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Daily News Blog

10
Jun

Glyphosate Approval in EU Up in the Air

(Beyond Pesticides, June 10, 2016) A proposal for a temporary ‘technical extension’ of the EU approval of the herbicide glyphosate failed to secure the support of a majority of EU governments at a meeting of the EU standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed on Monday. This action may force the withdrawal of the herbicide, widely sold as Monsanto’s Roundup, from shelves if no decision is reached by the end of the month, when its license expires.

NotsureifRoundupReadyAfter a proposal to renew the license for glyphosate for up to 15 years failed to win support in two meetings earlier this year, the EU executive offered a limited 12 to 18 month extension to allow time for further scientific study. Yet, despite this compromise, the proposal failed to win the support of member states representing at least 65% of the EU’s population, which is needed for adoption, an EU official told The Guardian. Seven member states abstained from Monday’s vote, 20 backed the proposal and one voted against, a German environment ministry spokeswoman said. According to the news source, Germany was among those that abstained from Monday’s vote. Of note is that Bayer, the German chemical company, recently offered to buy the Monsanto.

Bart Staes, the Greens/EFA group environment and food safety spokesperson said in a statement:

“We applaud those EU governments who are sticking to their guns and are refusing to authorise this controversial toxic herbicide.  There are clear concerns about the health risks with glyphosate, both as regards it being a carcinogen and an endocrine disruptor. Moreover, glyphosate’s devastating impact on biodiversity should have already led to its ban. Thankfully, the significant public mobilisation and political opposition to reapproving glyphosate has been taken seriously by key EU governments, who have forced the Commission to back down.”

“Three strikes must mean the approval of glyphosate is finally ruled out. After the third failed attempt, the Commission must stop continuing to try and force through the approval of glyphosate. Such a move would raise major democratic concerns about the EU’s decision-making process. The process of phasing out glyphosate and other toxic herbicides and pesticides from agriculture must begin now, and this means reorienting the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy towards a more sustainable agricultural model.”

Glyphosate, produced and sold by Monsanto, is often touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by industry. But recent research  links chronic, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys. Previous epidemiologic studies have found that exposure to glyphosate is significantly  associated  with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s  Lymphoma  (NHL), even though these studies have been discounted. In addition to impacts on human health, glyphosate has been linked to adverse effects on earthworms and other soil biota, as well as  shape changes in amphibians. The widespread use of the chemical on genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant crops has led it to be implicated in the  decline of monarch butterflies, whose sole source to lay their eggs, milkweed plants, are being devastated as a result of incessant use of glyphosate.

Glyphosate has been subject to widespread public scrutiny since the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified it as a 2A probable carcinogen  based on animal studies.  Months after the IARC review, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an independent agency funded by the European Union, published a different assessment, saying glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.” However, EFSA’s report is limited in that it reviewed glyphosate alone, unlike IARC which reviewed glyphosate and its formulated products, which are more relevant for evaluating risks to human health. And, just last month, a joint review by the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) on  glyphosate seemed to contradict those findings, however the review looks at pesticide residues in food, and does not look at other sources of exposure. Separating independent scientific findings or interpretation of data from those influenced by chemical industry interests has been a long standing problem in the public debate and media discussion on pesticide hazards.

On the other hand, one scientist who was a part of IARC’s expert panel that reviewed glyphosate  spoke of glyphosate’s genotoxic potential, stating  that the herbicide can damage human DNA, which can  result in increased cancer risks. And, a  scientific review  was released in February 2016 by a group of 14  scientists, which expressed concern about the widespread use of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs), the lack of understanding regarding human exposure, and the potential health impacts. According to the report, U.S. agencies, such as the National Toxicology Program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and EPA, have not adequately kept up with cutting-edge research. The researchers call for the global science and regulatory community to step back and take a fresh look at glyphosate due to widespread exposure patterns. A 2008 study confirms that the ingredients in Roundup formulations kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells, even at very low concentrations, and causes total cell death within 24 hrs.

Further, glyphosate residues have been detected in foods and products that are not typically associated with heavy glyphosate use, and  even in organic foods and products, in which the use of glyphosate is prohibited. Recent reports of the widespread presence of glyphosate residues find the chemical in California wines,  breast milk,  in nearly 100% of Germans and  in German beers,  feminine hygiene products, and  bread. Other sources of exposure include agricultural spraying. A 2015 report found that 54 percent of glyphosate spraying in California is applied in eight counties, many of which are located in the southern part of the Central Valley. The analysis finds that the populations in these counties are predominantly Hispanic or Latino, indicating that glyphosate use in California is distributed unequally along both socioeconomic and racial lines.

In addition to impacts on human health, glyphosate has been linked to adverse effects on  earthworms and other soil biota, as well as  shape changes in amphibians. The widespread use of the chemical on genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant crops has led it to be implicated in the  decline of monarch butterflies, whose sole source to lay their eggs, milkweed plants, are being devastated as a result of incessant use of glyphosate.

Beyond Pesticides urges individuals concerned about glyphosate exposure to support organic systems that do not rely on hazardous carcinogenic pesticides. In agriculture, concerned consumers can  buy food with the certified organic label, which not only disallows synthetic pesticides like glyphosate, but also the use of sewage sludge and genetically engineered ingredients. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and biotechnology, responsible organic farms focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and other beneficial insects, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.

For more information, watch Pesticides and Diseases: What Do We Know and What Do We Need? by Aaron Blair, Ph.D. a National Cancer Institute researcher (emeritus), author of more than 450 publications on occupational and environmental causes of cancer,  and the overall chair of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) evaluation panel that found  glyphosate (Roundup) to be a carcinogen. And, see Beyond Pesticides’ article  Glyphosate Causes Cancer.

Source: The Guardian

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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