Tag Archives: European Food Safety Authority

Wheat and other cereals – 2. glyphosate pesticides

29 Nov

In October plant biologist Dr. Jonathan Latham who began his doctoral research by creating GMO foods, published an article saying that commercial interests are beginning to ‘run ahead’ of scientific knowledge.

17 leading cancer experts on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer research committee in March agreed to classify glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. As we reported in March, the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times published Monsanto’s call for the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency to retract a report published in the journal Lancet Oncology by researchers for WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

An earlier study published in the journal Toxicology supports the findings of the WHO scientists that pesticides, such as Roundup, also contain additives (adjuvants), which increase the pest or weed-killing activity of the pesticide and do not have to be tested in medium and long-term tests.

This appears to have been known as far back as 1996, according to a Pesticides Action Network factsheet: It said that in pure chemical terms glyphosate is an organophosphate in that it contains carbon and phosphorous. However, it does not affect the nervous system in the same way as organophosphate insecticides, and is not a cholinesterase inhibitor:

“While glyphosate itself may be relatively harmless, some of the products with which it is formulated have a rather less benign reputation. Marketed formulations of glyphosate generally contain a surfactant. The purpose of this is to prevent the chemical from forming into droplets and rolling off leaves which are sprayed. Some of these surfactants are serious irritants, toxic to fish, and can themselves contain contaminants which are carcinogenic to humans”.

Alternet summarises: glyphosate by itself doesn’t cause cancer but it is likely that, in products which contain glyphosate and other additives and chemicals, the genotoxic effects observed in some glyphosate-based formulations are related to the other constituents or “co-formulants.

However, this year, scientists who compiled the European Food Safety Authority’s peer review report – with only one exception – found that the weed killer glyphosate, present in the widely used product ‘Round Up’, is not likely to be carcinogenic.

An Open Letter was sent to Commissioner Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, on 29th October 2015. Campaigners called on him to ensure an open, scientifically robust process – and to immediately restrict the herbicide. In addition, an expert task force, which was set up to illuminate similar differences between two WHO bodies, the IARC and the Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR), concluded that the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) which assessed glyphosate as non-carcinogenic, had to redo its work, properly taking into account published peer-reviewed literature.

The WHO then created an “ad hoc expert task force“ to consider possible reasons for the different assessments of the data by IARC and the JMPR. It was scheduled to report back to in September 2015 for further discussion and action but no news of its findings has been found by the writer. This process is known as a scientific divergence procedure within the WHO.

Though the World Health Organisation’s lead scientist disputes EFSA’s findings, new, lower EU safe limits for exposure to glyphosate will be recommended for those using it and for residues in food.

COMMENT from Devon farmer

Yes, when we got the standard stuff for killing the weevils in our grain store, we were a bit shaken. I think it had a “warning – keep away from foodstuffs”. It then went on to tell you how to apply it to the grain! We only used it on the empty bin, and it is only barley for cattle feed. The cattle have never shown any ill effects.
When people say to me how much it is used in America – to prove it is harmless – my reply is “yes, and look at the Americans!”



Notice of EFSA public consultation on glyphosate

13 Mar

efsa headerchemchemReaders in this and other countries (last week, left) will be interested to hear the European Food Safety Authority’s announcement of a public consultation concerning the assessment reports submitted by rapporteur Member States (ie those who have undertaken the evaluation of an ‘active substance’).

The reports have been submitted for the EU peer review of active substances used in plant protection products.

When a rapporteur Member State assessment report becomes available, the public consultation will be started via this EFSA website.

Of the eight substances listed, glyphosate (assessment report published on 12/03/2014) is the active substance which has attracted the attention of readers and contributors to this site. The deadline for submissions is 11/05/2014; comments are to be limited to the risk assessment presented in the assessment report, and submitted using the available template for electronic provision of comments.

In 2013 we noted on this website that the German government’s draft report for the re-evaluation of glyphosate, claimed that no toxic effects on fertility, reproduction or foetal development in laboratory animals are revealed in the industry’s glyphosate studies and commented:

However, there is no verifiable evidence for these claims, since the industry studies have not been revealed. The German government holds the industry data on glyphosate.

science direct logoLater we recorded that Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis, a report published in the Science Direct journal, stated that genetic damage has been found in soybean workers exposed to pesticides, in the State of Rio Grande do Sul (RS, Brazil), especially in the city of Espumoso.

Richard Bruce, whose health has been profoundly damaged by pesticides, sent a link to information about rising autism rates in the USA linked to mitochondrial damage of the type caused by the chemicals used on GM crops.  A search informs the writer that the mitochondrion is ‘a specialized sub-unit’ found within most cells which make up animals, plants and many other life forms.

journal int cell biology logoA study in the peer reviewed, open access International Journal of Cell Biology suggests that mitochondrial damage may be a key factor in the development of Parkinson’s disease. Glyphosate was among the herbicides used by the exposed group.

Will EFSA eventually invoke the precautionary principle?

MEPs to debate Prof Seralini’s findings on GM maize NK603

18 Dec

efsa logoA reader has drawn attention to the report that several MEPs have been expressing dissatisfaction with the European Food Safety Authority’s assessment of the Seralini study. The chair of the Petitions Committee, Erminia Mazzoni, said that Professor Eric Gilles Seralini and a representative of EFSA would be invited to a meeting in Parliament to debate Prof Seralini’s findings on the genetically modified maize NK603.

EFSA GMO panelThe MEPs had been discussing two petitions submitted by Dr Brian John, of GM Free Cymru (Wales), to the Petitions Committee. The most damaging allegation made by Dr John was the claim that Per Bergman, an EFSA director, and Dr Andrew Chesson (Rowett Research Institute), a member of EFSA’s GMO panel, had organised a teleconference to discredit Prof Seralini and limit the damage to EFSA.

Richard Seeber, a coordinator for food for the centre-right EPP, the largest political group, said that industry had too much influence over the Authority and that EFSA rules on independence needed to be tightened. The following table taken from the EFSA website does appear to indicate inappropriate priorities.

EFSA further issues

Mr Seeber and other MEPs said EFSA had reached its conclusions too quickly and that the Seralini work, which claimed NK603 caused cancer in rats, should be looked at by independent people in a more detailed way.

Feeding the Future report is agnostic on the question of GM

21 Nov

On Friday, The Future of the Food Industry 2012, a Financial Times Special Report was published. It is backed by several UK farming and agriculture support groups and sets out research and innovation priorities up to 2030.

Charles Batchelor’s overview notes that the study warns of “a serious lack of R&D in agriculture and the urgent need to increase food production in a sustainable way”.

After speaking of conventional plant breeding’s relatively slow processes, it points out the qualities that plant breeders and GM developers seek to create:

  • increased yields
  • pest resistance
  • tolerance of drought conditions,
  • tolerance of increased salinity in groundwater and
  • tolerance of temperature fluctuations.

Of concern to Monsanto and other GM seed producers is the slow approvals process in the EU

Even after approval by the European Food Safety Authority, GM crops can wait years before member states to ratify their use. To date, only one variety of crop has been approved for use in the EU, Bt maize, incorporating protein from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which provides resistance to the maize borer.

The Feeding the Future report is agnostic on the question of GM says Chris Pollock.

Professor Pollock, the principal editor, is a former director of the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences in Aberystwyth. He adds that the report simply calls for the better use of data “in the effective precision breeding of plants and animals”.

Its critics say genetically manipulated crops are no panacea: the technology:

  • increases the use of pesticides
  • makes farmers dependent on a small number of large seed producing companies.
  • a survey by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre showed higher average yields in only one of the three regions in Spain where it had been planted
  • The corn rootworm has begun to develop resistance to GM crops in the US Midwest.

Less direct criticisms are that global GM acreage has been going up by 10% per cent a year and it is now almost impossible to find seed maize that is not GM. Professor Pollock significantly asks: “How much longer will people have the luxury of not buying GM foods?”

Conventional precision breeding techniques are still in use, but “how that changes in the future depends on political decisions as much as scientific ones”, says Prof Pollock.

The resistance problems encountered have made even Monsanto accept the valuable role of traditional farm management practices such as crop rotation, selective spraying, and timing crop maturity and harvest to avoid periods of severe infestation.

Batchelor concludes: “Science, it seems, does not have the complete answer”.

Scanned pages of the report may be downloaded from a link on this page: http://www.ft.com/reports/food-nov2012?ftcamp=traffic/email/content/reportalert//memmkt

European Food Safety Authority and the Seralini paper on rat tumours

23 Oct

On Monday, Dr Rosemary Mason (MB ChB FRCA) forwarded a copy of her letter to Dirk Detken, Senior Attorney, European Food Safety Authority

The full text can be seen on this website page.Attachments can be forwarded by email.

Some points made:

“Perhaps you would like to point out to your CEO the trail of disasters to human health and the environment that has followed the planting of GM maize and Roundup Ready® crops in both Latin America and the US since they were first grown in 1996. These statistics are real, not theoretical laboratory ones. Are these the disasters that she would want to see repeated in Europe? Does she want to reject outright the Séralini study on rats and continue to insist that 90 days testing is adequate for the registration of GM crops? The first rat tumours in Séralini’s study appeared in males at 4 months.”

Recently reported Latin American case-histories and a US report on childhood diseases and disorders of a disturbing nature follow.

The accuracy of official US statistics is questioned.

Dr Mason concludes:

“Pesticides are the silent killers. No-one can see them; yet no insect or human can escape from them and their sinister effects. The incidence of birth defects and cancers will continue to increase. The industry has created a toxic environment that is now out of anyone’s control. The chemicals are so persistent that this pandemic has taken on a life of its own. In Indiana, clothianidin was found to be present in wild flowers from which the bees were feeding and in fields that hadn’t been sown for 2 years.

“Those who have been protecting the pesticides industry might hope to be protected in return. But there is no magic bullet to stop our children getting birth defects, neurobehavioural disorders, or childhood cancers. There is no magic bullet to prevent us or our relatives or colleagues from getting cancers or neurodegenerative disorders. A prospective study on vineyard workers in France (the Phytoner Study) was the first study to provide prospective data on farm workers in the Bordeaux area of France (1997-98 and 2001-03) suggested long-term cognitive effects of chronic exposure to pesticides and raised the issue of evolution towards dementia.

In the UK the public has no idea. The public in the UK still has no idea about the hazards of neonicotinoid insecticides and GM Roundup Ready crops to human health and biodiversity. This is as a result of denial and suppression of information by government Civil Servants (Defra etc.), assisted by the BBC, the Science Media Centre and most of the mainstream newspapers.

Mr Detken, perhaps you could advise Ms Geslain Lanuélle to rethink EFSA’s rejection of the Seralini study. Sooner or later the industry will be exposed”.