FT: Syngenta and Bayer funded a $3m field study – but dismissed its conclusions

9 Jul

The un-named author of a recent FT View opens by reminding readers of many factors often cited by scientists that may be behind the decline in bee populations across Europe and the US: habitat loss, disease and nutritional stress.

There are an estimated 3tn honey bees across the world. With their wild relatives they have been providing an essential service to mankind for millions of years.

The role that certain pesticides play in their decline has been fiercely disputed by environmentalists, farmers and industry lobbyists. In an earlier FT article Chloe Cornish recalls that previous studies indicated that neonicotinoids do harm bees, but were criticised because they were laboratory-based and did not replicate complex real world conditions.

. It was conducted over a year at 33 sites across the UK, Hungary and Germany, over an area spanning 2,000 hectares. It concludes that neonicotinoids — a widely used group of pesticides applied to seeds before planting — can indeed damage the ability of bees to establish new populations.

The $3m field study was joint funded by the chemical companies Syngenta and Bayer companies which produce most of these pesticides, and The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s contributed £400,000.

The findings add to an accumulating body of scientific research suggesting that “neonics” are a big contributor to the problem. They have played a part both in the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, in which commercial bees suddenly and mysteriously die off, and also in the tragic decline of wild bee populations in Europe and the US.

Facing denial in the face of this growing evidence lead authors Richard Pywell (right) and Richard Shore (left) told reporters in London that they were braced for hostility, acknowledging that this was a contentious area. Bayer and Syngenta have dismissed the report’s conclusions as simplistic and inconsistent— reminding the writer of the tactics once used by tobacco companies to fend off health-related regulation.

The implications are grim. Bees and other pollinators play a role in the production of about a third of the food eaten. Without them, basics such as coffee, chocolate and almost every fruit and vegetable would become scarce at best.

Neonicotinoids may not be solely responsible for the bee crisis. But of the many stresses contributing to declining populations, pesticide use is the easiest to control. A hungry and sick bee is more likely to die if it is also poisoned. The scientific findings point to the need for action.

EU regulators decided the link was worrying enough to place restrictions on the use of clothianidin, thiamethoxam and another neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, in 2013. This moratorium comes up for debate again later this year – meanwhile regulators are re-evaluating the three and will present their findings in November. FT View ends:

“On the latest evidence, the partial ban should be extended. The danger, of course, is that farmers will resort to using something with equally nefarious effects — the western world’s record for regulating pesticides is terrible.

”It is time that changed. It is time to look after bees as well as they look after us”.

 

 

 

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A patent application proving that science knows all about the deadly effects of organophosphates . . .

12 Jun

Richard Bruce draws attention to a patent application proving that science knows all about the deadly effects of organophosphates . . .

Richard writes:

I discovered the attached patent application made in the USA some time ago. If anyone ever had any doubts about just how much science knows about the deadly effects of organophosphates then this paper should show them that the claims made about there being no long-term effects are complete nonsense.

There is big money to be made in patenting treatments for illness but to do so they must explain the patent in detail. I once did all the legal work for a patent and it is a fascinating process. Ill health forced me to abandon it after a successful application! In this case that process means they had to describe the adverse health effects which they intend to treat. To this end the application lists the following effects of the poisons.

Have campaigners active in other fields thought of accessing the relevant patent applications?

Postscript 

Whilst searching for a link to enable the reader to access a clearer text, I came across a piece of research published in 2016 – Method of treating organophosphate intoxication, WO 2016036724 A1, which, as Richard says, shows “just how much science knows about the deadly effects of organophosphates”. Go to https://www.google.com/patents/WO2016036724A1?cl=en

 

 

 

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Highlighting the Johnson & Johnson case for the sake of readers further afield

16 May

In the last three countries noted on our visitor list last week, news about the Johnson & Johnson case – though prominently featured in Western countries – was not seen in an online search, except for just one report on ‘Aztelevision’.

J&J and talc supplier Imerys Talc have been ordered to pay $110 million to a resident of Virginia who is currently undergoing chemotherapy after her ovarian cancer initially diagnosed in 2012 returned and spread to her liver. She claimed that she developed ovarian cancer after four decades of using the company’s talc-based products. The jury said the company did not adequately warn consumers of the cancer risks of such products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder.

Reuters reports that the verdict in state court in St. Louis was the largest so far to arise out of about 2,400 lawsuits accusing J&J of not adequately warning consumers about the cancer risks of talc-based products including its well-known Johnson’s Baby Powder.

The jury awarded $5.4 million in compensatory damages and said J&J was 99% at fault while Imerys was just 1%. It awarded punitive damages of $105 million against J&J and $50,000 against Imerys. Details of claims made by other people may be seen in Reuter’s report.

During searches on this topic, it was found that the ‘No More Tears’ Shampoo and 100 other baby products sold by Johnson & Johnson had once contained two potentially harmful chemicals, formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane. In 2011, the US National Toxicology Program described formaldehyde as “known to be a human carcinogen

In response to consumer pressure two years ago, the company pledged to remove both chemicals from its baby products and has done so.

 

 

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Campaign to ban crop spraying of pesticides near homes, schools and playgrounds.

1 May

Richard Bruce has drawn our attention to Georgina’s petition.

In 1983 Georgina Downs (left with father Ken) and her family moved to a house next to agricultural fields. Over the years, her health gradually worsened as the result of exposure to the pesticides used nearby. She launched a campaign against the use of pesticides in intensive farming.

After researching the effect of pesticides and their effects on human health, she decided to challenge government regulations.

In 2008 the High Court of Justice ruled that DEFRA did not comply with European Union regulations. It found that Downs had provided “solid evidence” that residents had suffered harm to their health and that the existing approach to pesticide regulation in the UK was not, as DEFRA had argued, “reasonable, logical and lawful”.

The ruling was, however, overturned by the Court of Appeal in July 2009. The appeal judge ruled that the High Court justice had substituted his own evaluation of the health effect of pesticides for the evidence provided by DEFRA.

In 2016 Ms Downs launched a petition calling on PM Theresa May to ban all crop spraying of pesticides near residents’ homes, schools and playgrounds. The petition was signed by thousands of other rural residents also reporting adverse health impacts of crop spraying in their localities and now has over 2500 signatures and has recently been cited in articles and submissions to the Commons and House of Lords.

 

Recently she wrote to MPs who had only a few days left before the dissolution of Parliament, pointing out that rural residents and communities have one of the highest levels of exposure to agricultural pesticides and the least level of any protection. There are fundamental failings in the way the UK (and Europe more widely) have approved pesticides. To date, the official method has been based on the model of a short term ‘bystander’, occasionally exposed for just a few minutes, and to just one pesticide at any time. But for residents, as opposed to mere bystanders, experience repeated acute and chronic exposure over the long term to innumerable mixtures/cocktails of pesticides used on crops.

Ms Downes said that considering how many millions of citizens will be living in this situation then this is a public health and safety failure on a scandalous scale, especially considering the absolute requirement in existing laws that pesticides can only be authorised for use if it has been established that there will be no immediate or delayed harmful effect on human health.

The fact that there has never been an actual risk assessment for the real life exposure of residents means that no pesticide should ever have been approved in the first place for spraying in the locality of residents’ homes, schools, children’s playgrounds, nurseries, hospitals, amongst other such areas. Whilst operators will be in filtered cabs and/or have personal protective equipment when using pesticides, rural residents have no protection at all. Instead rural citizens have been put in a massive guinea pig-style experiment and many residents have had to suffer the serious, devastating – and in some cases fatal – consequences.

She refers to evidence of the risks posed by these pesticides. The manufacturers product data sheets carrying warnings such as “Very toxic by inhalation,” “Do not breathe spray; fumes; vapour,” “Risk of serious damage to eyes,” “Harmful, possible risk of irreversible effects through inhalation,” and even “May be fatal if inhaled.” Aerial spraying, more common in the USA (below), is legal in Britain if a detailed application has been passed by the Health & Safety Executive.

High quality, peer-reviewed scientific studies and reviews have concluded that long-term exposure to pesticides can disturb the function of different systems in the body, including nervous, endocrine, immune, reproductive, renal, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. See for example, the review published on 15th April 2013 in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology regarding the chronic health impacts of pesticides entitled “Pesticides and Human Chronic Diseases; Evidences, Mechanisms, and Perspectives” and which can be seen at:- http://www.sciencedirect.com/…/article/pii/S0041008X13000549

Evidence was submitted to a recent Lords committee enquiry in February (2017), see: http://data.parliament.uk/…/brexit-agric…/written/47151.html. Paragraphs 1.45 to 1.51 present  reports from thousands of rural residents affected by pesticides sprayed on crops in their locality and who have been calling on the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to ban all crop spraying of poisonous pesticides near residents homes, schools, and playgrounds.

A March 2017 United Nations Special Rapporteurs on toxics and on the right to food described poisoning by pesticides as a human rights issue. Its report on pesticides supported a number of key points including: that chronic exposure to agricultural pesticides has been associated with several diseases and conditions including cancer, developmental disorders, and sterility, and that those living near crop fields, especially pregnant women and children, are particularly vulnerable to exposure from these chemicals, and that moving away from pesticide-reliant industrial agriculture to non-chemical farming methods should now be a political priority in all countries.

Ms Downes calls for a complete paradigm moving away from the use of pesticides altogether to the adoption of non-chemical farming methods, as it goes without saying that no toxic chemicals that can harm the health of humans, (as well as other species such as bees, birds etc.) anywhere in the world, should be used to grow food.

Rural residents are calling on those who are standing again for re-election, especially those in rural constituencies, to recognise the importance of this issue and to stand up for those poisoned by pesticides in such constituency areas, and in your campaign pledges to commit to taking action if re-elected.

Georgina Downs FRSA, IFAJ, BGAJ: UK Pesticides Campaign (that represents rural residents and communities exposed to pesticides sprayed on crops).

www.pesticidescampaign.co.uk

georgina@pesticidescampaign.co.uk

 

 

 

 

The toxic avalanche

16 Apr

“Humans emit more than 250 billion tonnes of chemical substances a year, in a toxic avalanche that is harming people and life everywhere on the planet”, says Julian Cribb, author of ‘Surviving the 21st Century’ (Springer International 2017).  

He is quoted in an article published by Phys.org™, a web-based science, research and technology news service whose readership includes 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month:

“Every moment of our lives we are exposed to thousands of these substances. They enter our bodies with each breath, meal or drink we take, the clothes and cosmetics we wear, the things we encounter every day in our homes, workplaces and travel . . . “

The European Chemicals Agency estimates there are more than 144,000 man-made chemicals in existence.

The US Department of Health estimates 2000 new chemicals are being released every year. The UN Environment Program warns most of these have never been screened for human health safety.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 12 million people – one in 4 – die every year from diseases caused by ‘air water and soil pollution, chemical exposures, climate change and ultraviolet radiation’, all of which result from human activity . . .

Medical science is increasingly linking issues such as obesity, cancers, heart disease and brain disorders such as autism, ADHD and depression to the growing volume of toxic substances to which humans are exposed daily.

Cribb says that the poisoning of the planet through man-made chemical emissions is probably the largest human impact – and the one that is least understood or regulated. It is one of ten major existential risks now confronting humanity:

Examples of the toxic avalanche include:

  • Manufactured chemicals – 30 million tonnes a year
  • Plastic pollution of oceans – 8mt/yr
  • Hazardous waste – 400 mt/yr
  • Coal, oil, gas etc – 15 gigatonnes (billion tonnes) a year
  • Lost soil – 75 Gt/yr
  • Metals and materials – 75 Gt/yr
  • Mining and mineral wastes – <200 Gt/yr
  • Water (mostly contaminated with above wastes) – 9 trillion tonnes a year.

“Industrial toxins are now routinely found in new-born babies, in mother’s milk, in the food chain, in domestic drinking water worldwide. They have been detected from the peak of Mt Everest (where the snow is so polluted it doesn’t meet drinking water standards) to the depths of the oceans, from the hearts of our cities to the remotest islands. The mercury found in the fish we eat, and in polar bears in the Arctic, is fallout from the burning of coal and increases every year. There is global concern at the death of honeybees from agricultural pesticides and the potential impact on the world food supply, as well as all insect life – and on the birds, frogs and fish which in turn depend on insects.”

Cribb says an issue of chemical contamination largely ignored by governments and corporations is that chemicals act in combination, occur in mixtures and undergo constant change. “A given chemical may not occur in toxic amounts in one place – but combined with thousands of other chemicals it may contribute a much larger risk to the health and safety of the whole population and the environment.” 

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In the same vein, Isle of Wight reader Richard Bruce reminds us that way back in 1997 US scientists called for a ban on all OP pesticides used on food crops because of the cumulative risk to children. Read more here. The UK regulators referred to the paper as “a challenging document” but nothing was done. Some 1000 scientists wrote a letter of complaint when George W Bush refused to take action on their advice to ban all OPs.

He points out that the 2016 UK Pesticide Guide clearly states that the chemical is dangerous to the environment. For the similar chlorpyrifos methyl it states that the chemical must NOT be used on grain for seed. But both are add-mixed with the grain at harvest and there is no requirement to declare this poisonous addition on food labels “because it is a pesticide”. Often unsupervised, untrained, farm and grain store workers use methods that inevitably create “hotspots” of massive overdose. Some of those methods are no longer recommended but there is still no control over application, or the methods used. the Health and Safety Executive which is supposed to enforce the regulations all too often fails in its duty.

Prensa Latina, the official state news agency of Cuba. reports that the UN Council on Human Rights, the organization’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Food, Hilal Elve (left), warned in its yearly report that most of the population around the world is exposed to pesticides through food, water, air or direct contact with the chemicals and toxic waste. The problem is worse in poor and developing nations, but no country is immune to these harmful substances. pregnant women run the risk of abortion, premature birth and congenital malformations. There are irreversible consequences to health, such as cancer, Alzheimer, Parkinson, hormone disorders, sterility and growth disorders.

Richard Bruce also points out that we are exposed to cumulative poisons every day, adding, “and no one cares”.

 

 

 

Burkino Faso was not silenced by Monsanto

14 Apr

Devinder Sharma (New Delhi) draws our attention to Burkina Faso, Africa’s top cotton producer but among the world’s poorest countries. In 2008, in order to reduce losses due to pests, it introduced a variety of cotton containing Monsanto’s Bollgard II trait nationwide.  

Sharma adds: “It was then hailed as a technological development which would change the face of the rural landscape”.

Over the years, however, a decline in value was blamed on the genetically modified (GM) cotton. Reuters reported that the Inter-professional Cotton Association of Burkina said that quality was damaged when Monsanto introduced the gene into its cotton. The fibre length, one of the chief measures of quality, was reduced, causing Burkina Faso’s cotton to fetch lower prices on the world market.

Burkina Faso did not renew its contract with Monsanto last year and this season it abandoned the use of the GM variety in favour of a return to its conventional cotton strain.

Sharma comments that instead of allowing its arm to be twisted, Burkina Faso took on the mighty multinational giant. It demanded compensation of US$76.5 million from Monsanto for the losses suffered. As a preventive measure, Burkina Faso withheld US$24 million in royalties collected from Burkina Faso farmers.

Reuters adds that Wilfried Yameogo, managing director of SOFITEX, said: “This brings definitive closure to a collaboration that had promised to offer the company a foothold in Africa but ended in dispute. In doing this, we think that a bad deal is better than a bad court case. We have closed the Monsanto dossier. There is no longer a demand for compensation”.

The Agriculture Minister Jacob Quedraogo (sometimes spelt as Ouedraogo), said that the country will now resort to cultivation of conventional cotton varieties, and he hopes the reintroduction of traditional cotton will eliminate the quality issues.

Sharma ends: Let’s learn something from Burkina Faso

 

 

 

Taxpayers unwittingly fund GM trials as the prospect of leaving wiser European counsellors looms

29 Mar

Will agri-business ultimately be allowed to charge ahead, imposing genetically modified food on an unwilling public?

Yesterday Farming Today, whose sylvan banners (one example above) indicate a preference for traditional farming whilst the actual programmes often court the worst establishment proposals, reported that a new GM wheat trial has been planted at the Rothamstead research centre in Hertfordshire.

It was advocated – yet again – as needed to feed the world’s poor. Hunger is due to the poor lacking land to produce food or money to buy it. Will Monsanto etc be giving food free of charge?

Last November, Clive Cookson, FT Science Editor, had reported on this plan to grow a crop of wheat that has been genetically modified in the spring of 2017 at Rothamsted, alongside non-GM wheat of the same Cadenza variety, as a control.

The work is publicly funded through a £696,000 grant from the government’s UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and $294,000 from the US Department of Agriculture. Other partners include the universities of Lancaster and Illinois.

This is Rothamsted research centre, one of the country’s largest agricultural research stations.

Cookson adds that when the crop is harvested at the end of the summer, the researchers will discover whether genetic modification raises the yield in the field by as much as it did in trials carried out so far under glass. Rothamsted hopes this will work better than its last GM field trial of wheat genetically modified to repel aphids by giving off an alarming scent which worked well in the greenhouse but in a field trial it failed to show any crop protection benefits over conventional wheat. Malcolm Hawkesford, head of plant biology and crop science at Rothamsted, said the negative outcome showed how important it is to carry out field trials to confirm laboratory studies.

Earlier in March, news was received that the Organic Research Centre joined 32 other organisations in a letter to DEFRA which asked that the application from the Sainsbury Laboratory to release genetically modified (GM) and possibly blight-resistant potatoes be refused.

The tubers produced by the transgenic plants released will not be used for animal feed and will be destroyed following harvest, according to a government website.

Potato blight can be combated through conventional breeding and cultural methods

The letter, co-ordinated by GM Freeze, sets out the reasons why they believe that this trial should not go ahead, including the charge that the applicant has neglected to consider a number of serious and complex hazards, that the trial represents a significant risk and will not benefit society, that genetic modification is not necessary for blight resistance and that there is no market for GM potatoes.