Friday, April 17, 2015

DOCTOR CALLS FOR BAN ON GLYPHOSATE


mg_opinion_3727.jpgThe Case for Banning Monsanto's Roundup 

There's strong evidence that the herbicide causes birth defects and probably causes cancer. There's also reason to believe it causes or exacerbates numerous chronic illnesses.

By 
click to enlarge
Dr. Jeff Ritterman is vice president of the board of directors of the SF Bay Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He is the retired chief of cardiology at Kaiser Richmond and a former Richmond city councilmember. Follow him on Twitter @JeffRitterman. 
On March 20, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassified glyphosate as a chemical that probably causes cancer. The IARC is a branch of the World Health Organization that focuses on cancer, and it combines the knowledge and expertise of epidemiologists, laboratory scientists, and biostatisticians. The IARC has been engaged in cancer research for more than five decades, and its vast experience in cancer research has led the agency to conclude that "most cancers are, directly or indirectly, linked to environmental factors and thus are preventable."
The IARC had previously designated glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic. Monsanto, a leading producer of glyphosate under the trade name Roundup, immediately issued a press releasechallenging the new IARC designation and contending that Roundup is safe. But Monsanto has a tremendous amount at stake. Half of the corporation's revenues come from sales of Roundup and Roundup Ready seeds, which can tolerate the herbicide. Monsanto advocates that farmers spray their fields heavily and repeatedly with Roundup in order to kill unwanted weeds, and Monsanto's corporate strategy is based on the assumption that Roundup is safe. If Roundup is found to be toxic, the entire house of cards comes tumbling down, and with it, Monsanto and biotech agriculture. The banning of glyphosate could mean bankruptcy for Monsanto.
But the scientific case for banning glyphosate is convincing. Research shows that in addition to concerns about cancer, there is strong evidence that Roundup causes birth defects in vertebrates, including in humans. The research also reveals that glyphosate may be the cause of or trigger for a number of chronic illnesses that are now plaguing people around the globe.

Originally patented by the Stauffer Chemical Company in 1964, glyphosate is a powerful chelating agent — meaning that it avidly binds to metals. It's this chelating property that led to glyphosate's first use as a descaling agent to clean mineral deposits from pipes in boilers and other hot water systems. The ability to bind to metals also allows glyphosate-metal complexes to persist in soil for decades. The chelating property also underlies the hypothesis that glyphosate-metal complexes are the cause of a fatal chronic kidney disease epidemic that has been ravaging Central America, Sri Lanka, and parts of India.
In the 1970s, John Franz, a Monsanto scientist, discovered glyphosate's usefulness as an herbicide. Monsanto patented glyphosate and has marketed the chemical as "Roundup" since 1974. Glyphosate is now the world's most widely used herbicide.
But contrary to Monsanto's claims that Roundup is safe, a virtual avalanche of scientific studies, including some funded by Monsanto itself, show alarming incidences of fetal deaths and birth defects in animals exposed to glyphosate. Birth defects include missing kidneys and lungs, enlarged hearts, extra ribs, and missing and abnormally formed bones of the limbs, ribs, sternum, spine, and skull.
These startling revelations can be found in the 2011 report "Roundup and Birth Defects: Is the Public Being Kept in the Dark?" It was written by eight experts from the fields of molecular genetics, agro-ecology, toxico-pathology, scientific ethics, ecological agriculture, plant genetics, public health, and cell biology. The report, written primarily for a European readership, is highly critical of the biotech industry and of the European Union's failure to evaluate glyphosate based on science rather than on political concerns. It calls for an immediate withdrawal of Roundup and glyphosate from the European Union until a thorough scientific evaluation can be completed on the herbicide.
"The public has been kept in the dark by industry and regulators about the ability of glyphosate and Roundup to cause malformations," the report states. "In addition, the work of independent scientists who have drawn attention to the herbicide's teratogenic effects has been ignored, denigrated or dismissed. These actions on the part of industry and regulators have endangered public health."
A teratogen is any agent that can disturb the development of an embryo or a fetus. The term stems from the Greek teras, meaning monster.

In late 2012, when Danish pig farmer Ibn Bjorn Pedersen began feeding his pigs genetically modified soy that was contaminated with glyphosate, the rate of birth defects soared. In early 2013, piglets were born without an ear, with only one large eye, with a large hole in the skull, and with a monstrously large "elephant tongue." A female piglet was born with testes, and still others had malformed limbs, spines, skulls, and gastrointestinal tracts. The deformed piglets all tested positive for glyphosate in their tissues.
These birth defects in test animals and in farmer Pedersen's pigs were similar to those reported by humans living in Argentina, where glyphosate is sprayed heavily from airplanes as part of the production of genetically modified soy. In the Córdoba region of Argentina, the Gatica family resides in the barrio of Ituzaingó, only 50 meters away from fields of GMO soy. Airplanes would regularly fly overhead, spraying glyphosate on the crops. In the mid-1990s, Sofia Gatica's oldest son became extremely ill. "When he was four years old, he came down with the illness that left him temporarily paralyzed," she recalled,according to a 2013 report published by the German news organization Deutsche Welle. "He was admitted to the hospital. They told me that they didn't know what was wrong with him."
In 1999, Gatica gave birth to a baby girl. The infant died of kidney failure on her third day of life. This tragedy prompted the grieving mother to take action. Gatica went door-to-door, collecting information on the health of her community. Her survey uncovered an unusually high rate of birth defects and cancer. "Children were being born with deformities, little babies were being born with six fingers, without a jawbone, missing a skull bone, with kidney deformities, without an anus — and a lot of mothers and fathers were developing cancer," she said, according to the Deutsche Welle report.
Gatica shared her findings with her friends and neighbors. Soon a group formed, calling itself the Mothers of Ituzaingó. In 2012, Gatica was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work protecting her community from glyphosate toxicity.
A group of Argentine doctors, alarmed by the increases in birth defects and cancer, joined the Mothers of Ituzaingó. These concerned physicians formed Doctors of Fumigated Towns, which held its first national conference in August 2010 in Córdoba, Argentina, a farming area where agribusinesses heavily and repeatedly spray glyphosate. The Department of Medical Sciences of the National University at Córdoba sponsored the conference. Some 160 doctors from throughout the country attended. At the conference, Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez, a pediatrician and environmental health expert, explained his concerns: "The change in how agriculture is produced has brought, frankly, a change in the profile of diseases. We've gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects, and illnesses seldom seen before. There are more than 12 million people affected by fumigation (pesticide spraying) in the country. In these areas, the rate of birth defects is four times higher than in the cities."
Chaco is Argentina's poorest province and a region of intensive glyphosate spraying. Records from the neonatal service at Chaco's Perrando Hospital show that birth defects increased fourfold, from 19.1 to 85.3 per 10,000 people, in the decade after intensive herbicide use began.
The experimental animal studies, the observations in farm animals, and the epidemiological studies in humans all bolster the conclusion that glyphosate causes birth defects.
And the research directly contradicts claims by Monsanto, which states on its website that Roundup is safe "because it binds tightly to most types of soil so it is not available for uptake by roots of nearby plants. It works by disrupting a plant enzyme involved in the production of amino acids that are essential to plant growth. The enzyme, EPSP synthase, is not present in humans or animals, contributing to the low risk to human health from the use of glyphosate according to label directions."
So how can Roundup cause birth defects if it only affects an enzyme (EPSP Synthase) that animals do not possess? Andrés Carrasco, an embryologist and the former director of the molecular embryology laboratory at the University of Buenos Aires, found the link.
Carrasco suspected that glyphosate caused an abnormal hyperactivity in the Vitamin A pathway. The Vitamin A signaling pathway is present in all vertebrates from the very earliest stages of embryonic development. The pathway turns on certain genes and turns off others. It acts like a conductor, orchestrating the symphony of embryological development. And there is no room for error. Genes must be turned on and off at precisely the right instant in exact sequence. Any disturbance of the Vitamin A pathway can result in birth defects. It is because of the enhanced risk of birth defects that pregnant women are advised not to take any Vitamin A (retinoic acid) containing medications.
When Carrasco added a chemical inhibitor to his experiments, he was able to block the glyphosate-induced hyperactivity in the Vitamin A pathway. The birth defects no longer appeared. Mystery solved! Glyphosate had caused birth defects by over-stimulating the Vitamin A pathway. Since this pathway is present in all vertebrates, glyphosate has the capacity to cause birth defects in fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.
But Roundup doesn't just cause birth defects.

Epidemiologic studies from the areas in Latin America where agribusinesses heavily spray glyphosate have consistently shown spikes in cancer incidence. Other epidemiological research has implicated glyphosate in brain cancer in children and in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In addition, laboratory studies of many kinds, as well as animal feeding studies, have repeatedly linked glyphosate to cancer.
Cancer is a complex process. One of the initial steps is damage to our DNA. Each of our cells gets its operating instructions from DNA, and if DNA is damaged and not repaired, it can program cells to divide rapidly and chaotically. When that happens, cells transform into cancers.
Cells are also vulnerable to becoming cancers during cell division. Each cell receives from its parent cell an identical copy of DNA. If a mistake occurs during this process, cells receive faulty DNA copies, and the cells can then turn cancerous.
Since both DNA damage and errors during cell division can lead to cancer, scientists have studied whether glyphosate can cause these abnormalities. And the results have been conclusive. For example, fruit fly larvae exposed to glyphosate have developed lethal DNA damage. And mice injected with glyphosate and with Roundup showed an increased frequency of DNA damage in the bone marrow, liver, and kidneys. Roundup damaged the DNA in blood cells of the European eel at environmentally realistic concentrations. And when researchers exposed cow lymphocytes to glyphosate, the herbicide caused DNA damage.
In a 2004 study, researchers from the National Scientific Research Center and the University of Pierre and Marie Curie in France exposed sea urchin embryos to glyphosate, and found that the herbicide caused significant errors in cell division. The scientists commented that these abnormalities are hallmarks of cancer and delivered a particularly chilling warning. "The concentration of glyphosate needed to cause these errors was 500 to 4,000 times lower than the dose to which humans may be exposed by aerial spraying or handling of the herbicide."
Fernando Manas, a biologist at the National University of Rio Cuarto in Argentina, has been investigating the effects of pesticides for years. He believes that glyphosate spraying is causing cancer by inducing DNA damage, and his research has documented genetic damage in those exposed. When Manas studied people who spray pesticide while working in the soy industry in Córdoba, Argentina, he found significantly more DNA damage in their lymphocytes than those in an unexposed group. Glyphosate was one of the most commonly used pesticides by the workers.
Genetics researchers from the Pontifical Catholic University in Quito, Ecuador evaluated Ecuadorians living in the Sucumbíos district in northern Ecuador for evidence of DNA damage. The Colombian government had heavily sprayed the Sucumbíos district with glyphosate to eradicate illegal coca crops. People exposed to the herbicide developed a number of acute symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, heart palpitations, headaches, dizziness, numbness, insomnia, depression, shortness of breath, blurred vision, burning of eyes, blisters and rash. When compared to a control group, they also showed significantly more DNA damage.
In addition to the DNA and cell division research, scientists have explored glyphosate's association with cancer in tissue culture studies. In these experiments, researchers grow cells in a small dish with nutrients and add various chemicals to test their effects.
In 2010, researchers in India exposed mouse skin cells grown in tissue culture to glyphosate. When the herbicide was added, the cells became cancerous.
Scientists in Thailand studied the impact of glyphosate on human estrogen-responsive breast cancer cells in tissue culture. Hormone-responsive breast cancer cells are known to grow when exposed to estrogen. And according to their published results in 2013, glyphosate also stimulated these cells to grow. The herbicide was able to bind to the cancer's estrogen receptors, thus mimicking the effects of estrogen and accelerating tumor growth. Scientists refer to this as "endocrine disruption." An endocrine disruptor is a chemical that can mimic or block a hormone. Because hormones work as chemical messengers at very low doses, even a minute dose of an endocrine disruptor can lead to serious illness.
Glyphosate's links to cancer have also been assessed in studies with a variety of test animals for more than three decades. One of the earliest studies was conducted from 1979 to 1981, under the auspices of the United Nations Environmental Program, the International Labor Organization, and the World Health Organization. Rats exposed to low levels of the herbicide developedtesticular cancer. A larger dose did not produce the cancer. Unfortunately, at the time of the experiment, it was not understood that certain substances have more potent effects at lower doses than at higher doses, and so the evaluators erroneously dismissed the results.
In a study from the Institute of Biology at the University of Caen in France, researchers studied glyphosate's effects on rats, and found that glyphosate doubles the incidence of mammary gland tumors. These cancers also developed much faster in rats exposed to glyphosate than in controls. There was also an increase in cancers of the pituitary gland. Originally published in 2012, the report was retracted after the biotech agriculture industry complained. But after extensive review failed to show any fraud or problem with the data, the report was re-published in 2014.
Human epidemiologic studies also have shown a link between glyphosate and cancer.
Argentine physicians working in areas in which glyphosate is heavily sprayed have reported significant increases in cancer incidence. In Sante Fe province, which is an area of intensive herbicide spraying, a house-to-house epidemiological study of 65,000 people found cancer rates two to four times higher than the national average.
Two villages in Chaco province also raised concerns about glyphosate's association with cancer. Researchers compared residents of the heavily sprayed farming village of Avia Terai to people in the non-sprayed ranching village of Charadai. In the farming village, 31 percent of residents had a family member with cancer while only 3 percent of residents in the ranching village had one.
Dr. Avila Vasquez, a doctor working in the heavily sprayed region of Barrio Ituzaingo, noted that cancer was responsible for 33 percent of the deaths in the region, while the cancer death rate in the big cities was only 19 percent.
In addition, scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), who have analyzed studies spanning almost three decades, have found a positive association between organo-phosphorus herbicides, like glyphosate, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. IARC researchers found that the B cell lymphoma sub-type is strongly associated with glyphosate exposure. As mentioned earlier, the IARC published a monograph last month classifying glyphosate as probably carcinogenic.
The most recent research raising concerns about glyphosate's connection to cancer is the linkage to lymphoma. Scientists from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services, who specialize in illnesses caused by toxic substances, published results of the US Atlantic Coast Childhood Brain Cancer Study in 2009. That study compared children with brain cancer in Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania to age-matched controls. The researchers found that if either parent had been exposed to glyphosate during the two years before the child's birth, the chances of the child developing brain cancer doubled.

Glyphosate's ability to produce birth defects and its association with cancer show that the herbicide actively impacts a number of important biological processes. Scientists have uncovered some of these impacts, and this work may have far-reaching implications for human health.
As noted above, Dr. Carrasco showed that glyphosate causes birth defects in vertebrates by interfering with the Vitamin A signaling pathway. And this pathway is part of a much larger enzyme system known as the "Cytochrome P450" system. This enzyme system is present in most tissues of our bodies. It is an extremely important and complex, responsible for inactivating toxic compounds and metabolizing medications. The Cytochrome P450 system is also important in the metabolism of sex hormones, cholesterol, and Vitamin D. And glyphosate interferes with several of the enzymes in this vital system.
One of the enzymes it inhibits is aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen. The testosterone-estrogen balance is fundamental to normal functioning. Glyphosate can mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors, as we saw in the case of glyphosate's ability to accelerate breast cancer cell growth in tissue culture. The herbicide can also prevent the chemical conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Glyphosate's interference with aromatase may explain its association with impaired fertility. Clearly, these endocrine disrupting effects are cause for concern.
Glyphosate is also toxic to many gut bacteria that are important for human health. These bacteria live symbiotically with humans: The human digestive tract provides a friendly environment, full of nutrients for the bacteria, and in exchange, the bacteria perform a number of essential functions, including the synthesis of vitamins and the detoxification of foreign substances. The bacteria also aid immunity and help digestion and the maintenance of the normal permeability of the gastrointestinal tract.
And when glyphosate kills off helpful gut bacteria, other harmful bacteria can proliferate. Studies analyzing the gut bacteria of cows, horses, and poultry have shown that many highly pathogenic bacteria are glyphosate resistant. The loss of helpful bacteria may also make us vulnerable to leaky gut syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and other gastrointestinal maladies.
Research has suggested that the overgrowth of harmful bacteria can also cause a deficiency in essential amino acids and in necessary metals, like zinc and sulfur. The change in bacterial flora may also lead to the overproduction of ammonia.
Because the presence of glyphosate is not tested in our food supply nor by healthcare providers caring for the sick, implicating glyphosate in the etiology of diseases has been difficult. There is concern, however, that a large number of chronic diseases, including neurological illnesses, may be triggered or exacerbated by changes in amino acid, ammonia, and metal concentrations.
The depletion of amino acids, for example, can result in abnormally low levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. Its depletion may lead to depression, insomnia, and disorders of the appetite, such as obesity and anorexia. Dopamine depletion in a key brain area is also the hallmark of Parkinson's disease.
Researchers have also found elevated ammonia levels in children with autism. Sulfur deficiency also has been associated with autism and Parkinson's disease, and with Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Zinc deficiency, too, has been associated with autism and Alzheimer's disease, and also with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders.
An interesting finding from a study at the University of Leipzig showed an unexpected association between chronic illness and glyphosate exposure. The researchers tested urine from humans. They found that chronically ill humans have significantly higher glyphosate residues in their urine when compared to healthy people.
Another chronic illness may have a direct link to glyphosate. Peasant farmers exposed to pesticides in Central America, India, and Sri Lanka have developed a new and fatal kidney ailment. The cause has been difficult to pin down. The illness has become known as "Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology [CKDu]."
CKDu is now the second-leading cause of death among men in El Salvador. This small Central American nation has the highest kidney disease mortality rate in the world. Neighboring Honduras and Nicaragua also have extremely high rates of death from kidney disease. More men in El Salvador and Nicaragua are dying from CKDu than from HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and leukemia combined. In one area of rural Nicaragua, so many men have died that the community is called "the Island of the Widows."
India and Sri Lanka have also been hit hard by the epidemic. More than20,000 people have died from CKDu in the past two decades in Sri Lanka. In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, more than 1,500 have been treated for the ailment since 2007.
While the exact cause of the kidney ailment remains under investigation, a leading hypothesis is that glyphosate-metal complexes are to blame. It appears that glyphosate's chelating properties give the chemical the ability to form complexes with heavy metals that can be readily absorbed through the skin, inhaled, or ingested. Scientists are concerned that these glyphosate-metal complexes can travel through the bloodstream to the kidney and destroy the kidney tubule, leading to renal failure and death.
In response, both the governments of El Salvador and Sri Lanka have instituted bans on glyphosate.

Glyphosate and its degradation product amino-methyl-phosphonic acid have been found in air, rain, groundwater, surface water, seawater, and soil. These studies show that glyphosate persists in soil and water for long periods of time. In addition, the amount of glyphosate detected in samples is increasing over time. The chemical is accumulating in our environment. It also accumulates in animal tissue. A study conducted last year at the University of Leipzig showed that cows were excreting glyphosate in their urine. These cows also had comparable levels of the herbicide in their organs (kidney, liver, lung, spleen, muscle, intestine), proving that meat and dairy are a source of glyphosate for humans.
And glyphosate is an essential ingredient in biotech farming. Its residues can be found in a wide variety of food products. Almost all processed food that contains corn (including high fructose corn syrup) or soy has glyphosate contamination. The same is now true for wheat products, because glyphosate has been added to the wheat harvest production method. Meat products derived from animals exposed to glyphosate in their feed will also be glyphosate contaminated.
But because the FDA does not test for glyphosate, we have no way to monitor the damage that the herbicide is wreaking on human health. We know from leaked US State Department cables that support for biotech agriculture is official US policy despite the health risks. It appears that our best chance of protecting our health and that of our children is a grassroots movement to ban glyphosate use.
The data now shows that glyphosate causes birth defects and cancer. There is also good reason to believe that this herbicide causes or exacerbates a large number of chronic illnesses.
There is really no sensible alternative to banning this poison. Two of the world's visionaries have shared their thoughts on this issue.
"Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads," wrote world famous primatologist Jane Goodall in Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating. "How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?"
The great Indian environmental leader Vandana Shiva added: "We will continue to create the other world that we are sowing, seed-by-seed, inch-by-inch of soil, person-by-person, community-by-community, until all of this planet is embraced in one circle of a resurgent life and a resurgent love."



Contact the author of this piece, send a letter to the editor, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

BIG FOOD: IS TOBACCO DISINFORMATION DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN

Big Tobacco

'Hired guns' tasked with overseeing approval of additives

By Shutterstock   April 15, 2015

Joseph Borzelleca has been evaluating the safety of food additives longer than pretty much anyone else in the business. The 84-year-old toxicologist, who credits his career to Italian parents who taught him to love food, has helped companies bring hundreds of new ingredients to market.

“Food to me was always very important,” said Borzelleca, a long-time professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, who has been reviewing the safety of food additives since the 1960s. “I had an interest in food, not just from a nutritional perspective but from a historical and safety” perspective.

A Center for Public Integrity analysis of publicly available data found that Borzelleca is the most active of a small group of scientists — including several with ties to Big Tobacco —  that the food industry turns to over and over again to determine whether additives can be deemed “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, and avoid a rigorous pre-market government safety review.

Of the 379 panels convened to review the safety of new ingredients in the last 17 years, the Center for Public Integrity found, three-quarters included at least one of these 10 scientists. But none has even come close to serving on as many as Borzelleca, who has appeared on 41 percent of them.

Despite his decades of experience and praise heaped upon him by colleagues — one called him a “wonder” — critics of the GRAS system say Borzelleca is emblematic of a system that is rife with conflicts of interest. If scientists depend on the food industry for income, they may be less likely to contest the safety of ingredients companies hope to market, critics say.

“These are standing panels of industry hired guns,” said Laura MacCleery, an attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “It is funding bias on steroids.”
Borzelleca and many of his colleagues who work with the food industry have done similar work for another well-known industry: Big Tobacco.

The Center for Public Integrity found that at least four of the top 10 GRAS panel experts, including Borzelleca, had also served as scientific consultants for cigarette makers.

Final word
The expert panels that review a new food additive to determine if it’s “generally recognized as safe” have great power because they can have the final word on that ingredient and its use. Once the group deems a new additive GRAS, it can go into an array of foods that end up on supermarket shelves, with no notice to or review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

That gives food companies an incentive to turn to experts they believe will look kindly upon their ingredients, and gives scientists incentive to do so, critics say.
“If I know that my paycheck is coming from a specific source, and I’ve been doing that for years and years, and that is what feeds me and my family, it becomes really difficult for me to be totally independent of the hand that is feeding me,” said Erik Olson, senior strategic director for health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Many scientific consultants dispute accusations that they are conflicted, arguing instead that they are the most qualified and most experienced scientists for the job.

“If you’re good at something, of course you’re going to be in demand,” Borzelleca said, adding that he focuses solely on safety and never considers companies’ marketing plans. “I know GRAS pretty well. It’s not a boast. It’s a statement of fact.”

A small world
A 1958 law allows companies to market  ingredients without oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration if they can establish that their ingredients are “generally recognized as safe” for specific uses. In other words, companies using the so-called GRAS process must demonstrate that there is a consensus among scientific experts that their ingredients are safe.   

To do so, they usually convene a panel of scientists to review articles and opinions of authoritative bodies like the National Academy of Sciences to determine if an ingredient is safe for a particular use. Of 562 publicly available GRAS determinations voluntarily submitted to the FDA since 1998, a Center for Public Integrity analysis found that companies used such panels two-thirds of the time.

These panels, typically composed of three members, are meant to represent the scientific community at large. And they are particularly useful for establishing scientific consensus “when an individual published study raises safety questions” about an ingredient, according to FDA guidance.

"As long as you adhere to science-based review," said John Thomas, a scientific consultant, "then I don't think there's a better peer-reviewed process in place."

Source:  http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/04/15/17144/food-safety-scientists-have-ties-big-tobacco

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

MONSANTO EMPLOYEE ADMITS TO AN ENTIRE DEPARTMENT DESIGNED TO DISCREDIT SCIENTISTS

money_corrupt_deal_monsanto_735_350Monsanto Employee Admits An Entire Department Exists to “Discredit” Scientists

by Christina Sarich / Natural Society
Tuesday April 7, 2015

Dare to publish a scientific study against Big Biotech, and Monsanto will defame and discredit you. For the first time, a Monsanto employee admits that there is an entire department within the corporation with the simple task of ‘discrediting’ and ‘debunking’ scientists who speak out against GMOs.
The WHO recently classified glyphosate, a chemical in Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide Roundup, as carcinogenic – news that is really heating things up with biotech. So Monsanto has been demanding that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) retract their statements about the poisons’s toxicity to human health.
The company demands this even though a peer-reviewed study published in March of 2015 in the respected journal, The Lancet Oncology, conducted a analysis proving that glyphosate was indeed ‘probably carcinogenic.’
Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory affairs Philip Miller told Reuters the following in interview:
“We question the quality of the assessment. The WHO has something to explain.”
It has already been explained, Mr. Miller. The study states:
“Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide, currently with the highest production volumes of all herbicides. It is used in more than 750 different products for agriculture, forestry, urban, and home applications. Its use has increased sharply with the development of genetically modified glyphosate-resistant crop varieties. Glyphosate has been detected in air during spraying, in water, and in food. There WAS limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of glyphosate.
Glyphosate has been detected in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, indicating absorption. Soil microbes degrade glyphosate to aminomethylphosphoric acid (AMPA). Blood AMPA detection after poisonings suggests intestinal microbial metabolism in humans. Glyphosate and glyphosate formulations induced DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals, and in human and animal cells in vitro. One study reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) in residents of several communities after spraying of glyphosate formulations.”
In a recent talk attended mostly by students hoping to get decent paying internships in their field, a student asked what the company was doing to negate “bad science” concerning their work.
Monsanto’s employee, Dr. William “Bill” Moar, who gives talks on Monsanto’s products to reassure everyone that they are safe, perhaps forgot the event was public when he openly revealed that Monsanto had:
“An entire department” (waving his arm for emphasis) dedicated to ‘debunking’ science which disagreed with theirs.”
Likely, this is the first time a Monsanto employee has publicly admitted that they have immense political and financial weight to bear on scientists who dare to publish against them. Of course they don’t list this discrediting department anywhere on their website.
The company will stop at nothing to discredit and devalue the contributions of unimpeachably respected Lancet and the international scientific bodies of WHO and IARC, among others.
The stakes are high – after all, an entire industry of GMO seed (for which they currently hold more than a three-fourths monopoly share) is based on being Roundup ready. Glyphosate is their hallmark product, and it accounts for billions in sales when you account for the seed they sell to go with their best-selling herbicide.
In a single publicly made phrase, Moar has admitted that the Monsanto-funded science is sheer propaganda – essentially that they indeed have dozens, if not hundreds of employees out making sure that no science which tells the truth about their cancer-causing products ever garners any credibility whatsoever in the information age.
Monsanto has also held up the findings of regulatory bodies, particularly in the United States where the revolving door between agrochemical corporations and government seems never ending.

Source:   http://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2015/04/07/monsanto-employee-admits-an-entire-department-exists-to-discredit-scientists/

Monday, April 6, 2015

DROUGHT? BIG AG STEALING CALIFORNIA WATER FOR PROFIT

by

Californians Point to Big-Ag, Unrestrained Development as Drought Culprits

The nearly-dry Uvas Reservoir. (Photo: Ian Abbott/flickr/cc)
As residents adapt to recently imposed water restrictions and California's historic drought continues, experts are closely examining the dry spell's exacerbating factors—from thirsty agribusiness operations to unrestrained development—and saying a fundamental shift is in store for the Golden State.
In an analysis published Sunday, the New York Times suggests that the drought will "force a change in the way the state does business."
"Much like the Gold Rush more than 150 years ago or the rise of Silicon Valley, the assumption of cheap and abundant water has been a crucial part of California’s identity, history and economy," write Times journalists Adam Nagourney, Jack Healy, and Nelson D. Schwartz.
They continue:
And until recently, it seemed that the California dream was sustainable: booming cities, wide lawns in the suburbs, green golf courses in an otherwise parched landscape and, above all, a vibrant agricultural sector in places not much wetter than a desert.
But no longer.
According to the Times piece, "California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth," the mandatory water restrictions announced by Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday will bring about not just lifestyle adjustments but cultural change.
It argues that the "punishing drought—and the unprecedented measures the state announced last week to compel people to reduce water consumption—is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been this state’s driving engine has run against the limits of nature."
Still, the Times notes—as environmental groups did last week—that "even a significant drop in residential water use will not move the consumption needle nearly as much as even a small reduction by farmers. Of all the surface water consumed in the state, roughly 80 percent is earmarked for the agricultural sector."
Adam Scow, California director of Food & Water Watch, said Wednesday: "It is disappointing that Governor Brown’s executive order to reduce California water use does not address the state’s most egregious corporate water abuses. In the midst of a severe drought, the Governor continues to allow corporate farms and oil interests to deplete and pollute our precious groundwater resources that are crucial for saving water."
News outlets have reported that reductions in water supplies for farmers are likely to be announced in the coming weeks, and there is also likely to be increased pressure on the farms to move away from certain water-intensive crops, like almonds or beef.
But in an appearance on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, Brown defended the state's powerful agricultural sector.
"The farmers have fallowed hundreds of thousands of acres of land," Brown told ABC host Martha Raddatz. "They're pulling up vines and trees. Farm workers who are very low end of the economic scale here are out of work. There are people in agriculture areas that are really suffering."
He argued against cracking down further on big-ag operations or factory farms, saying: "If you don't want to produce any food and import it from some other place, of course you could do that. But that would displace hundreds of thousands of people and I don't think it's needed."
Another group not shouldering its share of the water-shortage burden is California's wealthy class, the LA Times reported Sunday:
As California gears up for the first mandatory water restrictions in its history, a long-standing class divide about water use is becoming increasingly apparent.
Beverly Hills and other affluent cities use far more water per capita than less-wealthy communities, prompting some to cast them as villains in California’s water conservation effort.
Water usage in Los Angeles was 70 gallons per capita. But within the city, a recent UCLA study examining a decade of Department of Water and Power data showed that on average, wealthier neighborhoods consume three times more water than less-affluent ones.
Stephanie Pincetl, who worked on the UCLA water-use study, told the LA Times that wealthy Californians are "lacking a sense that we are all in this together."
She added: "The problem lies, in part, in the social isolation of the rich, the moral isolation of the rich."
And others underscored why the four-year drought is much more than a local or state-level problem.
The Detroit Free Press editorial board on Sunday reminded readers that "those of us living in the other 49 states won't be exempt from the fallout. California farmers, who provide about half the country's fruits and vegetables, have already lost hundreds of thousands of acres of previously productive farmland. The impact on produce prices at your local grocery store will only intensify if the drought, already reckoned the worst in California's recorded history, persists."
The editorial continued:
Our proximity to abundant supplies of freshwater may give many Michiganders a false sense of security, at least until they wander into the produce aisle. But Brown's emergency edict makes it clear that the consequences of climate change are growing less theoretical, and more concrete, with each passing season.

Share This Article

Thursday, April 2, 2015

BIG AG SELLING BIG BUNK: REPORT SHOWS GMOs YIELD OPPOSITE OF HYPE


New Report Debunks 'Myth' That GMOs are Key to Feeding the World

Study upholds value of traditional methods 'shown to actually increase food supplies and reduce the environmental impact of production'
by
Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Published on Wednesday, April 01, 2015 by Common Dreams

About 70 percent of the world's poor are farmers, and to raise them out of poverty requires access to basic resources such as fertilizer, water, and the infrastructure to properly store or transport crops to market—not expensive, resource-intensive GMO seeds. (Credit: La Montañita Co-op)
The biotechnology industry "myth" that feeding billions of people necessitates genetically engineered agriculture has been debunked by a new report out Tuesday by the nonprofit health organization Environmental Working Group.
The report, Feeding the World Without GMOs (pdf), argues that investment in genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, has failed to expand global food security. It advocates more traditional methods "shown to actually increase food supplies and reduce the environmental impact of production."
Over the past 20 years, the report notes, global crop yields have only grown by 20 percent—despite the massive investment in biotechnology.
On the other hand, it continues, in recent decades "the dominant source of yield improvements has been traditional crossbreeding, and that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future."
As the report states, "seed companies' investment in improving yields in already high-yielding areas does little to improve food security; it mainly helps line the pockets of seed and chemical companies, large-scale growers and producers of corn ethanol."
After examining recent research on GMO crop production, the report also found:
  • Genetically modified crops—primarily corn and soybeans—have not substantially contributed to global food security and are primarily used to feed animals and cars, not people.
  • GMO crops in the US are not more productive than non-GMO crops in western Europe.
  • A recent case study in Africa found that crops that were crossbred for drought tolerance using traditional techniques improved yields 30 percent more than genetically engineered varieties.
Alternately, the report recommends a number of "common sense" strategies for expanding the global food supply, including: implementing a smarter use of fertilizers, eliminating bio-fuels, eliminating food waste, and cutting global meat consumption in half. Producing meat requires huge quantities of often-genetically modified crops such as corn and soy for animal feed.
Further, the report points out, "the narrative that GE crops will help feed the world ignores the fact that hunger is mostly the result of poverty."
About 70 percent of the world's poor are farmers, report author Emily Cassidy writes, and to raise them out of poverty requires access to basic resources such as fertilizer, water, and the infrastructure to properly store or transport crops to market—not expensive, resource-intensive GMO seeds.
In a blog post on Wednesday, Cassidy writes: "Given that creating just one genetically engineered crop variety can cost upwards of $130 million, you'd think Big Ag companies would invest in strategies that have been proven to work and less on GMOs that may not even increase crop yields. But what corporations really care about is increasing their profits, not feeding a hungry world."

Share This Article