How many generations will suffer before a ‘chemical trespass’ law is passed?

10 Feb

In 2005 the Center for Science and Environment in Delhi checked the blood samples of the people of Punjab and found many different types of pesticides in their blood.

Two years later, the Economist reported: “In Punjabi villages, children and adults are afflicted by uncommon cancers. Some are going blind. The reason is massive and unregulated use of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals in India’s most intensively farmed state. According to an environmental report by Punjab’s government, the modest-sized state accounts for 17% of India’s total pesticide use. The state’s water, people, animals, milk and agricultural produce are all poisoned with the stuff”. (The article is now paywalled but can be sent via email if requested in the comments section)

Sean Gallagher, zoologist, film-maker and journalist quoted the words of Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the Center for Science and Environment in 2013: “Punjab is now becoming a hotspot of cancer cases in India. There are a lot of studies which now link cancer in Punjab to use of pesticides. Punjab is one of the largest users of pesticides in India”

In 2017, research published in Nature Plants showed that farmers could slash their pesticide use without losses and quoted from a UNGA report denouncing the ‘myth’ that pesticides are necessary to feed the world.

Prof. Ian Boyd, chief scientific adviser to the UK government, pointed out that regulators around the world have falsely assumed it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes.

In March 2019, the British Medical Journal published Prenatal and infant exposure to ambient pesticides and autism spectrum disorder in children: a population based case-control study, BMJ 2019, 20 March 2019, which noted that common pesticides have been previously shown to cause neurodevelopmental impairment in experimental research. This study’s findings suggested that an offspring’s risk of autism spectrum disorder increases following prenatal exposure to ambient pesticides (including glyphosate, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and permethrin) within 2000m of their mother’s residence during pregnancy, compared with offspring of women from the same agricultural region without such exposure.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information published a study later that year undertaken in California’s agricultural Salinas Valley by the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS). It reported that many pregnant women are exposed and prenatal organophosphate pesticide (OP) exposure is associated with poorer cognitive function in Mexican American youth – learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem solving, decision making, attention and behaviour problems

Exposure is widespread in the US population, predominantly through diet – pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Individuals living near farmland or living with family members working in agricultural settings are also exposed to pesticides from residues on clothing and drift from nearby fields.

How many more research papers will be published before decisive action is taken?

Pesticide sprays near Georgina’s home

In England over 10,000 rural residents have been calling on the Prime Minister via an online petition to ban all crop spraying of poisonous pesticides near residents homes, schools, and playgrounds and the words of many damaged individuals are recorded in an article by pesticide affected Georgina Downs.

Chandra Bhushan goes further. He concludes that this can no longer be allowed. We cannot allow chemicals to trespass in our body. We need a chemical trespass law that says we are not going to allow chemicals into our body to accumulate [where] they might cause numerous diseases in the future.

 

 

 

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News of black grass developing resistance to glyphosate herbicide takes nine months to percolate

4 Jan

In December, one day before Christmas Eve, Helena Horton reported evidence from a study showing that black grass – a native annual weed – is developing resistance to glyphosate in the field. Glyphosate is currently approved for use as a herbicide in the EU until 2022 but is banned or restricted in many countries listed here.

Nine months earlier the paper had been published in the New Phytologist, Evolutionary epidemiology predicts the emergence of glyphosate resistance in a major agricultural weed (March 19th) followed on June 20th by an interesting commentary on the study which said:

“Although resistance to herbicides initially did not appear to evolve as rapidly as did cases of insecticide resistance (Gressel & Segel, 1978), over 240 weeds are now resistant to a variety of herbicides following c.70 years of herbicide use (Heap, 2019).

“Currently, there are c.41 weed species that have evolved resistance to glyphosate (Heap, 2019). Strikingly, what we have learned about glyphosate resistance evolution from these species all stems from studying the weeds after they become problematic to the farmer. This means that we are most often considering glyphosate resistance evolution in a reactive, rather than proactive fashion”.

Farming UK reported on the research paper in June, quoting the lead author, Dr David Comont, a weed ecologist from Rothamsted Research, who said the work provides an early-warning to the UK farming industry that over-reliance on glyphosate is likely to lead to resistance:

“We found evidence that a number of blackgrass populations are responding to glyphosate use, by evolving reduced sensitivity to this herbicide in the field. Crucially, our results show this happening before high levels of resistance have evolved, whilst there is still time to delay or prevent this resistance”

The Telegraph reported on the research published in New Phytologist, on an article in ZSL Science (Zoological Society of London) and referred to a study in the journal Nature.

It repeated ZSL’s warnings that the UK’s food security is being put at risk by herbicide-resistant black-grass and its call for a ban on overuse of weed killer: “Black grass out-competes wheat for soil nutrients and reduces the number of wheat plants where it grows – and it is likely to spread further across the UK. This would increase the prices of bread and biscuits, and there would be less animal feed available so could also affect how much meat costs”.

Worldwide, there are 253 herbicide-resistant weeds, so the global impact of further resistance could be enormous. Nature’s study recommends urgent national-scale planning to combat resistance and the provision of incentives for increasing yields through food-production systems rather than herbicides. Dr Varah, the lead author, added that farmers need to implement more truly integrated pest management strategies – including diverse crop rotations and strict field hygiene measures.

 

 

 

 

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How many people have heard of an NHS ‘yellow card’ on which suspected side-effects should be reported?

23 Oct

Dr Mark Porter is a part-time partner in a busy rural NHS GP practice in the Cotswolds. He spends the rest of his time writing about medical matters in his weekly column and delivering his Radio 4 series Inside Health. He was awarded an MBE for services to medicine in 2005

In the Times recently, he asked, ‘How safe are your medicines?’ and informs all that In the UK a form anyone can use to report suspected side-effects is called ‘the yellow card’.

Last year there was a fall in the number of cards received and Dr Porter asked if drugs really are causing fewer problems or if ‘we have taken our eye off the ball’.

In 2018 the monitoring authority – the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – received 42,500 yellow cards, down from 44,000 the previous year.

Most patients have never heard of yellow cards, or assume that their doctor will report problems for them but healthcare professionals are stretched and may not link the side-effect to a drug.

New drugs are more risky because they may have been tested on only a few thousand people before gaining a licence, and even then often only for short periods.

It was the MHRA, with the help of yellow cards, that warned people taking the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin on which this site reported in 2012. It also warned against taking the anticoagulant warfarin with grapefruit juice because it interfered with the way the drugs were metabolised, increasing the risk of side-effects such as muscle aches and bleeding.

Dr Porter emphasises the importance of reporting side-effects experienced whilst taking a new drug (identified by a black triangle on the patient leaflet), even if you think it may be a coincidence because it’s often a pattern of such “coincidences” that produces a signal.

An online yellow card can be filled in at yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk to report problems or incidents with medicines, vaccines, herbal or homeopathic remedies, medical devices (from pacemakers to blood glucose monitors).

A printable Yellow Card form for members of the public is available at Member Of Public Yellow Card Reporting Form (December 2018) (379kb .pdf); for healthcare professionals a printable Yellow Card form may be downloaded from Healthcare Professional Yellow Card Reporting Form (February 2017) (110kb .pdf).

Patients who do not use computers will have to ask friends, family or a carer to do this for them.

 

 

 

 

 

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Post 1945: a plague of profitable but destructive chemicals

14 Sep

2010 research findings: 34% of UK cancers in 2010 (106,845) were linked to smoking and alcohol and one in 25 cancers is linked to a person’s job – other causes included exposure to chemicals. The percentages may well have risen. Pollution is one of many factors thought to be responsible for rising rates of allergy.

Despite this knowledge, harmful substances are freely sold in order to enrich a few and any attempt to change this is met with powerful resistance which influences most politicians.

Richard Bruce sent a link to this parliamentary debate opened by the Countess of Mar, a doughty campaigner on behalf of farmers, whose health seriously deteriorated after being compelled by government to use organophosphate sheep dip. Lord Blyth referred to Richard’s experience, but a fuller account is given on his website.

Agriculture: Health & Safety Responsibilities

6 Feb 1996: Column 183

The Countess of Mar rose to ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the statutory duties of the Health and Safety Executive and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to ensure that employers and employees carrying out exclusively agricultural operations are kept informed of, and adequately advised on, matters relating to health and safety.

The noble Countess said: In asking the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, I declare an interest. I have been exposed to organophosphate sheep dip and believe that I suffer chronic ill health as a result.

Some of the points made in the seven page report:

  1. In 1951, Solly Zuckerman, later Lord Zuckerman, chaired a working party which investigated the health effects on workers using dinitro and organophosphorus compounds in agricultural sprays
  2. It found that repeated low level exposures could result in chronic effects on human health
  3. and recommended simplifying labelling and including the words “Deadly poison” in large letters on containers.
  4. But not until 1994 were manufacturers required to put a skull-and-crossbones symbol on OP sheep dip containers to warn of toxicity.
  5. MAFF introduced national dipping orders in 1976
  6. The orders were rescinded in 1992
  7. GPs, untrained in chemical toxicology, used irrelevant tests & many decided that these patients’ symptoms were psychosomatic.
  8. Effective tests were not recommended by the HSE to GPs and consultants.
  9. The Health and Safety Commission did not consider it appropriate to advise and inform farmers of the inherent dangers of these substances.
  10. The Health and Safety Executive actively suppressed a 1990 field research project.
  11. Internationally research published in the Lancet in May 1995 found damage to farmers and that there was a dose relationship.
  12. Veterinary Products Committee rejected these research findings.
  13. The Countess of Mar asked the Minister how many members of the VPC had the relevant neurobehavioural expertise to assess this research. (Ed: an undated account VPC Members Specialisms and Biographical Details Indicates that none had this expertise, though Dr Karin Burnett had studied several aspects of toxicology).
  14. OPs are said to be too toxic to test on humans and maximum levels of exposure are arbitrarily set.
  15. T.C. Marrs, senior medical officer at the Department of Health, adviser to Ministers and government committees, said at a meeting of farmers in October 1991, “You don’t have to convince me there is long-term damage. I know it”, but did not inform ministers.
  16. Though the National Poisons Unit (NPU) at Guy’s Hospital confirmed that Richard Bruce had been poisoned by organophosphates and this was reported to the HSE, their inspectors did not visit Mr. Bruce or the farm where he worked to investigate the incident.
  17. Lord Blyth asked: How serious does an incident have to be before it is thoroughly investigated? What powers do health and safety inspectors and EMAS doctors have to inspect premises and obtain other evidence?
  18. The NPU withdrew the diagnosis of OP poisoning in a letter to the HSE, copied to Mr. Bruce’s GP on 2nd December 1994, but confirmed the diagnosis to the Benefits Agency in a letter of the same date.
  19. Lord Beaumont cited an Australian case with damages awarded in a court of law and recommended that OP sheep dips be classified as prescription products until the results of the Government’s delayed researches are known.

Baroness Turner said “It is clear from the information received from a number of sources that much needs to be done to improve health and safety standards in this vital industry. Many in it are suffering the effects of pesticide poisoning, and many are dying as a result.

 

The report may be read here.

 

 

 

 

 

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BBC & Nuffield Trust: Merck’s MMR more convenient for working mothers

20 Aug

 

Health experts are particularly concerned about the UK’s 87% uptake of the second MMR vaccination, which is far below the WHO’s 95% goal.

A remedy?

Some doctors have refused to administer the MMR vaccine and Dr Michael Jarmulowicz (FRCPath, MBBS) seeks a compromise, writing in the BMJ:

“What I find puzzling is the adamant refusal of the authorities to facilitate the availability of the single measles vaccine, to the point that the Department of Health has banned its use within the NHS. How does this fit with the growing acceptance of patient autonomy and patient choice? . . .

“Other countries with equivalent medical and ethical standards make them freely available.”

Meanwhile Merck’s influence increases as its profits soar, giving $1,481,549 during the US presidential 2018 Election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

A new advantage of the MMR vaccine was heard on Radio 4 or 5 Live this morning (19.8.19). Extensive ‘listening again’ failed to find the precise time and location, but It was stated at some length that the MMR vaccine was more convenient for working mothers as they would only need to attend one appointment.

This ‘convenience’ factor was also traced to the website of the Nuffield Trust:

“The availability of a single, combined vaccination may have simplified the childhood vaccination schedule for children and parents.”

Mothers for whom convenience is a priority could continue to enable their children to have the MMR and those who have seen or heard of adverse effects could thankfully return to the earlier practice.

For wider coverage, as Dr Jarmulowicz suggests, “the medical profession should support a parent’s wish for single dose vaccine, however irrational the establishment might view that wish”.

 

 

 

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Prime Minister Johnson ignores the GM elephants in the room: superweeds and pesticide resistance

1 Aug

Technical, scientific, agricultural and news media are focussing on Boris Johnson’s call on the steps of 10 Downing Street, in his first speech as UK Prime Minister, to “liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti genetic modification rules . . . and let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.”

Does he know anything about the problems besetting growers in countries such as America, Canada and India: herbicide resistant (super) weeds (below) and pesticide resistant insects?

He makes no reference to the plague of superweeds and the growth of pesticide resistant creatures such as the ‘out of control’ Indian bollworm (below right) and European corn borer (below left, showing the effect of the corn borer) plaguing farmers who are growing GM crops which now require ever larger applications of a different range of herbicides and pesticides .

The Verdict points out that the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 means the rules currently restricting GM crops in the UK through EU law will continue to apply through UK law after the UK has left – whether or not a deal has been done. This will give Mr Johnson time to think more carefully about his liberation plans.

 

 

 

 

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Pakistan suspends licenses for import and field trials of GM corn and bans trials of GM maize

21 Jul

Despite January’s news that the federal ministry of national food security had halted the GM approval process, the Cornell Alliance for Science reported, on July 9, 2019, that Pakistani farmers and scientists expressed the need for genetic modification at a recent Crop Life Pakistan Association event.

A reader now sends news that all biosafety licenses regarding import and field trials of GM corn in Pakistan have been suspended. There is also a ban on further trials of GM maize for an unspecified period in order to avoid crop contamination that can subsequently hurt maize exports.

Rafhan Maize, a major exporter, has given their view publicly that their exports may be compromised if GMO is introduced. The Lahore based company provides maize for industrial applications, animal nutrition and food products.

In its set of recommendations, members of a parliamentary committee, headed by the Speaker of the National Assembly, recommended Pakistan to follow the example of China, India, and Turkey. None of these countries has adopted GM food crops.

Pakistan Economist

In June Market Screener reported that the unprecedented near-consensus against GM is amazing: “All the major stakeholders of agriculture sector including farmers, food processors, national seed companies and agribusiness exerts, vehemently oppose cultivation of genetically modified maize in Pakistan”.

It added that at another meeting at Department of Agriculture, Government of Sindh, the former World Bank project Head Shahajahn Hashmani said that now all progressive countries in the world are working hard towards preserving their own indigenous varieties.

Further reading: Pakistan Economist article.

 

 

 

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