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RISK ASSESSMENT & APPROVAL: Greenpeace takes on Monsanto over ’pesticides arms race’



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   GREENPEACE TAKES ON MONSANTO OVER ?PESTICIDES ARMS RACE?

SOURCE:  The Ecologist, UK

AUTHOR:  Tom Levitt

URL:     http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/961236/greenpeace_takes_on_monsanto_over_pesticides_arms_race.html

DATE:    30.06.2011

SUMMARY: "Main ingredient of Monsanto?s Roundup weed killer is being linked to cancer, birth defects and Parkinson?s disease and should be banned, according to campaigners behind new report. The use of the popular weedkiller, ?Roundup?, in public parks and on agricultural crops is a danger to public health, according to a new analysis of scientific evidence."

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GREENPEACE TAKES ON MONSANTO OVER ?PESTICIDES ARMS RACE?

Main ingredient of Monsanto?s Roundup weed killer is being linked to cancer, birth defects and Parkinson?s disease and should be banned, according to campaigners behind new report

The use of the popular weedkiller, ?Roundup?, in public parks and on agricultural crops is a danger to public health, according to a new analysis of scientific evidence.

One of the main ingredients of Roundup, as well as several other herbicides, is a chemical known as glyphosate. A review of academic research, conducted by Greenpeace and the anti-GM campaign group GM Freeze, suggests exposure to it can cause cancer, hormonal imbalance, birth defects and neurological illnesses including Parkinson?s.

The glyphosate within weedkiller can also be damaging to wildlife and rivers, when it spreads through the soil and into watercourses with run-off.

As the Ecologist reported recently, the pesticide industry and regulators have been accused of repeatedly misleading the public with claims that glyphosate is safe.

In reality, academic studies including one commissioned by one of the main manufacturers Monsanto, showed as long ago as the 1980s that glyphosate caused birth defects in laboratory animals.

Despite more recent evidence of the health risks, including reports of escalating levels of birth defects and cancers in areas of South America where glyphosate is heavily sprayed on crops, the EU Commission followed the US and other countries in approving the use of the chemical as a weedkiller.

The approval has allowed Monsanto to claim that ?regulatory authorities and independent experts around the world agree that glyphosate does not cause adverse reproductive effects?or birth defects.?

Resistance is spreading

The new Greenpeace campaign, backed by the report, is targeting Monsanto in particular because of the spread of its GM crops, genetically engineered to be tolerant to glyphospate. This allows farmers to spray the chemical over the top of the crop, killing almost all weeds without affecting the crop.

The campaign-launch comes as US officials began investigating claims Monsanto provided cash incentives to farmers to use its glyphospate products between 2009 and 2010.

As well as the potential human health and environmental impact of the use of glyphosate, it is also presenting a growing weed-resistance threat.

Far from reducing the cost of weed control for farmers, the heavy use of glyphosate herbicides by farmers is seeing a rise in the number of weeds becoming resistant to the chemical.

According to Greenpeace, resistance to glyphosate has now been confirmed in more than 20 weed species, with over 100 resistant strains identified, covering nearly 6 million hectares, primarily in Argentina, Brazil and the US. It fears Monsanto and other chemical companies want to use even more toxic chemicals to combat the resistance, creating a ?pesticide arms race?.

?Whether we like it or not, we all receive exposure to herbicides: sometimes from aerial spraying, sometimes through chemical residues in our food and sometimes because of chemical run off from agricultural land that pollutes nearby fields, seas or rivers,? Greenpeace sustainable farming campaigner Lasse Bruun, said.

?There are no winners in the war against superweeds - but human health, the environment, farmers and you, the consumer, all the losers.?



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   THE HUMAN COST OF THE WAR ON SUPERWEEDS

SOURCE:  GM Freeze, UK

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.gmfreeze.org/news-releases/158/

DATE:    30.06.2011

SUMMARY: "From flower boxes in city gardens to intensive farming on a massive scale, weed killers are used under the assumption that they are safe. Roundup, one of the most common herbicides, is marketed by US agrochemical company Monsanto as ?safe? for the environment and for humans ? deadly for weeds. But are all herbicides really as safe as Monsanto and others are telling us?"

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THE HUMAN COST OF THE WAR ON SUPERWEEDS

New report from GM Freeze and Greenpeace International links herbicides to cancer, birth defects and water pollution

>From flower boxes in city gardens to intensive farming on a massive scale, weed killers are used under the assumption that they are safe. Roundup, one of the most common herbicides, is marketed by US agrochemical company Monsanto as ?safe? for the environment and for humans ? deadly for weeds. But are all herbicides really as safe as Monsanto and others are telling us?

Whether we live in cities or in the countryside, we are all exposed to herbicides: sometimes from aerial spraying, sometimes through chemical residues in our food and sometimes because of chemical run off from agricultural land into nearby fields, seas or rivers. Recent polls indicate that people want to know more about what this means for our health and the environment.

An extensive survey on attitudes to the environment published by the European Commission last week shows that, across the board, Europeans feel they need more information on chemicals and farming. [1]

One of the things people often do not know is that when the European Union (EU) and other regulators declare a product like Roundup as safe, they rely heavily on research provided by the companies who produce herbicides and whose business it is to sell them. However, a new report by GM Freeze and Greenpeace and GM Freeze analysing almost 200 independent and peer-reviewed scientific studies, mostly carried out in the last decade, demonstrates that herbicides like Roundup are far from benign. [2]

One of the main ingredients of Roundup and several other herbicides is a chemical known as glyphosate. Studies associate exposure to glyphosate with cancer, birth defects and neurological illnesses (including Parkinson?s). Alarmingly, lab testing suggests that glyphosate can cause damage to cells, including human embryo cells. Studies also indicate that glyphosate may be a gender-bender chemical that interferes with our hormonal balance.

The environmental impacts of glyphosate are not much better. Evidence shows that the chemical has a damaging impact on our rivers and on the animals that live in them. It disrupts nutrients in soil, exposing plants (that are not weeds) to disease and could end up contaminating drinking water.

Of particular concern is the association of glyphosate with the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) herbicide-tolerant crops, known as Roundup-Ready. These crops, which so far are mostly grown in the Americas, are genetically engineered to tolerate glyphosate so that they can survive massive spraying of Roundup to eliminate weeds. The problem is that weeds are becoming increasingly resistant to glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup.  

Resistance to glyphosate has now been confirmed in over 20 weed species, with over 100 resistant strains identified, covering nearly 6 million hectares, primarily in Argentina, Brazil and the U.S. Controlling these glyphosate-resistant weeds growing amongst GM crops has become a major problem for farmers.

This has prompted manufacturers of glyphosate and GM crops like Monsanto to recommend further increases in the deployment and concentration of herbicides - including the use of chemicals that are even more toxic than glyphosate. This escalation in the pesticides ?arms race? has put an enormous toxic burden on people?s health and the environment, creating a vicious circle that is producing a new breed of superweeds.

The EU can no longer ignore growing scientific evidence on the dangerous effects of glyphosate and must start an immediate and extensive review of its use. Given the problems identified so far, no glyphosate-tolerant GM crops should be authorised in Europe or elsewhere. With a major reform of European farming policy just underway, governments need to recognise that the industrial agriculture system where GM crops and chemicals thrive is profoundly unsustainable. Failure to act will threaten food production, jeopardise human lives and put the environment severely at risk. It is time to round up glyphosate for good and embrace ecological farming.

Notes

[1] See http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_365_pres_en.pdf.

[2] See Herbicide Tolerance and GM Crops - Why the world should be ready to Round Up glyphosate

http://www.gmfreeze.org/publications/briefings/114/