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Hawaiian parents and environmentalists campaign against use of harmful sprays

7 Dec

In 2015 an American Academy of Pediatrics’ report, Pesticide Exposure in Children, found “an association between pesticides and adverse birth outcomes, including physical birth defects”. Local schools had been evacuated twice and children sent to hospital because of pesticide drift.

aerial-spray

Years earlier, whilst in America, a friend of the writer, who was in good health at the time, developed emphysema and died prematurely after being exposed to spray drift.

Carla Nelson, a pediatrician, pointed out that doctors need prior disclosure of sprayings: “It’s hard to treat a child when you don’t know which chemical he’s been exposed to.” Read her Guardian coverage here.

In the state legislature in Honolulu, Senator Josh Green, who then chaired the health committee, made his fourth attempt to curb pesticide and herbicide spraying, but ruefully commented that most heads of the agriculture committee have had “a closer relationship with the agro-chemical companies than with the environmental groups”.

A year later, Time magazine reported that there was growing evidence of glyphosate’s potentially dangerous health effects. It was judged a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization last year but despite this, on the Hawaiian island of Maui and elsewhere, sprayers simply sprayed and moved on; no one monitored the observance of the safety directions of their own product.

spray-hackneyHawaii environmentalists have used a little-known law, FIFRA, short for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, which requires sprayers to follow the safety instructions on the product’s label down to the letter.

For products containing the herbicide glyphosate, that means keeping people away from the area where the product has been used for four hours after applications for agriculture, or until the product dries when sprayed for non-agricultural purposes. That can be difficult in places like long stretches of roads and highways where extended monitoring to keep people away from recently sprayed areas is virtually impossible.

Parents began to circulate photographs of government employees spraying Round Up, the primary commercial product containing glyphosate. Footage showed authorities spraying on highways, roads and near schools without any visible effort to keep people away.

Finally the uncertainty raised by activists over the labelling issue convinced Stephen Rodgers, who oversees pesticide application on Maui’s state highways to switch to organic pesticides. His department no longer purchases Roundup and will stop using the product entirely – but only when the existing supply has been used.

Significant exposure to glyphosate in farm workers has been linked to increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer. Nature magazine, which is sceptical of the impact on human health, at least reports a study showing a link between glyphosate and cancer in mice. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), ruled last year that the pesticide is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Dr. Philip Landrigan, a Harvard-educated pediatrician and epidemiologist, Dean for Global Health at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, says, “For a long time glyphosate was viewed as an innocuous herbicide. A lot of things have changed”.

His colleague, Chuck Benbrook, an adjunct professor at Washington State University’s crops and soil science department, said “There is growing evidence that glyphosate is geno-toxic and has adverse effects on cells in a number of different ways. It’s time to pull back … on uses of glyphosate that we know are leading to significant human exposures while the science gets sorted out.”

Part 2: studies which conclude that glyphosate does not cause harm.

 

 

 

Professor McGlade: current political systems have become ‘silted up by vested interests and a determination to protect assets’

3 Nov

Richard Bruce has drawn our attention to an article in the Telegraph with the headline ‘Modern life is killing our children’.

denis_henshawSarah Knapton, Science Editor of the Telegraph, 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 (above left), 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 power lines,
  • magnetic fields from gadgets in homes,
  • and potentially, radiation from mobile phones.

Diagnoses of colon cancer among children and young people has risen 200% since 1998, while thyroid cancer has doubled. Ovarian and cervical cancers have also risen by 70% and 50% respectively. The charity estimates that the rise in cases now costs the NHS an extra £130 million a year compared with 16 years ago.

Children with Cancer UK is not calling – as Mr Bruce observes – for any of these carcinogens to be removed; it has decided to launch a five-point plan calling on the Government and the science and medical community to ensure that all children diagnosed with cancer in the UK have access to precision medicine by 2020.

prof-mcgladeProfessor Jacqueline McGlade is Chief Scientist and Director of the Division of Early Warning and Assessment of the United Nations Environment Programme. She said in her preface to Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation that well-informed individuals and communities would ‘more properly’ set ‘the power to act’, than current political systems which have become ‘silted up by vested interests and a determination to protect assets’ – and, we would add, to accumulate profits. She calls for “a more ethical form of public decision-making based on a language in which our moral instincts and concerns can be better expressed . . .”

Note on a sister site: https://chssachetan.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/sjm-protecting-the-interests-of-food-producers-the-indian-environment-and-people/

SJM: protecting the interests of food producers, the Indian environment and people

The latest in the GM food saga: a correspondent sends news from Hyderabad about the discovery of imported American GE sweets confirmed by State Food Laboratory’s Ravindra, who states that “The sale of GE foods is prohibited under Section 22 of the Food Safety and Standards Act.

Today the focus is on the role of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, who – like many others – are advocates of the swadeshi approach, described by Satish Kumar as a program for long term survival – read more here.

 

 

 

 

Science, precaution, innovation: learn tragically ‘late lessons from early warnings’

30 Jul

 

Glyphosate herbicides, harmful pharmaceuticals, infected blood transfusions, mercury preservative in infant vaccines, organophosphate insecticides, GM technology and fluoridation of the water supply . . . the damage to human and environmental health has been incalculable.

pprof mcgladeAs Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Chief Scientist and Director of the Division of Early Warning and Assessment of the United Nations Environment Programme, said in her preface to Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation:

“There is something profoundly wrong with the way we are living today. There are corrosive pathologies of inequality all around us — be they access to a safe environment, healthcare, education or clean water. These are reinforced by short-term political actions and a socially divisive language based on the adulation of wealth . . .

“One thing that has become clearer over the past decade is that certain chemical substances are highly stable in nature and can have long-lasting and wide ranging effects before being broken down into a harmless form. The risk of a stable compound is that it can be bio-accumulated in fatty tissues at concentrations many times higher than in the surrounding environment . . . So exposure to toxic chemicals and certain foodstuffs are at risk of causing harm, especially to vulnerable groups such as foetuses in the womb or during childhood when the endocrine system is being actively built. Even with small dose exposures, the consequences can in some instances be devastating with problems ranging from cancer, serious impacts on human development, chronic diseases and learning disabilities”.

chemical exposures coverProfessor McGlade points out that well-informed individuals and communities would ‘more properly’ set ‘the power to act’, than current political systems which have become ‘silted up by vested interests and a determination to protect assets’ – and, we would add, to accumulate profits. She calls for “a more ethical form of public decision-making based on a language in which our moral instincts and concerns can be better expressed . . .”

Above, a book by Claudia Miller, M.D., M.S., a tenured Professor in Environmental and Occupational Medicine and Vice Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), who has written extensively on the health effects of low-level chemical exposures.

One simple measure could be adopted. Every scientific report or review should be prefaced by a declaration of the researcher’s competing financial interests

From the Nature/ British Dental Journal’s declaration of the authors’ competing financial interests Critique of the review of ‘Water fluoridation for the prevention of dental caries’ published by the Cochrane Collaboration in 2015, we learn that – out of 17 – these authors had such an interest – see footnote, with names added to the initials in the list.

The Cochrane review noted- amongst many other findings – that only two studies since 1975 have looked at the effectiveness of reducing cavities in baby teeth, and found fluoridation to have no statistically significant impact – and within the ‘before and after’ studies none showed the benefits of fluoridated water for adults.

In view of the authors’ competing interests it is not surprising that they cast doubt on the validity of the unfavourable findings of the Cochrane Review, which is ’unconstrained by commercial and financial interests’.

Footnote:

  1. A. J. Rugg-Gunn: AJRG was a member of the MRC (UK) working group on water fluoridation and health and is a trustee of The Borrow Foundation (long associated with milk fluoridation).
  2. A.J. Spencer: AJS is a member of the Australian Government Department of Health, Nutritional Reference Values Fluoride Expert Working Group and the National Health and Medical Research Council Fluoride Reference Group.
  3. H.P. Whelton: HPW is Principal Investigator of the FACCT study funded by the Irish Health Research Board and is an evaluation of the impact of changes in the policy on children’s oral health in Ireland. She is an independent advisor to the British Fluoridation Society.
  4. C.Jones: CJ is a member of the British Fluoridation Society, the Cochrane Oral Health Group and commented on the Cochrane review protocol.
  5. J. F. Beal: JFB is vice-chairman, British Fluoridation Society.
  6. P.Castle: PC is a communications adviser to the National Alliance for Equity in Dental Health and the British Fluoridation Society. 
  7. P.V. Cooney: PVC was Chief Dental Officer for Canada.
  8. J. Johnson: JJ is President, American Fluoridation Society. 
  9. M.P. Kelly: MPK is co-investigator on the CATFISH study of a water fluoridation scheme in Cumbria.
  10. M.A. Lennon: MAL was a member of the Advisory Panel for the York Review, a member of the MRC Expert Group and formerly Chair of the British Fluoridation Society.
  11. J. McGinley: JMcG is manager, Fluoridation Activities, American Dental Association.
  12. D. O’Mullane: DO’M is a member of the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health.
  13. P.P. Sharma: PPS is the President, Ontario Association of Public Health Dentistry. 
  14. W.M. Thomson: WMT was a member of the panel which produced the Royal Society of New Zealand report on community water fluoridation.
  15. S. M. Woodward: SMW works for The Borrow Foundation.
  16. S.P. Zusman: SPZ is Chief Dental Officer with Israeli Ministry of Health.

 

 

 

Crunch time: will fears of legal action by Monsanto sway the final vote on licensing glyphosate – a ‘probable’ carcinogen?

7 Jun

The FT reports that leading EU member states on Monday refused to extend a licence for glyphosate, the world’s most common herbicide. If there is no decision by the end of the month, glyphosate will lose its licence, raising the prospect of legal action by the industry.

EU-PARLIAMENT

The commission had intended to try to relicense glyphosate for 15 years, but the latest proposal was for a licence of only 12 to 18 months, while more research is conducted. This option has been rejected as Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Austria and Portugal and Luxembourg all abstained, meaning the necessary qualified majority could not be reached. Malta voted against.

Bart Staes, a Belgian MEP from the Green Party, warned the commission not to approve glyphosate unilaterally through a so-called “appeals committee”: “Such a move would raise major democratic concerns about the EU’s decision-making process”. More handsomely, the Guardian adds more from Staes:

“We applaud those EU governments who are sticking to their guns and refusing to authorise this controversial toxic herbicide. There are clear concerns about the health risks with glyphosate, both as regards it being a carcinogen and an endocrine disruptor. Moreover, glyphosate’s devastating impact on biodiversity should have already led to its ban”.

Glyphosate is the basis for Monsanto’s topselling weedkiller RoundUp, described in its annual report as “a sustainable source” of cash and profit. Last year more than 80% of Monsanto’s sales were in the Americas and under 13% in Europe.

Last month a report from the WHO and the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation concluded that the chemical was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk” through diet, but the WHO’s cancer agency last year had concluded that the product was “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

Prime movers in opposing the use of glyphosate are Sweden, the Netherlands and France – and over 1.5 million EU citizens who petitioned the parliament to ban it.

The German Social democrat environment minister Barbara Hendricks welcomed the decision in Brussels, saying: “Many member states would like the question of cancer risks to be clarified before glyphosate can again be spread on our fields.” But Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU bloc, which wants the chemical to remain in use, is frustrated. Peter Liese, a CDU member of the European Parliament, said Berlin must battle for the continued use of glyphosate, albeit under “strict conditions”.

The glyphosate task force, a consortium of companies including Monsanto, complained: “It is clear that certain member states are no longer basing their positions on scientific evidence, which is meant to be the guiding principle of the process”.

US officials said that they are “extremely concerned” about the EU’s action and accuse Brussels of failing to rely on “sound science”. EU officials respond that their “precautionary principle” of regulation in cases of doubt offers greater public protection.

 

 

 

Rebrand Monsanto? Will the 99% be fooled?

29 May

bayer logoThe FT reports that Bayer, which has made a bid to take over Monsanto, has a relatively squeaky-clean brand, with ‘lots of positive connotations’. This, despite the company being rocked by scandal in 2001 when its cholesterol drug Lipobay was found to have serious side-effects and its production of a neonicotinoid insecticide which may have contributed to the decline in the bee population.

“Its oldest brand is aspirin, after all,” says Torben Bo Hansen, head of Philipp und Keuntje, a German advertising agency, adding “But for large parts of the population Monsanto is evil personified.”

In another FT article, Dirk Zimmermann explains: “Bayer is by no means an exemplary company. After all, their business model is the same as Monsanto’s — they also sell genetically modified seeds that are resistant to the herbicides they produce. None of this is compatible with the idea of sustainable agriculture, or at least our understanding of it.”

Monsanto is opposed because of its leadership in producing and promoting genetically modified organisms – Germany is one ‘no-go’ area where 1m hectares of land are farmed organically. Countries producing GM crops are shown below (in dark blue):

countries growing gm crops 15

Monsanto is also widely associated with the production and promotion of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, which the World Health Organisation said last year was probably carcinogenic. The EU is currently debating whether to relicence glyphosate, with many European governments opposed.

countries ban label gm crops 14Countries banning or labelling GMOs (compiled by Canadian campaigner)

“One option for Bayer would be to drop the Monsanto name if the transaction went through”. Is rebranding the answer?

The Brand Failures blogspot recalls that when massive amounts of radioactive material were released from the UK’s Windscale atomic works in 1957, following a serious fire, the local community in Cumbria were understandably terrified about the health implications of uncontained radiation. Rather than close the plant down, the government believed the best way to put distance between the disaster and the nuclear plant as a whole was to change the name, from Windscale to Sellafield.

“The potential is definitely there for Bayer’s brand to suffer in a takeover,” adds Hansen. “One option for Bayer would be to drop the Monsanto name if the transaction went through, to prevent that “negative sentiment carrying over to the new company” said Jeffrey Stafford, analyst at Morningstar (investment management).

99%-3

But as Brand Failures records, in many cases, including Windscale/Sellafield and the Post Office/Consignia, the 99% are no longer so easy to fool.

 

 

 

 

An EU licence for glyphosate? Not without a ‘qualified majority’

27 May

Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used herbicide. Scientific opinion is divided, but the World Health Organisation confirmed last year that the substance is “probably carcinogenic” to humans.

Farming UK reports that before the European Parliament vote to oppose the EU Commission’s proposal to relicense the controversial toxic substance until 2031, a group of 48 MEPs took part in a test which confirmed the presence of weedkiller glyphosate in their urine, with the average concentration being 1.73ng/ml. The test was inspired by a recent study in Germany which found that 99.6% of people tested had glyphosate residues in their urine.

Exercising the precautionary principle requires a qualified majority

Glyphosate’s current European licence was set to expire in June and though the vote to renew it was passed by 374 votes in favour to 225 votes against, Farming Today reports that the decision was deferred and the journal Science confirms that the commission has made it clear that it would not proceed without a “solid qualified majority of Member States,” (A qualified majority is now achieved only if a decision is supported by 55% of Member States, including at least fifteen of them representing at the same time at least 65% of the Union’s population.)

Science adds that Monsanto, which manufactures glyphosate under the commercial name Roundup, has ‘slammed’ the delays as ‘not scientifically warranted’. 

The commission said that no products will be licensed unless a decision is taken before June 30th. In that case, glyphosate will be no longer authorized in the EU and Member States will have to withdraw authorizations for all glyphosate-based products.

Ireland’s Agriland portal reports that glyphosate will be banned in France – whether or not the EU decides this week to renew the authorisation of the chemical. Speaking to France Info Radio, the French Minister for Health, Marisol Touraine, said that the French President Francois Hollande announced – during the last environmental conference – that glyphosate would not be authorised in France: “Regardless of debates around whether it causes cancer or not, the studies we have show it’s an endocrine disruptor”.

Agriland adds that earlier this year a poll by the international market research firm YouGov found that two-thirds of Europeans want the chemical banned. According to the survey of more than 7,000 people across the EU’s five biggest states, the banning of glyphosate was supported by 75% of Italians, 70% of Germans, 60% of French and 56% of Britons.

 

 

 

David Cameron please note: the Indian government listens to its people who seek transparency, accountability and good governance

9 Feb

chemchina

Where does America stand on ChemChina’s bid – and who will take over the funding of Indian research into GM mustard seed?

In the news: ChemChina is bidding to acquire Syngenta AG, a global Swiss biotechnology agribusiness that produces agrochemicals and seeds and conducts genomic research. The company is said to be ‘positioning’ itself for “the day when GM corn can be grown domestically, boosting yields in a country that is home to more than 20% of the global population but has less than 10% of the earth’s arable land”.

Beijing does not currently allow cultivation of genetically-modified crops, but is reported to be considering a relaxation of the ban – though its citizens are opposed to use of this technology – see the recent news on this site about a ban on GM food in a section of the Chinese army.

Here, the US/Swiss Syngenta connection is spelt out:

Brian Babin, a Republican congressman whose district includes a Syngenta plant in Houston that produces ingredients and fungicides, foreshadowed potential obstacles ahead. “I believe it is critical that every purchase by China of any company that operates in the United States should be fully reviewed by Committee on Foreign Investment United States (CFIUS),” he said. “There should be absolutely no exceptions.”

A reader recently sent a link to news from New Delhi that government officials were to decide on Friday 5th February whether to allow what could be India’s first genetically modified (GM) food crop, mustard, spurred by food security concerns.

Indian-developed GM mustard yield is said to be 20-30% higher than normal varieties, which would help slash an annual bill for vegetable oil imports of more than $10 billion.

GM-MustardField trials have been held in Rajasthan, Punjab and at Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), Delhi

Dr Vandana Shiva gave a clue to the provenance of this mustard: “Our mustard is once again under threat, this time from genetic engineering of mustard for sterility and herbicide tolerance by Dr Deepak Pental (left), Delhi University’s former vice-chancellor”.

But a further search found that recently Pental’s chief funder, National Dairy Development Board’s (NDDB), has withdrawn funding, recommending that the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) should support the further research on the project.

Will others step in? Monsanto? Syngenta/Chem China?

Continued on a Indian sister site: https://chssachetan.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/where-does-america-stand-on-chemchinas-bid-and-who-will-take-over-the-funding-of-indian-research-into-gm-mustard-seed/