Announcer: [00:00] The statements in this podcast have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
[00:08] Welcome to Episode 9 of “That Supplement Show.” Today, Abigail and Killeen are all worked up over something called glyphosate, and why it doesn’t belong in our food or supplements, and also bringing on a special guest to share her personal run in with this commonly used herbicide, and to hear what she’s done to ensure glyphosate not only stays out of her life, but ours, too.
[00:28] I’ve got me a big bowl of nonGMO popcorn right here while I listen, but now I’m wondering if it’s even glyphosate free or not. I guess I’m about to find out.
Abigail: [00:37] Killeen.
Killeen: [00:38] Abigail. I missed you last week. How was your time off?
Abigail: [00:42] Thanks for asking. It was really lovely. I got to enjoy all the great benefits of autumn in New England and finish my week with a trip to my favorite apple orchard. They have an observatory where you can view the migrating hawks and eagles. It was really lovely.
Killeen: [00:56] That sounds serene. I really do love a good orchard stroll in the fall. One of my favorite orchards is atop a hill with these beautiful views and grassy fields, but I have to say that some of that magic has been sucked out of the experience since waking up to the reality that such fields don’t naturally grow so lush and green without a little bit of help. Do you know what I mean?
Abigail: [01:16] Totally know what you mean, and unfortunately, that help is often in the form of pesticides, herbicides, and it’s true. As we leave behind all that childlike innocence, seeing those apples get sprayed, having that grass get treated, you can either turn a blind eye, or you can choose to replace your favorite spot for something that’s organic.
[01:35] Unfortunately, in the case of an apple orchard, sometimes a little hard to find.
Killeen: [01:39] For sure, and the same with a park. You want to go stroll at a park, but you’re like, “This grass is just a little too green,” and these are the things that we try not to think about, and yet, maybe we should. It’s a Catch22, and really, we all have to choose our battles. Once in a while, I must say that our battles choose us.
Abigail: [01:56] I feel like you’re going somewhere with this.
Killeen: [01:58] Abigail, this is Episode 9, after all, so I think you’re starting to know me pretty well. Today, as we discuss glyphosate and why MegaFood just became certified as a glyphosate residuefree, I want to strike a deeper chord with our listeners, and to do that, it seemed logical to invite a friend of ours, Bethany Davis, to hop on the line.
[02:17] Bethany is Megafood’s director of regulatory affairs, and she works with Carly, who you may remember from Episode 7, if you listened in.
[02:24] Anyhow, Bethany deals with a whole host of responsibilities to uphold MegaFood’s purity promise and standards. She’s got this intense personal story that covers all the bases when it comes to our discussion today on glyphosate.
Abigail: [02:38] All right, let’s not hesitate. Let’s give Bethany a call.
Killeen: [02:40] Great, let’s do it.
[02:45] [phone ringing]
Bethany: [02:45] Hello?
Abigail: [02:46] Bethany, how are you? It’s Abigail and Killeen calling from “That Supplement Show.”
Bethany: [02:50] Hi, guys. I’m so glad that you called. Killeen told me that you guys were planning an episode on glyphosate in honor of MegaFood’s new certification.
Abigail: [03:00] Oh, good. Killeen says you’ve got quite a story for us today, but before we get into that, I’d really love if you could give our listeners a taste of why you’re not only a personal expert on the matter, but also a professional expert.
Bethany: [03:11] Yes, sure. I’m a professional person, despite what anyone tells you. My role at MegaFood is that I’m the Director of Regulatory and Industry Affairs, and so what that means is I work with the Federal agencies, the Food & Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, etc., and make sure that all of our products are compliant with all of the laws.
[03:37] The way I got here, I guess, is I got a master’s of science in regulatory affairs and health policy. It’s my job to know what the rules are, how food gets made, how food stays safe, and how food gets marketed to consumers. That’s my job.
Killeen: [03:58] Perfect. Thanks, Bethany, for setting the stage about who you are and what you do. Earlier, I mentioned the phrase that you have to pick your battles in life, before I called you, that is. This is one of those instances where your battle with glyphosate chose you versus the other way around, isn’t that right?
Bethany: [04:15] Yes, that’s right. I am what I’ve been called my whole life, a bit of a delicate flower. I was really empowered one day when Robert Craven, our CEO, renamed me as a finely tuned Ferrari, and what that means is that I’m sensitive. I’m sensitive to things in the environment and I have some allergies. I know exactly what my body needs, but it took a long time to get here.
[04:44] About eight or nine years ago, before I had two kids, I was quite fit, [laughs] and I am not anymore, but I used to be. I was really into CrossFit. I even did a wedding wad on my wedding day with all of my guests.
[05:01] Somewhere in that zone, I went for a run one night down to a local park in my town, in Beverly, Massachusetts, where I live. There was this beautiful, lush, green park, even though it was a really dry summer. I guess that should have been my first clue that it wasn’t a totally natural park.
[05:18] I did some pushups and some lunges. I don’t know if you’ve ever had an itch in your eye, and you just go for it and really itch your eye, but that’s what happened. I was doing pushups, and my eyes got itchy. I itched my eyes, and my eyes pretty much exploded out of my face, swelled up to the size of maybe softballs, [laughs] I would say, and I couldn’t even open my eyes.
Killeen: [05:46] I have to stop you for a second, Bethany, and just say for our listeners that we happen to have a photo, and if you don’t mind, I would love to be able to put that in the show notes of this episode, because people just really have to see that photo to believe what you’re talking about.
Bethany: [06:00] Yeah, I’ve showed it to friends, family, strangers is fine with me, so we’ll definitely put it with the show notes.
Killeen: [06:08] Thanks. For everybody listening, just go to megafood.com/podcast. Look for Episode 9, and you will see what we’re talking about with Bethany and her baseballsized eyeballs.
Bethany: [06:17] [laughs] Come to find out, I had to jog home, and the funny part of the story is I ran into my apartment. I was running towards the bathroom to wash my hands and get my contacts out of my eyes. My husband thought someone was chasing me, so rather than going to see if I was OK, he ran out of the apartment to go see if there was someone on the street. That’s how fast I ran into the house.
[06:40] It turns out, we had to go to the emergency room. My throat started to close. I had hives all over my body. It was a real problem, but they took care of me at the hospital. It turns out, I went to the town and found out what they regularly use on these fields for chemicals, and glyphosate is what they use, with regularity.
[07:01] What I realized is I have a sensitivity to glyphosate. This makes a lot of sense, because I actually can’t eat too much raw produce if it’s not certified organic. I’m like a super taster.
[07:17] If I eat an apple or a cherry or a grape, I can tell you if there are a lot of chemical herbicides or pesticides on it or not, because my whole mouth will start to tingle, and my throat will start to tingle.
[07:30] This spurred a lot of my interest in chemical agriculture, genetically modified crops, and how our food system works.
Killeen: [07:38] Wow. I feel like it’s a blessing and a curse, right? When you’re eating incredible food, that heightened sensitivity must make you really enjoy that delicious apple, but I can see how that would work the other way, too, such in the case of something that might be treated with an unexpected herbicide or pesticide.
Bethany: [07:57] Yeah, it’s made me disciplined, I think, which is always a good thing. The beauty of the situation and sort of the power, and what makes me feel empowered even though I’m a little limited in what I can eat without trouble is that I ended up falling into a career where advocacy around our food system, chemical agriculture, soil health, and nonGMO crop consumption is a part of my job.
[08:26] I was part of us bringing the NonGMO Project Verified into our company. I was able to help get this Glyphosate Residue Free certification off the ground, too.
Killeen: [08:41] It sounds like from a personal perspective, safety is a huge concern because you didn’t just hear that maybe something would have an adverse effect, but you experienced it firsthand.
[08:51] Sadly, I feel that sometimes that’s what it takes for somebody to really wake up and go, “Holy cow. I need to be educated on exactly what glyphosate really is, what it does to my body, and how it might affect my children or my lifestyle.” It doesn’t stop there, either, because we know that’s just one chemical out of many that we come in contact with.
Bethany: [09:13] Yeah, that’s true.
Abigail: [09:15] Bethany, I really appreciate you mentioning glyphosate and explaining that it is the number one ingredient or the primary ingredient in that, because I think to a lot of people glyphosate residue free testing doesn’t mean a lot, but we all are probably pretty aware of this type of herbicide. We may have purchased it ourselves and used it in our yards or our driveways as weed killer.
Bethany: [09:34] It’s in lots of homes, yep, and people don’t even realize.
Killeen: [09:38] Let’s get into those facts on glyphosate, and find out a little bit more about it. But first, let’s have a word from our sponsor.
[09:57] [commercial break]
Abigail: [09:59] Bethany, thank you for sharing your personal story with us. I thought for those who aren’t familiar with glyphosate, we could dive into what it is and what it does, and maybe why you had that reaction that you did.
Bethany: [10:25] Sure. To start, glyphosate is one of the main herbicides that’s used in connection with genetically modified crops in the US. It’s widely used, and use of it has skyrocketed over the last two decades. Over the last two decades, it’s increased nearly 15 fold, or 500 percent.
[10:52] It’s sprayed heavily on GMO and even conventionally grown crops at harvest. For GMO crops, it will be sprayed several times, six, seven, or eight times during its cultivation, and then it’s also used as a desiccant, so for things like wheat products. They’ll spray the wheat right at the end when it’s done growing, to basically kill it so it’s easier to harvest. It dries out faster, and it saves some time.
[11:18] It’s used all over the place. It’s used in home gardens, and public parks and schools. It’s everywhere, [laughs] and that’s what the problem is. Of course, the company that manufactures this chemical said it’s safe, and some tolerance levels have been set.
[11:38] The only problem is that we don’t know what all of this cumulative exposure really means, so especially for a developing fetus in a pregnant woman or a child who’s growing so fast, we don’t know how much is too much and how much could be damaging.
[11:56] Big news, a few years ago, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic in humans, and linked its use to lymphoma. Essentially, it’s a carcinogenic. It could cause cancer. The good thing is that organic farming completely bans the use of glyphosate and other dangerous fertilizers, antibiotics, and growth hormones.
[12:24] If a product’s labeled nonGMO, like I said, with conventional wheat, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not getting doused in glyphosate and that its glyphosate residue free, and that’s really where the glyphosate residue seal comes into play.
[12:39] Some other interesting things about glyphosate. It was originally patented as a mineral kelator and how it works is when it’s applied to soil, it kelates to the minerals in the soil. It attaches, and basically renders them inert. There’s a problem with that, is that the plant can’t uptake and make usable for humans that consume the foods all those minerals.
[13:04] Using glyphosate in a widespread way actually reduces the nutritive value of food. As a company like MegaFood, whose concerned with nutritional poverty and wanting to optimize people’s nutrition, this is really concerning.
[13:20] Another really important thing to know about glyphosate is that it’s also patented as a broad antibiotic, and so what it’s doing is killing organisms and bacteria. The unfortunate outcome there, it will kill certain weeds that might be growing in a field, but it’s also killing the soil. It’s killing the health of the microbiome that’s in the soil that really makes food healthy and optimizes the food.
[13:51] It also has an effect on our gut microbiome, so it can act as an antibiotic in that way, too, and that’s the unfortunate side effect. It’s a very good antibiotic. That’s what it is patented to do, and it does its job very well, unfortunately. It’s killing a lot of very beneficial bacteria along the way.
Killeen: [14:12] I really love that you mentioned nutritional poverty, because that really ties back into the very first episode that Abigail and I recorded where we talked about the fact that it’s really this multilayered situation of why we might not be getting enough nutrients in our diet.
[14:30] Given that we’re called That Supplement Show, and the question is begged often, “Does someone really need supplements?” it has this cyclical effect.
[14:40] Of course, to tie it back to supplements, we wouldn’t really want to have something like glyphosate that’s already depleting our food then be in our supplements as well. That seems like that’s insult on top of injury.
Bethany: [14:56] It’s interesting. There’s kind of even this broader social impact issue as far as I can see, which glyphosate and its widespread use actually can harm organic farmers. Even if they’re doing their due diligence and not using the harmful chemicals that they’re not allowed to use on their organic plots, drift from, say, a GMO farm across the street can be a huge issue for them.
[15:21] It can ruin their certification potential.
[15:26] We’ve used so much glyphosate. It’s in the water, it’s in people’s urine, it’s in breast milk. It’s everywhere now, and that’s harmful for organic farmers that either are conventional and want to go organic, or they are organic, and they’re at risk because of all this pesticide drift and contamination. To me, going glyphosate residue free is almost like a farmer advocacy issue.
Abigail: [15:52] Something you just said there, Bethany, really blew me away. There’s glyphosate residues in breast milk?
Bethany: [15:57] Yeah. Moms Across America tested. They did find trace amounts of glyphosate in several women’s breast milk. They did some testing a year or so ago.
Abigail: [16:06] Wow, so even if you don’t feed your child anything but organic and even stick with glyphosate residue free products, there’s still a chance that they may be getting some of that.
Bethany: [16:16] Yeah. Even if you’re trying to eat really clean, you can see it’s used everywhere, even for instance, in the playgrounds down the street. What the problem is is that we don’t have a sense of how much cumulative exposure we really have to this, and that’s why I think a zero tolerance policy is a good policy for a company.
[16:36] It’s an important question to ask companies that you buy foods from and buy supplements from.
Abigail: [16:42] I’m really excited about the labeling, too, because it’s another way for a consumer in the aisle to…If Killeen and I are out in the coop across the street, it’s going to make it even easier for us to pick a product that’s healthy for our families.
Killeen: [16:54] Yeah, and we’ll put an example of what this glyphosate residue free certification looks like in our show notes of this episode so that people can see what they should start watching for.
Bethany: [17:05] Perfect.
Announcer: [17:06] Hey, guys, can I butt in for a second? How do I know if my snack is safe? Organic, nonGMO, and now glyphosate residue free? What’s a guy to do?
Bethany: [17:17] Who is that? I thought I was just talking to you, ladies.
Killeen: [17:20] Don’t worry. That’s just our announcer. I shouldn’t say just, because we couldn’t do this show without him, but we keep him around. He’s cool. He’s like our little sidekick.
Bethany: [17:30] OK. I can take a shot at his question and try to provide an answer. Organic and nonGMO are best. In my opinion, any thirdparty certification that enables consumers to vote with their dollar and put pressure the right kinds of pressure on our food system have a value, especially for a supplement company.
[17:55] We are trying to deliver really needed nutrition to the body, and we want to do that without irritants in there.
[18:02] They glyphosate residue free seal is really important to us, and it’s really important to any types of companies that have highrisk ingredients, like if you’re thinking about a popcorn, or if you’re doing a soy protein shake, something like that. It’s likely that there may be some cross contamination, so it’s smart to ask those questions.
[18:29] Organic and nonGMO, those are incredibly important seals that mean more than just glyphosate residue free, so buy them whenever you can. If you have a particular concern, or you’re in a particular phase of life like pregnancy or childhood, asking about glyphosate residue has a lot of importance.
Killeen: [18:52] Do you think we’ll start seeing this seal popping up more and more?
Bethany: [18:56] Yeah. This is the first thirdparty program, thirdparty certification around herbicide and pesticide use. Even the nonGMO project, they’re focused on the seed, the processing, and how it gets transported, and that there’s segregation and that it’s pure, but they don’t focus on these chemical inputs at all on a farming level.
[19:19] There’s a huge opportunity here. I think that there is an opportunity for this to grow. This is a brandnew program, and the first of its kind. I would love to see us reduce our glyphosate use, either heavily reduce it or get rid of it all together. I think that it would be amazing for our soil and for our food system, and for our safety.
Killeen: [19:37] It’s really exciting. For those that are listening that do happen to also be MegaFood users, we had the seal, at least as long as I’ve been aware of MegaFood, that says the supplements are tested for over 100 herbicides and pesticides.
[19:55] It sounds to me like this glyphosate residue free certification is just taking the now increasingly known herbicide glyphosate and bringing awareness to that to say, “We’re herbicide and pesticide free, and that includes glyphosate.”
Bethany: [20:13] We test over 140 different herbicides and pesticides. We focus on the ones that are most commonly used in agriculture in the US. It changes over time. It morphs as trends change, but we test for all of these on every raw agricultural material and every finished product that we release.
[20:33] Glyphosate is only one of the ones that we test for regularly, but being that it’s the number one used one, it’s really important to us, and for us, it’s the only one that has the teeth of an actual oversight from a third party looking in and it gives you confidence that we’re doing our due diligence.
[20:51] I’m excited about it, and I hope that it takes off. I honestly hope that other supplement companies follow suit, especially foodbased companies, and go glyphosate residue free.
Killeen: [21:03] Thanks for all your hard work on this, and thanks for talking with us today. You cleared up some questions that I know I had about the certification, and I think that this all helps bring greater awareness to why we need to kick glyphosate to the curb.
Bethany: [21:19] Yes. [laughs] Thanks for having me, guys.
Abigail: [21:22] Take care, Bethany.
Killeen: [21:23] Abigail, given this picture that Bethany shared of herself after her park episode, remarking that this has been an eyeopening conversation seems somehow inappropriate.
Abigail: [21:32] [laughs] I really shouldn’t laugh, because what happened to Bethany was truly awful, but in a weird way, I’m grateful for the passion she’s been able to bring around this issue. She really challenged MegaFood to be a leader around glyphosate residue testing.
[21:45] Like we talked about when we wrapped up the conversation with her, I’m really hopeful that we’ll see other companies start to follow suit so that if you and I really want to avoid glyphosate day to day, it makes it easier for us to do that. Good idea, Killeen, chatting about this today.
Killeen: [21:59] [laughs] I’m glad you think so. I’m still trying to get that acronym right, GRF, glyphosate residue free. We’ve got GF for gluten free. Stick the R in there, that’s the glyphosate.
[22:10] [background music]
Abigail: [22:10] I’m on the lookout for it now.
Killeen: [22:11] [laughs] That was exactly what we hoped to accomplish. Great talking to you, as always.
Abigail: [22:17] All right, sounds good. Thanks so much, Killeen.
Both: [22:18] Bye.
Announcer: [22:20] This podcast is brought to you my MegaFood, keeping it real, making vitamin and mineral supplements in New Hampshire since 1973. Committed to making products that use real food for familyowned farms to make a real difference, they’ve produced some of the most effective and far out supplements available today. Fresh from farm to tablet, there’s no psych about it.
[22:38] MegaFood is as real as it gets. Do yourself a solid and catch them on the flip side at megafood.com.
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[22:50] The statements in this podcast have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.