Pesticides, Profit, Torture

The look of abject terror on the monkey's face is a haunting picture, the stuff of nightmares for anyone with an ounce of empathy for torture victims, whether human or animal. Animals are frontline victims of dangerous chemicals.

Yet the warning pictograms which appear on chemical packaging do not include animals.

A marketing genius thought up the expression 'plant protection products' (PPPs), the bland euphemism camouflaging the realities of poisonous chemical pesticides. It provided cover for further marketing ploys, the oxymoron 'safe pesticides' and its related concept of 'sustainable use of pesticides'. 'Conventional farming' is another misleading term, an attempt to convince us that chemical-based agriculture has always been the norm. All of these blatant misrepresentations are designed to bamboozle the public and local, national and international authorities into supporting the agrochemical industry and its massive profits. Manipulation and corruption are rife.

In November 2019 Croatia's newly appointed Minister of Agriculture Marija Vučković came out against a ban on glyphosate (linked article in Croatian), the active constituent in the world's most widely used pesticides, including Roundup. On 2nd March 2020 in a written reply to a question posed under the Freedom of Information Act, the Ministry's official support was re-affirmed, stating that there was no 'relevant scientific proof' that glyphosate was harmful. This was surprising, as there is plenty of credible scientific evidence that glyphosate can be very dangerous to health and the environment.

The issue of 'scientific proof' is at the heart of the problem underlying pesticide use. In the European Union, as in the United States of America, approvals allowing pesticides to be marketed and used are based almost exclusively on unpublished 'scientific studies' sponsored by the Agrochemical industry. By contrast, independent studies published in peer-reviewed journals are ignored. In the case of glyphosate, this led to the contradiction between the conclusion by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, the World Health Organisation's cancer agency) that glyphosate was 'probably genotoxic and carcinogenic' and the opposite view promoted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The IARC relied on properly reviewed published studies, whereas EFSA and EPA took into account only industry-sponsored studies, which were generally unpublished and sometimes even secret. The approval process in the European Union has been strongly criticized as being deeply flawed.

The monkey sits in terror, clamped at the neck, submitting helplessly to a daily torture of sampling poison over weeks and months until the release of death arrives. The European Union applies the principles of Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) as a means of ensuring that laboratory testing is done 'correctly'. The system is far from foolproof. A report published in 2020 has revealed that the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology (LPT) in Hamburg falsified GLP toxicity studies over a period of some 15 years, for instance by substituting living animals for those which died, and suppressing tumour findings. The Hamburg LPT was carrying out regulatory studies on behalf of the pharmaceutical and chemical industry, so one can conclude that the results were manipulated to suit industry interests. The LPT was responsible for a number of glyphosate studies, some of which were used when the substance was re-authorized by the European Union in 2017.

Chemical pesticides are potentially dangerous during production, distribution and application; the poisons can spread through the air, soil and water; they can be carried further on shoes and clothing; they can persist and accumulate in the environment; they are prevalent in the food we eat which is produced by 'conventional' methods. 'Safe' levels of dangerous substances are defined as amounts which do not pass a certain limit. That limit is the theoretical amount which might cause harm, especially to human health. The amount of any given pesticide allowed in foods is given as the 'maximum residual level' or MRL. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) listed 4612 authorized biocidal products and 854 biocidal active substances as at 7th March 2020. Their list is not exhaustive as it does not include fungicides and herbicides. 200 substances were identified as 'of very high concern' (ie extremely dangerous), and the ECHA openly admitted that the agrochemical industry was guilty of failing to provide adequate information and warnings about the risks to consumers. The Eco Hvar listing of chemical pesticides used in Croatia shows at a glance that the vast majority are potentially extremely damaging to human health, and a good many can be fatal.

Testing to establish so-called safety levels for single substances is totally irrelevant to the reality of pesticide use. In practice, in so-called conventional farming, multiple chemicals are usually applied over a single area. No-one can know what their combined effects might be on the environment, wildlife or human or animal health. Animal testing of pesticides as practised up to now is irrelevant as well as unethical and appallingly cruel. The ECHA states that alternatives to animal testing should be used, with animal testing as a last resort. That isn't happening. Thousands of animals of all kinds have been, and are being tortured and sacrificed in futile attempts to prove the impossible, that pesticides might be 'safe'. No chance.

You can read more details about the laboratory fraud on this link, but BE WARNED! the information is harrowing, especially if you are an animal lover. If you are an EU citizen of voting age you can take action against the pesticide industry and its nefarious practices by signing the European Citizens' Initiative 'Save Bees and Farmers', which is a campaign for a progressive reduction in pesticide use across the region, coupled with restoring biodiversity and providing support for farmers to help them transition from using pesticides to safer practices. If you want to make a difference on a practical level, choose to buy only organic produce. It is the most powerful message you can send to those controlling food production - as well as being best for your health.

© Vivian Grisogono, March 2020

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