Dear Senator Boxer,
As the author of “Bless the Bees: The Pending Extinction of our Pollinators and What You Can Do to Stop It,” I have long been concerned about the effect of glyphosate on our pollinators. Moreover, the application of glyphosate in factory farms has all but wiped out the milkweed that the Monarch butterfly depends upon, and is driving this beautiful creature to extinction. Now, the fraud the chemical companies and the EPA, USDA and FDA which are all ruled by them have perpetrated has been blown apart by the World Health Organization, and I urge you to enact legislation to clean up the EPA, the USDA and the FDA, get industry officials out of positions of power in those agencies, and to ban glyphosate once and for all, so that it cannot continue its war against the ecosystems and the American public.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization, issued a report on March 20, reviewing five different herbicides and insecticides and their possible carcinogenicity. Experts in Lyon, France met earlier this month to do a comprehensive review of 15 different peer reviewed studies from the past three decades. Of the five, two were classified as “possibly” carcinogenic to humans and three were deemed “probably” the cause of certain types of cancer in humans.
One of the three labeled probably carcinogenic was glyphosate, a main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. For the IARC to label an agent “probably” carcinogenic, there has to be sufficient and convincing evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Agents labeled as “possibly” carcinogenic lack sufficient data to determine if it causes cancer in people.
Glyphosate is an herbicide with the highest worldwide use and can be found in 750 different products. Developed in 1970 by Monsanto to kill weeds that would harm crops, its use has been dramatically increased since the creation of “genetically-modified organism” crops that can resist the chemical. These GMO products, also developed by Monsanto, are labeled “Roundup Ready,” a reference to the brand name under which the company sells the herbicide. It is primarily used on GMO soybean and corn crops.
The chemical has also been detected in the blood and urine of workers, which indicates absorption after exposure. Glyphosate metabolizes into a different chemical structure in soil, and that same chemical structure has also been detected in blood after poisoning, suggesting that there is additional metabolizing in humans. Studies have also shown evidence of chromosomal damage in vitro, and the people in communities where there has been spraying.
Immediately after the report, Monsanto issued a statement saying their scientific data did not support the IARC’s conclusion. They point out that the United States Environmental Protection Agency has deemed glyphosate safe and allowed for an increase in the amount used. While their rapid and aggressive response is not surprising, it shows real fear. While farmers have stated that they need the herbicide to save crops, if it is deemed an occupational hazard, it could prompt further regulatory oversight. Farmers might also seek alternatives, affecting the company’s bottom line. Furthermore, activists have pushed for the labeling of GMO foods to include known health risks. IARC’s report gives additional support for these efforts.
Monsanto is demanding a meeting with WHO and IARC officials, as well as a retraction of the report. IARC officials have yet to respond, but did issue a statement with the report outlining their evaluation process. They noted that their report provides “scientific evaluations based on a comprehensive review of the scientific literature.” The independent body says it is the responsibility of individual governments to “recommend regulations, legislation, or public health intervention.”
Patrick Moore, a lobbyist for Monsanto (which Monsanto now tries to deny), was recently asked in an interview on French television if he thought that glyphosate was safe for humans. He boldly stated that it was safe to drink, but refused to do so when offered a glass of “Roundup.”
In still other news on glyphosate, a study published in mBio shows that bacteria exposed to glyphosate based and other herbicides can become antibiotic resistant. Finally, glyphosate kills beneficial gut bacteria, and wipes out delicate beneficial microflora that helps protect us from disease. Harmful pathogens like Clostridium botulinum, Salmonella, and E. coli are able to survive glyphosate in the gut, but the “good bacteria” in your digestive tract, such as protective microorganisms, bacillus and lactobacillus, are killed off. Monsanto knows this because it originally registered its patent for glyphosate’s use as an anti-microbial agent.
With the advent of Roundup Ready GMO crops, now farmers do not have to spray just the weeds to kill them. They spray their entire farms with the poison, which means that consumers are consuming higher levels of the stuff. This has increased Monsanto’s profits, and tightened its hold on the goal of controlling the world’s food supply. The chemical lobby of the big industrial chemical companies control the EPA, so it was easy to get them to lift their restrictions of the levels we are allowed to tolerate from 200 parts per million to 6,000 parts per million in 2013. It is time for them to stop allowing us to be fed cancer causing chemicals and telling us that they are safe.