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Wally Richards: Roundup – how safe is it?

I have strongly believed for years that Glyphosate (Roundup) is one of the worst and most dangerous chemicals man has made and uses commercially and domestically.

While I was away on holiday I received an email that is of great concern to all people who use Glyphosate for killing weeds. And even more concern for those using the chemical in parks, playgrounds and road sides.

Here is a copy of the email which I would encourage you to share with anyone who is pregnant or breeds animals……..

From as far back as the 1980s EU regulators and the pesticide industry (from its own studies including one by Monsanto) knew that the best-selling herbicide Roundup causes birth defects.

A new report by international scientists now exposes the 30-year cover-up, including efforts as recent as last year by the German government’s consumer protection office to rebut a 2010 study showing Roundup causes birth defects in frogs and chickens at tiny doses.

The study was prompted by reports of high rates of birth defects and cancers in areas of South America growing GM Roundup Ready soy, which is sprayed with high doses of the herbicide.

Read a lengthy article on this in the Huffington Post, a summary in The Ecologist, or the full report “Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?” by clicking here.

Monsanto responded to the report, but the report’s authors pick apart the company’s statements, showing how they are unsupported and unscientific. The chemical at the heart of the planet’s most widely used herbicide — Roundup weedkiller, used in farms and gardens across the U.S. — is coming under more intense scrutiny following the release of a new report calling for a heightened regulatory response around its use.

Critics have argued for decades that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and other herbicides used around the globe, poses a serious threat to public health. Industry regulators, however, appear to have consistently overlooked their concerns.

A comprehensive review of existing data released this month by Earth Open Source, an organization that uses open-source collaboration to advance sustainable food production, suggests that industry regulators in Europe have known for years that glyphosate, originally introduced by American agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto in 1976, causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals.

The Earth Open Source study also reports that by 1993 the herbicide industry, including Monsanto, knew that visceral anomalies such as dilation of the heart could occur in rabbits at low and medium-sized doses. The report further suggests that since 2002, regulators with the European Commission have known that glyphosate causes developmental malformations in lab animals.

As recently as last year, the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BLV), a government agency conducting a review of glyphosate, told the European Commission that there was no evidence the compound causes birth defects, according to the report.

The agency reached that conclusion despite almost half a dozen industry studies that found glyphosate produced fetal malformations in lab animals, as well as an independent study from 2007 that found that Roundup induces adverse reproductive effects in the male offspring of a certain kind of rats.

For its part, Earth Open Source said that government approval of the ubiquitous herbicide has been rash and problematic.

“Our examination of the evidence leads us to the conclusion that the current approval of glyphosate and Roundup is deeply flawed and unreliable,” wrote the report’s authors. “What is more, we have learned from experts familiar with pesticide assessments and approvals that the case of glyphosate is not unusual.

“They say that the approvals of numerous pesticides rest on data and risk assessments that are just as scientifically flawed, if not more so,” the authors added. “This is all the more reason why the Commission must urgently review glyphosate and other pesticides according to the most rigorous and up-to-date standards.”

While Roundup has been associated with deformities in a host of laboratory animals, its impact on humans remains unclear. One laboratory study done in France in 2005 found that Roundup and glyphosate caused the death of human placental cells and abnormal embryonic cells. Another study, conducted in 2009, found that Roundup caused total cell death in human umbilical, embryonic and placental cells within 24 hours. Yet researchers have conducted few follow-up studies.

“Obviously there’s a limit to what’s appropriate in terms of testing poison on humans,” said Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, which lobbies against genetically modified food. “But if you look at the line of converging evidence, it points to a serious problem. And if you look at the animal feeding studies with genetically modified Roundup ready crops, there’s a consistent theme of reproductive disorders, which we don’t know the cause for because follow-up studies have not been done.”

The Argentine government helped pull the country out of a recession in the 1990s in part by promoting genetically modified soy. Though it was something of a miracle for poor farmers, several years after the first big harvests residents near where the soy cop grew began reporting health problems, including high rates of birth defects and cancers, as well as the losses of crops and livestock as the herbicide spray drifted across the countryside.

Such reports gained further traction after an Argentine government scientist, Andres Carrasco conducted a study, “Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Produce Teratogenic Effects on Vertebrates by Impairing Retinoic Acid Signaling” in 2009.

The study, published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology in 2010, found that glyphosate causes malformations in frog and chicken embryos at doses far lower than those used in agricultural spraying. It also found that malformations caused in frog and chicken embryos by Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate were similar to human birth defects found in genetically modified soy-producing regions.

“The findings in the lab are compatible with malformations observed in humans exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy,” wrote Carrasco, director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology at the University of Buenos Aires. “I suspect the toxicity classification of glyphosate is too low.”

“In some cases this can be a powerful poison,” he concluded. End

I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

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