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7-Misc: Swedish study shows links between glyphosate and cancer

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TITLE:  New Study Links World's Biggest Selling Pesticides to
SOURCE: Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific
DATE:   June 21, 1999

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New Study Links World's Biggest Selling Pesticides to Cancer
Swedish Study Finds Exposure to Glyphosate and MCPA Increases
Risk for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

A recent study by eminent oncologists Dr. Lennart Hardell and Dr.
Mikael Eriksson of Sweden (1), has revealed clear links between
some of the world's biggest selling herbicides to non-Hodgkin's
lymphoma, a form of cancer. "What these scientists unearthed is
indicative of the long-term chronic effects of pesticides, even
in countries that have the resources. We in the pesticide reform
movement have continually stated that if environmental
degradation and especially human health impacts are to be
minimized, precaution must be the overriding principle. In this
case, where there are serious implications to human health, the
precautionary principle must apply. We have to take precaution
against using these dangerous chemicals," comments Sarojeni V.
Rengam, Executive Director for the Pesticide Action Network, Asia
and the Pacific (PAN-AP).

Lymphoma is a form of cancer that afflicts the lymphatic system.
It can occur at virtually any part of the body but the initial
symptoms are usually seen as swellings around the lymph nodes at
the base of the neck. There are basically two main kinds of
lymphoma, i.e. Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The
increase in NHL in most Western countries during the last few
decades is also rapidly increasing in many other countries.
According to the American Cancer Society, there has been an
alarming 80% increase in incidences of NHL since the early
1970's. In the study published in the 15 March 1999 Journal of
American Cancer Society, the researchers also maintain that
exposure to glyphosate "yielded increased risks for NHL." They
stress that with the rapidly increasing use of glyphosate since
the time the study was carried out, "glyphosate deserves further
epidemiologic studies." Glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup is
the world's most widely used herbicide. It is estimated that for
1998, over a 112,000 tonnes of glyphosate was used worldwide. It
indiscriminately kills off a wide variety of weeds after
application and is primarily used to control annual and perennial
plants. It is used throughout Asia on a wide range of crops
including rice, and under a number of different brand names. For
example, according to AGROW Crop Protection Report 1996,
glyphosate accounted for 48% of the Malaysian market in

There are serious health implications from the use of this
pesticide. There is a long list of reported toxic effects from
glyphosate exposure and this Swedish study provides compelling
evidence of the links between glyphosate and cancer. However, in
an article in the Bangkok Post on June 9th, Sakorn
Tripetchpaisal, the business manager of Monsanto Thailand,
suggested that Roundup is safer than table salt and coffee. "This
is a clear violation of Article 11.1.8 of the FAO International
Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides which
states that industry should not make statements that these
chemicals are 'safe', 'non-poisonous', 'harmless' or 'non
toxic'," says Ms. Rengam (2). "These comments go against the
spirit of the Code and are but careless misrepresentations that
could endanger both farmers and consumers." In some Asian
countries, national standards for glyphosate residue levels have
not even been set and therefore, the monitoring of such chemicals
is virtually non-existent. Malaysia for example, imports the bulk
of its soy beans from the U.S. Malaysia's "Food Regulation of
1985" does not provide for the Minimum Residue Level (MRL) for
glyphosate in soybeans. As the U.S. has raised its MRL from 6
parts per million (ppm) to 20 ppm, this means that Malaysians
could end up consuming alarmingly high levels of glyphosate.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics
from 1997 show that expanded plantings of Roundup Ready soybeans
(i.e. soybeans genetically engineered to be tolerant to the
herbicide) resulted in a 72% increase in the use of glyphosate.
Scientists estimate that plants genetically engineered to be
herbicide resistant will actually triple the amount of herbicides
used. Farmers, knowing that their crop can tolerate or resist
being killed off by the herbicides, will tend to use them more
liberally. "Industry claims that the use of genetic engineering
in agriculture is environmentally sound and will reduce the use
of agrochemicals. But this is clearly not the case. They will
only perpetuate and possibly increase the use of herbicides,
especially glyphosate, as can be seen from the US example,"
concludes Ms. Rengam.

The findings are based on a population-based case-control study
conducted in Sweden between 1987 - 1990. The necessary data was
ascertained by a series of comprehensive questionaires and
follow-up telephone interviews. Dr. Hardell and Dr. Eriksson
found that "exposure to herbicides and fungicides resulted in
significantly increased risks for NHL." The increased risk was
"highest for exposure to 4- chloro-2-methyl phenoxyacetic acid
(MCPA)." MCPA is used primarily on cereal crops and is marketed
by major pesticide companies like Rhone- Poulenc, Zeneca and
Nufarm. It was first registered in Asia in the 1950's and is
widely used in most countries in Asia for weed control in rice.
In Japan alone, it was used on more than 110,000 hectares of rice
fields in 1993 (3).

(1) Lennart Hardell, M.D., PhD. Department of Oncology, Orebro
Medical Centre, Orebro, Sweden and Miikael Eriksson, M.D., PhD,
Department of Oncology, University Hospital, Lund, Sweden, "A
Case-Control Study of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Exposure to
Pesticides, Cancer, March 15, 1999/ Volume 85/ Number 6.

(2) Article 11.1.8 : "Industry should ensure that claims as to
safety, including statements such as 'safe', 'non-poisonous',
'harmless', 'non-toxic' are not made, with or without a
qualifying phrase such as 'when used as directed'.

(3) H. Shibayama, "Experience with Rice Herbicides in Japan" in
Herbicides in Asian Rice : Transitions in Weed Management,
International Rice Research Institute, Philippines, 1996.

For more information, contact:
Jennifer Mourin, Safe Food Campaign Coordinator, or
Thirunavukkarasu Jr., Pesticides Programme Research Officer
Tel:(604) 6570271 / 6560381
Fax:(604) 6577445

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is an international coalition of
citizen's groups and individuals who oppose the misuse and
overuse of pesticides, and support the reliance on safe and
sustainable alternatives. PAN Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) is
the regional office for Asia and the Pacific. PAN AP prescribes
to the following development principles:
a participatory holistic approach; a commitment to gender equity
and genuine partnership; the need to confront social injustice
and global inequities; the value of biodiversity, appropriate
traditional and indigenous knowledge systems; and the recognition
that our earth is one interdependent living system.

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