Although President Joe Biden has promised to limit people's exposure to “dangerous chemicals and pesticides," his administration has defended several actions by the Trump administration that generally deregulated pesticides.
Although President Joe Biden has promised to limit people's exposure to “dangerous chemicals and pesticides," his administration has defended several actions by the Trump administration that generally deregulated pesticides.
The U.S. EPA launched a review into the best-selling Seresto flea and tick collar this spring after media reports about injuries and deaths linked to the product spurred a congressional inquiry, class-action lawsuits and a formal complaint.
Called the Protect America's Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2020, the bill provides a framework for fixing what sponsors Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colorado) dub America's "broken and outdated" pesticide regulatory system.
Linda Birnbaum held the top slot at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for 1 decade.
It's a myth that environmental regulations stifle economic productivity. Harmful chemicals cost the US $340bn a year.
Moreover, nanoscavengers hold promise as a preventative treatment against organophosphate-based pesticide poisoning, which causes tens of thousands of deaths each year in the developing world.
Opinion | CONTRIBUTING OP-ED WRITER
Trump’s Sellout of American Heritage
Timothy Egan OCT. 13, 2017
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An aerial view of a landscape in the Bristol Bay watershed. Credit Paul Colangelo
The last runs of heavenly wild salmon are trickling in this month, the buttery coho with flesh the color of fall foliage. After that, we’ll have to settle for mostly farmed and frozen fish until next spring — no substitute for the real deal.
We can count on this seasonal miracle, healthy fish returning to their birthplaces and then on to the dinner table, so long as the fragile balance of nature remains intact. But with a president who is going after clean air, clean water and the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery, the fate of creation and all the myriad wonders within it is at stake.
I use “creation” as an appeal to creationists to look at what your president is doing to Eden, or what’s left of it. I also want to appeal to economic nationalists. For the U.S.A. has the greatest home for sockeye salmon on the planet in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. The Trump administration is putting it at risk in order to aid a foreign mining conglomerate.
This American carnage is led by a man whose job is to protect the natural world within our borders, the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt. As you may have heard, he has sealed himself off from the public with a $25,000 phone security system and an 18-member security detail. It took a court order to pry loose some of the details of his meetings. No surprise, he holds daily lap-dog sessions with the companies he is supposed to regulate.
Pruitt is the swamp, the only wetland the Trump administration wants to protect. He serves the oil, chemical and mining interests that propped him up when he was attorney general of Oklahoma. He now runs the oil, chemical and mining protection agency out of Washington, with our money. You would never guess that this toady in a suit works for us.
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The environment, the American West and politics.
The Cancer in the Constitution
The Trump Fog Machine
In Rome, a Visit With the Anti-Trump
How the Far Right Came to Love Hippie Food
The Week the Earth Stood Still
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Biologist in a warming land 4 minutes ago
I am a scientist. Words like “diabolical,” “maniacal,” “loathsome,” are foreign to my vocabulary. Yet, the actions of the repugnant man in...
Newt Baker 4 minutes ago
"I use “creation” as an appeal to creationists to look at what your president is doing to Eden, or what’s left of it."There is no point in...
james jordan 20 minutes ago
Tim,You write the truth. The Trump administration keeps bragging about all of the good they have done in 9 months. Their idea of making the...
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Look around. The catastrophic wildfires that are sweeping through iconic landscapes in Northern California and carpet-bombing entire neighborhoods are a glimpse into an early future in the West. Hurricanes, rolling in one after the other, are swamping cities. Every month brings a new high temperature record.
Until this year, the American response was in tune with the rest of the world — to try to do something to fix this overheated globe of ours.
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In announcing this week that President Trump intends to spite all the other nations and gut President Barack Obama’s signature effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Pruitt framed the move as the end of the “war on coal.” Now comes the war on the planet and public health.
Amid the hourly calamities of a White House that is forced to treat its chief occupant like a toddler, it’s easy to forget that Trump is doing real damage to things that all of us share.
So, that’s politics, right? To the victor go the spoils. He’s simply rolling back onerous regulations, as promised, and sticking it to the global elites on climate change. Well, no.
Your party affiliation will not protect you from the chemicals sprayed on strawberries — shown to cause brain damage to children — which Trump will allow to remain in the food chain. Living in a red state will not keep warming oceans from rising ever higher when the latest 500-year storm hits your region. Being a Trump supporter does not protect your favorite stream from the toxic discharge of a power plant into a public waterway.
All of the above are potential consequences of more than 50 environmental rules that Trump has tried to kill since he took office.
National monuments — not the Confederate kind that Trump wants to preserve, but special places protected in somewhat the same way as national parks — are also in his sights. These are unique landscapes set aside for their cultural, historical or scenic splendor. Trump could shrink 10 of them — another sellout of American heritage.
In Alaska, he is going against the will of the people to target Bristol Bay. Half the world’s wild sockeye come from this magical place, a bounty that supports 14,000 jobs. Alaskans are a cantankerous bunch who can’t agree on much of anything. Yet they voted by an overwhelming margin in 2014 to protect Bristol Bay from a gold and copper mine that could generate 10 billion tons of toxic waste.
And unlike big food producers in the heartland, the Bristol Bay salmon industry is not propped up by subsidies, chemicals or compromised politicians. The fish need only clean water and healthy oceans. That’s why the E.P.A. had earlier concluded that the proposed Pebble mine could have a “catastrophic” impact on the bay.
Trump’s men are rolling over for the gold mine. Just hours after Pruitt met with the mine’s corporate leadership, Trump reversed E.P.A. protection, as CNN reported this week. If you’re surprised that wild salmon would be sacrificed for precious metal, remember that one of Trump’s few passions is for gold-plated bathroom fixtures.
businesses from Bayer for $7 billion
4 MIN READ
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - BASF has agreed to buy seed and herbicide businesses from Bayer for 5.9 billion euros ($7 billion) in cash, as Bayer tries to convince competition authorities to approve its planned acquisition of Monsanto.
The logo of Germany's largest drugmaker Bayer is pictured in Leverkusen April 26, 2014. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender/Files
BASF, the world’s third-largest maker of crop chemicals, has so far avoided seed assets and instead pursued research into plant characteristics such as drought tolerance, which it sells or licenses out to seed developers.
But Bayer’s $66 billion deal to buy U.S. seeds group Monsanto, announced in September 2016, has created opportunities for rivals to snatch up assets that need to be sold to satisfy competition authorities.
Bayer had offered to sell assets worth around $2.5 billion. The European Commission said in August that the divestments offered by Bayer so far did not go far enough and started an in-depth investigation of the deal.
Bayer has to sell the LibertyLink-branded seeds and Liberty herbicide businesses because they compete with Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and Roundup Ready seeds.
LibertyLink seeds, used by soy, cotton and canola growers, are one alternative to Roundup Ready seeds for farmers suffering from weeds that have developed resistance to the Roundup herbicide, also known as glyphosate.
The spread of Roundup-resistant weeds in North America has been a major driver behind Liberty sales.
“BASF’s decision to acquire seeds assets represents something of a change to its prior view on its needs to respond to recent industry consolidation in agriculture,” Morgan Stanley analysts said.
“Nonetheless, the proposed assets for acquisition are high margin and high growth and represent a sensible bolt-on addition,” they added.
The sale to BASF values the assets at around 15 times 2016 operating profit (EBITDA) of 385 million euros, which Bankhaus Lampe analyst Volker Braun said was “reasonable” considering the assets had to be sold anyway.
BASF will finance the acquisition through a combination of cash on hand, commercial paper and bonds. It expects the acquisition to add to its earnings by 2020.
A cyclist rides his bike past the entrance of the BASF plant in Schweizerhalle, Switzerland, July 7, 2009. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/Files
Shares in Bayer rose 1.3 percent to the top of Germany’s blue-chip DAX index by 0845 GMT, while BASF fell 0.7 percent.
The businesses Bayer is selling to BASF generated 2016 sales of 1.3 billion euros.
While the Commission could block the deal, it has approved others, such as Dow’s tie-up with DuPont and ChemChina’s takeover of Syngenta - although only after securing big concessions.
Bayer said it continued to work with the authorities to close the Monsanto deal by early 2018.
As part of the asset sale to BASF, which is conditional upon the Monsanto acquisition going through, more than 1,800 staff, primarily in the United States, Germany, Brazil, Canada and Belgium, will transfer to BASF.
BASF has committed to maintaining all permanent positions, under similar conditions, for at least three years after the deal closes, Bayer said.
As part of the deal, BASF will acquire Bayer’s manufacturing sites for glufosinate-ammonium production and formulation in Germany, the United States, and Canada, seed breeding facilities in the Americas and Europe as well as trait research facilities in the United States and Europe.
Bayer said it would use the proceeds of the sale to partially refinance the planned acquisition of Monsanto. It would provide an update on expected synergies from the acquisition by the time the deal closes.
BofA Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse acted as financial advisors to Bayer. Its legal advisors are Sullivan & Cromwell, Dentons, Cohen & Grigsby and Redeker, Sellner & Dahs.
($1 = 0.8442 euros)
Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Keith Weir
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
This could be the company’s “Big Tobacco” moment.
By Rene Ebersole
Today 6:00 am
In 1970, John E. Franz, a 40-year-old chemist from Springfield, Illinois, hit upon a discovery that would profoundly change agriculture: a chemical that works its way into the leaves of weeds and down to their roots, eventually killing them. Franz sold the patent for the breakthrough to his employer, Monsanto, for $5. Four years later, Monsanto released Roundup.
This story was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, a nonprofit investigative-news organization.
“Weeds? No problem. Nothing kills weeds better,” announced the actors in the commercials for Roundup as they attacked dandelions with spray bottles. The product was an instant success, and in 1987 Franz won the National Medal of Technology for his discovery. Today, Roundup is the most popular herbicide in the world, generating more than $4 billion in annual revenue for Monsanto.
Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is widely perceived to be innocuous in the environment because it targets an enzyme not found in animals or humans. When it comes to plants, however, the chemical kills indiscriminately—except for those plants genetically designed to withstand it. In the 1990s, Monsanto began to sell its patented “Roundup Ready” seeds, allowing farmers to spray for weeds without damaging their crops. The combination of herbicide and resistant seeds helped Monsanto become one of the world’s most powerful agriculture corporations. Today, over 90 percent of domestic soy, corn, and cotton crops are genetically engineered to be glyphosate–resistant, accounting for more than 168 million acres.
But the future of the ubiquitous herbicide is in question. Monsanto is currently fighting allegations that glyphosate might not be as safe as advertised, particularly when combined with other chemicals in Roundup. In 2015, an international science committee ruled that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, countering previous determinations by regulatory agencies in the United States and other countries. Soon after, more than 200 people sued Monsanto in a federal case now centralized in California, claiming that Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a common blood cancer. Over 1,000 people have filed similar suits against the company in state courts in Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, Nebraska, and elsewhere.
Attorneys and activists have accused Monsanto of manipulating the science around glyphosate’s health impacts—in essence, of following the playbook written by Big Tobacco. Documents revealed in the federal case also suggest a cozy relationship between the company and regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency, which is currently reviewing glyphosate’s safety. For its part, Monsanto maintains that Roundup is harmless. “Our lawyers have produced over 10 million pages of documents, and the plaintiffs’ lawyers managed to cherry–pick a handful that reflect the use of some inappropriate language by some Monsanto folks,” said Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president for global strategy. “There’s not a single document that reflects that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, causes cancer.”
PARIS (Reuters) - France and the European Union need independent scientific experts to guide them on divisive environmental issues such as pesticides, French President Emmanuel Macron said, criticizing some research as prone to lobbying pressures.
The EU has struggled to find a consensus on farming questions such as pesticides and genetically modified crops, and is still debating whether to extend the license of popular weedkiller glyphosate.
In a speech on food and farming on Wednesday, Macron reiterated France’s support for phasing out glyphosate, and argued that independent expertise along with investment in innovations would bring solutions to environmental problems.
“I would like us to be able to bring together the conditions whereby we can have independent scientific expertise on each of these (environmental) subjects and that we have the same requirements at EU level,” he said.
“We have endured too much pressure in recent years on these questions, too many hidden interests and industry expertise that is in no way scientific expertise.”
He repeated a pledge to change the law in France to prevent suppliers from simultaneously selling pesticides and advising farmers.
The EU debate on glyphosate, first developed by U.S. group Monsanto and the most popular weedkiller worldwide, has brought competing claims about its safety, dividing scientists, farmers, chemical firms and politicians.
France has opposed a European Commission proposal to renew the EU license for glyphosate for another 10 years.
“I think the right debate to have is to say that it’s not a good idea at EU level to put the glyphosate issue to one side for another 10 years,” Macron said.
The president cited innovation to reduce pesticide use as one way of revamping French agriculture, along with proposals to offer better price terms for farmers.
Reporting by Gus Trompiz, additional reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Robin Pomeroy
The European Parliament’s environment and agriculture committees are holding on Wednesday (11 October) a highly anticipated public hearing on the so-called “Monsanto papers” and glyphosate, which is expected to further heat up the debate on the controversial chemical substance.
Political group leaders in the European Parliament decided on 28 September to deny Monsanto’s lobbyists the right to enter the assembly’s buildings because of the company’s refusal to appear before the assembly.
Monsanto lobbyists barred from European Parliament
Monsanto paid its refusal to appear before the European Parliament with its right to enter it, as MEPS have shut the door to their lobbyists until further notice. EURACTIV France reports.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have given the green light to the chemical, saying it is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet”.
This decision is in stark contrast to a separate assessment by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which pointed out that the herbicide solution was “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
EU Commissioner for Health Vytenis Andriukaitis recently told EURACTIV.com that it was sometimes strange that those people who argue against glyphosate should focus only on the IARC findings. “Sometimes they also disseminate the message that the EU does not take into account the IARC’s monograph [on glyphosate],” he said, adding that this was far from reality.
Andriukaitis: ‘Enough’ with member states hiding behind the Commission on glyphosate
The member states should stop hiding behind or even pointing the figure at the European Commission regarding the re-authorisation of the world’s most commonly used weedkiller, glyphosate, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis told EURACTIV.com.
Several hundreds of cancer patients in the US have sued Monsanto, blaming the company for having failed to warn users about the risk of cancer associated with the weed-killer Roundup products.
Dr Christopher Portier, a leading toxicologist and environmental engineer, was called as an expert witness by the plaintiff’s attorneys to scientifically back claims that glyphosate is carcinogenic.
Dr Portier, who will be one of the key witnesses at the hearing, has sent several letters to Commissioner Andriukaitis and to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arguing against glyphosate.
“This work was done with my own resources and on my own time,” he wrote in a letter to the EPA.
In his letter to Andriukaitis, Dr Portier cited all his academic credentials but did not mention his involvement in the US court case as a lead expert.
He did so, though, in his letter to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
“The opinions expressed here and the analyses done to support those opinions are mine alone and were conducted without any compensation. In my capacity as a private consultant, I am an expert witness for a US law firm involved in glyphosate litigation. I also work part-time as a Senior Contributing Scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund IEDFJ on issues not related to glyphosate or other pesticides.”
Scientific basis for glyphosate authorisation under renewed attack
Leading toxicologist and environmental engineer Christopher Portier has written to the European Commission denouncing the poor scientific quality of the EU’s research into glyphosate. EURACTIV France reports.
On 13 December 2016, Dr Protier took part in the ECHA’s hearing on glyphosate as an expert from the NGO Health and Environmental Alliance (HEAL).
“In the case of glyphosate, the major point is that transparency really needs to be part of this process because the people want to know. And if you are not transparent, you are going to lose their trust,” he stressed in a video interview following that meeting.
On 12 October 2016, he wrote in the US publication Agri-Pulse, “Nobody has ever paid me a cent to do what I am doing with glyphosate. I have no conflict of interest whatsoever”.
EURACTIV has had a chance to look through the filed documents in the ongoing US court case. As this is the usual practice of expert witnesses in US courts, Dr Portier had billed the clients for his testimony with a “substantial amount of money” as he claimed.
He will take part in Wednesday’s hearing and is listed as a professor at the University of Maastricht.
Nothing is hidden
Contacted by EURACTIV, Dr Portier stressed there was “little doubt” that his engagement could be seen as a conflict of interest under some conditions.
“But it is not something that is hidden. For example, when asked to do tomorrow‘s hearing I was told it was not a problem. Tomorrow I am appearing on my own with no compensation and the views I am expressing are mine alone. I am not appearing on behalf of any client.”
For many people, a toasted bagel topped with honey might sound like a healthy breakfast choice. Others might prefer a bowl of oatmeal or cornflakes or a hot plate of scrambled eggs. Few would likely welcome a dose of weed killer that has been linked to cancer in their morning meal.
Yet that is exactly what private laboratory tests in the United States started showing with alarming frequency in 2014: residues of the world’s most widely used herbicide were making their way into American meals.
Testing since then, by both private and public researchers, has shown glyphosate residues not only in bagels, honey, and oatmeal but also in a wide array of products that commonly line grocery store shelves, including flour, eggs, cookies, cereal and cereal bars, soy sauce, beer, and infant formula.
Indeed, glyphosate residues are so pervasive that they’ve been found in human urine. Livestock are also consuming these residues in grains used to make their feed, including corn, soy, alfalfa and wheat.
The United States allows among the highest levels of glyphosate residues, which critics say underscores the level of influence Monsanto has with regulators.
Glyphosate residues have been detected in bread samples in the United Kingdom for years, as well as in shipments of wheat leaving the United States for overseas markets. “Americans are consuming glyphosate in common foods on a daily basis,” the Alliance for Natural Health said in its April 2016 report, which revealed glyphosate residues detected in eggs and coffee creamer, bagels and oatmeal.
In North Dakota, an agronomist at the state university, Joel Ransom, became so curious about glyphosate residue that in 2014 he ran his own tests on flour samples from the region. North Dakota grows much of America’s hard red spring wheat, a type that is considered the aristocrat of wheat and carries the highest protein content of all classes of American wheat.
It is used to make some of the world’s finest yeast breads, hard rolls, and bagels. But growing the wheat and bringing a healthy crop to harvest is not always easy in a state known for cold and damp conditions. To make harvesting the crop easier, many North Dakota farmers spray their wheat crops directly with glyphosate to help dry the plants a week or so before they roll out their combines. The practice is also common in Saskatchewan, across the border in Canada. So when
Ransom ran his tests on flour samples from the area, including flour from Canada, he expected to find some samples with glyphosate. He certainly did not expect all of them to have glyphosate residues. But they did.
Since at least the 1960s, world food and health experts have sought to gauge how much of a pesticide can be ingested on a daily basis—an “acceptable daily intake” (ADI)—over a lifetime without any noteworthy health risk.
The United States allows among the highest levels of glyphosate residues, which critics say underscores the level of influence Monsanto has with regulators. The EPA even has gone so far as to say that safety margins called for by law to protect children from pesticide exposures could be reduced when it comes to glyphosate.
The Food Quality Protection Act calls for the EPA to use an extra tenfold (10X) safety factor when assessing exposure risk and establishing allowable levels for pesticide residues in food, unless the EPA determines the extra margin is not necessary to protect infants and young children because the substance in question is so safe. That’s exactly what the regulatory agency decided with glyphosate, saying it had adequate data to show that the extra margin of safety for glyphosate could be eliminated.12
Even with the EPA’s generous allowances for glyphosate residues, many of the various individuals and organizations doing their own testing have found levels that exceed the tolerances, though many tests do show residues falling within the allowed thresholds.
Still, critics say even residues that the EPA says are at safe levels may in fact be harmful to human health when consumed meal after meal, day after day. They believe that the EPA’s analysis is outdated and not sufficient to protect people from the pervasiveness of many pesticides, such as glyphosate, that are often combined in food.
The private and nonprofit attempts to test foods for glyphosate residues were well under way when the World Health Organization’s cancer experts made their March 2015 decision to classify glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. But testing efforts doubled after that, in large part because WHO’s decision didn’t stand alone; rather, it added to warnings that many scientists had been making for years.
It’s not just glyphosate residues that people worry about, of course. Fears about a range of chemical residues in food have been growing in recent years. Pesticide residues can be found in everything from mushrooms to potatoes and grapes to green beans.
One sample of strawberries examined by the USDA in an annual testing program found residues of twenty pesticides in the berries. In fact, roughly 85 percent of more than 10,000 food samples tested by the USDA in 2015 carried pesticide residues.
Most of those foods were fruits and vegetables, both fresh and processed—foods consumers generally consider healthy. Residue levels higher than what the government allows have been found in spinach, strawberries, grapes, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and watermelon.
Even residues of chemicals long banned in the United States were found as recently as 2015, including residues of DDT or its metabolites found in spinach and potatoes. U.S. regulators have also reported finding illegally high levels of the neonicotinoid insecticide thiamethoxam in rice.
The USDA asserts that all these pesticide residues are nothing for people to worry about. The agency states that “residues found in agricultural products sampled are at levels that do not pose risk to consumers’ health and are safe.” But many scientists say there is little to no data to back up that claim. The animal studies the regulators rely on to set the allowable pesticide levels are typically conducted by, or on behalf of, the pesticide companies and look only at the effects of one pesticide at a time.
Regulators do not have sufficient research regarding how consuming residues of multiple types of pesticides affects us over the long term, and government assurances of safety are simply false, say the skeptical scientists.
“We don’t know if you eat an apple that has multiple residues every day what will be the consequences twenty years down the road,” said Chensheng Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “They want to assure everybody that this is safe, but the science is quite inadequate. This is a big issue.”
Lawyers on the “Monsanto papers” case accused the EU agencies responsible for food safety and chemicals of “wilfully sawing off certain studies” in their risk assessment of glyphosate.
On 4 October, two plaintiffs and their lawyers in an ongoing US lawsuit against Monsanto came to Brussels to lobby against the renewal of glyphosate’s licence in Europe – a weed killer that has been described as potentially carcinogenic by IARC, the UN’s cancer research agency, but deemed safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
“The reason I am here today is to warn the EU Commission and you people of Europe to look at new studies that have been disclosed, not only by IARC, and at documents that have been declassified, showing that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen,” said John Barton, who was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin lymphoma and claims it is due to using glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup for more than 30 years.
Their lawsuit against Monsanto was instrumental in making public hundreds of internal company documents that became known as the “Monsanto papers”.
The documents suggest that Monsanto “ghost-wrote” academic articles and even pressured editors of scientific journals to retract articles that countered their interests.
Three review studies that appear to be ghost-written were considered in the EU agencies’ risk assessment of glyphosate. Lawyers argued this could have implications for the scientific validity of their assessments.
But EFSA and ECHA downplayed the revelations, arguing the review papers had little weight in their assessment and they “came to their independent conclusion based on the original data and not on someone else’s interpretation”.
Therefore, they declared in June, “even if the allegations were confirmed that these review papers were ghost-written, there would be no impact on the overall EU assessment and conclusions on glyphosate”.
The documents suggest Monsanto has been aware for decades of the carcinogenic risks of glyphosate and its commercial formulation, Roundup, and suppressed the evidence.
In one study commissioned by the company in 1999, Dr. James Parry informed Monsanto that glyphosate is genotoxic (capable of disrupting a cell’s DNA and causing mutations), and recommended that Monsanto study the effects of glyphosate’s “formulations” – that is, Roundup.
Parry’s study was never made public, and his recommendations ignored: “We simply aren’t going to do the studies that Parry suggests,” Monsanto toxicologist William Heydens wrote in 1999.
In the commercial product, chemicals known as “surfactants” enhance the penetration of glyphosate within the plant – and are shown to have higher genotoxic profiles.
“[Monsanto] cannot say that Roundup does not cause cancer. We have not done the carcinogenicity studies with Roundup” – Donna Farmer, a Monsanto Toxicologist, is quoted saying in 2002.
However, under the EU’s pesticide regulation EFSA and ECHA only consider the single active substance and not pesticide formulations, a task that is left to member states.
France and the Netherlands already banned Roundup in 2015, but glyphosate is present in many generic products on the market.
This may partly explain the difference in IARC and EFSA’s assessments of glyphosate, according to EFSA:
“There are good scientific reasons for assessing the individual chemical (e.g. glyphosate) separately from the other chemicals in the pesticide formulation. For instance, if you assess all chemicals together, it is very difficult to identify which chemicals are causing which effects. Some pesticide formulations may contain dozens of different chemicals,” a spokesperson for EFSA told EURACTIV.com.
“This distinction between active substance and pesticide formulations also explains differences in the ‘weight’ or relevance EFSA and IARC attach to certain studies. For the EU assessment, studies conducted with glyphosate were obviously more relevant than studies conducted with formulated products containing other chemicals, particularly when the other chemicals could not be identified.”
When in 2015, following a request by the Commission, EFSA carried out an assessment of the surfactant POE-tallowamine, it found it is more toxic than glyphosate, and recommended that the toxicity of formulations and their genotoxic potential should be further considered and addressed.
A recommendation which led to a EU ban on the two chemicals being used together.
Lawyer Michael Baum argued that EFSA and ECHA have been disregarding certain studies: “It’s like having a finely made Swiss watch. All the gears match nicely and tell the time, but they wilfully sawed off some of the teeth,” he told reporters.
“EFSA and ECHA wilfully sawed off some studies. By cutting out studies and levels of exposure you end up carving and counting data that gives you the outcome they wanted, which is that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.”
“If you count data correctly, you end up finding an increased risk. This is why an inquiry needs to be done.”
EFSA and ECHA confirmed that they do not consider a re-assessment necessary at this stage. However, an EFSA spokesperson said: “The option to revisit our work is always open should relevant information come to light. This is true both with regards to new scientific evidence and with regards to information about the process for the assessment.”
Evidence of collusion
The Monsanto papers include text messages showing close links between Monsanto and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in which EPA employees claim they “should get a medal” if they can “kill” a review into glyphosate.
“This is deeply disturbing in the US, for these are the people that are supposed to be protecting us. It should be disturbing in the EU as well because we don’t know what the relations are between Monsanto and the regulators in the EU,” lawyer Brent Wisner told reporters.
The law-firm made some documents available to the public and is looking to release more. “This is the tip of a very large iceberg,” Wisner added.
The media is now looking into connections between EU regulators and the firm. An article by the Guardian showed how large portions of EFSA’s own 2015 assessment were copy-pasted from Monsanto’s own study.
More recently, Le Monde found that one Monsanto scientist who killed a study which would have not conformed with European toxicity tests now works at ECHA.
The agency said these facts date back more than 15 years and the scientist in question did not, to its knowledge, participate in the risk assessment of glyphosate.
The licence for glyphosate is due to expire this year and EU member states will most probably vote at a meeting in November, after debate on 5 and 6 October failed to reach a conclusion.
EU Commissioner for Food Safety and Health Vytenis Andriukaitis announced there will be no re-authorisation without a qualified majority of member states.
France has already said that it will vote against the renewal, and on 3 October Italy’s Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina said in a tweet that Italy will oppose the renewal.
Ben & Jerry’s has moved to cut all glyphosate-tainted ingredients from its production chain and introduce an “organic dairy” line next year, after a new survey found widespread traces of the controversial substance in its European ice-creams.
The dramatic initiative follows a new survey by Health Research Institute (HRI) laboratories which found traces of the weedkiller in 13 out of 14 B&J; tubs sampled in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
It will add to a growing unease around the herbicide, which was first marketed in the US by Monsanto in 1974, as RoundUp, but is now the world’s most popular weedkiller, made by companies worldwide. Recently Prosecco DOC announced that wines marketed under the banner would not be able to use glyphosate and the US state of California added it to its list of chemicals that cause cancer.
Similar levels of glyphosate in B&J; ice-cream have also been recorded in the US, although scientists told the Guardian these were “very low and not likely to pose a public health problem”.
Laura Peterson, a spokeswoman for B&J;, said that the firm was “disappointed, but not totally surprised” to hear the results of the latest analysis.
“Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in agriculture and is everywhere – from mainstream food, to natural and organic food, and even rainwater – and that’s the issue,” she told the Guardian.
The herbicide is commonly used on crops such as wheat, barley, oats and peanuts, making it likely that it came from B&J;’s cookie dough, peanut butter or other added ingredients.
“But simply saying trace levels are in everything is not a strategy,” Peterson added. “By no later than 2020, we will stop sourcing [ingredients] made with crops chemically dried using glyphosate. In addition, we intend to advocate for policies that would end use of glyphosate as a chemical drying agent.”
A new B&J; 100% certified organic dairy line will launch next year and is expected to account for 6% of total US sales, she added.
Ben and Jerry’s is known for its environmentally friendly brand image. The Unilever-owned firm has campaigned against Arctic oil drilling and does not use GM crops, which are often manufactured to resist Monsanto’s RoundUp.
Glyphosate has received regulatory approval from several agencies, despite the WHO’s cancer wing deeming it “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Monsanto insist their product is safe to use, and the European Chemical Agency decided “the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen.”
The trigger for Monday’s move was a survey which found that popular B&J; 500ml tubs of flavours such as Peanut Butter Cup, Half Baked and Chocolate Fudge Brownie in the UK all contained between 1 and 1.23 parts per billion of glyphosate.
Other B&J; flavours that tested positive for glyphosate in France, Germany and the Netherlands were: Karamel Sutra Core, Cinnamon Buns, Cookie Dough and Topped Chocolate Caramel Cookie Dough.
Ronnie Cummins, the international director of the Organic Consumers Association, which commissioned the new survey, said: “Although we are happy to hear that consumer pressure has forced Unilever/Ben and Jerry’s to declare that some of their non-dairy ingredients will no longer be sprayed with RoundUp … the campaign to force Ben and Jerry’s to begin the transition to 100% organic will continue until the company signs a legally binding agreement and timeline to make this global transition over the next three to five years.”
European food safety authority guidelines put the levels of glyphosate found in the HRI tests well within safe limits. But one peer-reviewed study published by Nature magazine earlier this year found that much lower doses triggered fatty liver disease among rats.
Michael Antoniou, who heads the gene therapy group at King’s College London which produced the study, said a 35kg child would have to eat 114ml of B&J; ice cream daily “over many years” to be at risk.
Products derived from wheat, barley, rye and oats – which can contain glyphosate levels 646 times higher than in the ice-cream – were more troubling, he added.
“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease affects 20-30% of Europeans,” Antoniou said. “Our results imply that even extremely low daily ingestion of glyphosate-based herbicides may be a hitherto unsuspected risk factor for this disease.”
Ben & Jerry’s said their products were safe to eat, pointing out that “the trace levels of glyphosate detected in both the US and European study are below allowable US and European standards”.
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