Deceit and collusion drive campaigns to ban a vital, popular, safe, affordable herbicide
Do we really need more collusion, corruption and deceit in the service of renegade regulators, organic food interests, anti-chemical activists, and policies that carry harmful or even lethal consequences?
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is one of the most widely used herbicides on Earth. Numerous farmers use it in conjunction with Roundup-Ready seeds, to grow crops that thrive in fields sprayed to eliminate weeds – while also being insect-resistant and drought-tolerant, thanks to other traits built into their DNA. Such crops significantly reduce the need to spray pesticides and irrigate fields.
They also permit no-till farming, which eliminates mechanical weeding, thereby greatly reducing erosion and enabling soils to retain their stores of carbon, carbon dioxide and other nutrients.
Glyphosate is also better, safer and less expensive than “organic” alternatives. On a volume basis, it is much less toxic than salt or vinegar, which are often combined for homemade weed killers. Farmers also have to use far more salt-vinegar concoctions and apply them more often than they would glyphosate, and even then the S-V mix is not nearly as effective. Industrial-strength organic herbicides also exist.
However, when ultra-green Sonoma County, California tried one of these “natural alternatives” to glyphosate, the “organic” product cost 17 times more than Monsanto’s oft-vilified chemical to cover the same acreage. Moreover, sprayers had to use hazmat suits and respirators when applying the natural chemical mix, because it irritated eyes and nasal passages. Glyphosate/ Roundup requires no protective gear. The “organic” mixture is also toxic to bees and other beneficial insects; Roundup is not.
These hard realities force many organic farms to rely on mechanized or hand weeding. But tractors crush closely planted crops, and even full-sized hoes don’t offer enough control to avoid damaging sensitive plants. That means poorly paid migrant farm workers must bend over all day, using short-handled hoes. So California banned the little hoes, and then banned “unnecessary hand weeding” since it also causes serious to permanent back problems – but exempted organic farms from the ban.
With people having safely eaten trillions of servings containing one or more GMO ingredients, and hundreds of scientific organizations having determined that genetically modified foods are perfectly safe, radical anti-technology groups like Greenpeace have increasingly focused on glyphosate as their substitute villain. They’ve also enlisted a number of regulatory agencies, by helping to get anti-chemical activists in their ranks and launching high-pressure campaigns to secure desired agency decisions.
Among them is the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a World Health Organization (WHO) bureau headquartered in France. IARC simply reviews existing research and classifies chemicals as definitely, probably, possibly or not likely to cause cancer in humans at extremely high doses. It does not conduct its own studies or determine which exposure levels do not actually pose cancer risks.
Considering that coffee, alcohol, salted fish, and many nutritious fruits and vegetables are carcinogenic in high doses, this is not a very useful approach. In fact, since 1965, IARC has reviewed over 900 chemicals and concluded that only one is “probably not carcinogenic to humans.”
All too often, IARC uses its classifications to justify chemical bans, without considering other factors. As a 2016 Toxicology and Pharmacology journal paper by ten US and EU toxicology and cancer experts demonstrates, this methodology is outmoded, unworkable and likely to reach erroneous conclusions. Even worse, IARC is now controlled by anti-chemical activists who have multiple conflicts of interest and often collude with other activists in regulatory agencies and extreme environmentalist groups.
What is really needed, these experts emphasize, is “risk assessment,” which requires evaluating human exposure to a chemical in terms of its avenue (topical, inhalation or ingestion) and the duration, frequency and magnitude of exposure, to assess maximum safe doses. Evaluations must also determine whether substances that cause cancer in animals also do so in humans. For instance, statins and many other pharmaceuticals are carcinogenic for animals, but safe for humans. Only after all this is done can proper risk management and mitigation measures be developed. However, IARC does none of this.
The IARC hazard-identification method can lead to crazy results. For instance, it puts processed meat in the same “definitely carcinogenic” category as poisonous mustard gas. The paper’s authors ask: Should we treat processed meats the same way we do mustard gas: reduce exposure to zero? Or should we treat mustard gas the way we handle red or processed meat: as part of a healthy lifestyle, in moderation?
Addressing these and other considerations, the European Food Safety Authority recently concluded that glyphosate “is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.” IARC labeled glyphosate “a probable human carcinogen” and vigorously lobbied Brussels officials for a ban, threatening its approval in the EU.
This unprecedented political activism raises serious questions about collusion, dishonesty and lack of transparency at the IARC, US Environmental Protection Agency and NIH’s National Institutes of Environmental Health, which is led by anti-chemical activist Linda Birnbaum. University of Illinois emeritus professor Bruce Chassy, risk evaluation blogger David Zaruk, the US House of Representatives Oversight Committee, the Reuters News Agency and others have documented all of this, and more:
IARC cherry-picked both the studies it relied on, and data from within those studies, to support conclusions sought by activists like former NIEH staffer Chris Portier. He drove the IARC review process, influenced who would be on its evaluation panels, and campaigned across Europe for a ban – while receiving paychecks from the anti-pesticide pressure group Environmental Defense Fund. IARC hid those connections and failed to disclose similar conflicts of interest by other review panel members.
Now IARC is refusing to release data and documents used in reaching its conclusions and advising panelists not to disclose materials requested under FOIA. It claims IARC is the “sole owner” of all such materials, even though they were developed using US and EU tax money, and peer review by independent outside experts is essential for ensuring honest, accurate, scientific decisions that serve the public interest.
Meanwhile, IARC insists that its practices are “widely respected for their scientific rigor, standardized and transparent process and freedom from conflicts of interest.” You cannot make this stuff up.
Meanwhile, EPA has again delayed its final decision on glyphosate safety, removed a supportive memo from its website, and given contradictory and deceptive testimony on the issue to Congress. House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, demanding explanations and corrections.
One question involves the relationship between EPA and Chris Portier’s brother Ken, who was recently added to EPA’s Scientific Advisory Panel on glyphosate. The two served on multiple NIEH and EPA panels and meetings, without disclosing their relationship, even when Ken reviewed Chris’s work.
The National Institutes of Health has given tens of millions of dollars to IARC. And yet, when the House Oversight Committee questioned its officials about glyphosate decisions and ties to EPA, NIH agreed to appear only if any hearing was off limits to the press and public. What are the agencies trying to hide?
Worst of all, this war on GMO food and glyphosate has lethal consequences. As former UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has noted, Vitamin A Deficiency causes 500,000 children to go blind and half of them to die every year. VAD also causes nutritionally acquired immune deficiency syndrome, which results in another two million children dying annually from diseases they would otherwise survive. Nutrient-fortified “Golden Rice” could prevent VAD – but Greenpeace and other radicals oppose its use.
That means their 15-years-long war on Golden Rice alone has killed 30 million children. Tens of millions more have died because the same extremist groups oppose DDT, other pesticides and fossil fuels. They are more worried about far-fetched risks from glyphosate and GMO foods than about this death toll. That is outrageous. This eco-manslaughter, this crime against humanity, can no longer be tolerated.
We need to use Roundup on the corruption, collusion, cronyism and callous disregard for human lives.