A preposterous approval

September 2014

Photo of crop spraying
Crop spraying. CC photo by CropShot on Flickr
Glyphosate herbicide (see below) has just been re-approved for use in the EU along with a 67% increase in its 'acceptable daily intake' (ADI).   

The report submitted to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommending re-approval and upping the ADI was prepared by Germany, the rapporteur Member State for this herbicide.
Germany's overall findings were that the herbicide poses no unacceptable risks.  Specifically, glyphosate is not metabolised (chemically changed by the body) nor accumulated in the body.  It's not toxic to genes, nor carcinogenic, nor endocrine disrupting, and has no reproductive toxicity.  The only human health risks noted were that glyphosate is a severe eye irritant. 
Issues that could not be finalised included the relevance of impurities and microbial effects. 
The Institute of Science in Society described these conclusions as 'preposterous'. 
Glyphosate is not metabolised, but it binds very powerfully to essential minerals.  This could interfere with just about every metabolic process in any animal, especially through disruption of enzyme activity. 
A very real possibility that glyphosate binding to minerals can result in the accumulation of heavy metal toxins in the kidneys (followed by sudden death due to kidney failure) has been suggested recently [1] 
Information from Argentina, which grows vast monocultures of glypohosate-sprayed GM crops, is that people living in the vicinity of these crops (and their sprays) are subject to a doubling of deaths from cancer (Note.  The increased incidence of cancers which don't lead to death in the short-term might be considerably more than double, and the long-term cancer incidence and deaths could be catastrophic).  An Argentinean Ministry of Health report details 15 scientific publications on genetic damage in people exposed to pesticides.  Genetic damage is linked to cancer and birth defects. 
A long-term feeding study on Roundup has flagged up signs of endocrine disruption (which could be linked to reproductive problems), but the scientific world seems to be doing all it can to avoid performing any follow up which might confirm it [2]. 
Interestingly, a Monsanto-commissioned acute exposure test of Roundup back in the 1980s which formed the basis of China's approval of the herbicide, no effect on the eyes of the test rabbits was reported.  Because Roundup consists of a mixture of potentially harmful chemicals designed to facilitate the penetration of glyphosate into plant cells (so as to can kill them) the commercial glyphosate formulation would be expected to be more irritating to delicate tissues than the herbicide in isolation. 
The 'unresolved issues' are both of serious concern. 
Since glyphosate harms many micro-organisms, and could therefore have significant adverse effects on digestion and general health, the fact that this safety issue has not been resolved before re-approval and  increased allowable exposure levels in our food is even more preposterous. 
Lastly, after tragedies like the thalidomide disaster in the 1960s, and the tryptophan disaster of 1989 safety issues surrounding the possibility of 'impurities' are of paramount importance to resolve before we eat man-made chemicals. 



How did Germany come to conclude that glyphosate is low risk? 
Seemingly, it just kept moving the risk-assessment goal-posts until it got the result it, and the biotech industry, wanted.  See RISK AVOIDANCE MADE EASY - coming soon. 
[2]  FOLLOW UP OR COVER UP? - August 2014 


Glyphosate is the active ingredient of 'Roundup' formula herbicide.  Roundup is heavily sprayed on GM Roundup-tolerant crops in which it accumulates.
The herbicide is also used to clear the soil of weeds before planting and as an aid to die-back preparatory to harvesting on some crops.
Urban uses include keeping roads, paths and playgrounds free of weeds.

  • Dr. Nancy Swanson and Dr. Mae Wan Ho, Scandal of Glyphosate Re-assessment in Europe, Institute of Science in Society Report 9.07.14
  • Dario Aranda, Danger in the fields, Pagina12, 23.06.14

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