ISIS Report 10/06/15
Fallout from WHO Classification of Glyphosate as Probable Carcinogen
Campaigns to ban and phase out the chemical across the world
intensify with major successes Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji
Could it be that the World Health Organisation’s classification of
glyphosate as a ‘probable carcinogen’ (see  Glyphosate
‘Probably Carcinogenic to Humans’ Latest WHO Assessment, SiS 66)
will be the final nail in the coffin for the world’s most popular herbicide and
Monsanto’s flagship product.
Recent weeks have seen the intensification of campaigns to
ban or remove the product as well as lawsuits being filed against Monsanto; in
the US for false safety claims of glyphosate, and in China, for hiding toxicity
studies from the public. (El Salvador has already banned the chemical though yet to
be signed into law , while the Netherlands last year banned private sales
. Sri Lanka had a partial ban in place in regions most afflicted by chronic
kidney disease that has been linked to glyphosate use (see later)).
People have known the truth for years.
Industry and government regulators have conspired to bury copious evidence of
toxicity for decades, and they feel to some extent vindicated by the latest WHO
assessment (see  Glyphosate and
Cancer, SiS 62) and  EU Regulators and
Monsanto Exposed for Hiding Glyphosate Toxicity, SiS
51). More importantly, governments are finally
beginning to take action.
taken the lead, deciding to suspend aerial spraying of illegal coca as well as
poppy plants, which is expected to come into effect in a few weeks’ time
following a majority 7 to 1 vote for the ban by the National Narcotics Council .
The day before the ban, the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defence
(AIDA) delivered 24 000 signatures to the Minister of
Justice who also chairs the Narcotics Council to push for this decision .
Colombia had been employing US contractors
to spray glyphosate for two decades, covering an estimated 1.6 million hectares
of land. This spraying for the “war on drugs” has been ineffective in
eradicating illegal cocaine production, but has instead caused rising illness in
local communities, killing local crops and polluting land and water supplies. Indigenous
and Afro-Colombian communities have borne the brunt of the fumigation
programs, prompting protests against both coca production and glyphosate use
that has been displacing people from ancestral lands . Colombia is not
Bermuda, the British
overseas territory in the Atlantic also banned glyphosate imports with immediate
effect following the WHO assessment, as announced by
their Minister of Health, Jeanne Atherden, whose decision was supported by
local farmers . The Minister said she believes the “action we are taking
today is prudent and in the best interests of a safe
environment….Like any area of science, there are competing studies and a wealth
of information on both sides of the argument…. I am satisfied that this action
is warranted and we are committed to conducting an open and thorough
Sri Lanka is the latest country to declare an outright ban. The decision
follows the election of the new president, a farmer and previously the Health
Minister, Maithripala Sirisena taking the decision due the epidemic of chronic
kidney disease .The spread of kidney disease highlights the wide-ranging
toxicity of glyphosate not limited to carcinogenicity. The country’s battle to
ban the chemical precedes the WHO declaration, coming after studies by Sri
Lankan researchers linked the chemical to hard water, heavy metal contaminants
and glyphosate use (see  Sri Lanka Partially
Bans Glyphosate for Deadly Kidney Disease Epidemic, SiS 62).
This prompted an initial ban, which was later restricted to certain regions of
the country following intense lobbying pressure. With the government paying for
healthcare of over 25 000 residents and supplying them with fresh water, the
latest decision for an outright ban could not come soon enough.
Imminent bans, protests, and fresh calls for bans
Brazil is facing growing pressure to
follow suit, with the country’s public state prosecutor writing to Brazil’s
National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) asking it to urgently
re-evaluate their stance on glyphosate and also revoke authorisations on
glyphosate-tolerant GM crops . He has even gone
as far as launching an investigation into whether regulatory authorisations are
legal for the GM crops. ANVISA are stalling their decision however, until the
full report by the WHO is published.
In Argentina, 30 000 health
belonging to the union of doctors and health professionals (FESPROSA) have come out in support of the WHO decision ,
claiming that glyphosate “not only causes cancer. It is also associated with
increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory
and neurological disease.” The statement continues: “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.”
Similarly, the Society of Paediatric
Haematology-Oncology (SAHOP) issued a statement calling for an immediate ban of
glyphosate fumigation, signed by the President of the Paediatric society Pedro
Zubizarreta. They objected to the massive use of toxic products being sprayed
in ever increasing concentrations in combinations of both insecticides and
herbicides, and being sold as ‘technological advancements’. They also warned of
storing the grains in plastic bags, which leaves grains teeming with aflatoxins,
categorised by the WHO’s IARC as a known carcinogen since 1993 .
Glyphosate has already been previously linked to the growth of these fungi in
scientific studies, along with many other crop diseases .
Successful protests in Argentina were also
recently mobilised to prevent Dr Medardo Ávila Vázquez from losing his job
after the agribusiness-funded university threatened to sanction him for
conducting and disseminating studies showing the high levels of cancers
affecting his region as a result of agrichemical spraying . These protests
are a tribute to
his work in exposing the toxicity of glyphosate, as
well as the groundswell of opposition to glyphosate spraying in the country
despite support by the national government. Local residents are gaining
strength to voice their concerns following the WHO news as well as the recent
decision by the Ministry of Production in the province of Santa Fe to ban
aerial spraying of 2,4-D within 6 km of residents, confirming the health risks
of the chemical agricultural system that leaves children covered in chemical
and dust particles as they walk to school .
In Europe, the
International Society of Doctors for the Environment (ISDE) (an influential
body with member organizations in 27 countries) has written to officials at the
EU parliament and Commission asking for an immediate ban of glyphosate
herbicides and for insecticides also judged by the WHO to be
carcinogens, without exceptions . A member of the
EU commission stated in the 2015 GMO-free conference 2015 in Berlin,
Germany that they will include the WHO assessment in their re-evaluation
procedures that is due to be completed later this year. However the corrupt
process of reassessment that was led by a consortium of chemical companies (see
 Scandal of
Glyphosate Re-assessment in Europe, SiS 63)
means that EU campaigners will have to push hard to force the EU to have some
semblance of integrity in their final decision making.
Meanwhile, Germany’s state consumer
protection ministers are calling for an EU-wide ban on selling glyphosate for home use, for precautionary reasons , and the German retail giant REWE has decided to remove all
glyphosate from its ‘toom Baumarkt DIY’ store shelves by September 2015 .
Swiss companies are following suite, with Coop supermarkets and Switzerland’s largest retail company,
Migros declaring they will both no longer sell any products containing it .
In Denmark, the Danish
Working Environment Authority has decided to follow the WHO decision and has
now declared glyphosate a carcinogen, with the expected outcome being a switch
to alternative, less toxic chemicals (see  Roundup
Listed Carcinogen by Danish Authority, SiS 67). The decision is backed by one of the world’s leading
toxicologists, Philippe Grandjean, a professor at the University of Denmark
where he is head of the Environmental Medicine Research Unit as well as being
an adjunct professor at Harvard University. Commenting on the decision he
stated, “It is so common a substance – and our use of it is so extensive –
that this WHO report must be taken seriously," while encouraging
people to rid the chemical from their homes. With such a decision, it now seems unlikely that the post-harvest
spraying of crops for desiccation will go
ahead this year, which contributes to it being the most widely used herbicide
in the country. This is big news in a country about to face an election, with
the highly-respected Professor Grandjean’s media appearances drawing much
public attention, leaving little room for industry to defend themselves.
citizens file class action lawsuits against Monsanto for false safety claims
group of citizens in Los Angeles County are taking court action against
Monsanto for falsifying safety claims that Roundup® “targets an enzyme found in
plants but not people and pets” in its labelling of the herbicide . The
lawsuit applies to residents of California who have purchased Roundup at any
time during the last four years. This lawsuit, if successful can encourage similar
actions elsewhere in the country.
The claim that glyphosate targets an enzyme (EPSP
synthase) that does not physically exist in people ignores the fact that EPSP
synthase is present in the bacteria that live inside people. Moreover, these
microbes are intimately linked to many physiological functions in the body that
are vital to human health, and their disruption is increasingly
linked to illness. The plaintiffs state in the lawsuit that “...this claim
is absolutely, positively false because glyphosate does indeed
target an enzyme “found in people” – in our gut bacteria”, making Monsanto’s
claim “objectively false (and inherently misleading)”. The class action
further alleges that Monsanto, “cannot deny that Roundup targets an enzyme
that is physically located inside of people….this fact lay beyond dispute”.
claim that glyphosate targets a single enzyme is also a fallacy. It has been
shown to disrupt the function of many enzymes at least in part due to its metal
chelating activities, a property for which the chemical was originally patented
in 1964. Metals act as co-factors for many enzymes which is why metals are key
to any healthy diet.
wishing to support the suit filed by T. Mathew Phillips can visit the
attorney’s website .
citizens sue government for hiding toxicity studies from public
Three Beijing residents, have filed a lawsuit against China’s
Ministry of Health requesting full disclosure of the toxicology report
submitted to the Chinese government for registration of the chemical almost
three decades ago . The case, a rare example of private citizens against
the Chinese government comes after more than a year of the Ministry of
Agriculture failing to meet the requests of the Beijing food volunteers after
they submitted the first application of disclosure in February 2014. So far,
the government has refused to disclose the report for privacy and business
reasons, protecting Monsanto’s commercial interests. The toxicology report was
not performed independently by Chinese institutions, but was instead conducted
by US-based Younger Laboratories and commissioned by Monsanto . The tests
were restricted to acute toxicity in rats and rabbits being exposed via the
mouth and skin, hardly a comprehensive safety test that the Chinese people can
have confidence in. Further, while Monsanto filed the
report for registration of the formulation product Roundup, the tests were
performed on glyphosate alone. The case has not yet been heard, but the
Ministry of agriculture has added Monsanto as a defendant .
The country is by far the largest producer of
glyphosate, producing an estimated 70 % of the world’s supply . It is also the largest importer of GM foods. Despite it being a centre of origin for soybean plants, China
is now importing most of it from overseas, the majority of which is GM, making the
country not only the leading producer, but also one of the leading consumers of
glyphosate (see  How
Grain Self-Sufficiency, Massive GM Soybean Imports & Glyphosate Exports Led
China to Devastate People & Planet, SiS 67). If
successful, the suit will only further expose the toxic effects of this
herbicide, which go beyond its carcinogenic properties, with evidence of
teratogenic and endocrine disrupting effects among
others (see  Roundup of Roundup® Reveals
Converging Pattern of Toxicity from Farm to Clinic, SiS
fight against glyphosate is gaining momentum, and where governments are not
stepping up to enforce bans, citizens and private companies are taking it upon themselves
with major successes.
A major campaign to stop local
governments from spraying glyphosate has just been launched by a group of 81
scientists/medical professionals (Independent
Scientists Manifesto on Glyphosate. http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Independent_Scientists_Manifesto_on_Glyphosate.php). In less than two days, the number of scientists who have
signed the Manifesto has more than tripled, while over 300 non-scientists have endorsed
the Manifesto. Add your name now.
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