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Post-Brexit, Is the EU Flaunting Its Undemocratic Tendencies?

By Joyce Nelson | CounterPunch | July 6, 2016

Stung by Brexit, the EU bureaucrats seem intent on showing just how undemocratic they can be. Here are two examples just in the last seven days.

The Glyphosate License

On June 24, EU member states again refused (for a third time this year) to approve a renewal of the license for the weed-killer glyphosate manufactured by Monsanto and other corporations involved in GMO crop cultivation. That should have meant that the license would expire by the end of June, and Monsanto’s Roundup and other glyphosate weed-killers would have to be withdrawn from Europe by the end of this year.

Instead, on June 29 the European Commission (EC) decided “unilaterally” to extend the glyphosate license for another 18 months. [1]

The decision “drew heavy criticism from the Greens in the European Parliament, who said the decision showed the Commission’s ‘disdain’ for the opposition by the public and EU governments to the controversial toxic herbicide.” [2] Belgian Green Member of the European Parliament Bart Staes said, “As perhaps the first EU decision after the UK referendum, it shows the [EC] executive is failing to learn the clear lesson that the EU needs to finally start listening to its citizens again.” [3]

Many were simply shocked that an unelected body of bureaucrats would cater so blatantly to the corporate sector’s last-minute lobbying.

The EC claims that, because of member nations’ indecision on the matter, its own decision about glyphosate was based on assessments made by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), prolonging the authorisation until a new scientific review is concluded before the end of 2017, but Greenpeace has called the EFSA study “a whitewash.” [4]

Lawrence Woodward, co-director of Beyond GM, has called the EC’s unilateral decision “reckless.” [5] It comes at the same time that dozens of individuals and organizations have signed an open “Letter from America,” urging European citizens, politicians and regulators to not adopt a “failing agricultural technology” and sharing examples of glyphosate and GMO repercussions across North America. [6]

CETA Ratification

At virtually the same time that the EC made this controversial decision on glyphosate, it made another that is even more undemocratic.

On June 28, a German news agency reported that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told EU leaders the Commission is planning to push through a controversial free trade agreement between Canada and the EU – known as CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement – without giving national parliaments any say in it. [7] According to the German press, Juncker argued that allowing national parliaments to vote on the agreement would “paralyze the process” and raise questions about the EU’s “credibility.” Juncker claimed that CETA “would fall within the exclusive competence of the EU executive” and therefore doesn’t need to be ratified by national parliaments within the 28-nation bloc, sources in Brussels told the Germany news agency DPA. [8]

Most EU members, however, view CETA as a “mixed” agreement, meaning “that each country would have to push the deal through their parliaments.” [9]

In late June 2016, the EC’s Juncker was reported as saying that he “personally couldn’t care less” whether lawmakers get to vote on CETA. [10]

Millions of Canadians and Europeans have fought against CETA for the past six years. Like the TPP and TTIP, it is a draconian agreement that would hand multinational corporations immense power to overrule elected local governments on numerous fronts. In Canada, CETA was supposed to be voted on by every Canadian provincial and territorial government before any ratification could take place, but in September 2014 (during the reign of Stephen Harper) the CETA deal was signed without there having been any public consultation whatsoever in Canada. The 2014 announcement was also the first time people in Canada and Europe were allowed to see the official text, which had been kept secret during the years of negotiations.

Unfortunately, Canada’s International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland is enthused about what the EU is doing. According to The Globe and Mail newspaper (July 3), “The British vote to exit the European Union has refocused

Europe’s attention on the need to send a message to the world that liberalized trade is the path to greater prosperity, Ms. Freeland said.” [11]

She also explained that once the European Parliament approves CETA, “a great deal of the agreement would come into force immediately, more than 90 per cent,” she said, “those portions deemed to be within the European Union’s jurisdiction, those go into force right away.” [12]

Freeland told The Globe and Mail that concerns about CETA’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism – which allows multinational corporations to sue governments over regulations that harm their future profits – had been addressed by a rewrite of the treaty’s investment chapter. [13] But according to Council of Canadians, those changes “actually make [the provisions] worse. The reforms enshrine extra rights for foreign investors that everyone else – including domestic investors – don’t have. They allow foreign corporations to circumvent a country’s own courts, giving them special status to challenge laws that apply equally to everyone through a [private] court system exclusively for their use.” [14]

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in Europe this week for a NATO summit, and officials “say he will lobby hard for other European leaders not to stand in the way of [CETA’s] ratification.” [15]

The Pushback

Reportedly, the pushback in Europe has been immediate, with Germany and France wanting “their national parliaments to be involved” in CETA ratification. On July 5, Deutsche Welle reported that “Juncker appears to be backtracking,” and would propose at a July 5 EC meeting that CETA would require “both the approval of the European parliament and national legislatures.” [16]

The Globe and Mail reported on July 5 that Juncker’s “new recommendation… could call for applying those EU parts of the treaty while the ratification process [by national legislatures] is under way.” [17] That would mean (as Canada’s Chrystia Freeland had earlier explained) more than 90% of CETA could be approved by the EU as part of its “jurisdiction” and needing no national legislative approvals. Such a process would make a mockery of democratic rights on both sides of the Atlantic.

That appears to be what is happening.

Following the July 5 EC meeting in Strasbourg, France, the CBC reported: “Legal opinions advanced by the commission suggest that most of the agreement – perhaps as much as 95 per cent – falls comfortably with the European Union’s jurisdiction… ‘This is an agreement that Europe needs,’ EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement. ‘The open issue of competence for such trade agreements will be for the European Court of Justice to clarify, in the near future. From a strict legal standpoint, the commission considers this agreement to fall under exclusive EU competence. However, the political situation in the council is clear, and we understand the need for proposing it as a ‘mixed’ agreement, in order to allow for a speedy signature’.” [18]

But as nations gear up to wrangle with the EU (in the European Court of Justice) over what parts of the CETA treaty fall within their jurisdiction, and what parts “fall under exclusive EU competence,” the EC could approve 95% of CETA before elected legislatures even vote.

The Council of Canadians warns on its website (July 5): “One important concern to note, ‘The commission may recommend provisionally applying the EU-parts of the Canada deal while full ratification is pending.’ The French newspaper Le Monde has previously reported that even if CETA is deemed to be a ‘mixed’ agreement, the deal could enter into force ‘provisionally’ even before EU member state parliaments vote on it. It notes, ‘If EU ministers agreed at the signing of the CETA on its provisional application, it could come into effect the following month. Such a decision would have serious implications. Symbolically, first because it would send the message that European governments finally [have] little regard for the views of parliamentarians and thus of European citizens strongly against the agreement’.” [19]

Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow stated after the EC meeting in Strasbourg, “Like many Canadians, Europeans are worried about CETA’s attacks on democracy, its weakening of social and safety standards, its contribution to privatization and attacks on public services. After the Brexit vote, policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic would be better counseled to listen to voters, rather than pushing discredited [trade] solutions down people’s throats.” [20]

Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden has called CETA a “toxic deal” and says that the way the EC is acting “reinforces the widely held suspicion that the EU makes big decisions with harmful consequences for ordinary people with very little in the way of democratic process,” he said. “Rather than take a step back and question why there is hostility to the EU, they try to speed up this awful trade deal.” [21]

Union members, environmentalists, social activists and “fair trade” groups say CETA is just as dangerous as the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal between the EU and the U.S., which hands massive power to multinationals and is a direct threat to democracy on both sides of the Atlantic. The way the EC is handling CETA is a stark clue to what’s in store for TTIP.

Footnotes:
[1] “European Commission Extends Glyphosate License without Real Restrictions,” Sustainable Pulse, June 29, 2016.

[2] Frederic Simon, “EU muddling on glyphosate fuelled Brexit populism,” EurActiv.com, July 1, 2016.

[3] Quoted in ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Katie Pohlman, “Neil Young: Say No to GMOs on ‘Behalf of All Living Things’,” EcoWatch, July 1, 2016.

[6] Quoted in ibid.

[7] “EU Commission Seeks to Push Through Free Trade Agreement with Canada (CETA) without Parliamentary Approval,” Deutsche Welle, June 28, 2016.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Reuters, “EU Commission to opt for simple approval for Canada deal: EU official,” June 28, 2016.

[10] “EU Commission: CETA should be approved by national parliaments,” Deutsche Welle, July 5, 2016.

[11] Robert Fife, “Despite Brexit vote, key EU powers vow to ratify CETA deal,” The Globe and Mail, July 3, 2016.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Council of Canadians, “CETA changes make investor-state provisions worse,” February 3, 2016.

[15] Fife, op cit.

[16] “EU Commission: CETA should be approved by national parliaments,” Deutsche Welle, July 5, 2016.

[17] “EC set to scrap plans to fast-track CETA deal: report,” The Globe and Mail, July 5, 2016.

[18] “Canada gets clarity on how Europe will ratify trade deal,” CBC, July 5, 2016.

[19] Council of Canadians, “CETA to be considered a ‘mixed’ agreement, now more vulnerable to defeat,” July 5, 2016.

[20] Council of Canadians, “CETA vulnerable to defeat: Council of Canadians,” July 5, 2016.

[21] Lamiat Sabin “Brexit ‘Might Not Stop Awful Ceta’,” Morning Star, July 5, 2016.


Joyce Nelson is an award-winning Canadian freelance writer/researcher working on her sixth book.

July 6, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glyphosate and Atrazine: EPA posts, then retracts, reports on top herbicide chemicals

RT | May 6, 2016

The EPA recently posted online reports on two disputed herbicide chemicals, only to pull them offline shortly afterwards. The reports said glyphosate was not a human carcinogen and atrazine caused reproductive harm to mammals.

On April 29, the EPA’s cancer assessment review committee (CARC) posted an 86-page report on the agency’s regulations.gov website that stated glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer that was deemed a “probable” human carcinogen by the World Health Organization last year, “was not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” Reuters reported.

On May 2, the EPA pulled the report offline, saying the action was taken “because our assessment is not final,” and that the “preliminary” documents were “inadvertently” published.

“EPA has not completed our cancer review,” the EPA told Reuters. “We will look at the work of other governments as well as work by (the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’) Agricultural Health Study as we move to make a decision on glyphosate.”

However, the cover page of the documents was titled “final Cancer Assessment Document,” Reuters reported, and the word “FINAL” was printed on each page of the report, dated October 1, 2015. The EPA said the assessment — part of the first comprehensive safety review of the chemical since 1993, which will determine glyphosate use in the US over the next 15 years — will be complete by the end of 2016.

Critics of glyphosate ridiculed the EPA for its short-lived assessment, while the chemical’s supporters, including agribusiness giant Monsanto, hailed the report for endorsing glyphosate’s safety. Monsanto even posted a copy of it on its website.

“Pulling the report indicates lack of confidence in the outcome,” tweeted Nathan Donley, a scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Can’t blame them, the analysis is terrible.”

The glyphosate documents indicated that the EPA was “relying heavily on unpublished, industry funded studies” in its assessment that glyphosate is not a human carcinogen, the Center for Biological Diversity said. In contrast, the World Health Organization’s view that glyphosate is a “likely” human carcinogen included studies that were publicly available and that took into account consumer products.

“All they’re doing is reviewing studies that are funded by the industry,” Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council, told Reuters.

In 1974, Monsanto began selling the chemical in Roundup, which has become a top bioicide for farming, especially involving genetically-engineered crops, and home and garden uses.

“No pesticide regulator in the world considers glyphosate to be a carcinogen, and this conclusion by the U.S. EPA once again reinforces this important fact,” said Hugh Grant, Monsanto’s CEO.

The use of glyphosate in herbicides has increased by more than 250 times in the United States over the last 40 years, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Long-term exposure to glyphosate has been linked to kidney and liver damage, as well as cellular and genetic diseases. Monsanto and defenders of glyphosate use called the World Health Organization’s carcinogen classification too “dramatic” and have pointed to assurances that the chemical is safe.

In April, the European Parliament approved the seven-year reauthorization of glyphosate, though it recommended the chemical should be used only by professionals and not in public places.

Atrazine

Around the same time it pulled the glyphosate assessment off its website, the EPA similarly published and retracted a less-flattering report on the herbicide atrazine, which was banned in Europe in 2004. Atrazine is legal in the US, where it is second only to glyphosate among most-used agricultural herbicides.

Atrazine is manufactured by agrochemical corporation Syngenta. At least 60 million pounds of the chemical is used in the US each year, mainly on corn fields, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. US agencies and other researchers have found high levels of atrazine in groundwater and drinking water near agricultural and rural areas. Atrazine is known to be an endocrine disruptor and has been linked to hormonal defects and some types of cancer in humans.

On April 29, an EPA assessment on atrazine was posted on the agency’s website but subsequently taken down. The documents are available here. The assessment said atrazine was found to cause reproductive harm to birds and mammals, exceeding by 200 times the EPA’s “levels of concern.” Amphibians were found to be especially at-risk from atrazine exposure, echoing research by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, who found that about three-quarters of male frogs are castrated by the chemical.

“When the amount of atrazine allowed in our drinking water is high enough to turn a male tadpole into a female frog, then our regulatory system has failed us,” said Donley, the Center for Biological Diversity scientist. “We’ve reached a point with atrazine where more scientific analysis is just unnecessary — atrazine needs to be banned now.”

Like glyphosate, atrazine is undergoing a 15-year safety review by the EPA. The previous of such assessments on atrazine occurred in 2003.

Syngenta, atrazine’s maker, touts the chemical’s safety on its website, claiming it is not “physically possible to dissolve enough atrazine in water to have any impact on hormones or human health.”

“No one has, ever will, or ever could be exposed to enough atrazine in the natural environment to affect their reproductive health,” the chemical giant says.

Read more:

Quaker Oats sued for use of glyphosate in ‘100% natural’ products

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , | Leave a comment

Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs

By Jonathan R. Latham, PhD | Independent Science News | August 31, 2015

By training, I am a plant biologist. In the early 1990s I was busy making genetically modified plants (often called GMOs for Genetically Modified Organisms) as part of the research that led to my PhD. Into these plants we were putting DNA from various foreign organisms, such as viruses and bacteria.

I was not, at the outset, concerned about the possible effects of GM plants on human health or the environment. One reason for this lack of concern was that I was still a very young scientist, feeling my way in the complex world of biology and of scientific research. Another reason was that we hardly imagined that GMOs like ours would be grown or eaten. So far as I was concerned, all GMOs were for research purposes only.

Gradually, however, it became clear that certain companies thought differently. Some of my older colleagues shared their skepticism with me that commercial interests were running far ahead of scientific knowledge. I listened carefully and I didn’t disagree. Today, over twenty years later, GMO crops, especially soybeans, corn, papaya, canola and cotton, are commercially grown in numerous parts of the world.

Depending on which country you live in, GMOs may be unlabeled and therefore unknowingly abundant in your diet. Processed foods (e.g. chips, breakfast cereals, sodas) are likely to contain ingredients from GMO crops, because they are often made from corn or soy. Most agricultural crops, however, are still non-GMO, including rice, wheat, barley, oats, tomatoes, grapes and beans.

For meat eaters the nature of GMO consumption is different. There are no GMO animals used in farming (although GM salmon has been pending FDA approval since 1993); however, animal feed, especially in factory farms or for fish farming, is likely to be GMO corn and GMO soybeans. In which case the labeling issue, and potential for impacts on your health, are complicated.

I now believe, as a much more experienced scientist, that GMO crops still run far ahead of our understanding of their risks. In broad outline, the reasons for this belief are quite simple. I have become much more appreciative of the complexity of biological organisms and their capacity for benefits and harms. As a scientist I have become much more humble about the capacity of science to do more than scratch the surface in its understanding of the deep complexity and diversity of the natural world. To paraphrase a cliché, I more and more appreciate that as scientists we understand less and less.

The Flawed Processes of GMO Risk Assessment

Some of my concerns with GMOs are “just” practical ones. I have read numerous GMO risk assessment applications. These are the documents that governments rely on to ‘prove’ their safety. Though these documents are quite long and quite complex, their length is misleading in that they primarily ask (and answer) trivial questions. Furthermore, the experiments described within them are often very inadequate and sloppily executed. Scientific controls are often missing, procedures and reagents are badly described, and the results are often ambiguous or uninterpretable. I do not believe that this ambiguity and apparent incompetence is accidental. It is common, for example, for multinational corporations, whose labs have the latest equipment, to use outdated methodologies. When the results show what the applicants want, nothing is said. But when the results are inconvenient, and raise red flags, they blame the limitations of the antiquated method. This bulletproof logic, in which applicants claim safety no matter what the data shows, or how badly the experiment was performed, is routine in formal GMO risk assessment.

To any honest observer, reading these applications is bound to raise profound and disturbing questions: about the trustworthiness of the applicants and equally of the regulators. They are impossible to reconcile with a functional regulatory system capable of protecting the public.

The Dangers of GMOs

Aside from grave doubts about the quality and integrity of risk assessments, I also have specific science-based concerns over GMOs. I emphasise the ones below because they are important but are not on the lists that GMO critics often make.

Many GMO plants are engineered to contain their own insecticides. These GMOs, which include maize, cotton and soybeans, are called Bt plants. Bt plants get their name because they incorporate a transgene that makes a protein-based toxin (usually called the Cry toxin) from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. Many Bt crops are “stacked,” meaning they contain a multiplicity of these Cry toxins. Their makers believe each of these Bt toxins is insect-specific and safe. However, there are multiple reasons to doubt both safety and specificity. One concern is that Bacillus thuringiensis is all but indistinguishable from the well known anthrax bacterium (Bacillus anthracis). Another reason is that Bt insecticides share structural similarities with ricin. Ricin is a famously dangerous plant toxin, a tiny amount of which was used to assassinate the Bulgarian writer and defector Georgi Markov in 1978. A third reason for concern is that the mode of action of Bt proteins is not understood (Vachon et al 2012); yet, it is axiomatic in science that effective risk assessment requires a clear understanding of the mechanism of action of any GMO transgene. This is so that appropriate experiments can be devised to affirm or refute safety. These red flags are doubly troubling because some Cry proteins are known to be toxic towards isolated human cells (Mizuki et al., 1999). Yet we put them in our food crops.

A second concern follows from GMOs being often resistant to herbicides. This resistance is an invitation to farmers to spray large quantities of herbicides, and many do. As research recently showed, commercial soybeans routinely contain quantities of the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) that its maker, Monsanto, once described as “extreme” (Bøhn et al 2014).

Glyphosate has been in the news recently because the World Health Organisation no longer considers it a relatively harmless chemical, but there are other herbicides applied to GMOs which are easily of equal concern. The herbicide Glufosinate (phosphinothricin, made by Bayer) kills plants because it inhibits the important plant enzyme glutamine synthetase. This enzyme is ubiquitous, however, it is found also in fungi, bacteria and animals. Consequently, Glufosinate is toxic to most organisms. Glufosinate is also a neurotoxin of mammals that doesn’t easily break down in the environment (Lantz et al. 2014). Glufosinate is thus a “herbicide” in name only.

Thus, even in conventional agriculture, the use of glufosinate is hazardous; but With GMO plants the situation is worse yet. With GMOs, glufosinate is sprayed on to the crop but its degradation in the plant is blocked by the transgene, which chemically modifies it slightly. This is why the GMO plant is resistant to it; but the other consequence is that when you eat Bayers’ Glufosinate-resistant GMO maize or canola, even weeks or months later, glufosinate, though slightly modified, is probably still there (Droge et al., 1992). Nevertheless, though the health hazard of glufosinate is much greater with GMOs, the implications of this science have been ignored in GMO risk assessments of Glufosinate-tolerant GMO crops.

A yet further reason to be concerned about GMOs is that most of them contain a viral sequence called the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) promoter (or they contain the similar figwort mosaic virus (FMV) promoter). Two years ago, the GMO safety agency of the European Union (EFSA) discovered that both the CaMV promoter and the FMV promoter had wrongly been assumed by them (for almost 20 years) not to encode any proteins. In fact, the two promoters encode a large part of a small multifunctional viral protein that misdirects all normal gene expression and that also turns off a key plant defence against pathogens. EFSA tried to bury their discovery. Unfortunately for them, we spotted their findings in an obscure scientific journal. This revelation forced EFSA and other regulators to explain why they had overlooked the probability that consumers were eating an untested viral protein.

This list of significant scientific concerns about GMOs is by no means exhaustive. For example, there are novel GMOs coming on the market, such as those using double stranded RNAs (dsRNAs), that have the potential for even greater risks (Latham and Wilson 2015).

The True Purpose of GMOs

Science is not the only grounds on which GMOs should be judged. The commercial purpose of GMOs is not to feed the world or improve farming. Rather, they exist to gain intellectual property (i.e. patent rights) over seeds and plant breeding and to drive agriculture in directions that benefit agribusiness. This drive is occurring at the expense of farmers, consumers and the natural world. US Farmers, for example, have seen seed costs nearly quadruple and seed choices greatly narrow since the introduction of GMOs. The fight over GMOs is not of narrow importance. It affects us all.

Nevertheless, specific scientific concerns are crucial to the debate. I left science in large part because it seemed impossible to do research while also providing the unvarnished public scepticism that I believed the public, as ultimate funder and risk-taker of that science, was entitled to.

Criticism of science and technology remains very difficult. Even though many academics benefit from tenure and a large salary, the sceptical process in much of science is largely lacking. This is why risk assessment of GMOs has been short-circuited and public concerns about them are growing. Until the damaged scientific ethos is rectified, both scientists and the public are correct to doubt that GMOs should ever have been let out of any lab.

References

Bøhn, T, Cuhra, M, Traavik, T, Sanden, M, Fagan, J and Primicerio, R (2014) Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans. Food Chemistry 153: 207-215.

Droge W, Broer I, and Puhler A. (1992) Transgenic plants containing the phosphinothricin-N-acetyltransferase gene metabolize the herbicide L-phosphinothricin (glufosinate) differently from untransformed plants. Planta 187: 142-151.

Lantz S et al., (2014) Glufosinate binds N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors and increases neuronal network activity in vitro. Neurotoxicology 45: 38-47.

Latham JR and Wilson AK (2015) Off -­ target Effects of Plant Transgenic RNAi: Three Mechanisms Lead to Distinct Toxicological and Environmental Hazards.

Mizuki, E, Et Al., (1999) Unique activity associated with non-insecticidal Bacillus thuringiensis parasporal inclusions: in vitro cell- killing action on human cancer cells. J. Appl. Microbiol. 86: 477–486.

Vachon V, Laprade R, Schwartz JL (2012) Current models of the mode of action of Bacillus thuringiensis insecticidal crystal proteins: a critical review. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 111: 1–12.

September 2, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | Leave a comment

Long term exposure to tiny amounts of Monsanto’s Roundup may damage liver, kidneys – study

RT | August 29, 2015

Long-term intake of the Monsanto’s most popular Roundup herbicide, even in very small amounts lower than permissible in US water, may lead to kidney and liver damage, a new study claims.

The research, conducted by an international group of scientists from the UK, Italy and France, studied the effects of prolonged exposure to small amounts of the Roundup herbicide and one of its main components – glyphosate.

In their study, published in Environmental Health on August 25, the scientists particularly focused on the influence of Monsanto’s Roundup on gene expression in the kidneys and liver.

In the new two-year study, which extended the findings from one conducted in 2012, the team added tiny amounts of Roundup to water that was given to rats in doses much smaller than allowed in US drinking water.

Scientists say that some of the rats experienced “25 percent body weight loss, presence of tumors over 25 percent bodyweight, hemorrhagic bleeding, or prostration.”

The study’s conclusions indicate that there is an association between wide-scale alterations in liver and kidney gene expression and the consumption of small quantities of Roundup, even at admissible glyphosate-equivalent concentrations. As the dose used is “environmentally relevant in terms of human, domesticated animals and wildlife levels of exposure,” the results potentially have significant health implications for animal and human populations, the study warned.

“There were more than 4,000 genes in the liver and kidneys [of the rats that were fed Roundup] whose levels of expression had changed,” the study’s leading scientist, Michael Antoniou, head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at King’s College London, said, as quoted by the Environmental Health News.

“Given even very low levels of exposure, Roundup can potentially result in organ damage when it comes to liver and kidney function,” he added. “The severity we don’t know, but our data say there will be harm given enough time.”

The results of the study have received mixed reviews in the scientific community, although many scientists have expressed their concern about possible negative health effects from Roundup use.

Taking into account that the team “used very low dose levels in drinking water … this study should have some kind of public health influence,” said Nichelle Harriott, the science and regulatory director at Beyond Pesticides, a Washington, DC based nonprofit organization, as quoted by the Environmental Health News.

“We don’t know what to make of such changes, they may be meaningful and may not,” said Bruce Blumberg, a professor from the University of California, who did not take part in the study.

“They can’t say which caused what, but what you have is an association – the group treated with a little Roundup had a lot of organ damage and the gene expression findings supported that,” he added.

Meanwhile, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, the use of glyphosate in herbicides has increased by more than 250 times in the United States in the last 40 years.

Research conducted in 2014 and published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health linked the use of Monsanto’s Roundup to widespread chronic kidney disease that took the form of an epidemic in Sri Lanka. Another study showed that Monsanto agrochemicals may have caused cellular and genetic diseases in Brazilian soybean workers.

Additionally, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has recently determined that Roundup’s glyphosate is ‘number one’ among carcinogens, “possibly” causing cancer.

However, Monsanto has continuously and consistently insisted that its products are safe, citing other research supporting their claims. The latest such study was conducted by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessments (BfR) and deemed that Monsanto’s Roundup was safe.

So far, Monsanto has made no comment concerning the research conducted by the group led by Michael Antoniou.

August 29, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | 1 Comment

COLOMBIA: Campesino lives matter too—racism in U.S. aerial coca fumigation policy

By Phil Hart | CPTnet | August 10, 2015

I’ve claimed to be an organic gardener since I originally started planting vegetables in SE Ohio in the early 1970s. At the same time, I confess to having used Roundup and a few other herbicides to deal with poison ivy and a few other invasive species that were frustrating me. I apply it as sparingly and specifically as possible, never when windy or wet.

Here in Colombia this spring when we were sitting in a restaurant watching the mid­day news on the TV I was stunned to see video of US planes flown by US contractors aerial spraying US­ supplied glyphosate on suspected coca farms (the plant used to make cocaine). Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. Everything I knew about applying this chemical said aerial spraying had to be a bad idea.

The practice is making the news because in March the World Health Organization’s research arm issued its finding that Glyphosate probably causes cancer. 1) Then on 9 May President Santos called for a ban on all aerial coca fumigation. It has been a controversial program with opponents likening it to Agent Orange use during the Viet Nam War. Residents in the areas of spraying report the loss of food crops, and various illnesses have been linked to the practice. The cancer link has moved Colombia’s Health Ministry to support the ban.

According to Adam Isaacson of the Washington Office on Latin America, the US has spent nearly two billion dollars, paying for the spraying of sixteen acres for every one-acre of coca reduced over the last twenty years. He sees Colombia’s use of glyphosate as a substitute for actual governance in the remote areas where resident access to traditional agricultural markets is virtually non­existent for lack of infrastructure. (2)

Proponents of this kind of aerial spraying are few. Colombia is the only coca producing country that has allowed aerial fumigation. The US, one of the last countries to support the practice, says that in the long run the benefits outweigh the risks. They point to the decline in coca production since 2008. (But see footnote) (3) They also point to GPS units now installed in the planes that allow complaints from farmers to be promptly investigated.

And this is where I’d like to point out two things that I have learned working in Colombia with Christian Peacemaker Teams over the past seven years. First, there is no such thing as a prompt investigation of any incident that involves rural farmers or indigenous people in Colombia. Specific incidents of violence often see weeks pass before police arrive to investigate. There is no reason to expect a crop failure to be investigated any more quickly. But the bigger, more subtle, violation of human rights is the US position that essentially says, “Yes, there is a risk of collateral civilian damage in Colombia, but we are saving American lives and money by keeping cocaine out of our country.”

To this I say, campesino lives matter, too. I cannot imagine the public outcry if the federal government were to begin aerial spraying of Roundup in rural communities to control marijuana planting in the US. How can we continue to treat citizens of other countries as if their lives do not have the same value as American lives?

Colombia’s justice minister recently asked the United Nations to come up with alternative policies to combat drugs, claiming “we declared a war that hasn’t been won. Because of this, it will be imperative to on a global level come up with and agree on policies and interventions that allow us to respond to this enormous challenge in a more humane, intelligent and effective way.” (2)

I totally agree.

Sources:

(1)NYT March 22, 2015   http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/03/22/world/americas/ap-lt-colombia-us-coca-spraying-debate.html

(2) Washington Office on Latin America

http://www.wola.org/video/interview_with_adam_isacson_on_the_end_of_aeri…

(3) The proponents are having a hard time explaining why a 14% increase in spraying in 2014 led to a 21% to 39% surge in the total area of land area under coca cultivation. CR – Santos calls for ban, May 10 http://colombiareports.com/santos­calls­for­ban­on­aerial­coca­fumigation­in­colombia/

August 10, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

The Warped World of the GMO Lobbyist

By Colin Todhunter | CounterPunch | July 7, 2015

There’s a massive spike in cancer cases in Argentina that is strongly associated with glyphosate-based herbicides. These herbicides are a huge earner for agribusiness. But don’t worry, Patrick Moore says you can drink a whole quart and it won’t harm you. Who needs independent testing? He says people regularly try to commit suicide with it but fail. They survived – just. So what’s the problem? Perfectly safe. Patrick Moore says he is ‘not an idiot’. So he must be right. Right?

Anyway, all that scare mongering about GMOs and glyphosate is a conspiracy by a bunch of whinging lavishly funded green-blob types. Former UK environment minister Owen Paterson said as much. He says those self-serving anti-GMO people are damaging the interests of the poor and are profiting handsomely. They are condemning “billions” to lives of poverty.

He voted for the illegal invasion of Iraq, which has led to the death of almost 1.5 million Iraqis. His government has plunged millions into poverty and food insecurity in the UK. He now wants to help the poor by giving them GM courtesy of self-interested, corporations and their lavishly paid executives. What was that about self-serving, lavishly funded groups? As a staunch believer in doublespeak, hypocrisy and baseless claims by self-appointed humanitarians with awful track records, Paterson’s sound-bite smears and speeches are good enough for me.

So with that cleared up, hopefully we can move on.

Then there’s all that ‘anti-capitalist twaddle’ (another pearl of wisdom from Patrick Moore) about smallholders being driven from their lands and into poverty due to a corporate takeover aimed at expanding (GM) chemical-intensive agriculture. I showed Mr Moore a paper by an economics professor who had studied the devastation caused by the above in Ethiopia. That’s where the ‘anti-capitalist twaddle’ retort came in. As I’m also a staunch believer in the power of baseless, ill-informed abuse, I was once again convinced.

What about all that rubbish about GM not having enhanced the world’s ability to feed itself? You know, all that stuff about the way it has been used has merely led to greater food insecurity. Nonsense. I watched a prime-time BBC programme recently. Some scientist in a white coat in a lab said that GM can feed the world. He’d proved it in his lab. In reality (not in a lab), the fact it hasn’t done anything of the sort over the past 20-odd years doesn’t matter. He wore a white coat and held GM patents, so he definitely knows best!

I once read that industrialised agriculture is less productively efficient than smallholder agriculture that feeds most of the world. And then I read that the world can feed itself without GMOs. According to all of this, it is current policies and the global system of food production that militate against achieving global food security.

That’s just a big old load of rubbish put together by a bunch of conspiracy mongers. Who are these people? Food and trade policy analysts, political scientists, economics professors and the like. A bunch of whining anti-capitalist promoters of twaddle. None of them have studied molecular biology so how can they possibly be qualified to talk on this? I’d rather listen to a man in a lab who says GM can feed the world. He’s much more qualified to speak on politics, trade, the environment or anthropology than a bunch of lefties who don’t know one side of a petri dish from the other.

I happen to believe a profitable techno-fix is the way to go. A techno-fix that comes courtesy of the same companies whose global influence and power are helping to destroy indigenous agriculture across the world. But this is for the good of the traditional smallholder because these companies really, really care about the poor. Okay, okay, I know the top execs over at Monsanto are bringing in a massive annual cheque – but $12.4 million per year helps motivate a CEO to get out of bed in the morning and to develop empathy with the poor – unlike that elitist, self-serving green blob lot who rake in big money – according to hero-of-the-poor, the handsomely rewarded millionaire Owen Paterson… err, let’s swiftly move on.

To divert your attention away from all that scare mongering, conspiracy theory twaddle, I want you to concentrate solely on the science of GM and nothing else. But only on the version of ‘science’ as handed down from the great lawgiver in St Louis which creates it in its own image, not least by dodging any problematic questions that may have prevented GM from going on the market in the first place. Some troublemaker recently wrote a book about that, but someone said it wasn’t worth reading – so I didn’t bother (‘Altered Genes, Twisted…’ something or other – the word escapes me; it doesn’t appear in my lexicon).

So how about joining like-minded humanitarians and the handsomely-paid people over at big bioworld? We believe in mouthing platitudes about freedom and choice while serving interests that eradicate both. And let me add that scientists know that anyone who disagrees with them is just plain dim. C S Prakash recently posted a claim that implied such on Twitter. He’s a molecular biologist, so it must be true. Of course, there are scientists who disagree with us but they are quite clearly wrong – wrong methodology, wrong findings, wrong career turn – we’ll make sure of that!

In finishing, let me make the case for GM clear, based on logic and clear-headed rationality. There are those who are just too dim to understand any of the issues to do with GM so they should put up, shut up or go away and read or write about conspiracy theories on their blogs or in their peer-reviewed non-science journals that aren’t worth the paper they are written on given that the ‘peers’ in question are probably also a bunch of left-leaning wing nuts.

By comparison, unlike those self-serving ideologues, we are totally non-political. Okay, we might be firmly supporting a neoliberalism that is dominated by unaccountable big corporations which have captured policy-making space nationally and internationally, but any discussion of that is to be avoided by labelling those who raise such matters as politically motivated. We get you to focus on ‘the science’ – that is ‘our science’ – and nothing else. The fact that some of us tend to label anyone who disagrees with us as anti-science, anti-capitalist, socialists or enemies of the poor (or even ‘murdering bastards‘) says nothing at all about our political agenda.

And the lavish funds and powerful strategic position of big agribusiness means the pro-GMO lobby can smear, exert huge political influence and also restrict choice by preventing the labelling of GM food. You see, too much choice confuses people. We take the public for fools who will swallow anything – hopefully GMOs and our sound-bite deceptions.

So rests the case for GMOs. Eloquently put? I certainly think so. But I would say that, wouldn’t I? I’m paid to.

Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.

July 8, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | 1 Comment

Why The Netherlands Just Banned Non-Commercial Use Of Monsanto’s Glyphosate-Based Herbicides

By Arjun Walia | Collective Evolution | May 30, 2015

The Netherlands has just become the latest country, following Russia, Mexico, and many others, to say no to Monsanto. The sale and use of glyphosate-based herbicides (the most commonly used herbicides in the world) has just been banned for non-commercial use in the country, effective later this year. This means that people will no longer be able to spray RoundUp on their lawns and gardens and will instead have to find another (hopefully more natural) means of pest control.

This is definitely a step in the right direction.

The move comes as no surprise, considering that the number of countries around the world who are choosing to ban this product is growing at an exponential rate. Bans and restrictions are being implemented due to the fact that glyphosate (the main ingredient in RoundUp) has been directly linked to several major health issues, including: birth defects, nervous system damage, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, various forms of cancer, and kidney failure. (Sri Lanka recently cited deadly kidney disease as their reason for banning his product. You can read more about that and access the research here.) Indeed, The World Health Organization recently acknowledged the fact that glyphosate can cause cancer, and you can read more about that here.

Not only that, there are multiple environmental concerns associated with the use of this chemical.

What’s even more disturbing is the fact that studies have shown that RoundUp herbicide is over one hundred times more toxic than regulators claim. For example, a new study published in the journal Biomedical Research International shows that Roundup herbicide is 125 times more toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate studied in isolation. You can read more about that here. The eye opening abstract reads as follows:

“Pesticides are used throughout the world as mixtures called formulations. They contain adjuvants, which are often kept confidential and are called inerts by the manufacturing companies, plus a declared active principle, which is usually tested alone. We tested the toxicity of 9 pesticides, comparing active principles and their formulations, on three human cell lines. Glyphosate, isoproturon, fluroxypyr, pirimicarb, imidacloprid, acetamiprid, tebuconazole, epoxiconazole, and prochloraz constitute, respectively, the active principles of 3 major herbicides, 3 insecticides, and 3 fungicides.  Despite its relatively benign reputation, Roundup was among the most toxic herbicides and insecticides tested. Most importantly, 8 formulations out of 9 were up to one thousand times more toxic than their active principles. Our results challenge the relevance of the acceptable daily intake for pesticides because this norm is calculated from the toxicity of the active principle alone. Chronic tests on pesticides may not reflect relevant environmental exposures if only one ingredient of these mixtures is tested alone.” (source)

Equally disturbing is the fact that RoundUp has been found in a very high percentage of air and rainfall test samples. You can read more about that here.

Significant concentrations of it have also been found in the urine of people across Europe, you can read more about that here.

One recent study published in the Journal of Environmental & Analytical Toxicology has now proven that animals and humans who consume GMO foods – those that are loaded with glyphosate chemicals, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp – have extremely high levels of glyphosate in their urine.

It’s also noteworthy to mention that there are Wikileaks documents showing how the United States planned to “retaliate and cause pain” on countries who were refusing GMOs. You can read more about that story and view those documents here.

It’s troubling to think that so many children are within proximity of and playing on lawns that have been sprayed with this stuff. Cancer is not a mystery, it is not a stroke of bad luck, it’s time for the world to wake up and realize what research has been confirming for years.

More Information on Pesticides & Herbicides Here:

**There are also multiple articles linked within the article above that provide more information**

Scientists Link Autism To These Toxic Chemicals During Fetal Development

Another Groundbreaking Study Emerges Linking Agricultural Pesticides To Autism

Scientists Can Predict Your Pesticide Exposure Based On How Much You Eat

This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Switch To Organic Food

What Parents Need To Know About Monsanto: “By 2025 One In Two Children Will Be Autistic”

Monsanto’s Glyphosate Linked To Birth Defects

Groundbreaking Study Links Monsanto’s Glyphosate To Cancer

New Study Links Gmos To Cancer, Liver/Kidney Damage & Severe Hormonal Disruption

Multiple Toxins From GMOs Detected In Maternal And Fetal Blood

Sources Used:

http://sustainablepulse.com/2014/04/04/dutch-parliament-bans-glyphosate-herbicides-non-commercial-use/#.VWcpp1xVhBd

June 1, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monsanto knew of glyphosate / cancer link 35 years ago

GM-Free Cymru | April 8, 2015

According to evidence unearthed from the archives of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in the United States, it has been established that Monsanto was fully aware of the potential of glyphosate to cause cancer in mammals as long ago as 1981.

Recently the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a statement in which glyphosate (the main component of Roundup herbicide) was classified as “probably carcinogenic” to humans and as “sufficiently demonstrated” for genotoxicity in animals (1). This announcement of a change to toxicity class 2A was given vast coverage in the global media, causing Monsanto to move immediately into damage limitation mode. The corporation demanded the retraction of the report, although it has not yet been published! Predictably, there was more fury from the industry-led Glyphosate Task Force (2). This Task Force also sponsored a “rebuttal” review article (3) from a team of writers with strong links with the biotechnology industry; but because of the clear bias demonstrated in this paper (which suggests that glyphosate has no carcinogenic potential in humans) it is best ignored until it has been carefully scrutinized by independent researchers (4).

With Monsanto continuing to protest that glyphosate and Roundup are effectively harmless (5) if used according to instructions, in spite of accumulating evidence to the contrary, we undertook a search through Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) records with a view to finding out what was known about glyphosate at the time of its initial registration. This followed up earlier investigations by Sustainable Pulse which highlighted a sudden change in the EPA view on toxicity in 1991. What was discovered was very revealing. There were many animal experiments (using rats, mice and dogs) designed to test the acute and chronic toxicity of glyphosate in the period 1978-1986, conducted by laboratories such as Bio/dynamics Inc for Monsanto and submitted for EPA consideration. Two of these reports relate to a three-generation reproduction study in rats (6) (7), and another is called “A Lifetime Feeding Study Of Glyphosate In Rats” (8); but like all the other older studies they were and still are treated as Trade Secrets and cannot be freely accessed for independent scrutiny. That in itself is suggestive that the studies contain data which Monsanto still does not wish to be examined by experts in the toxicology field. It is also deeply worrying that EPA acceded to the routine Monsanto requests for secrecy on the flimsiest of pretexts.

However, archived and accessible EPA Memos from the early 1980’s do give some indications as to what the rat studies contain (9). Although the studies predate the adoption of international test guidelines and GLP standards they suggest that there was significant damage to the kidneys of the rats in the 3-generational study — the incidence of tubular dilation in the kidney was higher in every treated group of rats when compared to controls. Tubular dilation and nephrosis was also accompanied by interstitial fibrosis in all test groups and in some of the lumens the researchers found amorphous material and cellular debris. Less than a third of the control rats showed signs of tubular dilation. In the rat study results, the changes in the bladder mucosa are significant because metabolites, concentrated by the kidneys, have led to hyperplasia that could be considered as a very early and necessary step in tumour initiation. EPA was worried in 1981 that these indications were sinister, and at first declined to issue a NOEL (no observed adverse effect level) — it asked for further information and additional research. In its 1982 Addendum, Monsanto presented evidence that minimised the effects and confused the data — and on that basis EPA accepted that glyphosate was unlikely to be dangerous. But Monsanto knew that scrutiny of the data in the studies would potentially threaten its commercial ambitions, and so it asked for the research documents concerned to be withheld and treated as Trade Secrets. So there was no effective independent scrutiny. Monsanto and EPA connived in keeping these documents away from unbiased expert assessment, in spite of the evidence of harm. (It is clear that EPA was thinking about carcinogenic effects — it knew in 1981 that glyphosate caused tumorigenic growth and kidney disease but dismissed the finding as “a mystery” in order to set the NOEL for the chemical and bring it to market.)

In the rat studies, the glyphosate doses fed to the test groups were 1/100 of those used in a later mouse study (9). It is unclear why these very small doses were decided upon by Monsanto and accepted by EPA, since there must be a suspicion that the studies were manipulated or designed to avoid signs of organ damage. In its 1986 Memo, EPA remarked on the very low doses, and said that no dose tested was anywhere near the “maximally tolerated dose.” Then the Oncogenicity Peer Review Committee said: “At doses close to an MTD, tumours might have been induced.” A repeat rat study was asked for. However, BioDynamics (which conducted the research for Monsanto) used data from three unrelated studies, which they conducted in house, as historical controls to create “experimental noise” and to diminish the importance of the results obtained by experiment.

In a 1983 mouse study conducted by Bio/dynamics Inc for Monsanto (10), there was a slight increase in the incidence of renal tubular adenomas (benign tumours) in males at the highest dose tested. Malignant tumours were found in the higher dose group. However, “it was the judgment of two reviewing pathologists that the renal tumors were not treatment-related”. Other effects included centrilobular hypertrophy and necrosis of hepatocytes, chronic interstitial nephritis, and proximal tubule epithelial cell basophilia and hypertrophy in females. The EPA committee determined there was a “weak oncogenic response” — so evidence was suggestive of early malignancy. The EPA Science Advisory Panel was asked for advice, and they said the data were equivocal and called for further studies in mice and rats. A further report was delivered in 1985. Part of the reason for this dithering was the prevalent but false EPA belief that all physiological effects had to be dose-related: namely, the higher the dose, the greater the effect.

Even though pre-cancerous conditions were imperfectly understood 35 years ago, and cortical adenomas in kidney were not thought dangerous at the time, the evidence from the Memos is that Monsanto, BioDynamics Inc and the EPA Committees involved were fully aware, probably before 1981, of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate when fed to mammals. In the Memos there are references to many more “secret” animal experiments and data reviews, which simply served to confuse the regulators with additional conflicting data. Thus EPA publicly accepted the safety assurances of the Monsanto Chief of Product Safety, Robert W. Street, and the status of the product was confirmed for use in the field (11). But behind the scenes, according to a later EPA memo (in 1991), its own experts knew before 1985 that glyphosate causes pancreatic, thyroid and kidney tumors.

On the EPA website (last updated 31.10.2014) reference is made to five Monsanto studies of 1980 – 1985, and it is noteworthy that these studies have not been made public in the light of current knowledge about malignant tumours and pre-cancerous conditions (12). Neither have they been revisited or reinterpreted by Monsanto and EPA, although one 1981 rat study and one 1983 mouse study are mentioned in the recent review by Greim et al (2015) (3). Following the conclusion that glyphosate was “not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity” nothing in the EPA advice about this chemical has changed since 1990. Given the recent assessment by the WHO Panel, and given the flood of scientific papers relating to health damage associated with glyphosate (13) the EPA attitude smacks of complacency and even incompetence.

Speaking for GM-Free Cymru, Dr Brian John says: “The evidence shows that by 1981 both Monsanto and the EPA were aware of malignant tumours and pre-cancerous conditions in the test animals which were fed small doses of glyphosate in the secret feeding experiments. Although concerns were expressed at the time by EPA committees, these concerns were later suppressed under the weight of conflicting evidence brought forward by Monsanto, some of it involving the inappropriate use of historical control data of dubious quality. None of these studies is available for independent examination (14). That is a scandal in itself. There has been a protracted and cynical cover-up in this matter (15). Glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen”, as now confirmed by the WHO Working Group, and no matter what protestations may now come from Monsanto and the EPA, they have been fully aware of its potential to cause cancer for at least 35 years. If they had acted in a precautionary fashion back then, instead of turning a blind eye to scientific malpractice (16), glyphosate would never have been licensed, and thousands of lives might have been saved.”

Retired Academic Pathologist Dr Stanley Ewen says: “Glyphosate has been implicated in human carcinogenesis by IARC and it is remarkable that, as early as 1981, glyphosate was noted to be associated with pre neoplastic changes in experimental mice. This finding was never revealed by the regulatory process and one might therefore expect to see human malignancy increasing on the record in the ensuing years. John Little (personal communication) has demonstrated an unexpected and alarming 56% upsurge in malignancy in England in those under 65 in the past 10 years. Presumably British urinary excretion of glyphosate is similar to the documented urine levels in Germany, and therefore everyone is at risk. The effect of glyphosate on endocrine tissue such as breast and prostate, or even placenta, is disruptive at least and an increased incidence of endocrine neoplasia is likely to be seen in National Statistics. The Glyphosate Task Force denies the involvement of glyphosate in human malignancy despite their knowledge of many reports of lymphomas and pituitary adenomas in experimental animals dosed with glyphosate. On the other hand, Prof. Don Huber at a recent meeting in the Palace of Westminster, has warned of severe consequences if rampant glyphosate consumption is not reined in. I feel sure that the suppression of the experimental results of 1981 has enhanced the global risk of malignancy.”

Toxico-pathologist Professor Vyvyan Howard says: “”The drive towards transparency in the testing of pharmaceuticals is gathering pace with legislation in the EU, USA and Canada being developed. All trials for licensed drugs will likely have to become available in the public domain. In my opinion the case with agrochemicals should be no different. At least with pharmaceuticals exposure is voluntary and under informed consent. There are several biomonitoring studies which demonstrate that there is widespread exposure of human populations to glyphosate, presumably without informed consent. Given the clear level of mistrust over the licensing of this herbicide and the emerging epidemiological evidence of its negative effects there can, in my opinion, be no case whatsoever for keeping the toxicological studies, used to justify licencing, a secret. They should be put in the public domain.”

Research scientist Dr Anthony Samsel says: “Monsanto’s Trade Secret studies of glyphosate show significant incidence of cell tumors of the testes and tumorigenic growth in multiple organs and tissues. They also show significant interstitial fibrosis of the kidney including effects in particular to the Pituitary gland, mammary glands, liver, and skin. Glyphosate has significant effects to the lungs indicative of chronic respiratory disease. Glyphosate has an inverse dose response relationship, and it appears that its effects are highly pH dependent. Both Monsanto and the EPA knew of the deleterious effects of this chemical in 1980 at the conclusion of their multiple long-term assessments, but the EPA hid the results of their findings as “trade secrets.” Monsanto has been lying and covering up the truth about glyphosate’s harmful effects on public health and the environment for decades. The increases in multiple chronic diseases, seen since its introduction into the food supply, continue to rise in step with its use. Monsanto’s Roundup glyphosate based herbicides have a ubiquitous presence as residues in the food supply directly associated with its crop use. Nations must stand together against Monsanto and other chemical companies who continue to destroy the biosphere. We are all part of that biosphere and we are all connected. What affects one affects us all.”

NOTES

(1) Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate (2015)
Kathryn Z Guyton, Dana Loomis, Yann Grosse, Fatiha El Ghissassi, Lamia Benbrahim-Tallaa, Neela Guha, Chiara Scoccianti, Heidi Mattock, Kurt Straif, on behalf of the International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group, IARC, Lyon, France
Lancet Oncol 2015. Published Online March 20, 2015 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S1470-2045(15)70134-8
International Agency for Research on Cancer 16 Volume 112: Some organophosphate insecticides and herbicides: tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon and glyphosate. IARC Working Group. Lyon; 3–10 March 2015. IARC Monogr Eval Carcinog Risk Chem Hum (in press).

(2) Monsanto seeks retraction for report linking herbicide to cancer
By Carey Gillam, Reuters
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/24/us-monsanto-herbicide-idUSKBN0MK2GF20150324
The response by the pesticide industry association, the Glyphosate Task Force, is here:
http://www.wmcactionnews5.com/story/28574811/statement-of-the-gtf-on-the-recent-iarc-decision-concerning-glyphosate

(3) Helmut Greim, David Saltmiras, Volker Mostert, and Christian Strupp (2015) REVIEW ARTICLE: Evaluation of carcinogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate, drawing on tumor incidence data from fourteen chronic/carcinogenicity rodent studies. Crit Rev Toxicol, 2015; Early Online: 1–24 DOI: 10.3109/10408444.2014.1003423

(4) Not only is this paper written by authors who have strong industry links, but the 14 carcinogenicity studies assessed are carefully selected industry studies which have not been peer-reviewed and published in mainstream scientific journals. All of the studies were conducted for clients (like Monsanto) who would have experienced gigantic commercial repercussions if anything “inconvenient” had been reported upon, with glyphosate already in use across the world. Therefore the possibility of fraud and data manipulation cannot be ruled out. The 14 studies are all secret, and cannot be examined by independent toxicology experts. The fact that the review article in question reproduces (as online supplementary material) a series of tables and data sets is immaterial, since the data are useless in the absence of clear explanations of the laboratory protocols and practices of the research teams involved.

(5) http://www.monsanto.com/glyphosate/pages/is-glyphosate-safe.aspx

(6) “A Three-Generation Reproduction Study in Rats with Glyphosate” (Final Report; Bio/dynamics Project No. 77-2063; March 31, 1981) — submitted by Monsanto to EPA

(7) “Addendum to Pathology Report for a Three-Generation Reproduction Study in Rats with Glyphosate. R.D. #374; Special Report MSL-1724; July 6, 1982″ EPA Registration No 524-308, Action Code 401. Accession No 247793. CASWELL#661A” — submitted by Monsanto to EPA

(8) “A Lifetime Feeding Study Of Glyphosate In Rats” (Report by GR Lankas and GK Hogan from Bio/dynamics for Monsanto. Project #77-2062, 1981: MRID 00093879) — submitted by Monsanto to EPA
and Addendum Report #77-2063

(9) Archived EPA memos from 1982 and 1986:

Click to access 103601-135.pdf


Click to access 103601-210.pdf


The 1991 EPA Memo is accessible via:
http://sustainablepulse.com/2015/03/26/who-glyphosate-report-ends-thirty-year-cancer-cover-up/#.VSVPZ2Z3bJk

(10) Knezevich, AL and Hogan, GK (1983) “A Chronic Feeding study of Glyphosate (Roundup Technical) in Mice”. Project No 77-2061. Bio/dynamics Inc for Monsanto. Accession No #251007-251014 — document not available but cited in EPA 1986 Memo.
Follow-up study: McConnel, R. “A chronic feeding study of glyphosate (Roundup technical) in mice: pathology report on additional kidney sections”. Unpublished project no. 77-2061A, 1985, submitted to EPA by BioDynamics, Inc.

(11) Glyphosate was first registered for use by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) in 1974, and after various reviews reregistration was completed in 1993.
Glyphosate (CASRN 1071-83-6)
Classification — D (not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity)
Basis — Inadequate evidence for oncogenicity in animals. Glyphosate was originally classified as C, possible human carcinogen, on the basis of increased incidence of renal tumors in mice. Following independent review of the slides the classification was changed to D on the basis of a lack of statistical significance and uncertainty as to a treatment-related effect.
http://www.epa.gov/iris/subst/0057.htm
http://sustainablepulse.com/2015/03/26/who-glyphosate-report-ends-thirty-year-cancer-cover-up/
npic.orst.edu/factsheets/glyphotech.pdf

(12) Monsanto Company. 1981a. MRID No. 0081674, 00105995. Available from EPA. Write to FOI, EPA, Washington, DC 20460.
Monsanto Company. 1981b. MRID No. 00093879. Available from EPA. Write to FOI, EPA, Washington, DC 20460.
Monsanto Company. 1985. MRID No. 00153374. Available from EPA. Write to FOI, EPA, Washington, DC 20460.
Monsanto Company. 1980a. MRID No. 00046362. Available from EPA. Write to FOI, EPA, Washington, DC 20460.
Monsanto Company. 1980b. MRID No. 00046363. Available from EPA. Write to FOI, EPA, Washington, DC 20460.

(13) http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Scandal_of_Glyphosate_Reassessment_in_Europe.php
http://permaculturenews.org/2012/11/01/why-glyphosate-should-be-banned-a-review-of-its-hazards-to-health-and-the-environment/
Key studies showing toxic effects of glyphosate and Roundup. Ch 4 in GMO Myths and Truths
http://earthopensource.org/earth-open-source-reports/gmo-myths-and-truths-2nd-edition/
Antoniou, M. et al. Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence J Environ Anal Toxicol 2012, S:4
http://dx.doi.org/10.4172/2161-0525.S4-006

Click to access RoundupandBirthDefectsv5.pdf

(14) That having been said, Monsanto has allowed access to selected later reports to selected researchers (Greim et al, 2015). It is still uncertain whether these selected reports are available in full, for detailed independent scrutiny — even though there can now be no possible justification for “trade secret” designation, following the lapse of the US glyphosate patent in 2000.

(15) http://sustainablepulse.com/2015/03/26/who-glyphosate-report-ends-thirty-year-cancer-cover-up/
In 1985 the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate was first considered by an EPA panel, called the Toxicology Branch Ad Hoc Committee. The Committee then classified glyphosate as a Class C Carcinogen on the basis of its carcinogenic potential. This classification was changed by the EPA in 1991 to a Class E category on the basis of “evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans”. Mysteriously this change in glyphosate’s classification occurred during the same period that Monsanto was developing its first Roundup-Ready (glyphosate-resistant) GM Crops. Not for the first time, commercial considerations were allowed to trump public health concerns.
The EPA scale of cancer-forming potential of substances:
Group A: Carcinogenic to humans
Group B: Likely to be carcinogenic to humans
Group C: Suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential
Group D: Inadequate information to assess carcinogenic potential
Group E: Not likely to be carcinogenic to humans

(16) Wikipedia 2012: Internal EPA Memos Document Fraud
1983 EPA Scientist on EPA’s public stance: “Our viewpoint is one of protecting the public health when we see suspicious data.” Unfortunately, EPA has not taken that conservative viewpoint in its assessment of glyphosate’s cancer causing potential.”
“There are no studies available to NCAP evaluating the carcinogenicity of Roundup or other glyphosate-containing products. Without such tests, the carcinogenicity of glyphosate-containing products is unknown.”
“Tests done on glyphosate to meet registration requirements have been associated with fraudulent practices.”
“Countless deaths of rats & mice are not reported.”
“Data tables have been fabricated”
“There is a routine falsification of data”

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Argentina: 30,000 doctors and health professionals demand ban on glyphosate

Eco-Noticias | April 16, 2015

Following on from the conclusion of the International Agency for Research on Cancer that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, Argentina’s union of doctors and health professionals, FESPROSA, has issued a statement throwing the support of its 30,000 members behind the decision:

“The organisation [IARC] has just released the results of a study that overturns the agribusiness model. Thus the complaints that affected residents and scientists outside the orbit of corporations have been making for years have gained renewed momentum,” FESPROSA said in the statement.

FESPROSA explained:

“In our country glyphosate is applied on more than 28 million hectares. Each year, the soil is sprayed with more than 320 million litres, which means that 13 million people are at risk of being affected, according to the Physicians Network of Sprayed Peoples (RMPF). Soy is not the only crop addicted to glyphosate: the herbicide is also used for transgenic maize and other crops. Where glyphosate falls, only GMOs can grow. Everything else dies.”

“Our trade union, the Federation of Health Professionals of Argentina (FESPROSA), which represents more than 30,000 doctors and health professionals in our country, includes the Social Health Collective of Andrés Carrasco. Andrés Carrasco was a researcher at [Argentine government research institute] CONICET, who died a year ago, and showed the damage caused by glyphosate to embryos. For disseminating his research, he was attacked by the industry and the authorities at CONICET. Today, WHO vindicates him.”

“Glyphosate not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease.”

“Health authorities, including the National Ministry of Health and the political powers, can no longer look away. Agribusiness cannot keep growing at the expense of the health of the Argentine people. The 30,000 health professionals in Argentina in the FESPROSA ask that glyphosate is now prohibited in our country and that a debate on the necessary restructuring of agribusiness is opened, focusing on the application of technologies that do not endanger human life.”

Translation by GM Watch

April 19, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Conflicts of interests, confidentiality and censorship in health risk assessment: the example of an herbicide and a GMO

By Gilles-Eric Séralini | Environmental Sciences Europe | June 24, 2014

Abstract

We have studied the long-term toxicity of a Roundup-tolerant GM maize (NK603) and a whole Roundup pesticide formulation at environmentally relevant levels from 0.1 ppb. Our study was first published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) on 19 September, 2012. The first wave of criticisms arrived within a week, mostly from plant biologists without experience in toxicology. We answered all these criticisms. The debate then encompassed scientific arguments and a wave of ad hominem and potentially libellous comments appeared in different journals by authors having serious yet undisclosed conflicts of interests. At the same time, FCT acquired as its new assistant editor for biotechnology a former employee of Monsanto after he sent a letter to FCT to complain about our study. This is in particular why FCT asked for a post-hoc analysis of our raw data. On 19 November, 2013, the editor-in-chief requested the retraction of our study while recognizing that the data were not incorrect and that there was no misconduct and no fraud or intentional misinterpretation in our complete raw data – an unusual or even unprecedented action in scientific publishing. The editor argued that no conclusions could be drawn because we studied 10 rats per group over 2 years, because they were Sprague Dawley rats, and because the data were inconclusive on cancer. Yet this was known at the time of submission of our study. Our study was however never attended to be a carcinogenicity study. We never used the word ‘cancer’ in our paper. The present opinion is a summary of the debate resulting in this retraction, as it is a historic example of conflicts of interest in the scientific assessments of products commercialized worldwide. We also show that the decision to retract cannot be rationalized on any discernible scientific or ethical grounds. Censorship of research into health risks undermines the value and the credibility of science; thus, we republish our paper.

Background

There is an ongoing debate on the potential health risks of the consumption of genetically modified (GM) plants containing high levels of pesticide residues [1]. Currently, no regulatory authority requests mandatory chronic animal feeding studies to be performed for edible GMOs and formulated pesticides. This fact is at the origin of most of the controversies. Only studies consisting of 90-day rat feeding trials have been conducted by manufacturers for GMOs. Statistical differences in the biochemistry of treated rats versus controls may represent the initial signs of long-term pathologies [2], possibly explained at least in part by pesticide residues in the GM feed. This is why we studied the long-term toxicity of a Roundup-tolerant GM maize (NK603) and a whole Roundup pesticide formulation at environmentally relevant levels from 0.1 ppb.

We first published these results in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) on 19 September, 2012 [3] after a careful and thorough peer review. However, 1 year and 2 months later, in an unusual step, the editor-in-chief requested the retraction of our study, while conceding that the data were not incorrect and that there was no misconduct and no fraud or intentional misinterpretation. According to him, some data were inconclusive, but for reasons already known at the time of submission of the paper. The present paper is a summary of the debate resulting in this retraction, which in our view is a historic example of conflicts of interests in the scientific assessments of products commercialized worldwide.

The long-term toxicity study of the NK603 maize and Roundup

An initial study on NK603 maize was submitted by Monsanto Company in support of commercial authorization of the maize. NK603 maize was fed to 4 groups of 20 Sprague Dawley rats (2 doses of 11% and 33% in the diet of both sexes) for 90 days [4]. The blood analyses were performed on 10 rats per group. The re-analysis of the raw data resulted in a debate on the biological relevance of admitted statistical differences versus controls as the first signs of hepatorenal toxicities [5]. To solve the problem, a 2-year-long study was carried out using two hundred Sprague Dawley rats to which the following treatments were administered: NK603 maize treated or not with Roundup at three different levels in their feed (11%, 22%, and 33% of the total diet) and Roundup alone, administered via drinking water at three different concentrations, from the admitted residual level in regular tap water (0.1 ppb), to the maximum level authorized in GMOs (400 ppm), up to half of the agricultural dose (0.5%). They were divided into ten groups, each containing ten males and ten females. No other long-term study has examined the effects of regular consumption of Roundup-tolerant GM maize and of a pesticide formulation, in any dilution, on blood parameters, sexual hormones, and multiple organs.

We found that these products provoked statistically discriminant disturbances in biochemical markers of livers and kidneys in females at the 15th month, when most of the rats were still alive. At the same time, testosterone and estradiol levels were also disturbed. At the end of the experiments, these disrupted biochemical markers corresponded to pathologies evidenced in a blinded manner: notably hepatorenal deficiencies, more severe in males, and female mammary tumors, which led to premature deaths. For instance, after around 700 days, there were up to 3.25 more mammary tumors (the highest rate was observed in females consuming 0.1 ppb of Roundup in water). This could be associated with a 2.4-time increase in pituitary dysfunctions noticed by the end of the experiment (2 years).

These findings were immediately dismissed by persons involved in the products’ authorizations, or in collaboration with biotech industries. A number of them wrote to FCT to nourish a controversy, including Richard Goodman, a former Monsanto employee in charge of the immunotoxicity files of GMOs, and Paul Christou, a patent holder of the methods used to create transgenic plants. This was rapidly followed by a coordination of national regulatory agencies organized by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), released on 4 October, 2012 [6]. The EFSA had previously assessed NK603, and glyphosate, the declared active principle of Roundup, as safe on the basis of regulatory data, which they never fully published. The EFSA has since published Monsanto’s safety data on NK603 maize [7], but not on glyphosate. The NK603 data are in a pdf format preventing an easy statistical re-analysis. However, there was no long-term toxicological assessment for NK603, or for Roundup. Moreover, we demonstrated in several studies [8-10] that Roundup is far more toxic than glyphosate because of non-inert adjuvants. On 10 October, 2012, the Monsanto Company also sent its criticisms to FCT [11] but did not release its safety data, claiming commercial confidentiality.

Overall, the first wave of criticisms arrived within a week, mostly from plant biologists. We answered all criticisms [12] in FCT on 9 November, 2012. The debate then encompassed scientific arguments. A second wave of ad hominem and potentially libelous comments appeared in different journals [13-16]. Regrettably, there were no invitations to respond to these exacerbated attacks, which we discovered only by our literature survey. Some of the authors of these articles had serious yet undisclosed conflicts of interest. The scientific remarks concentrated on the supposedly inadequate choice of the Sprague Dawley rat strain, which is, however, a classic model for toxicology [17]. The Sprague Dawley strain was also used by Monsanto in its 90-day test on the same maize [4]. In addition, Monsanto measured biochemically the same number of rats per group as in our experiment. Thus, with regard to blood and urine biochemistry, Monsanto gathered data from the same number of rats that we did.

Unsubstantiated allegations of fraud or errors

Paul Christou, the lead author of Arjo et al. [13], demanded that our paper be retracted and insulted us personally. He claimed first in a letter addressed to the editor-in-chief that the publication of our study ‘does not meet minimal acceptable standards of scientific rigor’ and ‘will damage an entire scientific discipline due to flawed conclusion’ (personal communication). Then, he attacked us in an article published in the journal Transgenic Research on 20 December 2012 [13]. The quantity of insults and defamations in this paper, authorized and co-authored by the editor-in-chief in a supposedly serious journal, is excessive. They include: ‘abject failure to treat the experimental animals in a humane manner’, ‘inability to formulate a valid hypothesis’, ‘media fanfare’, ‘fraudulent or knowingly inaccurate statements’, ‘unethical behavior’, ‘transparent attempt to discredit regulatory agencies’, ‘ammunition for extremists’, ‘flawed science’, ‘disingenuous or inept’, and ‘unjustified waste of animals’ (while at the same time asking for more animals in the groups). Christou and co-authors suggest that by practising ‘flawed science’, we are working against ‘progress towards a better quality of life’ and in fact are ‘actively working to make life worse’. We were not invited to reply. This behaviour can be explained, though not justified, by the undisclosed conflicts of interests.

Christou is not only the editor-in-chief of Transgenic Research, the journal in which he published his article, but is also linked to Monsanto [18]. He is named as the inventor on several patents on GM crop technology, for most of which Monsanto owns the property rights. These include patents on the plant transformation process [19] used to make glyphosate-tolerant transgenic corn plants [20]. He worked as a researcher at Agracetus Inc. (later acquired by Monsanto) for 12 years. Then, from 1994 to 2001, Christou worked at the John Innes Centre in the UK [18], which is heavily invested in GM crop technology [21]. He thus has no mammalian toxicology background. However, in his published article, Christou only gave as his affiliation his publicly funded position at a research institute. Christou’s failure to declare his current interests – his inventor status on patents concerning the company that developed the products we tested – could be considered grounds for retraction of a paper in a scientific journal, according to ethical guidelines for scientific publishing [22].

The Arjo et al. article was co-authored by Wayne Parrott, an active member of the Biotechnology Committee at the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) [23]. ILSI is funded by multinational food, agribusiness, and biotechnology companies, including Monsanto and Syngenta [24]. ILSI has proved highly controversial in North America and Europe due to its influence on risk assessment methodologies for chemicals, pesticides, and GM foods [25-27]. Wayne Parrott also has an inventor status in patents on materials and methods for selecting transgenic organisms [28] and transformation vector systems [29].

In addition, Christou and his co-authors made numerous mistakes, false and unsubstantiated assertions, and misrepresentations of our data. The title of Arjo et al.’s paper includes defamation and a misrepresentation of our research, implying that it is ‘pseudoscience’ and alleging that it claimed Roundup Ready maize and Roundup herbicide caused ‘cancer’ in rats – a claim we never made. We did not even use the word ‘cancer’ in our paper although this argument was reiterated in the final letter of the editor-in-chief of FCT when explaining his decision to retract our paper [30]. Tumors do not always lead to cancer, even if they can be more deleterious in a shorter time because of their size or body position, by hurting internal functions.

Arjo et al.’s paper begins with a false assertion that is not evidenced in the paper or in the cited source: ‘It started with a press conference in which journalists agreed not to engage in fact-checking’. The authors made other false assertions about our study, for example, alleging that ‘the water consumption was not measured’. In fact, we measured both the water and food consumption, and the stability of the Roundup solution over time. This was indicated in the paper, in which we explained that all the data cannot be shown in one paper and that we concentrated on the most important data; these parameters were only part of a routine survey. They also falsified the reporting of the data, compiling the mortality data only at the end of the experiment and ignoring the originality and the major findings of the differential chronological effects between treated rats and controls, which we established by measuring tumor size twice a week over 2 years. Moreover, we respected legal requirements and ethical norms relating to animal experiments, and Arjo et al. present no evidence of the contrary, so their allegation of inhumane treatment of the rats is without substance.

Importantly, we had already answered many of the criticisms of our paper made by Arjo et al. in a paper that was published before that of Arjo et al. [12]. Their publication was received on 20 December 2012, when our paper was published on 9 November 2012. Our published answers were simply ignored.

Christou was not alone in failing to declare conflicts of interest in his criticism of our paper. Since we underlined that 75% of the comments addressed to FCT within a week after our study was published came from plant biologists, it was discovered that several had developed patents on GMOs. Some authors were employees of Monsanto Company, which owns NK603 GM maize and sells Roundup herbicide [4,11]. Other more recent papers, published by plant biologists and/or affiliates of the industry-funded group ILSI [15,16], repeated the arguments. The author of a separate article criticizing our study expressed concern that our results could damage public opinion about GM crops [14] – a sentiment that gives precedence to economic interests over public health. An article in Forbes magazine even alleged, without presenting any evidence, that we had committed fraud [31]. Surprisingly, even Monsanto authors [11] declared that they had ‘no conflicts of interest’ in their first draft published online on FCT website. Investigative reports [32,33] evidenced that many authors of these opinions had failed to disclose their conflicts of interest, including Henry Miller, Mark Tester, Chris Leaver, Bruce Chassy, Martina Newell-McGloughlin, Andrew Cockburn, L. Val Giddings, Sivramiah Shantharam, Lucia de Souza, Erio Barale-Thomas, and Marc Fellous. The undisclosed conflicts of interest included links with biotechnology companies that develop GMOs and with industry-backed lobbying organizations.

All of this has huge implications for public health. We observed an intense lobbying in parliaments, as well as proofs of conflicts of interests for persons involved in the regulatory decisions for the commercialization of these products [26]. A series of high-profile conflict-of-interest revelations (not restricted to GMOs and pesticides) led to the resignations of leading administrators involved in decisions affecting the assessment of these products, including the European Commissioner John Dalli [34] and the former chair of the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) management board Diana Banati [35]. In February of 2013, a strange occurrence following the publication of our paper raised questions about the connections of industry to scientific publishing, described below.

Conflicts of interests in the editorial board

In February 2013, FCT acquired a new assistant editor for biotechnology, Richard E. Goodman. The editor-in-chief has admitted that Goodman was introduced into the editorial board after he sent a letter to FCT to complain about our study. In his letter, Goodman appears worried about economic consequences but not so much about potential public health consequences (personal communication). He wrote: ‘The implications and the impacts of this uncontrolled study is having HUGE impacts, in international trade, in consumer confidence in all aspects of food safety, and certainly in US state referendums on labelling’. Further in his letter, Goodman asked for ‘an evaluation by an independent set of toxicologists’. This is particularly why the Publishing Assistant for FCT asked for our raw data on 15 March 2013.

In fact, we can question the independence of this re-evaluation. After his appointment at FCT, Goodman was a member of the subcommittee that requested our raw data, until we complained to Elsevier publishing group. Goodman is far from being independent. He previously worked for Monsanto for 7 years [36]. He also has a long-standing affiliation with ILSI [37]. Goodman will now deal with all biotechnology papers submitted to FCT. Another scientific paper on GMO risks was withdrawn from FCT, without explanation shortly after it had been accepted and published by the journal [38]. The paper was immediately published by another journal [39] according to the authors’ initiative.

We received a letter from the editor-in-chief of FCT, A. Wallace Hayes, asking us to retract our paper on 19 November 2013, more than 1 year after its publication [40]. In his retraction notice, the editor-in-chief certifies that ‘no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data’ was found in the investigation, that the results are ‘not incorrect’, ‘there was no misconduct’, and that the sole reason for retraction is the ‘inconclusiveness’ of the paper. He argued that no conclusions could be drawn because we studied 10 rats per group over 2 years, because they were Sprague Dawley rats, and because we could not conclude on cancer. In fact, the Sprague Dawley is a standard choice for 2-year studies performed by industry and independent scientists alike [17,41]. We also measured 10 animals per sex per group according to OECD 452 guideline on chronic toxicity studies [42] because our study is a chronic toxicity study that was never intended to be a carcinogenicity study. We wish to point out that Dr Hayes’ decision is in violation of the retraction guidelines of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), of which FCT is a member. ‘Inconclusiveness’ is not a valid reason for a journal to retract a paper. Lack of conclusiveness (which can be discussed) and error are not synonymous. COPE criteria for retraction included scientific misconduct/honest error, prior publication, plagiarism, or unethical research. None of these criteria applied to our study. On the contrary, numerous published scientific papers contain inconclusive findings. It is for further studies to build on the reported findings and arrive at a more conclusive position. In contrast with our study measuring toxicity, the Monsanto study reporting safety with the same number and the same strain of rats, but limited to 90 days, [4] is not subject to the same controversy. The data in the Monsanto study show statistically significant differences in multiple-organ functions between the GM and non-GM feeding groups, which the authors dismissed as not ‘biologically meaningful’, using a set of questionable criteria [43]. The significant effects observed do not have to be linear to the dose to be taken into consideration; otherwise, endocrine effects will be dismissed. In addition, biochemical disturbances do not have to correlate simultaneously with organ lesions, in contrast to the claims of Doull et al. [44] in defence of Monsanto. These outdated concepts coming from the toxicology of poisons, and are not valid for endocrine disruption [43,45]. If 10 rats/sex/group are too few to demonstrate a toxic effect, then this number of rats is certainly too small to demonstrate safety. Overall, in the current system of assessment, any toxic effect is first suspected to be a false positive, arising by chance, rather than questioning whether no evidence of effect is a false negative result. The Monsanto data as presented are thus inconclusive and should also be retracted.

Following the retraction of our paper, many letters were sent to the editor-in-chief of FCT. On 10 December 2013, he published a defence of the retraction, which raised many doubts as to his understanding of our data [30]. He claimed that we concluded on cancer, although ours was a long-term toxicity study with a detailed statistical analysis of blood and urine parameters. He also defended the study done by Monsanto [4] claiming that they used 20 rats/sex/group while we only used 10 rats/sex/group. In fact, despite the fact that the Monsanto study used twice our sample size, the Monsanto authors only analyzed blood and urine from half of the animals (10), the same number of sampled animals as in our study.

According to an editorial in Environmental Health Perspectives [46], ‘the decision to retract a published scientific work by an editor, against the desires of the authors, because it is ‘inconclusive’ based on a post hoc analysis represents a dangerous erosion of the underpinnings of the peer-review process, and Elsevier should carefully reconsider this decision’.

Confidentiality and censorship erode the value of science

Recent reviews of the GM food safety literature have found that research concluding that GM products were safe tended to come from industry and that research conducted by those with either financial or professional conflicts of interest was associated with outcomes favorable to the GM sector [47]. In fact, it appears in our case that consequences of conflicts of interests in science go beyond divergence in scientific interpretations and also rely on unscientific practices: confidentiality and censorship.

Transparency of, and access to, all the raw data obtained by companies and accepted by regulatory agencies (overall blood analyses of rats) as proof of safety for products, is an unavoidable first step to move forward in this debate. It is the only way in which the scientific community can enter the scientific discussion. This is why we republish our paper in an open access way, together with its raw data allowing debate about our results. This is not possible for the data used as a proof of safety for commercial authorizations. The Monsanto toxicological data on NK603 maize recently made public by EFSA is not in a statistically usable format and an agreement with Monsanto is requested before use. Moreover, the data examined for Roundup authorizations are clearly inadequate [48]. For instance, ANSES (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety), confirmed to us in writing (January 2013) that there were no 2-year studies of Roundup in its whole formulation on animals, adding that there are a few studies of acute toxicity (a few days up to 3 weeks) without any blood tests. Instead, glyphosate, which is much less toxic than Roundup [10,49], is tested alone by Monsanto, in its reports to regulatory authorities [50]. We strongly emphasize that data with implications for public health are not related to manufacturing patents and should not be kept confidential. Removal of confidentiality claims on biosafety data is necessary to adhere to standard scientific procedures of quality assurance, to increase transparency, to minimize impacts of conflicts of interests, and ultimately to improve public confidence in GMOs [51]. Moreover, in the regulatory assessment of GMOs, chemicals, and medicines, confidential tests are conducted by the applicant companies themselves, often in their own laboratories or in those of subcontractors.

The second step must be the building of new experiments for new or the most important products, by laboratories independent of the companies. They will be recruited by public tender, with compulsory transparency of the results. This public research will be funded by companies, at a level corresponding to their previous budget for regulatory testing, but managed independently of the companies. The protocols and results will be submitted to open and contradictory assessments. Thus, there will be no additional financial cost or time delay to the current system. Such reforms will not only radically transform the understanding and knowledge of toxicology and science in general, but will radically reduce public health costs and promote trust in companies and science. This will move the world towards a sustainable development of products with low, if any, impacts on health and environment.

The reason given to retract our paper – ‘inconclusiveness’ – is unprecedented and violates the norms of scientific publishing. The decision to retract cannot be rationalized on any discernible scientific grounds. Censorship on research into the risks of a technology so critically entwined with global food safety undermines the value and the credibility of science.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

GES designed and coordinated the commentary. RM participated in the drafting of the manuscript and final version. ND and JsDV helped in the writing, compiling the literature, revising details, and proofreading the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the Charles Leopold Mayer (FPH) and Denis Guichard Foundations, together with CRIIGEN, for fellowships and structural supports. We are equally thankful to Malongo, Lea Nature, and the JMG Foundation for their help.

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June 28, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Brazil looks to ban Monsanto’s Roundup, other toxicity risks

RT | March 27, 2014

Brazil’s public prosecutor wants to suspend use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s pervasive herbicide Roundup. A recent study suggested glyphosate may be linked to a fatal kidney disease that has affected poor farming regions worldwide.

The Prosecutor General’s office is also pursuing bans on the herbicide 2,4-D and seven other active herbicide ingredients in addition to glyphosate: methyl parathion, lactofem, phorate, carbofuran, abamectin, tiram, and paraquat, GMWatch reported.

The Prosecutor General of Brazil “seeks to compel the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) to reevaluate the toxicity of eight active ingredients suspected of causing damage to human health and the environment,” according to the prosecutor’s website. “On another front, the agency questions the registration of pesticides containing 2,4-D herbicide, applied to combat broadleaf weeds.”

The two actions have already been filed with Brazil’s justice department.

The prosecutor is also seeking a preliminary injunction that would allow the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply to suspend further registration of the eight ingredients until ANVISA can come to a conclusion.

The country’s National Biosafety Technical Commission has been asked to prohibit large-scale sale of genetically modified seeds resistant to the 2,4-D as ANVISA deliberates.

Last week, Brazil’s Federal Appeals Court ruled to cancel use of Bayer’s Liberty Link genetically-modified maize. Earlier this month, France banned the sale, use, and cultivation of Monsanto’s genetically-modified maize MON 810. New research found insects in the United States are developing a resistance to the genetically-engineered maize.

As for glyphosate, new research suggests it becomes highly toxic to the human kidney once mixed with “hard” water or metals like arsenic and cadmium that often exist naturally in the soil or are added via fertilizer. Hard water contains metals like calcium, magnesium, strontium, and iron, among others. On its own, glyphosate is toxic, but not detrimental enough to eradicate kidney tissue.

The glyphosate molecule was patented as a herbicide by Monsanto in the early 1970s. The company soon brought glyphosate to market under the name “Roundup,” which is now the most commonly used herbicide in the world.

Two weeks ago, Sri Lanka banned glyphosate given the links to an inexplicable kidney disease, Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown etiology, known as CKDu, according to the Center for Public Integrity. CKDu has killed thousands of agricultural workers, many in Sri Lanka and El Salvador.

El Salvador’s legislature approved in September a ban on glyphosate and many other agrochemicals, yet the measure is not yet law.

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How “Extreme Levels” of Roundup in Food Became the Industry Norm

By Thomas Bøhn and Marek Cuhra | Independent Science News | March 24, 2014

Food and feed quality are crucial to human and animal health. Quality can be defined as sufficiency of appropriate minerals, vitamins and fats, etc. but it also includes the absence of toxins, whether man-made or from other sources. Surprisingly, almost no data exist in the scientific literature on herbicide residues in herbicide tolerant genetically modified (GM) plants, even after nearly 20 years on the market.

In research recently published by our laboratory (Bøhn et al. 2014) we collected soybean samples grown under three typical agricultural conditions: organic, GM, and conventional (but non-GM). The GM soybeans were resistant to the herbicide Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate.

We tested these samples for nutrients and other compounds as well as relevant pesticides, including glyphosate and its principal breakdown product, Aminomethylphosponic acid (AMPA). All of the individual samples of GM-soy contained residues of both glyphosate and AMPA, on average 9.0 mg/kg. This amount is greater than is typical for many vitamins. In contrast, no sample from the conventional or the organic soybeans showed residues of these chemicals (Fig. 1).

This demonstrates that Roundup Ready GM-soybeans sprayed during the growing season take up and accumulate glyphosate and AMPA. Further, what has been considered a working hypothesis for herbicide tolerant crops, i.e. that, as resistant weeds have spread:

“there is a theoretical possibility that also the level of residues of the herbicide and its metabolites may have increased” (Kleter et al. 2011) is now shown to be actually happening.

Monsanto (manufacturer of glyphosate) has claimed that residues of glyphosate in GM soy are lower than in conventional soybeans, where glyphosate residues have been measured up to 16-17 mg/kg (Monsanto 1999). These residues, found in non-GM plants, likely must have been due to the practice of spraying before harvest (for desiccation). Another claim of Monsanto’s has been that residue levels of up to 5.6 mg/kg in GM-soy represent “… extreme levels, and far higher than those typically found” (Monsanto 1999).

Roundup-levels-in-soybeans-300x258

Figure 1. Residues of glyphosate and AMPA in individual soybean samples (n=31).
For organic and conventional soybeans, glyphosate residues were below the detection limit.

Seven out of the 10 GM-soy samples we tested, however, surpassed this “extreme level” (of glyphosate + AMPA), indicating a trend towards higher residue levels. The increasing use of glyphosate on US Roundup Ready soybeans has been documented (Benbrook 2012). The explanation for this increase is the appearance of glyphosate-tolerant weeds (Shaner et al. 2012) to which farmers are responding with increased doses and more applications.

Maximum residue levels (MRLs) of glyphosate in food and feed

Globally, glyphosate-tolerant GM soy is the number one GM crop plant and glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide, with a global production of 620 000 tons in 2008 (Pollak 2011). The world soybean production in 2011 was 251.5 million metric tons, with the United States (33%), Brazil (29%), Argentina (19%), China (5%) and India (4%) as the main producing countries (American Soybean Association 2013).

In 2011-2012, soybeans were planted on about 30 million hectares in the USA, with Roundup Ready GM soy contributing 93-94 % of the production (USDA 2013). Globally, Roundup Ready GM soybeans contributed to 75 % of the production in 2011 (James 2012).

The legally acceptable level of glyphosate contamination in food and feed, i.e. the maximum residue level (MRL) has been increased by authorities in countries where Roundup-Ready GM crops are produced, or where such commodities are imported. In Brazil, the MRL in soybean was increased from 0.2 mg/kg to 10 mg/kg in 2004: a 50-fold increase, but only for GM-soy. The MRL for glyphosate in soybeans has been increased also in the US and Europe. In Europe, it was raised from 0.1 mg/kg to 20 mg/kg (a 200-fold increase) in 1999, and the same MRL of 20 mg/kg was adopted by the US. In all of these cases, MRL values appear to have been adjusted, not based on new scientific evidence, but pragmatically in response to actual observed increases in the content of residues in glyphosate-tolerant GM soybeans.

Has the toxicity of Roundup been greatly underestimated?

When regulatory agencies assess pesticides for safety they invariably test only the claimed active ingredient.

Nevertheless, these do not necessarily represent realistic conditions since in practice it is the full, formulated herbicide (there are many Roundup formulations) that is used in the field. Thus, it is relevant to consider, not only the active ingredient, in this case glyphosate and its breakdown product AMPA, but also the other compounds present in the herbicide formulation since these enhance toxicity. For example, formulations of glyphosate commonly contain adjuvants and surfactants to stabilize and facilitate penetration into the plant tissue. Polyoxyethylene amine (POEA) and polyethoxylated tallowamine (POE-15) are common ingredients in Roundup formulations and have been shown to contribute significantly to toxicity (Moore et al. 2012).

Our own recent study in the model organism Daphnia magna demonstrated that chronic exposure to glyphosate and a commercial formulation of Roundup resulted in negative effects on several life-history traits, in particular reproductive aberrations like reduced fecundity and increased abortion rate, at environmental concentrations of 0.45-1.35 mg/liter (active ingredient), i.e. below accepted environmental tolerance limits set in the US (0.7 mg/liter) (Cuhra et al. 2013). A reduced body size of juveniles was even observed at an exposure to Roundup at 0.05 mg/liter.

This is in sharp contrast to world-wide regulatory assumptions in general, which we have found to be strongly influenced by early industry studies and in the case of aquatic ecotoxicity assessment, to be based on 1978 and 1981 studies presented by Monsanto claiming that glyphosate is virtually non-toxic in D. magna (McAllister & Forbis, 1978; Forbis & Boudreau, 1981).

Thus a worrisome outlook for health and the environment can be found in the combination of i) the vast increase in use of glyphosate-based herbicides, in particular due to glyphosate-tolerant GM plants, and ii) new findings of higher toxicity of both glyphosate as an active ingredient (Cuhra et al., 2013) and increased toxicity due to contributions from chemical adjuvants in commercial formulations (Annett et al. 2014).

A similar situation can be found for other pesticides. Mesnage et al. (2014) found that 8 out of 9 tested pesticides were more toxic than their declared active principles.

This means that the Accepted Daily Intake (ADI) for humans, i.e. what society finds “admissible” regarding pesticide residues may have been set too high, even before potential combinatorial effects of different chemical exposures are taken into account.

For glyphosate formulations (Roundup), realistic exposure scenarios in the aquatic environment may harm non-target biodiversity from microorganisms, invertebrates, amphibians and fish, (reviewed in Annett et al. 2014) indicating that the environmental consequences of these agrochemicals need to be re-assessed.

Other compositional differences between GM, non-GM, and organic

Grouping-soybeans-size

Figure 2. Discriminant analysis for GM, conventional and organic soy samples based on 35 variables. Data was standardized (mean = 0 and SD = 1).

Our research also demonstrated that different agricultural practices lead to markedly different end products. Data on other measured compositional characteristics could be used to discriminate statistically all individual soy samples (without exception) into their respective agricultural practice background (Fig. 2).

Organic soybeans showed the healthiest nutritional profile with more glucose, fructose, sucrose and maltose, significantly more total protein, zinc and less fiber, compared with both conventional and GM-soy. Organic soybeans contained less total saturated fat and total omega-6 fatty acids than both conventional and GM-soy.

Conclusion

Roundup Ready GM-soy accumulates residues of glyphosate and AMPA, and also differs markedly in nutritional composition compared to soybeans from other agricultural practices. Organic soybean samples also showed a more healthy nutritional profile (e.g. higher in protein and lower in saturated fatty acids) than both industrial conventional and GM soybeans.

Lack of data on pesticide residues in major crop plants is a serious gap of knowledge with potential consequences for human and animal health. How is the public to trust a risk assessment system that has overlooked the most obvious risk factor for herbicide tolerant GM crops, i.e. high residue levels of herbicides, for nearly 20 years? If it has been due to lack of understanding, it would be bad. If it is the result of the producer’s power to influence the risk assessment system, it would be worse.

References

American Soy Association, Soystats.  2013. 16-5-2013.
Annett, R., Habibi, H. R. and Hontela, A. 2014. Impact of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides on the freshwater environment. – Journal of Applied Toxicology DOI 10.1002/jat.2997.
Aumaitre, L. A. 2002. New feeds from genetically modified plants: substantial equivalence, nutritional equivalence and safety for animals and animal products. – Productions Animales 15: 97-108.
Benbrook, C. M. 2012. Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years. – Environmental Science Europe 24:24.
Binimelis, R., Pengue, W. and Monterroso, I. 2009. “Transgenic treadmill”: Responses to the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant johnsongrass in Argentina. – Geoforum 40: 623-633.
Bøhn, T., Cuhra, M., Traavik, T., Sanden, M., Fagan, J. and Primicerio, R. 2014. Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans. – Food Chemistry 153: 207-215.
Cuhra, M., Traavik, T. and Bøhn, T. 2013. Clone- and age-dependent toxicity of a glyphosate commercial formulation and its active ingredient in Daphnia magna. – Ecotoxicology 22: 251-262 (open access). DOI 10.1007/s10646-012-1021-1.
Duke, S. O., Rimando, A. M., Pace, P. F., Reddy, K. N. and Smeda, R. J. 2003. Isoflavone, glyphosate, and aminomethylphosphonic acid levels in seeds of glyphosate-treated, glyphosate-resistant soybean. – Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 51: 340-344.
EC . Review report for the active substance glyphosate. 6511/VI/99-final, 1-56. 2002.  European Commission. Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General.
Forbis, A.D., Boudreau, P. 1981. Acute toxicity of MON0139 (Lot LURT 12011)(AB-81-074) To Daphnia magna: Static acute bio- assay report no. 27203. Unpublished study document from US EPA library
Harrigan, G. G., Ridley, G., Riordan, S. G., Nemeth, M. A., Sorbet, R., Trujillo, W. A., Breeze, M. L. and Schneider, R. W. 2007. Chemical composition of glyphosate-tolerant soybean 40–3-2 grown in Europe remains equivalent with that of conventional soybean (Glycine max L.). – Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 55: 6160-6168.
James, C.  Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2012. ISAAA Brief No. 44. 2012.  ISAAA: Ithaca, NY.
Kleter, G. A., Unsworth, J. B. and Harris, C. A. 2011. The impact of altered herbicide residues in transgenic herbicide-resistant crops on standard setting for herbicide residues. – Pest Management Science 67: 1193-1210.
McAllister, W., Forbis A. 1978. Acute toxicity of technical glyphosate (AB–78–201) to Daphnia magna. Study reviewed and approved 8–30–85 by EEB/HED
Mesnage, R., Defarge, N., Vendômois, J. S. and Seralini, G. E. 2014. Major pesticides are more toxic to human cells than their declared active principles. – BioMed Research International http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/179691.
Monsanto . Residues in Roundup Ready soya lower than conventional soy. http://www.monsanto.co.uk/news/99/june99/220699_residue.html . 1999.
Moore, L. J., Fuentes, L., Rodgers, J. H., Bowerman, W. W., Yarrow, G. K., Chao, W. Y. and Bridges, W. C. 2012. Relative toxicity of the components of the original formulation of Roundup (R) to five North American anurans. – Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 78: 128-133.
Pollak, P. 2011. Fine chemicals: the industry and the business. – Wiley.
Shaner, D. L., Lindenmeyer, R. B. and Ostlie, M. H. 2012. What have the mechanisms of resistance to glyphosate taught us? – Pest Management Science 68: 3-9.
USDA . National Agricultural Statistics Service.  2013. 16-5-2013.

The Authors:

Thomas Bøhn
GenØk – Centre for Biosafety, Tromsø, Norway
Professor of Gene Ecology, Faculty of Health Sciences, UiT The Arctic University of Norway

Marek Cuhra
GenØk – Centre for Biosafety, Tromsø, Norway
PhD student, Faculty of Health Sciences, UiT The Arctic University of Norway

March 25, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , | 1 Comment