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Daily News Blog

14
Apr

Majority of Europeans Want Glyphosate Banned, Use Continues

(Beyond Pesticides, April 14, 2016) Two-thirds of Europeans support a ban on glyphosate, the  most widely used agricultural chemical in the world, according to a new poll. This as Germany plans to formally support a European Union (EU) plan to re-license the use of the chemical. Monsanto’s glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weedkiller, Roundup, has been classified as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), is detected in food, breast milk, and urine, and is increasingly used on genetically engineered (GE) crops, leading to the proliferation of resistant “superweeds” and environmental contamination.

roundupThe poll conducted by Yougov, an international internet-based market research firm, surveyed more than 7,000 people across the EU’s five biggest countries and find  three-quarters of Italians, 70% of Germans, 60% of French and 56% of Britons support a ban on glyphosate. Despite this, the EU is moving forward on whether to approve a European Commission proposal to extend the authorization of glyphosate for another 15 years until 2031. The existing authorization is due to lapse in June 2016. The decision was delayed after the IARC classified glyphosate as a  Group 2a “probable” human carcinogen  based on  sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity  in laboratory animals.  However, the EU’s European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) released its own conflicting report months later determining 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 (Roundup) which are more relevant for evaluating risks to human health.

In addition to IARC’s  findings,  previous studies  have linked the toxicant to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It is also an endocrine disruptor, causes reproductive effects, kidney and liver damage, and is toxic to aquatic organisms.  In September 2015, a study published in  Environmental Health News  found that  chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate  led to adverse effects on liver and kidney health.

According to Reuters, Germany agrees with the assessment of EFSA, and will support continued use of glyphosate in the EU. But a German Member of European Parliament (MEP) Bart Staes told the Guardian that up to 150 MEPs are expected to give urine samples to test for glyphosate residues, ahead of a symbolic EU vote. Mr. Staes said, “This poll clearly shows that the European public does not want… the authorisation of glyphosate, and certainly not until June 2031.” A vote on relicensing could be held as early as next week, but is thought most likely to take place at a committee meeting in Brussels on 19 May, the Guardian notes.

The herbicide is the most widely used chemical in the world, according to reports and as a result is being detected in food and human bodies. Recent tests have detected glyphosate residues in German beer, at levels higher than allowed in drinking water. Last year, glyphosate residues were found in  bread being sold in the UK. The  results of the   bread study  also shows that glyphosate use in the UK increased by 400% in the last 20 years and is one of the three pesticides regularly found in routine testing of British bread -appearing in up to 30% of samples tested by the UK government. Similar results are expected in the U. S. A pilot study conducted by the group Moms Across America in 2014  found that glyphosate  may also bioaccumulate in the human body, as revealed by high levels of the chemical in the breast milk of mothers tested.

Glyphosate, created by Monsanto, is touted as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other chemicals by industry. But glyphosate has been shown to have  detrimental impacts  on humans and the environment. Given its widespread use on residential and agricultural sites, its toxicity is of increasing concern. A mounting body of data has found that formulated glyphosate (Roundup) products are more toxic than the active ingredient, glyphosate, alone. Roundup formulations can induce a dose-dependent formation of DNA adducts (altered forms of DNA linked to chemical exposure, playing a key role in chemical carcinogenesis) in the kidneys and liver of mice. Human cell endocrine disruption on the androgen receptor, inhibition of transcriptional activities on estrogen receptors on HepG2, DNA damage and cytotoxic effects occurring at concentrations well below “acceptable” residues have all been observed.  A 2008 study  confirmed 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.

In the U.S., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has indicated it will release its preliminary risk assessment on glyphosate for public comment this year. It has been announced that federal testing will  begin for glyphosate residues in food. However, although a positive step, this move is largely seen as political – a response to growing public pressure and not focused on evaluating health concerns. 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.

Source: The Guardian; Reuters

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

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