10 October 2018
Bayer AG is trying to undo a $289 million verdict over Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller that it blames on misinformation fed to a jury, while also seeking to avoid having its next test cases go to trial on an accelerated schedule.
Honey bees exposed to levels of glyphosate commonly found in the environment had decreased amounts of microbiota in their gut—which leaves them prone to early death, according to a study released today.
The colored markings were used to track individual bees during the study. (Credit: Vivian Abagiu, The University of Texas at Austin)<p>It was previously thought that glyphosate was harmless to bees since it targets an enzyme usually found only in plants and microorganisms—however, bee gut bacteria contain that same enzyme, Moran said. "It's true the bee itself has no molecular targets from glyphosate but its gut bacteria do have targets," she said. "It's similar to humans taking antibiotics where there can be trouble if you upset the normal microbiota."</p><p>She said honey bees are relatives to bumble bees and share similar gut microbiota. So, glyphosate is bad for bumble bees as well. </p><p>The experiment is concerning as the value of insect pollination to U.S. farming is about $16 billion a year, and honey bee colonies — and pollinators in general — are in trouble. </p><p>A third of our food relies on pollinators, and while honey bees are one of many species that pollinate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates about a <a href="https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43191.pdf" target="_blank">30 percent overwinter colony loss annually</a> for honey bees over the past decade.</p><p>Over the past year, the Bee Informed Partnership, a nonprofit working with beekeepers, research labs and universities to better understand honey bee declines in the U.S., estimated <a href="https://beeinformed.org/results/honey-bee-colony-losses-2017-2018-preliminary-results/" target="_blank">beekeepers lost 40 percent</a> of their managed colonies. </p><p>The culprits for the colony collapses are unclear: Researchers have previously pointed to diseases, parasites, habitat loss, pesticides, and a combination of all of these stressors.</p>
Consumers and journalists around the world were stunned earlier this month when Monsanto, after being forced in a court of law for the first time to defend the safety of its popular weed killer Roundup, was found liable for the terminal cancer of California groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson.
Editor's note: Charles Benbrook served as an expert witness in support of Lee Johnson, a groundskeeper suffering from terminal non-Hodgkin lymphoma following heavy use of, and exposures to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
Credit: Mike Mozart/flickr<p>Every pesticide sold to farmers contains one or more "active ingredients" that kill or control pests, and several "inert ingredients" that help assure the pesticide accomplishes its desired impact.</p><p>Inert ingredients help keep the active ingredient in suspension, and assure the pesticide sticks to plant or weed tissues long enough to be absorbed or come into contact with an insect pest. Some promote compatibility when mixed with other pesticides or liquid fertilizers, prior to spraying on a field.</p><p>For decades, a dangerous myth has persisted -- "inert ingredients" in formulated, ready-for-sale pesticides are not harmful to human health and the environment. For this reason, the impact of inert ingredients are not taken into account when the industry and government conducts a risk assessment of an active ingredient. Federal law classifies inert ingredients as "Confidential Business Information" (CBI), and blocks disclosure to poison control centers and physicians routinely treating pesticide poisoning victims.</p><p>The heightened toxicity of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides, in contrast to pure glyphosate, played a dual role in Lee Johnson's trial in San Francisco, CA. </p><p>EPA's near-sole focus on the toxicity of pure glyphosate undermined the relevance of the agency's reassuring risk assessment, since no one ever sprays, or is exposed to pure glyphosate. </p><p>Monsanto's systematic effort over decades to suppress chronic animal studies on formulated Roundup, despite knowing from its own studies that the inert ingredients in its many Roundup brands increased risks substantially, no doubt influenced the jury, especially as it pondered the award of punitive damages. </p><p>Old myths die hard, despite the now well-known fact that inert ingredients in the world's leading, formulated herbicide, Roundup, and the world's leading family of insecticides (called neonicotinyls) dramatically increase toxicity to organisms up and down the tree of life, including people. </p><p>The policy fixes for problem #2 are obvious and simple—Congress needs to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to: (a) require all active and inert ingredients to be disclosed on pesticide product labels, and (b) direct the EPA to require chronic feeding studies in mice and rats on at least some major formulations when there is evidence from short-term testing of heightened toxicity following exposures to formulated pesticides, as opposed to pure active ingredients.</p>
Credit: Jo Zimny/flickr<p>Regulators focus on the impact of one pesticide at a time, in isolation. Yet, adverse impacts arise as a result of all the pesticides, toxics, and technology deployed by farmers in a given area.</p><p>Tactical changes within prevention-based pest management systems are the surest way to achieve real progress toward safer pest management. Tweaking labels can reduce risks at the margins, but do nothing to stabilize failing pest management systems.</p><p>Both farmers and regulators need help, and new tools to recognize when a pest management system is failing because of the spread of resistant organisms, emergence of secondary pests, or unacceptable collateral damage on the environment, human health, or international trade flows. </p><p>In such cases, systemic pesticide regulatory interventions need to be considered that help farmers move away from heavy reliance on pesticides, and toward multi-tactic, prevention-based management systems. </p>
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