French Ecology Minister Calls for Ban on Glyphosate Formulations
Ségolène Royal, France’s minister of ecology, sustainable development and energy, has called for a ban on glyphosate mixed with certain adjuvants (additives) due to its perceived risks to human health.
French minister Ségolène Royal is demanding the removal of products containing glyphosate and additives in the tallow amines family. Photo credit: Flickr
On Feb. 12, Royal called for ANSES—France's food, environment and health agency—to withdraw authorizations on herbicides containing glyphosate mixed with the adjuvant tallow amine, according to French newspaper Le Monde (via Google translate).
Although it wasn't explicitly said, one can only conclude that this measure was directly targeted at Monsanto and other herbicide makers.
Tallow amine, or polyethoxylated tallow amine, aids the effectiveness of herbicides such as glyphosate. The chemical is contained in Monsanto’s widely popular weedkiller Roundup, according to the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, which published a letter from Monsanto listing the ingredients. Roundup's ingredients are as follows:
- Isopropylamine salt of glyphosate (active ingredient)
- The ethoxylated tallow amine surfactant
- Related organic acids of glyphosate
- Excess isopropylamine
In Europe, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding glyphosate since November when the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) rejected the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) infamous classification of the chemical as a possible carcinogen in March 2015.
Does Monsanto's Glyphosate Cause Cancer? https://t.co/odmtqMxBm1 @food_democracy @NonGMOProject— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1447459325.0
EFSA declared that the chemical itself was is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans” but unlike the IARC, EFSA examined glyphosate alone, not glyphosate formulations. The adverse health effects of the herbicide, therefore, could be related to reactions with “other constituents or ‘co-formulants,'” EFSA said.
The Italy-based agency's stark contradiction from the IARC sparked criticism from environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and more than 90 scientists from around the world. In an open letter, scientists urged European health and food safety commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, to "disregard the flawed EFSA finding on glyphosate" in policy-making for Europe.
Earlier this week, France's ANSES released an opinion that reviewed the IARC's and EFSA's conflicting results and concluded that glyphosate is indeed a suspected carcinogen.
"Therefore," the agency believes, "the classification of glyphosate should be rapidly reviewed" on the European level.
"Besides the active substance, the co-formulants found in glyphosate preparations, tallow amine in particular, raise concerns," ANSES added.
ANSES notes that glyphosate is used prevalently in Europe and France, where annual tonnage varies between 5,157-7,421 tonnes from 2008 to 2014 for professional gardeners and 1,264-2,055 tonnes from 2008 to 2014 for amateur gardeners.
The conclusions were based on a group of experts in toxicology and epidemiology, according to a press release (via Google translate).
According to the release, Royal has acknowledged the conclusions of ANSES and has asked the agency to immediately re-examine all glyphosate formulations containing these co-formulants and invites the agency to withdraw marketing authorizations for these formulations by the end of March.
Amidst the contradictory reports, regulators in the European Union as a whole have until June 30 to make a decision on the marketing authorization of glyphosate herbicides.
Monsanto maintains the safety of its products and vehemently denied glyphosate’s link to cancer. The company has demanded a retraction of the IARC’s report.
Glyphosate is now the “most widely applied pesticide worldwide,” according to a report published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe this month. The paper revealed that since 1974, when Roundup was first commercially sold, more than 1.6 billion kilograms (or 3.5 billion pounds) of glyphosate has been used in the U.S., making up 19 percent of the 8.6 billion kilograms (or 18.9 billion pounds) of glyphosate used around the world.
“Genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops now account for about 56 percent of global glyphosate use,” agricultural economist Charles M. Benbrook, PhD, and author of the study wrote in his paper. “In the U.S., no pesticide has come remotely close to such intensive and widespread use.”
The embattled multinational biotech firm is staring down mounting lawsuits alleging that exposure to the controversial chemical causes cancer.
Coffee Farmers Sue #Monsanto for Hiding Cancer-Causing Impact of #Glyphosate https://t.co/f5ai6JJ8ZW @nongmoreport https://t.co/H4ExHXB0NY— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1455049517.0
In the U.S., tallow amine can be found in several household products, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The agency considers polyethoxylated tallow amine (POEA) to have known toxic effects on aquatic organisms. POEA was added to the original formulation of the herbicide glyphosate and the additive is still common in several newer agricultural and household glyphosate formulations, the USGS said.
"Since glyphosate is one of the most widely used pesticides in the United States, the findings could indicate that POEA may be widely available for transport into surface water and groundwater," the USGS said.
In June 2015, France restricted the sale of glyphosate weedkillers in garden centers.
“France must be on the offensive with regards to the banning of pesticides,” Royal said then. “I have asked garden centers to stop putting Monsanto’s Roundup on sale.”
France also has a ban on aerial spraying of pesticides and prohibits pesticides in parks and green spaces.
A la place du glyphosate (round up), pesticide cancérigène selon l'OMS, jardinez nature http://t.co/LNJ9w51Yb5 http://t.co/Gfr4pW8aO2— Ségolène Royal (@Ségolène Royal)1434292959.0
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Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."
Vitamin D<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Called "the sunshine vitamin" because the body makes it naturally in the presence of ultraviolet light, <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/vitamin-d-supplements-lose-luster" target="_blank">Vitamin D is one of the most heavily studied</a> supplements (<em>SN: 1/27/19</em>). <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/appendix-12/" target="_blank">Certain foods</a>, including fish and fortified milk products, are also high in the vitamin.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>Vitamin D is a hormone building block that helps strengthen the immune system.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections:</strong> In 2017, the <em>British Medical Journal</em> published a meta-analysis that suggested a daily vitamin D supplement <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583" target="_blank">might help prevent respiratory infections</a>, particularly in people who are deficient in the vitamin.</p><p>But one key word here is <em>deficient. </em>That risk is highest during dark winters at high latitudes and among people with more color in their skin (melanin, a pigment that's higher in darker skin, inhibits the production of vitamin D).</p><p>"If you have enough vitamin D in your body, the evidence doesn't stack up to say that giving you more will make a real difference," says Susan Lanham-New, head of the Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Surrey in England.</p><p>And taking too much can create new health problems, stressing certain internal organs and leading to a dangerously high calcium buildup in the blood. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 600 to 800 International Units per day, and the upper limit is considered to be 4,000 IUs per day.</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin D and COVID-19:</strong> Few studies have looked directly at whether vitamin D makes a difference in COVID.</p>
Zinc<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Zinc, a mineral found in cells all over the body, is found naturally in certain meats, beans and oysters.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>It plays several supportive roles in the immune system, which is why zinc lozenges are always hot sellers in cold and flu season. Zinc also helps with cell division and growth.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6457799/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies of using zinc for colds</a> — which are frequently caused by coronaviruses — suggest that using a supplement right after symptoms start might make them go away quicker. That said, a clinical trial from researchers in Finland and the United Kingdom, published in January in <em>BMJ Open</em> <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/1/e031662" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">did not find any value for zinc lozenges</a> for the treatment of colds. Some researchers have theorized that inconsistencies in data for colds may be explained by varying amounts of zinc released in different lozenges.</p><p><strong>What we know about zinc and COVID-19:</strong> The mineral is promising enough that it was added to some early studies of hydroxychloroquine, a drug tested early in the pandemic. (Studies have since shown that <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/covid-19-coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine-no-evidence-treatment" target="_blank">hydroxychloroquine can't prevent or treat COVID-19</a> (<em>SN: 8/2/20</em>).)</p>
Vitamin C<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Also called L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C has a long list of roles in the body. It's found naturally in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, peppers and tomatoes.</p><p><strong>Why it might help:</strong> It's a potent antioxidant that's important for a healthy immune system and preventing inflammation.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong>Thomas cautions that the data on vitamin C are often contradictory. One review from Chinese researchers, published in February in the <em>Journal of Medical Virolog</em>y, looked at <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jmv.25707" target="_blank">what is already known about vitamin C</a> and other supplements that might have a role in COVID-19 treatment. Among other encouraging signs, human studies find a lower incidence of pneumonia among people taking vitamin C, "suggesting that vitamin C might prevent the susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections under certain conditions."</p><p>But for preventing colds, a 2013 Cochrane review of 29 studies <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">didn't support the idea</a> that vitamin C supplements could help in the general population. However, the authors wrote, given that vitamin C is cheap and safe, "it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial."</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin C and COVID-19: </strong>About a dozen studies are under way or planned to examine whether vitamin C added to coronavirus treatment helps with symptoms or survival, including Thomas' study at the Cleveland Clinic.</p><p>In a review published online in July in <em>Nutrition</em>, researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium concluded that the <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vitamin may help prevent infection</a> and tamp down the dangerous inflammatory reaction that can cause severe symptoms, based on what is known about how the nutrient works in the body.</p><p>Melissa Badowski, a pharmacist who specializes in viral infections at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy and colleague Sarah Michienzi published an extensive look at all supplements that might be useful in the coronavirus epidemic. There's <a href="https://www.drugsincontext.com/can-vitamins-and-or-supplements-provide-hope-against-coronavirus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">still not enough evidence to know whether they are helpful</a>, the pair concluded in July in <em>Drugs in Context</em>. "It's not really clear if it's going to benefit patients," Badowski says.</p><p>And while supplements are generally safe, she adds that nothing is risk free. The best way to avoid infection, she says, is still to follow the advice of epidemiologists and public health experts: "Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay six feet apart."</p>
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