Glyphosate and the EU 2015 - 2016

Published in Poisons Beware

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and many other herbicides, was discussed in the EU Parliament on December 1st 2015.

Glyphosate herbicide at work. Photo Vivian Grisogono Glyphosate herbicide at work. Photo Vivian Grisogono

The timing of the meeting was interesting. It clashed with the global summit starting in Paris on Monday November 30th, which captured the media headlines and deflected interest from the glyphosate debate. Yet dealing with glyphosate properly is a matter of immediate urgency in the public interest.

Glyphosate-based herbicides are used around the world in gardens, parks, roadways and commercial agriculture. Common versions used in Croatia are Cidokor and Ouragan. The EU Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety - happily better known by its abbreviation ENVI - will take part in an Exchange of Views (EoV) about glyphosate with the EU Commission, the WHO (World Health Organisation) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The subject of discussion was whether or not glyphosate had been shown to be a potential cause of cancer in humans. WHO IARC issued a report on March 20th 2015 stating that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans”, while EFSA's report, published on November 12th 2015, concluded the opposite, asserting that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential according to Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008”. 

Much was at stake. The discussion was aimed at helping the Commission when it came to making its decision on “whether or not to keep glyphosate on the EU list of approved active substances”. Glyphosate is big business. Originally patented by American agrochemical giant Monsanto and first marketed in 1974, the patent was allowed to lapse in 2000, when Monsanto had established its Roundup-ready genetically modified seeds and crops in the international market, following their introduction in 1996. Other companies were then able to produce glyphosate-based herbicides, which are sold in unimaginable quantities worldwide. After publishing articles about the herbicide on its website, our registered charity Eco Hvar received apparently serious offers of partnerships from glyphosate suppliers as far apart as Uganda and China.

Following the publication of the WHO report, many countries imposed restrictions on the sale of glyphosate products to the public. Bermuda went further and suspended all imports of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides.

Is glyphosate proven safe?

No, despite Monsanto's continued assurances. How can a poison be considered safe? It can't be tested on humans, that would provoke outrage. The hundreds of animals which have been force-fed glyphosate in laboratories are no proof of what happens when glyphosate is mixed up for application in the environment. Glyphosate received approval from the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mainly on the basis of research studies which were sponsored by the producers. Most were never published in peer-reviewed journals. The few published articles submitted in support dealt mainly with protocols for dealing with the hapless animals subjected to the poison to see how much would do them harm. Glyphosate was reregistered by the EPA in 1993. Supporting documentation for the approval included some 228 unpublished papers submitted by Monsanto.

Is glyphosate linked to cancers?

 Yes, this showed up in some of the animal testing, and was confirmed in the WHO report.

Why is research linking glyphosate to cancer risks not respected?

The results are respected by those who are guided by true scientific principles. But credible science has been undermined by the profit motive. There have been cover-ups. There is determined lobbying. All those who have vested interests in selling glyphosate products have mountedvirulent campaigns to neutralize any reports suggesting glyphosate is not safe. The most notorious case involved a study by Gilles-Eric Séralini and his team showing several adverse effects of Roundup and genetically modified maize on rats, including tumour formation. Published in 2012, the research paper was retracted by the journal's editor in 2013. The authors stood by their results, and scientists rallied behind the authors. The paper was re-published in 2014.

Is glyphosate generally safe apart from the possible risk of cancers?

No. Glyphosate has been shown to have very many health risks, as well as causing damage to the environment. Glyphosate works by inhibiting the shikimic acid pathway in plants. It was claimed that this pathway did not exist in humans. However, it has been shown that it does exist in the human gut, which is vital to good health. Disturbance of the gut mechanisms is linked to a whole raft of problems and diseases.

Pro-glyphosate reports? barely credible

A review carried out by EU rapporteur state Germany and submitted to the European Food Safety Authority in January 2014 concluded that glyphosate posed no major risks to human health. This raised strong public protest, and there was an even stronger reaction against EFSA's report in November 2015, which was largely based on the 2014 EU report, and obviously produced to counter the WHO IARC's measured stance. The strength of the public disapproval is not surprising, given the wealth of evidence that glyphosate is hazardous.

The Exchange of Views

The EU's Environmental Committee consists of some 139 members, including two from Croatia: Marijana Petir of the Christian Democrats group, and Davor Škrlec of the Greens/European Free Alliance group. Fingers crossed that the committee members don't ever fall for the blandishments or bullying tactics of the pro-glyphosate lobby. Most people, when pressed, define good health as their biggest priority, way ahead of wealth. The health of millions will continue to be in jeopardy if glyphosate's approval for use in the European Union is extended.

The next step

In March 2016, the environmental Committee produced a draft Motion for a non-binding Resolution, in advance of a vote due to take place in an EU Plenary Session on 13th April 2016. When it came to the vote, there were last-minute amendments to the Resolution which significantly altered the nature of the Resolution's proposals. The amended Motion for Resolution was carried by 374 votes to 225, with 102 abstentions. The most controversial alteration was the call to the Commission to renew Glyphosate's approval for a further seven years. Although this was less than the Commission's recommendation of the maximum fifteen years, it caused great disappointment among leading Environment Committee members who felt that this was not in the interests of public health, given the proven risks of Glyphosate use. 

After the vote, Croatian MEP Biljana Borzan, who voted in favour of the Motion for Resolution, expressed the view that the European Commission would probably not dare to ignore the message from the Parliamentarians, even though the Motion was non-binding. However, shortly afterwards the news began to circulate that the Commission was intending to ignore several of the Parliamentary proposals, and to seek a ten-year extension for Glyphosate approval.

With the European Parliament powerless and the Commission all-powerful, serious flaws in the EU's democratic processes became clear during the year following the IARC report. The health of millions of people was left at risk. 

© Vivian Grisogono 2015, updated May 2016 

Media

You are here: Home poisons be aware Glyphosate and the EU 2015 - 2016

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Drop in emissions was a blip, say scientists, and a green recovery is vital to halt global heating

    The draconian coronavirus lockdowns across the world have led to sharp drops in carbon emissions, but this will have “negligible” impact on the climate crisis, with global heating cut by just 0.01C by 2030, a study has found.

    But the analysis also shows that putting the huge sums of post-Covid-19 government funding into a green recovery and shunning fossil fuels will give the world a good chance of keeping the rise in global temperatures below 1.5C. The scientists said we are now at a “make or break” moment in keeping under the limit – as compared with pre-industrial levels – agreed by the world’s governments to avoid the worst effects of global heating.

    Continue reading...

  • District councils want to protect beauty spots during coming warm and sunny weekend

    District councils in England are urging people going to parks and green spaces to dispose of their rubbish safely and responsibly, ahead of an expected surge in visits during this weekend’s mini-heatwave.

    The District Councils’ Network – which represents 187 district councils in England, which are responsible for maintaining parks and beauty spots – is calling on the public to use bins but to take their rubbish home if they are full. It is also asking dog walkers to make sure they clean up their pets’ mess.

    Continue reading...

  • Linkenholt, Hampshire, North Wessex Downs:The Sgt Pepper military yellow of St John’s wort rocks against the stiff purple mohicans of knapweed

    I am in the garden, gently nodding along to the strains of Joy Division – specifically She’s Lost Control, being played for the fourth time that morning by my 18-year-old son. It is not until the synth snare veers off that I realise I’ve been bopping along to the stridulating chirps of an indie punk grasshopper. It is time to go out.

    Between Sheepless Hill and Combe Wood, there is an insect mosh pit down in the chalk scrub. These areas of low scrub on the high chalk are quite distinct from the open down and woodland edge, and are more often mown out of existence. On this south-facing slope, taller wildflowers mingle with bramble and dewberry briars, the latter’s fruits ripening independently in blue, black, purple and red. The sparse, clouded drupes may look like inferior blackberries, but their taste is more reliably sweet. The scrub ends in a frothy, petticoat surf of fragrant hedge bedstraw at the fence. Inside, it’s a riot: a collision of colour clash and buzzy feedback, swaying in the hot breeze.

    Continue reading...

  • Researchers say moderate reductions in CO2 emissions could halve their likelihood

    Extreme droughts are likely to become much more frequent across central Europe, and if global greenhouse gas emissions rise strongly they could happen seven times more often, new research has shown.

    The area of crops likely to be affected by drought is also set to increase, and under sharply rising CO2 levels would nearly double in central Europe in the second half of this century, to more than 40m hectares (154,440 sq miles) of farmland.

    Continue reading...

  • Fibreglass fuelled a boating boom. But now dumped and ageing craft are breaking up, releasing toxins and microplastics across the world

    Where do old boats go to die? The cynical answer is they are put on eBay for a few pennies in the hope they become some other ignorant dreamer’s problem.

    As a marine biologist, I am increasingly aware that the casual disposal of boats made out of fibreglass is harming our coastal marine life. The problem of end-of-life boat management and disposal has gone global, and some island nations are even worried about their already overstretched landfill.

    Continue reading...

  • Overheated polemics won’t solve this emergency – and the apocalypse is a needlessly high bar for action

    Protesters march in the streets in an “extinction rebellion” against the climate crisis, with some (but not all) of their leaders claiming that climate tipping points could kill billions in the coming decades. Others dismiss the importance or reality of the crisis, while new books loudly proclaim “apocalypse never” and “false alarm”.

    The popular discourse around the climate emergency all too often highlights fringe voices that predict the end of the world or suggest that there is little to worry about. But as the climatologist Steven Schneider presciently remarked a decade ago, when it comes to the climate “the end of the world” and “good for us” are probably the two least likely outcomes.

    Continue reading...

  • A vast fishing armada off Ecuador’s biodiverse Pacific islands has stirred alarm over ‘indiscriminate’ fishing practices

    Jonathan Green had been tracking a whale shark named Hope across the eastern Pacific for 280 days when the satellite transmissions from a GPS tag on her dorsal fin abruptly stopped.

    It was not unusual for the GPS signal to go silent, even for weeks at a time, said Green, a scientist who has been studying the world’s largest fish for three decades in the unique marine ecosystem around the Galápagos Islands.

    Continue reading...

  • Family of reestablished colony legally sanctioned to remain in east Devon habitat

    The first beavers to live wild in England for centuries are to be allowed to remain in their new home on the River Otter in east Devon after a five-year reintroduction trial.

    The government gave permission on Thursday for the reestablished colony to remain in the area, the first wild breeding of beavers in 400 years and the first legally sanctioned reintroduction of an extinct native mammal to England.

    Continue reading...

  • Rats and bats that host pandemic pathogens like Covid-19 increase in damaged ecosystems, analysis shows

    The human destruction of natural ecosystems increases the numbers of rats, bats and other animals that harbour diseases that can lead to pandemics such as Covid-19, a comprehensive analysis has found.

    The research assessed nearly 7,000 animal communities on six continents and found that the conversion of wild places into farmland or settlements often wipes out larger species. It found that the damage benefits smaller, more adaptable creatures that also carry the most pathogens that can pass to humans.

    Continue reading...

  • Langstone, Hampshire: Garden tigers and hummingbird hawkmoths are spectacular, but there are gems among the smaller species too

    There are significantly more species of day-flying moths in the UK than there are butterflies – over twice as many large “macro moths”, plus a number of smaller, harder to identify “micro” species – but they are often overlooked in favour of their more familiar cousins.

    It’s impossible to ignore the hummingbird hawkmoth darting back and forward between my buddleia bushes in the company of another summer visitor, a silver Y. As it hovers with an audible hum, supping nectar through its inch-long curved proboscis, I can see why this spectacular migrant is easily mistaken for its namesake. Though unrelated, both creatures have evolved similar traits – a perfect example of convergent evolution.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds

Feed not found.