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Austrian ban on glyphosate delayed due to a procedural error

24 Aug

 Richard Bruce draws attention to disappointing news from Austria.

In July last year, EuroNews reported that lawmakers in Austria’s lower house had voted to ban the herbicide glyphosate from 2020.

The motion, proposed by the Social Democratic (SPO) party, planned a complete ban of glyphosate products as a “precautionary” measure. “The scientific evidence of the plant poison’s carcinogenic effect is increasing. It is our responsibility to ban this poison from our environment,” the SPO leader, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, said in a statement.

A large majority in the Austrian parliament and public (according to poll results) support banning the chemical because of fears it causes cancer and Austria devotes more of its farmland to organic agriculture than any other EU member state

In June, the Wall Street Journal published an undertaking by Bayer AG, that it would pay up to $10.9 billion to settle tens of thousands of lawsuits with U.S. plaintiffs alleging the company’s Roundup herbicide causes cancer

Law firm Baum Hedlund notes that the ban was scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, but the country’s caretaker leader, Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein (below left), a career judge who must sign bills for them to become law, refused to do this.

Francois Murphy, reporting for Reuters explains that the chancellor said, in a letter  posted online by the government’s spokesman, that the bill could not come into force because the European Commission was not properly notified under a process aimed at giving it and member states time to react: “Such a notification of a bill – required by European Union law and specified (in the bill) as a condition for it to take effect – was, however, not carried out properly”.

A number of European member states have partially banned glyphosate — a pesticide first marketed by Monsanto as Roundup — as concerns have been growing about the potential effect the herbicide could have on human health since a 2015 report by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer which classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans“.

Despite their members’ feelings, the EU renewed its approval of glyphosate in 2017 until the end of 2022 and gave France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden the task of assessing the herbicide for further use within the bloc.

 

 

 

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Glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides 1: Dr Rosemary Mason  

1 Aug

Colin Todhunter is an independent writer and former social policy researcher. He writes on food, agriculture, geopolitics and neoliberal globalization. Originally from the UK, Colin has spent many years in India where he has written for various publications, most notably the Bangalore-based Deccan Herald for 10 years.

His review of a new report written by environmentalist, doctor and anaesthetist, Dr Rosemary Mason (left), sent to the UK Environment Agency, Post-Brexit Agrochemical Apocalypse for the UK?, is summarised here.

Her message is that the British government, regulators and global agrochemical corporations are colluding with each other and so are engaging in criminal behaviour.

She outlined, with supporting evidence, how the gradual onset of the global extinction of many species is largely the result of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture, with a particular emphasis on glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides, such as Roundup, widely used in Britain.

Colin Todhunter (right) refers to Dr Mason’s account of a 2019 Brexit Seminar discussing priorities for the UK chemicals sector meeting. UK regulators and senior officials from government departments listened to Janet Williams, head of regulatory science at Bayer Crop Science Division, who made the priorities for agricultural chemical manufacturers known.

In February 2020, Dr Mason wrote the report ‘Bayer Crop Science rules Britain after Brexit’. She noted that PM Boris Johnson plans to do a trade deal with the US that could see the gutting of food and environment standards. In a speech setting out his goals for trade after Brexit, Johnson talked up the prospect of an agreement with Washington and downplayed the need for one with Brussels, if the EU insists the UK must stick to its regulatory regime.

Dr Mason says that ultimately, the situation comes down to a concentration of power played out within an interlocking directorate of state-corporate interests – in this case, global agrochemical conglomerates and the British government – and above the heads of ordinary people. She believes that these institutions value the health of powerful corporations at the expense of the health of the population and the state of the environment.

Readers can access Dr Mason’s paper ‘Criminal collusion between Defra, the Chemicals Regulation Division and Bayer over Brexit Agenda’ via academia.edu website.

Next post: Glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides 2: European action

 

 

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Glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides 2: European action

1 Aug

Baum Hedlung are award-winning American lawyers whose successes include the $2 billion Roundup verdict against Monsanto (now Bayer) on behalf of Alberta and Alva Pilliod, a couple who developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma and was in the 2019 Trial Team involved in the groundbreaking case of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson v. Monsanto Company.

On their website they list cities, counties, states and countries throughout the world which have taken steps to restrict or ban glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.

Several of the following news items about European action come from this website page.

In Britain, the following boroughs and townships have issued bans or restrictions on pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate:

Brighton, Bristol, Bury (ban in children’s play areas), Croydon, Derry City (Northern Ireland), Frensham Parish Council, Frome, Glastonbury, Hammersmith & Fulham, Lewes, Midlothian (Scotland), North Somerset, Trafford and Wadebridge in Cornwall.

In 2019, the London Assembly called on the Mayor to cease the use of the herbicide on Greater London Authority (GLA) land and the Transport for London (TfL) estate.

 

 

 

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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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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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Over 159 American cities oppose section 9101 of the Federal Farm Bill blocking local pesticide controls

15 Dec

More than 150 U.S. cities and counties have created “organic-first” policies and in some cases banned the use of specific chemicals that may harm people or the environment.

PR Newswire refers to a letter sent by local officials to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi    noting that research has increasingly connected some pesticides with Parkinson’s disease and honey bee die-offs, A rapidly growing body of evidence links pesticides to a wide range of diseases and conditions including Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, leukemia, lymphoma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia, reproductive dysfunction, Alzheimer’s disease, and variety of cancers including breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer.

Recognizing these risks, many communities have passed progressive policies to restrict the use of pesticides and protect our residents before any harm comes to them.

Some local officials in Irvine have opted to go further than federal or state laws and have restricted pesticide use on public land such as parks, sports fields and landscaped central road reservations. The city now uses organic products with ingredients such as corn gluten meal and oil from soybeans, lemongrass or rosemary.

Detailed information and photograph (above) may be seen in https://ocweekly.com/how-irvine-became-socals-first-non-toxic-city-7317638/

However, though the bill has attracted attention by legalizing hemp, bolstering farmers markets and rejecting stricter limits on food stamps pushed by House Republicans, California’s Orange County Register reports that a four-page provision (Section 9101) tucked away in the 748 page 2018 federal farm bill could block local governments in the United States from making their own rules about pesticides, ‘effectively neutering’ local control over pesticides, blocking cities, counties and school districts from restricting the use of on playgrounds and parks.

Felicity Arbuthnot draws attention to a report by the Environmental Working Group, commenting: “It truly says it all when government attempts to force people to eat cancer causing poison and feed it to their families and friends”. The EWG report records that:

  • the National League of Cities and
  • the League of California Cities, sent letters of opposition to congressional leaders.
  • The National Association of Counties – representing all 3,069 U.S. counties – and
  • a diverse coalition of over 170 organizations dedicated to public health urged Congress to reject the rider.
  • The National Audubon Society and
  • the American Academy of Pediatrics also sent letters.
  • A lettersigned by over 60 local officials in 39 communities from 15 different states, urged the conference committee to reach an agreement on a final 2018 farm bill that does not include this rider.

Despite all these representations, on 12th December, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 2018 Farm Bill by a vote of 369 to 47. The next step to permanent legalization is the President’s signature.

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Will any British city follow Irvine’s lead? 

In 2017 Horticulture Week reported Edinburgh City Council’s decision to pursue an herbicide-reduction policy at the end of 2016 followed a year-long trial of alternatives to chemicals run by the council’s parks department. An online search revealed that similar moves have been proposed and discussed by councils in Dundee, Bristol and Belfast.

Today, the Times reported that Dublin city council is to use alternatives as part of a move towards a “herbicide and pesticide-free city” in the spring.  In 2015 Kaethe Burt-O’Dea (above) started a campaign to stop Dublin City Council from using a weedkiller. She is seen above near the community garden started up more than 10 years ago as a place for the street’s residents to compost their organic waste.

 

 

 

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Russia is winning the battle for the health of the people and the environment.

19 May

Ellen Brown, president of the Public Banking Institute, (UC, Berkeley & UC, Los Angeles School of Law) reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned GMOs and has set out to make Russia the world’s leading supplier of organic food.

Russian families are showing what can be done with permaculture methods on simple garden plots. In 2011, 40% of Russia’s food was grown on dachas (cottage gardens or allotments), predominantly organically. Dacha gardens produced more than 80% of the country’s fruit and berries, more than 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nation’s milk, much of it consumed raw. Russian author Vladimir Megre comments:

Russian gardeners demonstrate that gardeners can feed the world—and you do not need any GMOs, industrial farms, or any other technological gimmicks to guarantee everybody’s got enough food to eat.

Bear in mind that Russia only has 110 days of growing season per year—so in the US, for example, gardeners’ output could be substantially greater. Today, however, the area taken up by lawns in the US is two times greater than that of Russia’s gardens—and it produces nothing but a multi-billion-dollar lawn care industry.

In the end, the Green Revolution engineered by Kissinger to control markets and ensure U.S. economic dominance may be our nemesis. While the U.S. struggles to maintain its hegemony by economic coercion and military force,

In the U.S., only about 0.6 percent of the total agricultural area is devoted to organic farming. Most farmland is soaked in pesticides and herbicides. But the need for these toxic chemicals is a myth. In an October 2017 article in The Guardian, columnist George Monbiot cited studies showing that reducing the use of neonicotinoid pesticides actually increases production, because the pesticides harm or kill the pollinators on which crops depend. Rather than an international trade agreement that would enable giant transnational corporations to dictate to governments, he argues that we need a global treaty to regulate pesticides and require environmental impact assessments for farming. He writes:

Farmers and governments have been comprehensively conned by the global pesticide industry. It has ensured its products should not be properly regulated or even, in real-world conditions, properly assessed. … The profits of these companies depend on ecocide. Do we allow them to hold the world to ransom, or do we acknowledge that the survival of the living world is more important than returns to their shareholders?

President Trump has boasted of winning awards for environmental protection. If he is sincere about championing the environment, he needs to block the merger of Bayer and Monsanto, two agribusiness giants bent on destroying the ecosystem for private profit.

 

 

 

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RSM conference: Fera Science data finds toxic cocktails of pesticides – a public health hazard

26 Jan

Many readers will have noted that, in November, speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine conference on pesticides, scientists warned that consuming tiny amounts of many different chemicals on a regular basis could be harmful to human health.

The conference heard new scientific evidence from around the world showing that very low doses of pesticides, well below official ‘safety’ levels, pose a significant risk to public health from pesticides in the food supply.

More pesticides and herbicides are now used on crops because weeds and insects have become increasingly resistant to chemicals. See University of California document (insect resistance, frost paragraph).

Dr Michael Antoniou (left, head of the gene expression and therapy research group at King’s College London) said that all the evidence shows that people should minimise their exposure to pesticides.

Prof Anne Marie Vinggaard (division of diet, disease prevention and toxicology at the Danish National Food Institute) said “We are not just exposed to pesticides. We are exposed to a lot of chemicals acting together Consumption of “toxic cocktails” of low levels of pesticide cocktails are thought to be linked with degenerative diseases like strokes, heart attacks and cancers”.

Katie Morley, the Telegraph’s Consumer Affairs Editor, reports that figures released by the Soil Association, which certifies organic food, show that the number of toxic chemicals found in onions, leeks, wheat and potatoes has been steadily increasing since the 1960s, though industry data shows that the volume of pesticides found on supermarket vegetables has halved since the 1990s. Onions and leeks have seen the biggest rise in toxic chemicals. In 1974 less than two chemicals were applied to an average wheat crop.

The figures were compiled by data firm Fera Science, formerly the government’s Food and Environment Research Agency and now 75% owned by Capita and 25% by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who hold UK Government data on pesticide use in farming. The research found that pesticide active ingredients applied to three British crops have increased between 6 and 18 times ranging from 480% to 1,700% over the last 40-odd years.

Dr Antoniou’s advice: “Minimally as a precaution you should minimise your exposure to pesticides. The only way to guarantee that, is by eating organically”

 

 

 

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British MSM fails to report escalating GM problems: ‘superworms’ & ‘superweeds’

10 Dec

Earlier this year America’s St Louis Dispatch reported on a growing sense of unease “spreading across the Great Plains about the cornstalk-sized superweeds infesting more than 100 million acres”.

Nathan Donley recalls: “For years Monsanto officials had assured farmers that weeds would never develop resistance to the company’s flagship herbicide, glyphosate, so farmers were urged to apply it liberally year after year because “dead weeds don’t produce seeds.” And apply it they did, with annual U.S. glyphosate use soaring to over 300 million pounds — an escalation that quickly accelerated the evolution of glyphosate-resistant superweeds that can grow an inch a day to heights of 10 feet and break farm equipment”.

Now major herbicide producers are offering a familiar-sounding “solution”: ‘use more’.

Four years after its release in 2002 with much fanfare, Bt cotton became susceptible to the bollworm. Today Devinder Sharma reports that India’s failing genetically modified Bt cotton crop, designed to guard against the bollworm pest, has increasingly been unable to resist it. Farmers have been forced to use deadly cocktails of pesticides to curb the insect menace. 

A reader wonders how soon the bollworm will become a ‘superworm’ resistant to pesticide ‘cocktails’.

Sharma adds: “News has come in of 50 farm workers succumbing to suspected pesticides poisoning; at least 25 lost their eyesight and another 800 admitted to various hospitals in Maharashtra. Another 6 deaths and hospitalisation of a few hundred more have been reported from Tamil Nadu’s cotton belt – Perambalur, Ariyalur and Salem.

Pink bollworm resurgence has been so severe that there are reports of farmers unable to harvest even a kilo of cotton and being forced to uproot or burn the standing crop in several parts of the country. In Maharashtra alone:

  • more than 80,000 farmers, up to Nov 30, have applied for crop compensation.
  • The bollworm has destroyed nearly 50% of the standing crop in Maharashtra, the country’s biggest cotton grower
  • and another 20% in Madhya Pradesh.
  • It has caused extensive damage in Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat.
  • Only about 100 of the 150 cotton ginning mills in Maharashtra are in operation and they are working at 50% capacity.
  • Reuters reports that cotton exports this year will be one-fifth less, coming down to 6 million bales against the earlier estimate of 7.5 million bales. 

A senior agricultural scientist once told Sharma: “In the early 1960s, only six to seven major pests were worrying the cotton farmer. The farmer today is battling against some 70 major pests on cotton.” The greater the attack of insect pests, the more is the use and abuse of potent chemicals. His advice: 

  • instead of introducing a third generation of Bollgard-III varieties, and compounding the existing crisis, the focus of agricultural research should shift to alternative methods.
  • Agricultural universities should be directed to stop any further research on GM cotton
  • and the focus shifted to use of bio-control and integrated pest management techniques that use pesticides sparingly – and as a last resort.

Sharma adds persuasively that already Burkina Faso has shown a remarkable jump of 20% in cotton productivity after phasing out Bt cotton. Turkey also has shown excellent results with IPM techniques; rejecting GM cotton, and restricting the use of chemical pesticides, Turkey has doubled its cotton yields.  

More information:

Published here: बीटी कॉटन के चक्रव्यूह से बाहर आना होगा Dainik Bhaskar. Dec 9, 2017 https://www.bhaskar.com/news/ABH-LCL-bt-cotton-has-to-come-out-of-the-maze-5765023-PHO.html – and in English by the author at Ground Reality: http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/when-dreaded-pink-boll-worm-strikes-back.html 

Integrated Pest Management for Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture in Asia and Africa

Integrated pest management of protected vegetable cultivation in Turkey

 

 

 

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Roundup glyphosate: risk of cancer to ‘exposed’ agricultural workers and gardeners

7 Dec

A huge mistake? The European Commission will formalise on 12 December Monday’s decision by member states to renew for five years the licence for the herbicide glyphosate.

Weasel words in the FT last week:

“Although the World Health Organization last year said the herbicide was “probably carcinogenic”, the latest joint assessment by UN agencies concludes there is no risk to humans from exposure through the diet” – implying that evidence shows that the use of the herbicide is risk free.

In May last year, the UN agencies said:

“The overall weight of evidence indicates that administration of glyphosate and its formulation products at doses as high as 2000 mg/kg body weight by the oral route, the route most relevant to human dietary exposure, was not associated with genotoxic effects in an overwhelming majority of studies conducted in mammals, a model considered to be appropriate for assessing genotoxic risks to humans. The meeting concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to be genotoxic at anticipated dietary exposures” (emphasis added).

Dr Christopher Connolly, a reader in neurobiology at the University of Dundee, said in an article in the Science Media Centre journal: “The evidence on the risk to human health from glyphosate is highly controversial, making it difficult for politicians to make a sound science-based decision. It is alarming that it is so ubiquitous that it is found commonly in human urine. We must make the next five years count, so that an evidence-based decision may be made at the end of this period.

Prof. David Coggon, Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Southampton, said:

“IARC classified glyphosate as probably having the potential to cause cancer in humans. This was based on evidence of carcinogenicity in animals and suggestions of an association with lymphoma in exposed people (mainly agricultural workers, landscapers, nursery workers and home gardeners).

Cancer incidence among glyphosate-exposed pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study (2005)

Summary:

We evaluated associations between glyphosate exposure and cancer incidence in the Agricultural Health Study (AHS), a prospective cohort study of 57,311 licensed pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina. There was a suggested association with multiple myeloma incidence (a type of bone marrow cancer) that should be followed up as more cases occur in the AHS. Given the widespread use of glyphosate, future analyses of the AHS will allow further examination of long-term health effects, including less common cancers.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in March 2015 said that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans” (PDF), adding “The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001”.

The latest news was reported by CNN in May this year, opening with story of Christine Sheppard

For 12 years, she had no idea what might have caused her non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — until the IARC reported that glyphosate, the key ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, is probably carcinogenic. Roundup is the herbicide she sprayed on her coffee farm in Hawaii for five years.

That report spurred hundreds of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients to sue Monsanto. Timothy Litzenburg’s law firm represents more than 500 of them. He said most of the patients didn’t know about a possible link between Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma until the report came out.

Other companies also sell products containing glyphosate, why target Monsanto?

Litzenburg points out that Monsanto invented Roundup, they held the patent for many years, they are the EPA registrant for glyphosate, and they continue to dominate the market, adding:

“We are not alleging that our clients got cancer from glyphosate alone. We are suing because our clients got cancer from Roundup. … Roundup contains animal fats and other ingredients that increase the carcinogenicity of the glyphosate.”

Though UN agencies concluded that as yet no risk to humans from exposure through diet has been found, studies find that workers and gardeners using Roundup risk contracting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma (a type of bone marrow cancer) – surely sufficient reason to withdraw the herbicide from use.

Media reports, including by EUobserver and Dutch magazine OneWorld, have shown that Efsa conclusions on the safety of glyphosate were partially based on scientific evidence provided by Monsanto, Roundup’s manufacturer. On 19 October, also the European Parliament expressed doubts over the scientific evaluations of glyphosate carried out by the European agencies.

Despite these findings, the European Commission will formalise on 12 December a decision by member states to renew the licence for the herbicide glyphosate for five years: https://euobserver.com/environment/140065.

Will Brexit give people in this country the opportunity to denounce the use of this and other dangerous substances and technologies and bring about beneficial change?

 

 

 

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