Quantcast

Glyphosate in Monsanto's Roundup Is Linked to Cancer, But Big Ag Wants it in Your Food Anyway

GMO

In Europe, the amount of pesticide residues that are allowed on food is determined by recommendations from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) at a Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR). Right now their big discussions are all about glyphosate. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world and is the main ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, which is applied to more than 150 food and non-food crops. In addition to its agriculture uses, glyphosate is also commonly used on lawns, gardens and parks where pets and kids play.

Unfortunately, glyphosate is linked to cancer (Group 2A 'probable' human carcinogen) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the prestigious cancer assessment arm of the WHO. But, cancer-causing chemicals have friends in high places. Monsanto is the world's leading producer of glyphosate, with annual sales of Roundup netting about two billion U.S. dollars. Unsurprisingly, the company quickly fired back with a statement on how the company is "outraged" at IARC's "agenda-driven bias" in its "irresponsible" decision-making. [As a side, since IARC announced its decision, a group of U.S. citizens have filed a class action lawsuit against Monsanto for falsifying safety claims and a group of Chinese citizens have filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government for hiding Monsanto's toxicity studies from the public].

In Europe, if a chemical is linked to cancer, then absolutely none of the chemical is allowed to remain as residue on our food. Zero tolerance. That seems reasonable—like zero tolerance for cancer. So, JMPR has assembled a task force to reevaluate IARC's assessment and advise whether or not JMPR's assessment from 2011 should be revised. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and colleagues sent a letter to JMPR raising two main concerns:

  • First, JMPR should not over-turn or attempt to re-do IARC's cancer assessment. IARC's conclusions were the result of an international panel of experts that conducted a comprehensive scientific review of evidence from laboratory animal studies, mechanistic cell studies and epidemiological evidence of cancers in people (see details in a previous blog). IARC found links between non-Hodgkin lymphoma and glyphosate exposure.
  • Second, JMPR advisory panel members have financial ties to Big Ag. According to publicly available documents, three of eight panel members have financial and professional ties to the chemical industry, including Monsanto.

Our concerns are further detailed in our letter, which was mailed to the WHO and shared with the public (see press release) on June 29. Unfortunately, our concerns seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The WHO sent us a five paragraph response letter that does little more than acknowledge the receipt of our letter and remind us that the WHO systematically "evaluates any declared interest carefully." No explanation was given to us as to whether or how our particular concerns were taken into consideration.

JMPR's advisory panel is due to report back to JMPR later this month. How could the financial conflicts of interest not cloud the panel's evaluation of glyphosate's cancer classification? That's why NRDC is concerned that the panel's recommendation to JMPR could seriously undermine IARC's conclusions and result in the continued exposure of the public to glyphosate.

Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that kills any plant it comes into contact with, regardless of whether it is a weed or a crop. "Roundup ready" crops, including soy, corn and cotton have been genetically modified to tolerate glyphosate, meaning that farmers can apply as much of the herbicide as they want without worrying about hurting their crops. As a result, glyphosate use has increased tenfold since it was last approved by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the early 90s. With the use of glyphosate steadily increasing, it is imperative that JMPR acts to protect the public from being exposed to this probable human carcinogen in their food.

Erik Olson, the director of NRDC's Health Program, nicely sums this all up with the following quote:

"The WHO is highly respected for protecting public health around the world and it should move forward immediately to safeguard people from being harmed by glyphosate. At the same time, the WHO should make absolutely sure that its expert review panel is free of conflicts of interest so it can make science-based evaluations of herbicide and pesticide residues on food and advise what levels are safe for people to be exposed to."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Monsanto’s Tobacco Files: University Scientists Caught Conspiring With Biotech Industry to Manipulate Public Opinion on GMOs

French Court Finds Monsanto Guilty of Chemical Poisoning

California Becomes First State to Label Monsanto’s Roundup as a Carcinogen

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

"Take the pledge today." Screenshot / StopFoodWasteDay.com

Did you know that more than a third of food is wasted or thrown away every year? And that only 25 percent of it would be enough to feed the 795 million undernourished people in the world? That's why today is Stop Food Waste Day, a chance to reflect on what you can do to waste less of the food you buy.

Stop Food Waste Day is an initiative of food service company Compass Group. It was launched first in the U.S, in 2017 and went global the year after, making today it's second worldwide celebration.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Berries are among the healthiest foods you can eat.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15 in Paris, France. Veronique de Viguerie / Getty Images

When Paris's Notre Dame caught fire on April 15, the flames threatened more than eight centuries of culture and history. The fire evoked shock, horror and grief worldwide. While the cathedral burned, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed determination to rebuild what the French regard as a sacred site.

Read More Show Less
An artist's impression of NASA's InSight lander on Mars. NASA / JPL-CALTECH

Scientists have likely detected a so-called marsquake — an earthquake on Mars — for the first time, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Hero Images / Getty Images

Across the political aisle, a majority of American parents support teaching climate change in schools even though most teachers currently do not.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Priit Siimon / flickr / cc

By Andrea Germanos

Lawyer and visionary thinker Polly Higgins, who campaigned for ecocide to be internationally recognized as a crime on par with genocide and war crimes, died Sunday at the age of 50.

She had been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer last month and given just weeks to live.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

An E. coli outbreak linked to ground beef has spread to 10 states and infected at least 156 people, CNN reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
The Anopheles stephensi mosquito, which carries malaria. CDC / Jim Gathany

The world's first malaria vaccine was launched in Malawi on Tuesday, NPR reported. It's an important day in health history. Not only is it the first malaria vaccine, it's the first vaccine to target any human parasite.

Read More Show Less