And it’s true. Monsanto has become enemy No. 1 for food safety activists and consumers for a reason: the St. Louis–based biotechnology company creates many of the herbicides and pesticides that are sprayed on much of the conventional produce we buy, engineers seeds in laboratories to be resistant to specific chemicals, and even owns patents on many of the non-engineered seeds planted by farmers.
But what if we told you the science used to regulate Monsanto’s flagship product—glyphosate, the main ingredient in the company’s best-selling Roundup herbicide—was horribly out-of-date, and that the chemical is not even being monitored by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?
That’s precisely what a group of 14 environmental health researchers are saying in a new paper directed to “scientists, physicians, and regulatory officials around the world” and published in the journal "Environmental Health." Glyphosate, they write, was first sold to farmers in 1974 and has seen its use skyrocket, but has not been thoroughly tested, and with a large enough sample size, to merit its safe usage on our food. Independent, up-to-date research studies would almost certainly find that glyphosate contaminates our food and the environment, and harms humans as a result.
The paper lists seven definitive conclusions with which most environmental scientists agree:
- Glyphosate-based herbicides (or GBHs) are the most heavily applied herbicide in the world and usage continues to rise.
- Worldwide, GBHs often contaminate drinking water sources, precipitation, and air, especially in agricultural regions.
- The half-life of glyphosate in water and soil is longer than previously recognized.
- Glyphosate and its metabolites are widely present in the global soybean supply.
- Human exposures to GBHs are rising.
- Glyphosate is now authoritatively classified as a probable human carcinogen.
- Regulatory estimates of tolerable daily intakes for glyphosate in the United States and European Union are based on outdated science.
In November, the Mexican Supreme Court sided with a group of Mayan beekeepers in the Yucatan Peninsula who sued Monsanto to stop the planting of GMO soy in the region, stating the harm various herbicides were having on workers and the environment. The organizations filing the injunctions—which included Greenpeace, Indignación, and Litiga OLE—stated that GMO soy puts honey production and more than 15,000 Maya farm families at risk, as “growing the plant requires the use of glyphosate, a herbicide classified as probably carcinogenic.” Earlier in 2015, the World Health Organization’s cancer-research arm had ruled that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic,” or cancer-causing.
That should be reason enough for the government to require that the chemical be studied afresh by independent scientists and its residues in water, food, and humans monitored more thoroughly, the authors of the "Environmental Health" paper conclude. The scientists also recommend that the CDC include glyphosate in its bio-monitoring program to ensure that it is not toxic to humans.
“The big take away,” says Vandenberg, “is don't throw your hands up in fear, but that something we've been told is safe hasn't been tested in the way that we can draw that conclusion from.”
Residents of the Hawaiian Islands just breathed a sigh of relief – literally, as the deadline passed for Hawaii’s House Judiciary Committee to hear House Bill 849, relating to Right to Farm, that would force residents to succumb to pesticide spraying without any say. All the while, companies like Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, and BASF use Hawaii land as a testing ground for GM crops.
Bill 849 amends Hawaii’s Right to Farm Act to ensure that counties cannot enact laws, ordinances, or resolutions to limit the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in agricultural practices – including spraying with carcinogenic pesticides.
Lorna Cummings Poe, a Kaua‘i resident whose daughter and granddaughters are impacted by pesticide drift in Kekaha on the island’s west side, said:
“We can no longer put the interests of industrial agriculture before the interests of our keiki [children] and ‘āina [land]. Today’s decision shows that we’re moving in the right direction. I am hopeful for the future.”As with many Big Ag bills, the title is confusing. Contrary to the language in the bill title, this measure would have protected the agrichemical industry’s ‘right-to-spray’ pesticides near schools and homes.
The death of this preemption bill means that industry lobbyists just choked on their own greed.
Center for Food Safety and Earth Justice legal teams are poised to deliver oral arguments and defend these ordinances before the Federal Court in Honolulu in June 2016.
Let's end today's posting with a text from Kevin Mugur Galalae, founder and director of Center of Global Conciousness.