Risk avoidance made easy

September 2014
Crop spraying. CC photo by Tamina Miller on Flickr

Risk-assessment of a substance is carried out by examining all the inherent dangers posed by it, and factoring in how likely it is that anyone will actually be exposed to these dangers.

A risk-assessment obviously can't be done without looking at the real-life context in which the substance is used.

Glyphosate herbicide, widely used on GM crops, is very safe as these things go, providing you're not a plant or a micro-organism.

This fact seems to have been exploited by German assessors when they recommended the re-approval and increased 'Acceptable Daily Intake' of the herbicide earlier this year [1].

Their risk-assessment was carried out by looking only at evidence based on pure glyphosate, while all evidence relating to the herbicide formulated into 'Roundup' was rejected.  Since glyphosate doesn't penetrate easily into cells, it is only effective as a weed-killer when other adjuvant chemicals have been added to it.  The herbicide is, therefore, never used in pure form, and no one's ever exposed to it in pure form.

What this boils down to is that the German 'risk-assessment' took glyphosate out of its real-life context and examined only situations where actual exposure of the living cells were bound to be minimal.

Although Germany, as the rapporteur state, provided the risk-assessment, it has provided no information on the authorship of the 15 documents (3,744 pages in total).  Also, it has emerged that the German assessors did not actually review the published toxicology studies, but relied on a summary provided to them by the 'Glyphosate Task Force' (GTF).  The GTF consists of Monsanto (makers of glyphosate, Roundup, and the GM crops it's used on) plus a consortium of chemical companies.

Germany's role in the risk-assessment for re-approval seems to have been to add in a comment here and there in a document entirely devised by the industries standing to profit from its success.

This tactic wasn't invented by the Germans.  Apparently the biotech industry has been pulling the same stunt in America forever.  One US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientist tells us that his colleagues long ago gave up actively reviewing industry studies in a way that would allow them to identify problems with the data or interpretation:

“Instead (the EPA toxicologists) go straight to the company's summary and lift it word for word and give it as their own evaluation of those studies”. 



The message here is that big brother in the EU isn't looking out for your health: his risk-assessment is inherently flawed and, actually, he's cribbing it in an unethical way from an unreliable source.

If all this doesn't tell you that the biotech and agri-chemical industries have something very big to hide, just carry on eating all that 'safe' glyphosate they want to feed you.

Otherwise, demand the EU applies the precautionary principle on glyphosate, and follows the moves of Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Brazil and El Salvador (see below) in banning or restricting its use.
[1]  A PREPOSTEROUS APPROVAL - September 2014

Existing bans and restrictions on the use of glyphosate herbicide

  • Denmark was the first to ban glyphosate in 2003.
  • The Dutch Parliament banned glyphosate for domestic use in April 2014 to take effect in 2015.
  • France is set to follow the Dutch.
  • Brazilian Federal Prosecutors have filed a suit to ban glyphosate along with eight other dangerous pesticides.
  • El Salvador imposed a complete ban on glyphosate in February 2013 after the herbicide was linked to kidney failure and deaths [2]
  • Sri Lanka instituted a ban on glyphosate for the same reason as El Salvador, but has had its arm successfully twisted by industry to lift it.

  • The glyphosate toxicity studies you're not allowed to see, GM Watch 2.07.14
  • Dr. Nanacy Swanson and Dr. Mae Wan Ho, Scandal fo Glyphosate Re-assessment in Europe, Institute of Science in Society Report 9.07.14

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