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Hell hath no fury . . . like a mother whose child has been sickened by a toxin that’s almost impossible to avoid.
Two activist groups, Moms Across America and Thinking Moms Revolution, want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recall Monsanto’s Roundup, the most widely used herbicide/pesticide in the world.
Now is the time to do it, they say, because the EPA is conducting a registration review of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup.
Representatives of the two groups contacted the EPA to request a meeting. When the EPA ignored them, they rallied supporters. Over a period of three days, about 10,000 moms from all over the country rang the phones off the hook at the EPA.
A week later, five Moms Across America leaders were sitting around a boardroom table with nine EPA employees who have the power to recall Roundup. The moms brought lawyers, scientists and advocates from Organic Consumers Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Consumers Union, Beyond Pesticides and the Truth-In-Labeling Coalition as back-up.
What was supposed to be a one-hour meeting turned into two. The EPA’s Dana Vogel, director of the Health Effects Division in the Office of Pesticide Programs, and other EPA staff stayed glued to their seats as one mother after another shared heart-wrenching stories of their experiences parenting children with life-threatening allergies, severe gastrointestinal problems, mysterious autism-spectrum disorders, and major nutritional deficiencies.
The common thread in those stories? Exposure to glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.
Wrenching tales of preventable illnesses
The activist moms had long suspected pesticides might be behind their children’s health problems. So they had their families tested for glyphosate. The tests showed unsafe levels of glyphosate in their drinking water, in their breast milk and in their children’s urine.
That’s when they resolved to get in front of the EPA. And when they did, they told their stories.
Moms Across America co-founder Zen Honeycutt recounted how when she learned of the link between glyphosate and autism, she had her middle child, who had been exhibiting autism symptoms, tested for glyphosate. His urine had 8.7 parts per billion glyphosate—eight times more than is allowed in drinking water in the E.U. She immediately eliminated all potential sources of glyphosate from his diet. After six weeks, the glyphosate was out of his system. And so were the autism symptoms. He stopped hitting people, and his grades went back up from D’s to A’s.
After a year of eating organic, her eldest son's walnut allergy went from a 19 to a 0.2. It’s no longer life-threatening.
In fact, all of the mothers’ children suffered from deteriorating conditions until they put them on all-organic diets. When they figured out that going organic was the only thing that helped ease their children's symptoms, they started investigating the food they had been eating for possible causes of their children's poor health.
Each mother began to suspect glyphosate.
Zoe Swartz, leader of East Coast Moms Across America and founder of GMO Free Lancaster County told the EPA, “I’m really angry that I didn’t know that there was glyphosate in the food I was feeding my daughter.” She described her toddler’s problems with “leaky gut syndrome” which has been linked to glyphosate exposure. After three weeks of an organic diet, the child’s symptoms began to disappear.
Megan Davenhall of Thinking Moms Revolution, mother of an 11-year-old boy with autism, told the EPA, “It’s going to be a long road for us.”
She began her research when her son was diagnosed at age three. As she turned to organic foods, and eliminated chemicals, he started to grow—something he hadn’t done for two and a half years. He weighed only 38 pounds at age six. Now, Davenhall told the EPA, “He’s doing better. He’s not off the spectrum. … It’s a long road for us, because my son was so very damaged. … He was skin and bones and it’s taken us years to recover his gut health.”
“The damage didn’t need to happen to him,” Davenhall said. “And I don’t want to see it happen to one other kid out there, not one. What we feed our kids, what we put into our bodies, is the most important thing. Healthy food should be available for everybody. It needs to happen. It needs to happen today.”
Sarah Cusack of Thriving Family Health talked about her daughter Claire who at 12 months, changed from a happy, easy-going baby to a miserable, constipated baby who was literally starving. She was emaciated. She had a huge bloated belly. At 20 months, she was diagnosed with celiac disease. But the turning point came when she switched to an organic diet. Claire is now a healthy six-year-old. Her mom is a health coach. Cusack says that an all-organic diet is the centerpiece of her practice. She’s seen improvement in clients with myriad health problems, including migraines, eczema, rashes, gastro-intestinal conditions, mood disorders like anxiety and depression, constipation and auto-immune conditions.
Swaying decision-makers with Science
After the testimonials, It was time to hit the EPA with hard science.
Honeycutt delivered a 20-minute presentation on how glyphosate figures as an environmental cause of so many of the diseases impacting our kids today. She left behind a binder, prepared by Moms Across America volunteers, packed with scientific articles supporting her assertions. Zen’s presentation and the materials she presented to the EPA covered the following points.
• Exposure to glyphosate correlates with chronic illness. Chronically ill people have significantly higher levels of glyphosate in their systems than healthy people.
• Glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor which is toxic to placental cells. This means it may impact our ability to conceive and carry healthy babies to term. It may also cause breast cancer.
• Glyphosate destroys the gut bacteria we need for good health. Scientists have observed that in chickens and cattle, glyphosate kills the good gut bacteria while leaving behind bacteria that causes food poisoning. Glyphosate’s negative impact on our microbiome may be the reason for increasing rates of allergies, celiac sprue and gluten intolerance, and colitis and Crohn’s disease.
• Glyphosate makes vaccines far more toxic than they would otherwise be. When children are overexposed to glyphosate, they are more likely to react badly to vaccination. There’s an intricate connection between the gut and the brain, such that an unhealthy digestive system translates into pathologies in the brain. Aluminum, mercury and glyphosate work synergistically to create severe deficiency in sulfate supplies to the brain. This may be what’s causing the epidemic levels of autism and other diseases such as Alzheimer's.
• Glyphosate is a chelator that deprives living things of vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals. This is how glyphosate kills plants. It may also be how it’s killing people. Glyphosate-induced vitamin deficiency may be a factor in the growing cancer rates. Glyphosate has been directly linked to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A recent meta-analysis found that exposure to glyphosate doubled the likelihood of contracting B cell lymphoma.
Will the EPA consider this evidence and move to protect our children from glyphosate?
We’re about to find out.
For five years, the EPA has been collecting and analyzing data. This year (2014), the agency will publish a risk assessment and open a 60-day public comment period. Then it will publish a proposed registration and provide another opportunity for public comments.
Finally, the EPA will make a registration decision to either continue business-as-usual, place new restrictions on the use of glyphosate, or to take it off the market.
Moms want it off the market.
Moms Across America and Thinking Moms Revolution are currently working with the EPA to develop protocols for an independent scientific study of glyphosate in breast milk for inclusion in the agency’s review.
These moms won’t stop until Roundup is recalled and they need your help. Please join the Recall Roundup campaign at Moms Across America or Thinking Moms Revolution.
Alexis Baden-Mayer is political director of the Organic Consumers Association.