It is difficult to find orange juice containers without a Non-GMO label affixed. However, this is a redundant distinction since there are no genetically-modified oranges. These notices annoy food scientists and farmers, along with their skeptic allies. But they appeal to those who dread GMOs, such as the fearmongering group Moms Across America.
But kowtowing to this organization has done food companies little good since Moms Across America has launched another baseless attack against orange juice producers – that they drench their product in glyphosate.
This would seem highly unlikely for two reasons. First, glyphosate is made specifically for genetically modified foods, which oranges again are not. Second, it is never sprayed on trees, which is where oranges grow.
According to Kevin Folta, a University of Florida horticulturist and pariah to anti-GMO groups, the laboratory that announced the findings about glyphosate in orange juice is not an independent organization but is led by biotechnology opponent John Fagan. Of course, to dismiss findings because of their source is to commit the genetic fallacy ad hominem, which we strive to avoid. So let’s look closer at the claims and analyze them on their merits.
The testing of the tangy citrus drink was performed using a technique called LC-MS/MS, which Folta said can detect and measure glyphosate. “However,” he added, “the compound is detected in everything, so there’s no way to discriminate between a signal caused from glyphosate and a signal caused by some other compound that behaves in the same way during the chemical separation.” There would be no way to determine this absent a negative control, which the study failed to employ.
Further, there is no suggestion the testing was randomized, double-blind, or repeated. This means it’s unclear what kind of variation there was within the test or between samples. And even if the glyphosate detection was somehow real, Folta writes that the alleged amounts would be far too low to impact human health.
Whatever the methods, the results were posted on the research organization’s website and not submitted to a peer-reviewed publication. The number one giveaway that someone is practicing pseudoscience is when they take their findings to a a sympathetic audience rather than submitting them for rigorous inspection to subject matter experts. So go ahead and drink orange juice unless you’ve always preferred Tang.