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GM news escalates: ‘whitewashing’ glyphosate, Monsanto papers, Michael Gove persuadable?

12 Nov

Der Spiegel reports that a court in San Francisco ordered U.S. agrochemical giant Monsanto to provide internal emails as evidence after about 2,000 plaintiffs demanded compensation from Monsanto in class-action suits. They claim that Roundup has caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of lymph node cancer, in them or members of their family.

More than 100 documents have revealed that Monsanto’s strategies for ‘whitewashing glyphosate’ have been revealed in internal e-mails, presentations and memos. They suggest the company concealed risks, making their publication a disaster for the company. The matter is also likely to be a topic of discussion at Bayer, the German chemical company in the process of acquiring Monsanto.

“The Monsanto Papers tell an alarming story of ghostwriting, scientific manipulation and the withholding of information,” says Michael Baum, a partner in the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, which is bringing one of the US class actions. According to Baum, Monsanto used the same strategies as the tobacco industry: “creating doubt, attacking people, doing ghostwriting.”

On October 11th, the European Parliament’s Environment and Agriculture committee held a public hearing on The Monsanto Papers. 

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Despite this, the BBC reports that an EU vote has failed to resolve a controversy over the use of glyphosate, the world’s biggest-selling weedkiller. Glyphosate was introduced by US agrochemical giant Monsanto in 1974, but its patent expired in 2000, and now the chemical is sold by various manufacturers.

The European Commission said the vote fell short of the majority needed to renew the license for five years when it expires December 15, as only half of the 28 member states voted for its proposal. “Given that a qualified majority could not be reached … the result of the vote is ‘no opinion,'” said the commission, the EU’s executive and regulatory arm. An EU appeal committee will now try to rule on the issue. A qualified majority requires that 55% of EU countries vote in favour, and that the proposal is supported by countries representing at least 65% of the total EU population.

The UK was among the 14 states backing the Commission position on glyphosate. Nine voted against – including France and Italy. Germany was among the five who abstained.

But a reader sends the information that the environment secretary, Michael Gove, now says the UK will back a total ban on insect-harming pesticides in fields across Europe . . . Perhaps he can be persuaded to ban human-harming, resistance-forming glyphosate as well.

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Is the balance of nature being adversely affected by pesticides?

12 Oct

In May this year, Horticulture Weekly and other sources reported that most ‘insect-friendly’ plants sold in garden centres and supermarkets are laced with chemicals that could be killing bees.

More than 70% of ‘pollinator-friendly’ specimens from B&Q, Homebase, Aldi & Wyevale, studied by scientists at Sussex University led by Professor Dave Goulson, tested positive for pesticides after screening pollen, nectar and leaves. One type of heather bought from the Wyevale chain contained five insecticides as well as five fungicides. Every retailer sold plants containing the EU 2013 ‘banned’ neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam or clothianidin.

Quartz updates us: reporting that a study published on Oct. 6 in the journal Science found that a significant amount of the world’s honey contains traces of neonicotinoids,, a class of commonly used pesticides, at levels strong enough to cause brain damage in bees – but not (yet?). human beings.The chemicals are meant to attack the nervous systems of pests and keep them from eating crops.

American environmentalists have expressed concern, since president Donald Trump appointed Scott Pruitt – who has prioritised business interests – to head the US Environmental Protection Agency.

In the past, Pruitt, who has been described by some as being especially friendly with pesticide manufacturers and an ‘ally’ of the fossil fuel industries, has vigorously opposed environmentally beneficial legislation.

What will be the long-term effects of bees, birds,  bats and frogs, butterflies, houseflies, crane flies and other insects dying from chemical pollution?

 

 

Out in the open: Monsanto’s involvement in the retraction of the Séralini paper

22 Sep

Claire Robinson reports that internal Monsanto documents released by attorneys leading US cancer litigation show that Monsanto attempted to suppress a study showing adverse effects of Roundup herbicide. The full report may be read here.

She writes: “The study, led by Prof GE Séralini, showed that very low doses of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide had toxic effects on rats over a long-term period, including serious liver and kidney damage. Additional observations of increased tumour rates in treated rats would need to be confirmed in a larger-scale carcinogenicity study”.

The New York Times has published some of the emails mentioned by Claire. In the documents released by the American law firm, Monsanto scientist David Saltmiras admitted orchestrating a “third party expert” campaign in which scientists who were apparently independent of Monsanto would bombard the editor-in-chief of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), A. Wallace Hayes, with letters demanding that he retract the study. In one document, Saltmiras reviews his own achievements within the company, successfully facilitating numerous third party expert letters to the editor which were subsequently published, alleging numerous significant deficiencies, poor study design, biased reporting and selective statistics employed by Séralini. Another Monsanto employee, Eric Sachswrites in an email about his efforts to galvanize scientists in the letter-writing campaign.

Sachs refers to Bruce Chassy, a scientist who runs the pro-GMO Academics Review website (and has ‘form’)

Sachs writes: “I talked to Bruce Chassy and he will send his letter to Wally Hayes directly and notify other scientists that have sent letters to do the same. He understands the urgency… I remain adamant that Monsanto must not be put in the position of providing the critical analysis that leads the editors to retract the paper.”   Chassy (left)was the first signatory of a petition demanding the retraction of the Séralini study and the co-author of a Forbes article accusing Séralini of fraud. In neither document does Chassy declare any link with Monsanto. But in 2016 he was reported to have taken over $57,000 over less than two years from Monsanto to travel, write and speak about GMOs.

The disclosed documents show that the editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology, A. Wallace Hayes, entered into a consulting agreement with Monsanto in the period just before Hayes’s involvement in the retraction of the Séralini study.

Clearly there was a conflict of interest between Hayes’ role as a consultant for Monsanto and his role as editor for a journal that retracted a study determining that glyphosate has toxic effects. The study was published on 19 September 2012; the consulting agreement between Hayes and Monsanto was dated 21 August 2012 and Hayes is contracted to provide his services beginning 7 September 2012.

A Monsanto internal email confirms the company’s intimate relationship with Hayes (right). Saltmiras writes about the recently published Séralini study: “Wally Hayes, now FCT Editor in Chief for Vision and Strategy, sent me a courtesy email early this morning. Hopefully the two of us will have a follow up discussion soon to touch on whether FCT Vision and Strategy were front and center for this one passing through the peer review process.” Monsanto got its way, though the paper was subsequently republished by another journal with higher principles – and, presumably, with an editorial board that wasn’t under contract with Monsanto.

Some regulatory bodies have backed Monsanto rather than the public interest. In fact, the EU is considering dispensing with the short 90-day animal feeding studies currently required under European GMO legislation.

Now that Monsanto’s involvement in the retraction of the Séralini paper is out in the open, FCT and Hayes should issue a formal apology to Prof Séralini and his team. FCT cannot and should not reinstate the paper because it has been published by another journal. But it needs to draw a line under this episode, admit that it handled it badly, and declare its support for scientific independence and objectivity.

 

 

 

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Toxic avalanche 2: smart meters, an unlisted component  

29 Aug

Yesterday a neighbour voiced misgiving about the smart meters which the government decided to offer as part of measures to upgrade our energy supply and tackle climate change. They are said to give the user more control over energy consumption, help him/her to understand the bills, end estimated readings and show the cost of energy used.

In 2014 This is Money (click on link for clearer text) reported fears that two-thirds would not work and the meters would not save money and the Telegraph earlier this month published six important reasons to ’say no to a smart meter’ which may be read by following this link. But not one was related to misgivings which have been reported for some years.

In 2012, environmental health Professor David Carpenter, founder of Albany School of Public Health, and author of 370 peer-reviewed publications, issued a public letter on the plausible toxic risks of intensive, pulsed-microwave smart metering. His letter Smart-meters: Correcting the Gross Misinformation was signed by 50 international health experts:

“We, the undersigned … have co-authored hundreds of peer-reviewed studies on the health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) … Mass deployment of smart grids could expose large chunks of the general population to alarming risk scenarios … More than a thousand studies done on low intensity, high frequency, non-ionizing radiation going back at least fifty years, show … biochemical changes which … may lead to diseases.” 

Findings: ‘minimal risk’ – aka some risk; ‘exaggerated concerns’ – aka some but possibly lower causes for concern

In 2013, the fears of residents’ opposed to smart meters, which led to bans in two regions of California were  dismissed in the Huffington Post as ‘pseudoscience, making the greatest inroads in the United States’: “Some claim ‘electromagnetic hypersensitivity,’ or in other words that radiation from devices such as smart meters cause dizziness, fatigue, headaches, seizures, memory loss or other maladies. Others claim that smart meters cause cancer.  Similar episodes have occurred in the UK, Canada and elsewhere”.

A 2010 13-nation study commissioned by the World Health Organization was cited in the Huffington Post article as clear scientific evidence of safety as regards  cancer, because it found “at most a very minimal and partially contradictory link between cancer risk and heavy cell-phone usage. Along this line, concerns that cell phone usage by pregnant mothers endangers their fetuses are wildly exaggerated”. On 31st May 2011, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), referring to mobile phone usage, classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer.

In April this year this site reported that Sarah Knapton, Science Editor of the Telegraph, had reported that new analysis of government statistics by researchers at the charity Children with Cancer UK found that there are now 1,300 more cancer cases a year compared with 1998, the first time all data sets were published – a 40% rise.

Dr Denis Henshaw, Professor of Human Radiation Effects at Bristol University, the scientific adviser for Children with Cancer UK, said many elements of modern lifestyles are to blame:

  • air pollution was by far the biggest culprit
  • obesity,
  • pesticides
  • solvents inhaled during pregnancy,
  • circadian rhythm disruption through too much bright light at night,
  • radiation from x-rays and CT scans,
  • smoking during and after pregnancy,
  • magnetic fields from cables and power lines,
  • magnetic fields from gadgets in homes,
  • and potentially, radiation from mobile phones.

British Gas quotes Public Health England:

“PHE states there is no evidence to suggest that exposure to the radio waves produced by smart meters poses any health risk. In addition, they state that the exposure from smart meters are lower than from other appliances we use today like televisions and microwaves, and likely to be thousands of times lower than from a mobile phone. Their website states: ‘the evidence to date suggests exposures to the radio-waves produced by smart meters do not pose a risk to health’. For more details on smart meters and health, see PHE’s website”. The article has been removed from the website and is now archived – standard practice for controversial material

Better to be safe than sorry? Adopt the precautionary principle detailed in Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (EU), which “aims at ensuring a higher level of environmental protection through preventative decision-taking in the case of risk . . . the scope of this principle . . . covers consumer policy, European legislation concerning food and human, animal and plant health.

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

An ‘epidemic’ of childhood tooth decay in the fluoridated Republic of Ireland

28 Feb

Background information: Ireland, the only country in the European Union with a nationwide mandate for water fluoridation -via the Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act 1960, which mandated compulsory fluoridation by local authorities. 3,250,000 Irish people receive artificially-fluoridated water.

Geren Island Water Treatment FacilityThe agent used is hydrofluorosilicic acid. Corrosive to most metals it eats through concrete and Hazmat suits (impermeable whole-body garments must be worn to handle it as a gas may be released which damages the lungs. This and other adverse health effects are listed by NIOSH (US government agency).

private member’s bill to end fluoridation was defeated in the Dáil on 12 November 2013. It was supported by Sinn Féin and some of the technical group and opposed by the Fine Gael-Labour government and Fianna Fáil.

Early in 2014, Cork County Council and Laois County Council passed motions for the cessation of water fluoridation. In Autumn 2014, Cork City Council, Dublin City Council and Kerry County Council passed similar motions.

irsih-jda-coverToday, Aaron Rogan in The Times reports that a study by University College Cork published in this month’s Journal of the Irish Dental Association found that 60% of the 347 Irish children who required dental treatment under general anaesthetic before they turned five needed teeth extracted.

Michaela Dalton, president of the HSE dental surgeons group describes it as an ‘epidemic of tooth decay’. “Juices and yoghurts are rotting babies’ teeth but are being sold as replacements for fruit. Sugary cereal bars are sold as healthy snacks. They’re labelled as no-added sugar and all-natural but they have concentrated fruit sugars, which are really acidic and rotting teeth” Dr Dalton said.

Another significant finding was that despite a long-established link between economic disadvantage and dental problems, there was no significant class difference for preschool children requiring treatment under general anaesthetic.

“Disadvantaged children have a higher risk of requiring a dental general anaesthesia in their lifetime; however, this is not occurring in isolation, with their equivalents in the higher social group also placing a strain on the system,” the study said.

The programme for government explicitly mentioned that preschool oral health intervention would save the taxpayer money – but the expensive water fluoridation programme already compulsory in Ireland is universally ‘sold’ as an oral health intervention.