Environmental Health Trust

Commentary: Close to Home: Time for California to Corral the Use of Roundup


Teton Village, WY -- (ReleaseWire) -- 05/15/2015 --Dr. Devra Davis is a scientist and writer who is president of Environmental Health Trust, a non-profit research and educational institute focused on studying and reducing environmental health hazards. Dr. Davis will be the featured speaker at the first Kortum Legacy Lecture Series, May 15, at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa at 11:30 a.m.

What do Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Brazil and India have in common?

They have banned the use of Roundup — a glyphosate containing pesticide that continues to be applied in San Francisco, Sonoma County and throughout California.

Last month the International Agency for Research on Cancer — a group of experts advising the World Health Organization — unanimously determined that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is a probable human carcinogen.

Thanks to decades of major marketing efforts, American agriculture heavily depends on seeds for wheat, corn, soy and other major U.S. commercial crops that have been genetically engineered to resist Roundup's otherwise toxic effects. One consequence of this massive deployment of the chemical is that about 60 million acres of farmland are infested with Roundup resistant weeds that can grow more than six feet high and damage farm equipment.

Roundup has been tied not just to cancer and killer-weeds but to other serious health problems. Physicians report that rates of serious birth defects in one of Argentina's poorest regions, Chaco, quadrupled the decade after glyphosate was introduced, while that of chronic kidney disease is soaring in young men and women in Central America, India and other heavily sprayed regions.

Meanwhile, Monsanto recently asked the EPA to double the residues allowed on American foods and crops that are developing resistance to the pesticide.

Underlying the World Health Organization's evaluations is one simple fact — every agent known to cause cancer in humans, also causes it in animals when adequately studied. Whenever experimental studies indicate a compound causes cancer in animals it should be regarded as if it causes cancer in humans.

Other agents identified as probable human carcinogens include jet fuel, engine exhausts, a number of pesticides and tars, all of which are subject to stringent controls.

If glyphosate were a drug, it would never have been allowed on the market.

Drugs are put into medical practice only after experiments establish that a novel agent might alleviate disease in animals. When Monsanto began selling Roundup in 1973, it had not conducted any animal tests.

Recent reports from MIT indicate that not only does glyphosate cause cancer in animals, it also could induce gluten-intolerance, autism and other chronic ailments by changing basic gut metabolism.

Of course, people are not rodents. Still, if rodent studies guide the pharmaceutical industry, how can we deny their relevance to commercially profitable toxic chemicals?

With tobacco, asbestos, vinyl chloride, hormone replacement therapy, diagnostic radiation, some metals, and a host of other agents, we got it backwards. Reports of their detrimental impacts surfaced decades before steps were finally taken to discourage their widespread use.

At this point, 4 of every 10 American crop acres and 1 of every 4 crop acres in the world depend on genetically modified seeds, yielding a profit to Monsanto of more than $8 billion.

"If you put control over plant and genetic resources into the hands of the private sector … and anybody thinks that plant breeding is still going to be used to solve society's real problems and to advance food security, I have a bridge to sell them," Washington State University Professor Charles Benbrook told the Union of Concerned Scientists.

With glyphosate and other toxic agents we cannot and should not wait for definitive proof of damage to human health before reducing exposures.

We must rely on animal experiments coupled with studies of those with high exposures in efforts to reduce the burden of cancer and other diseases.

To do otherwise treats ourselves and our children as lab rats in an experiment without any controls.

About Environmental Health Trust
Environmental Health Trust (EHT) educates individuals, health professionals and communities about controllable environmental health risks and policy changes needed to reduce those risks. Currently EHT is raising health concerns about wireless in schools and recommending safe hardwired internet connection installations. EHT's website is the go-to place for clear, science-based information to prevent disease.

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