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Monsanto's Roundup — Most Popular Weed Killer in U.S. — 'Probably' Causes Cancer, WHO Report Says
Glyphosate, the toxic active ingredient in the Monsanto's flagship herbicide Roundup, was "classified as probably carcinogenic to humans" according to a new report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the Word Health Organization's France-based cancer research arm.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Roundup is one of the world's most widely used weed killers and the most popular in the U.S. Among farmworkers who use the herbicide, traces of the compound were found in their blood and urine that linked to a slightly increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to the report issued last week. "Case-control studies of occupational exposure in the USA, Canada, and Sweden reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustment for other pesticides," it said. There is also "convincing evidence" that it can cause cancer in laboratory animals.
Traces of the weed killer can also be found in food, water and in the air after it has been sprayed, according to the WHO report. In fact, according to a different study from the U.S. Geological Survey which focused on Mississippi’s highly fertile Delta agricultural region, the herbicide was present in 75 percent of air and rainfall test samples.
The WHO report focuses on industrial use of glyphosate. Home gardeners do not appear to be at risk. "I don't think home use is the issue," Kate Guyton of IARC told the Associated Press. "It's agricultural use that will have the biggest impact. For the moment, it's just something for people to be conscious of."
According to Ken Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group said, “The widespread adoption of GMO corn and soybeans has led to an explosion in the use of glyphosate—a main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup and Dow’s Enlist Duo. Consumers have the right to know how their food is grown and whether their food dollars are driving up the use of a probable carcinogen.”
Monsanto has cried foul following the release of the report. "We don't know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe," said Philip Miller, Monsanto's vice-president of global regulatory affairs in a statement.
Monsanto is the world's largest seed company. As Alexis Baden-Mayer of the Organic Consumers Association pointed out, the corporation invented the herbicide glyphosate and brought it to market under the trade name Roundup in 1974, after DDT was banned. The use of Roundup surged in the late 1990s thanks to Monsanto's ingenious marketing strategy of genetically engineering (GE) seeds to grow food crops that could tolerate high doses of Roundup. With the introduction of these new GE seeds, farmers could now easily control weeds on their corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets and alfalfa crops—crops that thrived while the weeds around them were wiped out by Roundup, Baden-Mayer wrote.
Besides cancer, glyphosate has since been linked to a whole slew of health issues including Parkinson’s disease and fatal kidney disease. Concerns about glyphosate in foods led to Vermont's historic no-strings-attached bill requiring labeling of GE foods last May, a first for the nation.
The U.S. government considers the herbicide safe for agricultural use, neglecting concerns from organic farmers and other growers as well as the full range of impacts associated with these GMO herbicide-tolerant crops. As Reuters noted in 2013, Monsanto "requested and received approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for increased tolerance levels for glyphosate." Since the release of the WHO report, the U.S. EPA said it would consider the French agency's evaluation.
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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.