All the News That's Fit to Eat: Why You Should Care About Glyphosate Restrictions | Civil Eats

All the News That’s Fit to Eat: Why You Should Care About Glyphosate Restrictions

Plus: Kids are eating less fast food, California imposes first-ever water restrictions, and pesticide residue could affect sperm count.

It’s been a few big weeks for glyphosate, the world’s most commonly used herbicide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week that it is considering new restrictions on the chemical, which is found in more than 700 products, but most commonly known as the key ingredient in Monsanto’s popular Roundup.

Why exactly should you care?

The herbicide made news last week when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released findings that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” but that’s not the reasoning behind the EPA’s proposed limitations. Instead, the agency is acting in response to the expansion of weeds resistant to the chemical–which affects more than 60 million acres of U.S. farmland.

The EPA’s plan hasn’t been announced yet, but Reuters speculates that it could be similar to the agency’s plan for Dow AgroSciences, which involved weed monitoring, farmer education, and remediation. This news comes after a Massachusetts senator called for an EPA evaluation of the chemical after IARC’s findings broke.

How are we to interpret the word “probably” in all this? Some, like Nathanael Johnston at Grist and Dan Charles at NPR’s The Salt, urge the public not to panic–lots of things are characterized as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” such as wood-burning fireplaces, night shifts, and working as a hairdresser. But that also doesn’t mean that the findings should be dismissed. Glyphosate residue has been found in water, food, urine, and breast milk, and the chemical is widely used in public parks.

Health indicators aside, there are other environmental reasons to regulate glyphosate, such as the fact that it kills milkweed, which is necessary for the Monarch butterfly to survive. (On Tuesday, Monsanto committed $4 million to help bring the species out of decline, while doing little to stop the practices linked to it’s decline in the first place.) Another scientific study found that glyphosate was one of three commonly used pesticides linked to antibiotic resistance.

This all comes as EPA approved the glyposate-containing herbicide Enlist Duo for use in nine more states, despite a lawsuit by environmental groups. Enlist Duo is a combination of glyphosate and 2,4-D, and is designed to provide a new tool to target so-called super weeds that are already resistant to glyphosate on its own.

Other news you might have missed this week:

EPA Restricts Pesticide that Could Harm Bees (The Hill)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is restricting new products and uses of neonicotinoid pesticides that have been blamed for declines in bee populations. The agency sent letters Thursday to companies that have applied to use neonicotinoids outdoors to say that it is not likely to issue new use permits until it has a better understanding of the threat the pesticides pose to young and developing bees.

Finally, Some Good News About Kids and Fast Food (TIME)

The percentage of kids eating fast food on any given day has reduced, finds a new report from the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Researchers found that only 33 percent of children were eating fast food regularly in 2009-2010, down from 39 percent in 2003-2004. Researchers also found a decline in calories consumed per sitting, which they attributed to both consumer knowledge and restaurants putting more emphasis on healthy options.

Pesticide Residue on Food Could Affect Sperm Quality (The Guardian)

We’ll bring the news to you.

Get the weekly Civil Eats newsletter, delivered to your inbox.

Fellas, this one’s for you. A Harvard University study found that men who ate produce with high levels of pesticide residue had a 49 percent lower sperm count, and 32 percent fewer normally formed sperm, than those who consumed less. 

McDonald’s Raising Hourly Pay on Workers (The Washington Post)

The good news: McDonald’s Corp. is raising hourly pay by to at least $1 above minimum wage for workers at the U.S. restaurants it operates. The bad news: The raise doesn’t apply to franchisees and thus only affects about 90,000 workers, or only 10 percent of the total McDonald’s workforce.

Program to Put ‘Kids Eat Right’ Logo on Kraft Singles Ending (The Wall Street Journal)

You may remember the brouhaha last week when Kraft put a ‘Kids Eat Right’ seal from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) on packages of Kraft singles, much to the dismay of dieticians involved with AND. Now, thanks to nutritionist and dietician lobbying, Kraft has agreed to pull the seal from its packaging.

California Imposes First-Ever Water Restrictions to Deal with Drought (The New York Times)

In light of California’s serious drought, Governor Jerry Brown has called for a mandatory 25 percent water reduction in the state. This will likely include restrictions on lawn- and garden-watering, car-washing, and other water-intensive activities. As “rainy season” in the state draws to a close, the record-low snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas–just six percent of the long-term average–has many concerned. 

Dairy Farmers, in Dire Need of Workers, Feel Helpless as Immigration Reform Sours (The Los Angeles Times)

New York state dairy farmers are facing plenty of demand for their products, but don’t have enough reliable labor to do the dirty, manual work to produce milk and yogurt at the rates they hope to pay. Though dairies need workers the whole year round, immigration laws are limited to seasonal agricultural employees. “The U.S. dairy industry absolutely cannot survive without [new immigration laws],” one dairy farmer says.

FDA to Withdraw Approval for Arsenic-Based Drug Used in Poultry (Food Safety News)

Today’s food system is complex.

Invest in nonprofit journalism that tells the whole story.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has withdrawn the last arsenic-based animal feed additive. Nitarsone, manufactured by Zoetis, was fed to chickens and turkeys—the arsenic helped the poultry gain weight faster with less grain, and gave the meat a “healthy” color.

“New Wave” of GMOs: Pink Pineapples, Purple Tomatoes (Associated Press)

Get ready for a new round of genetically modified foods, including pink pineapples from Del Monte that contain lycopene, an antioxidant which may help fight cancer, and purple tomatoes high in anthocyanins, compounds that may slow the risk of cardiovascular disease. Both are still pending approval from the FDA.

How Kale Became Cool (Self)

Have you ever wondered how kale went from a hippie green to a mainstream success? The American Kale Association hired a hip PR firm to give its product a makeover. Looks like that noirish Portlandia sketch about one man’s attempt to make celery go viral wasn’t so off the mark after all.

Photo by /Shutterstock.

Anna Roth is a contributing writer for Civil Eats. She also writes a weekly restaurant column in the San Francisco Chronicle and her work has appeared in Best Food Writing 2014, SF Weekly, Eater, Modern Farmer, Sunset, and her book, West Coast Road Eats. Anna lives in San Francisco. Read more >

Like the story?
Join the conversation.

More from

News Bites


How Do School Meals in the US Stack Up Against Other Countries?

Italy’s school meal menu reads like a fancy restaurant’s, and kids in Finland get to test and approve meals. In the US, the National School Lunch Program links to ag, education, and nutrition, but the director of the Global Child Nutrition Foundation says it still has a long way to go.


Without Federal School-Meal Support, Lunch Shaming May Be Back on the Menu

Op-ed: 4 Solutions to Make Urban Ag Policies More Equitable

Ronald White (left) and Willington Rolle work in the Roots in the City urban garden in Miami's Overtown neighborhood on October 21, 2009 in Miami, Florida. The 2-acre lot, which was once a blighted area, features collard greens, citrus trees, papayas, and an assortment of vegetables. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

How Crop Insurance Prevents Some Farmers From Adapting to Climate Change

Organic farmers grow radishes as cover crops. (Photo credit: Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Cover Crop Image database)

California Leads the Way in Low-Carbon School Meals