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Daily News Blog

05
Jun

Continued Use of Glyphosate Herbicide in EU Called into Question by Renowned Toxicologist

(Beyond Pesticides, June 5, 2017) Following the recent proposed 10-year extension for the approval of glyphosate use in the European Union (EU), internationally recognized toxicologist Dr. Christopher Portier, Ph.D. has delivered a letter to the European Commission (the Commission), calling the scientific findings of these agencies into question. Dr. Portier is former associate director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and director of NIEHS’ Office of Risk Assessment Research. According to the letter, both the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (EChA) “failed to identify all statistically significant cancer findings in the chronic rodent carcinogenicity studies with glyphosate.” Previously, the Commission, which is in charge of the approval of glyphosate, was forced to issue a limited license extension for the chemical because member states could not reach a consensus. The Commission was holding out for further information on carcinogenicity, which was assessed by the ECHA, and whose report was issued in March 2017. According to ECHA’s most recent assessment, glyphosate is not carcinogenic.

Dr. Portier asks that the evaluations by EFSA and EChA be “repeated for all toxicological endpoints and the data underlying these evaluations be publicly released.” Based on these failures in data analysis, the final assessments conducted by the EU agencies are insufficient to allow for glyphosate’s license extension, he said. In his final request of the European agencies, Dr. Portier states, “In the interest of scientific transparency, EFSA should release all of the raw data in all areas of toxicology for all pesticides so scientists interested in repeating the evaluations by EFSA and EChA can do so.”

In 2015, Dr. Portier presented at a scientific briefing in London and stated, Glyphosate is definitely genotoxic. There is no doubt in my mind.” Genotoxicity is the ability of a chemical agent to damage the genetic information within a cell, causing mutations that may lead to cancer. According to Dr. Portier’s presentation, there is strong evidence that glyphosate and its formulated products are genotoxic and an oxidative stressor.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup brand of weedkillers, and research by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has found that it is a probable human carcinogen. Since IARC’s findings were released, Monsanto has made several efforts to discredit the research of this highly respected, international body, including attempting to influence government agencies. Glyphosate is also patented as an antibiotic. Because glyphosate disrupts a crucial pathway for manufacturing aromatic amino acids in plants –but not animals— many have assumed that it does not harm humans. However, many bacteria do use the shikimate pathway, and 90% of the cells in a human body are bacteria. The destruction of beneficial microbiota in the human gut (and elsewhere in and on the human body) is, therefore, a cause for concern –and a major contributor to disease.

In April 2016, a European poll reported that the majority of people across the EU’s five biggest countries, including three-quarters of Italians, 70% of Germans, 60% of French, and 56% of Britons, support a ban on glyphosate. The herbicide is the most widely used herbicide in the world, according to Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally, and as a result is being detected in food and human bodies. Tests have detected glyphosate residues in German beer at levels higher than allowed in drinking water. Glyphosate residues have been 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.

Despite the known risks of glyphosate exposure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) abandoned its plans to test the U.S. food supply for the presence of glyphosate residues in March 2017. The decision came after heated controversy over the carcinogenicity of glyphosate, which was cleared by a California judge for listing under California’s Prop 65 in January of this year. The federal government’s pesticide monitoring program, which is run jointly by USDA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was criticized by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2014 for its failure to test for the widely used herbicide.

Beyond Pesticides has filed several lawsuits against companies that have produced food products containing glyphosate, and then labeling those products “natural.” In August 2016, three non-profit organizations filed a lawsuit against General Mills for misleading the public by labeling their Nature Valley brand granola bars as natural. In November 2016, Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), represented by Richman Law Group, filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in the District of Columbia against Sioux Honey Association, for the deceptive and misleading labeling of its Sue Bee and Aunt Sue’s honey brands.

Consumers can avoid glyphosate exposure by buying organic food and supporting organic agriculture. Beyond Pesticides has long promoted the importance of organic in a sustainable food system, and works to promote the widespread transition of chemical-intensive farming to organic production. By utilizing ecological pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not dependent on toxic chemicals are the most appropriate and long-term solution to managing unwanted plants, or weeds. To find out more about the work Beyond Pesticides is doing on organic integrity, check out Keeping Organic Strong, or to see all the reasons to go organic, visit Eating with a Conscience.

Sources: Euractiv.com, Fruitnet

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

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