One of the world’s most popular weed-killers — and the most widely used kind in the U.S. — has been labeled a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The decision was made by IARC, the France-based cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, which considered the status of five insect and weed killers including glyphosate, which is used globally in industrial farming.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which makes its own determinations, said it would consider the French agency’s evaluation.
The French agency has four levels of risks for possible cancer-causing agents: known carcinogens, probable or possible carcinogens, not classifiable and probably not carcinogenic. Glyphosate now falls in the second level of concern.
The new classification is aimed mainly at industrial use of glyphosate. Its use by home gardeners is not considered a risk. Glyphosate is in the same category of risk as things like anabolic steroids and shift work. The decision was published online Thursday in the journal, Lancet Oncology.
According to the French agency, glyphosate is used in more than 750 different herbicide products and its use has been detected in the air during spraying, in water and in food. Experts said there was “limited evidence” in humans that the herbicide can cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma and there is convincing evidence that glyphosate can also cause other forms of cancer in rats and mice. IARC’s panel said glyphosate has been found in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, showing the chemical has been absorbed by the body.
Monsanto and other producers of glyphosate-containing herbicides, strongly disagreed with the decision. “All labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health,” said Monsanto’s Phil Miller, global head of regulatory and government affairs, in a statement.
David an I went to the protest against Monsanto in Amsterdam yesterday. It was good to see so many people attended. It also was very good to see that the people there weren’t only ‘conspiracy hippies’ but really just average citizens. People are getting more and more aware.
“[The law] wants to legalize the seeds policy that has had disastrous results in the U.S. and Europe. This law would give Monsanto the ownership of seeds. The seeds that our small farmers and landholders sow would just have to be contaminated by the gene to be considered the property of Monsanto, and seed producers would not be able to collect their seeds”
Imminent approval of large-scale planting of GMO corn: Scientists alert over threat to maize in its center of origin and diversification. Human health is also at risk.
Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad (UCCS)
A pro-forma public consultation period in Mexico of five requests for commercial-scale planting of GM maize promoted by some of the biotechnological corporations (Semillas y Agroproductos Monsanto S.A. de C.V. and Monsanto Comercial S.A. de C.V.; PHI Mexico S.A. de C.V.) has just finalized, all but clearing the path for the final approval by the Mexican government of the large-scale, commercial planting of GMO corn in its center of origin: Mexico.
This process has not been transparent and has lacked a trully public or scientific discussion, or consideration by the affected sectors of society (peasants, farmers, consumers). For example the results from the previously performed “experimental” and “pilot” plantings has not been made public and thus the process lacks both scientific certainty and social endorsement.
This is grave, as Mexico is not only the cradle of corn, the second most important commodity crop in the world, but it also stewards one of the few Centers of Origin and Diversification, from which the world derives the genetic diversity needed to maintain its production in the mist of new plagues, climatic challenges (Ureta et al., 2011), and consumption preferences.
Unlike other countries, where corn production is controlled by corporations and maize is used mainly as feed and as an industrial raw material, in Mexico thousands of different varieties of open-pollinated landraces are cultivated by millions of indigenous and campesino families, with all the Mexican territory being maize Center of Origin and Diversification. Campesinos produce most of the corn for human consumption and Mexico’s population ingests large amounts of corn directly, placing its entire population at an acute level of risk from the large-scale exposure to GM agriculture that uses hybrids that are nutritionally inferior to landraces (i.e., higher glycemic index, less fiber, less antioxidants, etc.), as well as to its associated agrotoxics and derived products.
Independent scientists from the world, heeding a call by the Union of Scientists with Social Commitment (Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad, UCCS; www.uccs.mx) call upon the current Mexican Government -as well as to the upcoming administration of the elected president Enrique Peña Nieto- not only to prevent the large-scale planting of GM corn, but also to cancel all permits for open-field releases of transgenic corn in Mexico already in place as “experiments” or “pilot-scale” plantations. The interests of transnational biotechnological and seed companies should not ride roughshod over those of the Mexican population or the environment in this most important and delicate biogeographical and cultural region.
Not long ago, Mexico used to be a net exporter of corn but the erosion of its campesino economy and lack of government support to agricultural production, have generated a production deficit for this, its main staple. This situation is used as the main excuse to consider the planting of GM corn as an inevitable future for Mexico. Well-established scientific evaluations show, however, that GM corn does not provide a solution to this problem as it does not provide higher yield when compared to conventional varieties. Furthermore, Mexico has other alternatives to face its corn deficit without GM corn plantations (Turrent et al., 2012; and forthcoming second part of the UCCS announcement). It is also crucial to consider that it is impossible to contain transgenes within the GM corn plantings; and given that transgene flow from such plantings would occur up to thousands of km via pollen and seed (Quist & Chapela, 2001; Acevedo et al., 2011; Cleveland et al., 2005; Dyer et al., 2009; Piñeyro-Nelson et al., 2009 a y b; van Heerwaarden, et al., 2012) and that thousands of locally adapted native varieties are distributed over the whole country (data from the Mexican Commission for Biodiversity; CONABIO: http://www.biodiversidad.gob.mx/genes/origenDiv.html), such GM corn plantings would imply the infiltration and accumulation of transgenes into the genomes of landraces, with unpredictable and non-desirable consequences.
Far from being a solution to Mexico’s problems, GMO corn has become the spearhead of agricultural and economic practices that are deeply damaging to the social and agroecological fabric that underlie traditional agricultural practices in this part of the world. These systems are invaluable and through the investment of resources aimed at perfecting them, they could be key for a sustainable agroecological solution for the production deficit with the provision of healthy food.
The system of approval used to justify the planting of GM corn is inadequate and inapplicable in the specific Mexican context. At the heart of this regulatory failure is the inability of the Mexican Government to reject the promotional stance forced upon it by transnational corporations, and its failure to implement a precautionary stance with rigorous scientific bases and without a conflict of interest in order to protect the environment and the society with which it is entrusted. The consequences of this failure are of dire global importance and many of them will be irreversible.
Call to Action
The undersigned, scientists, scholars and intellectuals of the world call on the Mexican Government, Mexican Citizens and those around the world with a stake in the well-being of the food and agricultural basis of the world and our culture:
To stop the processing of any application for open-field release of GM corn in Mexico and in its place promote a thorough, transparent and publicly acceptable review of both the specific crops and transgenic lines, as well as the process of review itself leading to their possible planting vis a vis technological alternatives that do not imply the use of GMOs and/or highly indistrialized agriculture.
To cancel all existing permits for “pilot scale” and “experimental scale” releases into the open, public environment.
To begin an immediate review of the environmental and social aspects of GM corn plantation in Mexico based on thorough scientific criteria and public engagement, through a transparent and participatory process that can lead to a set of criteria that are socially and environmentally acceptable. Such process should consider the best technological options to address issues of food production in our country, and should consider traditional alternatives that gave way to the diversity of cultivars in their Centers of Origin and Diversification and that continue to be instrumental for their dynamic conservation, as well as the representatives of expert campesino and indigenous maize production cultures in Mexico whose livelihoods are acutely endangered by the introduction of GM plantations.
To review, through thorough and transparent scientific and public consultation, the overeaching policies leading to the planting of GM corn in Mexico. We believe that such a process should be guided by a precautionary approach as well as by criteria guided by social justice and sustainability assessments, based on rigorous scientific knowledge, not an unquestioning acceptance and promotion of the studies done by the corporations that produce and commercialize GMOs and that promote the open-field planting of GM corn in Mexico.
In principle I don’t have a problem with them. If they’re used ethically for research purposes they’re a valuable tool to learn about genetics, diseases and could eventually lead to organisms that can create valuable byproducts by tweaking its genetic code. With that said it can require animal testing (though not all as a lot of GMO organisms are microscopic), which obviously is not the ideal strategy. Right now its a necessary evil. Hopefully in the future biological analogs can be created so that animals don’t have to be used this way. With that said laboratory animals are generally treated well. They’re provided with shelter and food, and many live long lives. Not all testing is detrimental to their health.
However practices by the company Monsato, for example I do believe are unethical use of GMO technology, and at times can be downright evil as they can lead to overuse of pesticides which can harm human health (and are likely the reason for the decline of bees worldwide), as well as the strategies they use to outcompete farmers or make them dependent on their products.
This week the House of Representatives will consider a provision to House Agricultural Appropriations Bill that will fundamentally undermine the concept of judicial review. Hidden under the guise of a “Farmer Assurance Provision” (Section 733), the provision strips the rights of federal courts to halt the sale and planting of genetically engineered crops during the legal appeals process.
In the past, legal advocates have successfully won in court the right to halt the sale and planting of unapproved GMO crops while the approval of those crops is under review by a federal judge. This dangerous new House provision, which were calling the Monsanto Protection Act, would strip judges of their constitutional mandate to protect consumer rights and the environment, while opening up a floodgate of planting of new untested genetically engineered crops, endangering farmers, consumers and the environment.
Once again, Monsanto and the biotech industry are working behind closed doors to undermine your basic rights. This time they’ve gone too far! Join us in putting a stop to the Monsanto Protection Act!