By Austin Wilson
The bad news for Monsanto keeps getting worse. In newly published internal Monsanto emails, a company scientist writes that "You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen ... we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement."
This news is huge because Monsanto has always focused on maintaining that glyphosate is safe for humans and the environment. In addition to concerns about glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, research suggests that the other trade secret ingredients amplify the toxic effects of Roundup—and now the emails suggest that Monsanto doesn't think they can counter that argument at all.
Glyphosate is the most heavily used pesticide in human history—and it accounts for the majority of Monsanto's profits. It is time that the truth about glyphosate comes out.
As You Sow has been following glyphosate's trail for quite a while. With the use of glyphosate skyrocketing and its persistence in water and soil, these new revelations are extremely concerning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has clearly not done its due diligence in assessing Roundup's toxicity, and we may be paying a terrible price for it.
As You Sow has provided a detailed analysis of these issues in its new report, RoundUp Revealed: Glyphosate in Our Food System.
Our bottom line is that pesticide-intensive agriculture is unnecessary. Investors need to engage with companies to address the rise of glyphosate and other toxic pesticides in the food system.
Here are the key findings from our report:
Genetically engineered crops are the largest driver of glyphosate sales. Although GE crops were promised to decrease pesticide use and provide a multitude of other benefits, the vast majority of GE crops grown in the U.S. are engineered to tolerate direct applications of glyphosate or to produce Bt insecticide.
Pre-harvest use of glyphosate significantly increases residues of glyphosate in food. This growing practice increases public health risks, provides farmers with marginal benefit, and has been banned by Germany and Austria. We estimate that 28% of U.S. wheat was treated with glyphosate in 2015, and much of this use may be pre-harvest. As You Sow is working with leading food companies to investigate this practice. For instance, Kellogg Company has agreed to investigate pre-harvest glyphosate use in its supply chain.
The World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2015. Research also suggests that glyphosate may have other health impacts including disruption of the endocrine system and other biological processes. These impacts can be amplified by the "inert" ingredients in Roundup and other herbicide products. Independent scientists recommend a limit on glyphosate exposure at least 17 times lower than current U.S. regulation.
Glyphosate is present throughout the food system and our environment. A recent biomonitoring study by UCSF identified glyphosate in 93% of individuals tested and in 60% of surface water in the Midwest. The herbicide has been found to persist in water and soil up to a year in some conditions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains that glyphosate is "unlikely to be carcinogenic;" criticism of the EPA's methods and integrity is growing. In making its determination that glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic, the EPA did not consider the vast majority of academic science and failed to follow its own guidelines, according to its advisory panel. Recently unsealed emails raise concerns about conflicts of interest within the highest levels of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs.
As use of glyphosate has skyrocketed, weeds have developed resistance, with half of U.S. farms reporting glyphosate-resistant "superweeds." The response of the highly consolidated seed and pesticide industry has been the introduction of new GE crops that are engineered to be used with glyphosate as well as 2,4-D and dicamba. These herbicides are known to be more toxic and volatile than glyphosate. Monsanto, the firm that sells half of the world's glyphosate, is strategically focused on continuing to sell GE crops that are to be used with herbicides. Now, the company is merging with Bayer, another major seed and pesticide company, which will further decrease competitiveness in the industry and provide greater synergy with the companies' pesticide sales.
Pesticide-intensive agriculture has been shown to be unnecessary. United Nations food and pollution experts' 2017 report to the UN Human Rights Council reiterates that pesticides are not necessary to feed the world, warns of catastrophic consequences if current pesticide-intensive farming practices continue, and criticizes pesticide manufacturers for "systematic denial of harms" and "unethical marketing tactics."
We recommend that investors engage with companies in the food, retail, and restaurant sectors to address the growing risks of glyphosate and other toxic pesticides in the food system. Food companies should mandate reduced use of glyphosate in their supply chains, especially pre-harvest use, and focus on increasing preventive measures such as clear and binding weed resistance prevention plans.
Austin Wilson oversees the Environmental Health Program at As You Sow.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.
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BiOceanOr's AquaREAL system. BiOceanOr
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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