(Beyond Pesticides, June 13, 2011) A new report released early last week shows that industry regulators have known for a long time that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the world’s best selling herbicide, RoundUp, causes birth defects. The report, “RoundUp and Birth Defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?” published by Earth Open Source, says that regulators misled the public about the safety of glyphosate for over 20 years.
According to the report, the German government has known since 1998 and the EU Commission’s expert scientific review panel has known since 1999 that glyphosate causes malformations. As recently as last year, however, the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety told the Commission that there was no evidence of glyphosate causing birth defects. Meanwhile, these actions by industry and regualtors that have kept the public in the dark, the authors point out, has seriously endangered public health.
Considering that Monsanto, as well as other producers of genetically engineered (GE) seeds are now pushing for glyphosate-tolerant crop approval in Europe, this is particularly disconcerting. If the Commission grants the approval as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had done for GE alfalfa and sugar beets in the U.S, there will likely a stark increase in the use of glyphosate and have devastating consequences. Contrary to industry claims that the proliferation of herbicide tolerant GE crops would result in lower pesticide use rates, the data shows that overall use of pesticides has remained relatively steady, while glyphosate use has skyrocketed to more than double the amount used just five years ago.
Glyphosate is a general herbicide used for eradication of broadleaf weeds. It has been linked to a number of serious human health effects, including increased cancer risk and neurotoxicity as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. One of the inert ingredients in product formulations of Roundup, polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), kills human embryonic cells. It is also of particular concern due to its toxicity to aquatic species as well as instances of serious human health effects from acute exposure.
In 2009, Beyond Pesticides, submitted comments to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) showing new and emerging science which illustrates that glyphosate and its formulated products pose unreasonable risk to human and environmental health, and as such should not be considered eligible for continued registration.
Some of the most widespread uses of glyphosate that have been attracting public attention include its use in invasive weed management and home gardening. The increase of glyphosate use in these areas is directly tied to the larger problem of poor land management, including over grazing, over development, soil compaction and other stressors. Glyphosate has replaced ecologically sound and sustainable cultural practices such as green-mulching and preventive maintenance such as aeration and dethatching.
As researchers scramble to find new ways of chemically coping with weed control and increased weed resistance to chemicals, they overlook the glaring fact that there already exist alternative systems such as organic farming, which erases the need for these drastic measures through its systemic pest preventon approaches. Organic farming can be at least as productive as conventional, chemically-reliant farming while having none of the toxic side effects which create significant risks to ecosystems and human health. To learn more, see our page on organic food and agriculture.
For more information regarding genetic engineering of agricultural crops and the recent controversy surrounding USDA’s approval of several new varieties, including GE alfalfa and GE sugar beets, see our genetic engineering program page and other Daily News blog entries.
Source: Huffington Post