Ten NGOs, including the Institute of Science in Society have written an open letter to the Chinese Ambassador to the UK asking China to suspend exports and imports of glyphosate herbicides while independent testing is carried out.
Ambassador Liu Xiaoming
Embassy of the People's Republic of China
49 Portland Place, London W1B 1JL
Request for urgent letter to be forwarded to President Xi Jin-ping and Premier Li Ke-qiang
To the Chinese people,
To Xi Jin-ping, President of the People's Republic of China
To Li Ke-qiang, Premier of the People's Republic of China
OPEN LETTER: The Impact of Glyphosate/Roundup on global health
We write to you as members of various non-governmental organizations in Europe, to draw your attention to one of the biggest health problems currently facing the planet – namely the ill health epidemic associated with the ongoing (and expanding) use of the chemical glyphosate and its main formulation called Roundup. As you will know, the latter is a proprietary product marketed by the Monsanto Corporation and other companies worldwide, on the pretence that it is harmless to human beings but lethal to plants. In addition to being widely used as a weedkiller, it is also used increasingly with herbicide-tolerant GMO crops and as a desiccant prior to the harvesting of wheat and other crops. In situations where 'industrial agriculture' is practised, it is sprayed on a vast scale, affecting not just farm workers but also the inhabitants of neighbouring communities. It is therefore widely found nowadays in the food supplies of many countries, including the People's Republic of China, and is traceable in animal tissues, human urine and breast milk, and a wide variety of marketed food products. This is well documented in the science literature.
We have been investigating the claims that glyphosate and Roundup are 'safe' products, and we respectfully ask you to bear in mind the following recent findings:
1. A working party of the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that glyphosate is now considered to be "a probable human carcinogen". (1) Their full report – as yet unpublished – will contain the full evidence underpinning the conclusion. The IARC Panel has given glyphosate a 2A categorisation for humans, as well as stating that genotoxic effects in other mammals are 'sufficiently demonstrated". As you may know, a 2A categorisation in the IARC is equivalent to category 1B in the European Union, which means that glyphosate cannot receive a new EU authorisation (the matter is currently under review).
2. Recently the Argentinian Federation of Health Professionals (representing 30,000 members) stated: 'Glyphosate not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease." On the basis of accumulated experience over many years, the doctors have called for an immediate ban on glyphosate herbicides in their country (2).
3. Following various leads into the archives of the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we issued a short report (3) that shows that both Monsanto and the EPA knew of the link between glyphosate and cancer as long ago as 1980, since malignant tumours and other organ damage had been recorded in rat and mouse feeding studies which were, and still are, treated as trade secrets (4). Our revelations confirmed other findings published by Caroline Cox in 1995 and by the Institute of Science in Society in 2014 (5) . The myth relating to the 'relative safety' of glyphosate herbicides was promoted by both Monsanto and the EPA in 1981, and has been kept alive ever since by American, EU and other regulators around the world for purely commercial reasons. We are also uncomfortable with the business practice of hiding away important scientific findings by classifying them as trade secrets, thus disallowing public scrutiny of such documents. From a European perspective, in our view EFSA and other EU agencies have also turned a blind eye to the accumulating evidence of harm since 2002.
Arising out of the above, we are genuinely frightened by the harm currently being done to the health of your citizens and indeed the health of people across the planet.
We understand that China already is the largest producer and exporter of glyphosate in the world, including supplies exported to Monsanto for use in the manufacture of Roundup formulations worldwide. Accordingly, we ask that your Government accepts that it shoulders, together with Monsanto, some responsibility for the devastating harm to public health in those countries importing glyphosate/Roundup from China. We are also concerned that there may be massive claims for compensation in the near future.
China is also the largest importer of 'Roundup Ready' (RR) soybeans and maize, thus contributing to the ongoing production of these varieties in the USA, Argentina and Brazil. It will be no easy thing to close down factories and to ban the use of the chemical in town and country; and if imports of RR soy and maize are stopped, they will have to be replaced with other products.
But we respectfully ask you to take a global lead in this matter.
First, will you please commission appropriate scientific institutions in China to carry out independent long-term carcinogenicity, teratogenicity, endocrine developmental disruption, and multiple-generation reproduction toxicity tests on glyphosate alone, and on Roundup formulations? These studies should be carried out by institutions with no commercial or academic interest links with the glyphosate and/or related products industries, and with no connections to the earlier safety evaluation of glyphosate and/or related products. We also believe that in China, as elsewhere, there should now be a nationwide programme of testing for glyphosate residues in surface water, underground water, animal and human urine, breast milk and blood. In parallel, we hope that you will see merit in a nationwide epidemiological investigation of the link between glyphosate/Roundup pollution (including traces contained in imported GM soybeans) and the increased incidence of malignant diseases during the past 20 years.
Second, before such studies are commissioned, we ask you as an essential precautionary measure immediately to suspend production/sales and exports of glyphosate, to suspend imports of Roundup formulations, and to suspend imports of all agriculture products (such as RR varieties) containing any glyphosate residues.
Finally, given the past frauds practised by IBT and Craven Labs in carrying out industry tests on pesticides, including glyphosate, we urge you to challenge Monsanto to place certain key reports (6) immediately into the public domain. If the corporation will not cooperate by releasing these documents without deletions or alterations, we will assume that there has been scientific malpractice and that the WHO findings of a glyphosate/cancer link are well founded. Glyphosate should have been banned globally 35 years ago, and Roundup should never have been placed on the market. After decades of health damage, it must be in the interests of the whole world for these lethal chemicals to be taken immediately out of use before any more harm is done.
While many scientists in Europe and the Unites States share the concerns expressed above, there are many political and commercial obstacles to change. If China could take a lead in the manner which we respectfully suggest, placing the safety and good health of future generations above the commercial aspirations of multinational corporations, that would be something of truly historical importance for our planet.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Dr Brian John, GM-Free Cymru, Wales, UK
Peter Melchett, The Soil Association, UK
Dr John Fagan, Earth Open Source, London, UK
Dr Mae-Wan Ho, Institute of Science in Society, London, UK
Michael O'Callaghan, Global Vision Foundation, Geneva, Switzerland
Henry Rowlands, Global GMO Free Coalition, Bulgaria
Claire Robinson, GM Watch, UK
Pat Thomas, Beyond GM, London, UK
Sandra Smith, GM-Free Scotland, UK
Lawrence Woodward, GM Education - Citizens Concerned about GM, UK
Article first published 27/04/15
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Sage Comment left 1st May 2015 21:09:18
It is important to also note that glyphosate most likely disrupts the human gut microbiome, significantly altering human health, at the levels at which we ingest it, which is around 3 mg/kg in GM soy and 1 mg/kg in wheat. I am glad that they noted that glyphosate is being sprayed on non-resistant crops as burndown and as pre-harvest kill spray. Thank you for a good article. I hope we are in the end time of glyphosate. I look forward to a return to healthy food and healthy agronomy.