutrients and toxins — the good and the bad. "We feel that the kind of testing we're doing can open a window for you in each of those areas, so you can make better choices about the food you eat, and that you share with your family," he says.

There are several types of tests that can be done on a GMO food. Antigens are one type of test. DNA testing is another. Since DNA is far more stable than proteins, genetically engineered foods, even when highly processed, can be easily identified with DNA testing. A test commonly used to check DNA is the polymerase chain reaction or PCR test. Because it amplifies the DNA signal, it can detect even a single genetically engineered corn kernel in a bag containing 10,000 or more corn kernels.

The chromatograph linked to a mass spectrometer is another central piece of equipment that HRI uses. It allows you to test for a wide variety of things at very high sensitivity. Unfortunately, the cost and complexity involved prevents many labs from having this tool.

"Liquid chromatography is capable of taking a sample of food … or whatever you're interested in, and fractionating it into hundreds of compounds, separating them out. That is then fed into a mass spectrometer; a machine that measures, ultimately, molecular weight of whatever it's looking at.

With that you can detect — at extremely low levels and identify very specifically — almost any natural or unnatural compound … down to the parts per trillion in many cases. To give you a sense of what that means, 40 parts per trillion, which is [the limit of] detection that we have for some materials, is like if you were to take a single drop of that chemical and dilute it into 20 Olympic swimming pools full of water.

That's the extent of dilution required to achieve 40 parts per trillion. This is extreme sensitivity. These [instruments] are like the Teslas of analytical chemistry.

[Liquid chromatography linked to a mass spectrometer] is what we use for measuring glyphosate. Because these machines are very expensive, many of the analytical labs out there don't have access to them. Also, because it is very specialized equipment, you need somebody with a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry, or equivalent, to do this kind of testing. What we're doing is … unique in that way."

The Politics of Food Testing

One of the reasons we decided to collaborate with HRI Labs in testing our own supplements is because many commercial laboratories used to confirm the purity of raw materials tend to provide distorted or prejudicial information. One of the great benefits of HRI Labs, in my view, is its objectivity and ability to provide accurate data, thanks to the sensitivity of their equipment. While many labs will claim to be independent, their primary customers are big food companies.

"They don't want to embarrass [their customers]. They don't want to bring anything to the surface on that level, so they tend to give very superficial numbers," Fagan says. "Typically, they work to thresholds that are established based on politics and convenience, not science and safety.

For instance, you can go to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) website, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website and they will say, 'Wheat should have less than such and such amount of glyphosate in it.'

Glyphosate is … the most commonly used agrochemical, and it's now been demonstrated to cause cancer, liver and kidney damage and birth defects. You'll find there a number for it, but if you go to the scientific literature you discover that levels [of glyphosate] hundred or a thousand times lower … are in fact toxic to the system. For that reason, those government established thresholds are not very meaningful."

This is a point worthy of reiteration: The use of politically-influenced safety thresholds to "prove" a food is safe is pervasive in the food industry. The only thing such safety levels accomplish is generating a false sense of security, which benefits food companies financially. HRI Labs, on the other hand, looks at the available research when establishing their threshold levels.

Glyphosate Testing

One of the toxins HRI Labs is currently focusing on is glyphosate, and the public testing being offered (see below) allows them to compile data on the pervasiveness of this chemical in the food supply. When I participated in the environmental exposure test a while back, glyphosate was undetectable, which means levels in my system were below 40 parts per trillion, likely because I eat primarily organic and homegrown foods, and expel toxins I might come in contact with through exercise and regular sauna use.

"What we're finding is there's quite a range of levels of exposure, but that people who are eating organic generally have much lower levels. Women tend to have, on average, slightly lower levels than men. There are certain behaviors that tend to lead one to have higher levels.

For instance, it isn't a super strong correlation, but it appears that if you are a golfer, you're more likely to get exposed, because they use [glyphosate and other pesticides] on golf courses …

The reassuring thing is that if you … change your diet … and go to a diet that avoids things that might contain these chemicals, then within a week or two your levels of glyphosate will drop significantly. Glyphosate levels are a good indicator for guiding your dietary choices … Often people come back to us saying, 'This changed my way of thinking about my diet.' This is a good thing"

Glyphosate Found in Popular Ice Cream Brand

HRI Labs is often hired to test foods claiming to be non-GMO, "all natural" and/or organic. Unfortunately, many times testing reveals such claims to be untrue. A recent case in point is that of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. HRI Labs' testing revealed their ice cream contains glyphosate. Fagan tells the story:

"Organic Consumers Association and … Regeneration Vermont were concerned about what was happening with Ben & Jerry's. They were concerned … that the dairy producers … were not even able to get a price for their product that would cover their costs for producing the milk. There was also a concern from people in the state that the dairies were polluting the lakes, and creating problems for the Vermont tourist industry …

They wanted to look into what was going on with the quality of the milk. They sent us samples and we did some really in-depth testing using the very best methods out there.

We used triple quadrupole mass spectrometry linked to high pressure liquid chromatography to actually look at the quality of the ingredients in a product. What we found with Ben & Jerry's ice cream was a bit shocking in that it contained substantial levels of glyphosate ...

Ten of the 11 flavors we looked at contained measurable amounts of glyphosate, and at least one of them contained levels that, according to most recent research, raised questions about safety. In particular, it had been found that glyphosate at quite low levels — levels considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency and FDA — … could actually cause problems like fatty liver disease.

As you may know, there's an epidemic of fatty liver disease in America today, and it's linked with things like metabolic syndrome … Organic Consumers Association has been discussing those results around the country, and discussing with Ben & Jerry's if they could do something about that.

The obvious and most logical thing for them to do is to begin to use ingredients that are organic instead of just conventional ingredients, because organic bans the use of things like glyphosate in the production of crops …"

Substantial Amounts of Glyphosate Found in Many Foods

HRI Labs has investigated a number of other foods as well, including grains, legumes and beans. Most if not all of these types of crops need to dry in the field before being harvested, and to speed that process, the fields are doused with glyphosate a couple weeks before harvest. As a result of this practice, called desiccation, grain-based products, legumes and beans contain rather substantial amounts of glyphosate.

Quaker Oats,1 for example, were found to contain very high levels of glyphosate. People who regularly eat nonorganic oats also have elevated levels of the chemical in their urine. "These are the kinds of problems that are coming up out there," Fagan says. "All that's needed is for the grain producers to change their practices, so that they're not spraying the fields with this weed killer immediately before they harvest it, and it will solve those problems."

Wines also contain surprising amounts of glyphosate. As it turns out, weeds in vineyards are managed by spraying glyphosate, which ends up in the grapes as the roots of the grape vines pick it up through the soil.

"This testing … is making something that's been invisible in our food system, visible to us," Fagan says. "[A] vegetable like spinach that you buy in an American grocery store is going to contain, on average, eight different pesticides. That's eight different pesticides, and you're taking it home to feed your family without knowing that's the case …

The reason you aren't able to know that is because the chemical companies have done a really good job lobbying our government so that nobody in the supply chain has to talk about these … agrochemicals. The farmer doesn't have to talk about them. The brands that are selling products made from those [raw ingredients] don't have to talk about them. The grocery stores don't have to. They've been made invisible in our food system, and that's a big concern.

We're doing testing using rigorous methods, the very best methods out there, the most sensitive methods out there, to make these invisible things visible, so that you know more about what's in your food system, and in the foods you're giving to your family. This is so important, because this allows each of us to make better choices about the food they provide to their children."

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