GM Free Cymru

Roundup and Roundup Ready GM crops do threaten public health

There can no longer be any doubts about this. The dossier of papers demonstrating real harm (to farm animals and humans) arising from the use of Roundup with or without RR crops gets thicker and thicker. Some of the papers referred to below are quite old -- so this is not a "new" problem -- Monsanto and the regulators have known about it for years. Among the most dramatic negative health effects are those associated with damage to the reproductive organs -- both male and female. When you consider that there are questions about the safety of soy (whether GM or not) and when you consider that millions of tonnes of GM soy are now entering the food chain, we have a nightmare scenario, since it is now certain that Roundup residues are present on all parts of the GM soy plant after harvesting. That's what the surfactants and adjuvants are there for -- and they are very dangerous in themselves. Seralini and his colleagues have shown that Roundup formulations are more dangerous than glyphosate on its own.

GM Free Cymru has complained many times to the Commission that it is ethically indefensible for the EU to import GM soy from the USA, Argentina and Paraguay (for example) in the full knowledge that the cultivation of those soy crops in a system of industrial monoculture is extremely harmful to the workers involved, to nearby residents and to the environment. The research by Prof Carrasco and his team leaves us in no doubt about that.

The EU turns a blind eye to what is happening in the areas where GM soy is cultivated, and that is a disgrace. The relevant EU Directives state that the indirect effects of GM cultivation must be taken into account when GM crops are being evaluated. Such effects are indeed evaluated for crops being proposed for cultivation in the EU -- but for crops being considered for marketing or commercialization, there is no such assessment, apart from (sometimes) a consideration of what might happen on verges etc if some of the GM seed being imported was to spill from a transport vehicle. So people who die in Argentina as a consequence of GM soy production are apparently of no concern in the EU. That is an indirect consequence that the regulators choose to ignore.

Is that position legal? We doubt it. Even if it is, it is utterly unethical, and we in GM-Free Cymru will keep pressing on this issue.


Some examples:

A recent mouse study by the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the Universidad de Valparaiso in Chile linked very low levels of a common lawn and garden weed killer (must be Roundup!) to lowered fertility. Testing an herbicide mixture in the drinking water of gestating mice, researchers led by toxicologist Warren Porter reported a 20 percent increase in failed pregnancies. In addition, the largest reductions in live pups born occurred in mice receiving a dose seven times lower than the maximum allowable level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water (Partners Update, Pesticide Action Network North America, Fall 2002).


• Glyphosate has been described as “extremely persistent” (NCAP 2000:2, referencing US EPA 1993-2), even though it has been promoted as an environmentally friendly herbicide that rapidly breaks down. However, tests show that glyphosate may persist for 3 years (NCAP 2000:2, referencing Torstensson et al. 1989), while its metabolite, AMPA, may persist even longer (Buffin & Jewell 2001). Glyphosate has been shown to cause genetic mutations in human, animal and plant cell tests (NCAP 2000:2, referencing Vigfusson 1980; Kale et al. 1995; Rank et al. 1993).

• Glyphosate has been associated with a number of health and ecological problems (Cox 1993:4)… the surfactants added to glyphosate are acutely toxic to humans and aquatic animals, can cause damage to the digestive system and lungs, and may be the cause of death in exposed humans (Cox 1993:4, referencing Sawada, et al. 1988; and Talbot 1991).

• Glyphosate ingestion has affected the pituitary gland and kidneys, and caused abnormal bone development and decreased birth weights in laboratory animals (Cox 1993:4, referencing US EPA 1986).

• And, though the US EPA classified glyphosate as Group E, Evidence of Noncarcinogenicity in Humans, Monsanto’s own data submitted to EPA in support of this classification showed otherwise, note:

• increase in pancreatic tumors at 2 doses in female rats; • significant increase in liver tumors with increasing dose;

• significant increase in thyroid tumors with increased dose in female rats (Cox 1993:4, referencing Dykstra & Ghali 1991).


Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide Threatens Public Health

(Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2002 -- CropChoice news)

The following information comes from Rachel's Environment and Health News, issue 751, Sept. 5, 2002.

Two new studies indicate that Monsanto's herbicide, Roundup, is a hormone-disruptor and is associated with birth defects in humans.

Farm families that applied pesticides to their crops in Minnesota were studied to see if their elevated exposure to pesticides caused birth defects in their children. The study found that two kinds of pesticides -- fungicides and the herbicide Roundup -- were linked to statistically significant increases in birth defects. Roundup was linked to a 3-fold increase in neurodevelopmental (attention deficit) disorders. [EHP Supplement 3, Vol. 110 (June 2002), pgs. 441-449.]

A recent test tube study reveals that Roundup can severely reduce the ability of mouse cells to produce hormones. Roundup interferes with a fundamental protein called StAR (steroidogenic acute regulatory protein). The StAR protein is key to the production of testosterone in men (thus controlling male characteristics, including sperm production) but also the production of adrenal hormone (essential for brain development), carbohydrate metabolism (leading to loss or gain of weight), and immune system function. The authors point out that "a disruption of the StAR protein may underlie many of the toxic effects of environmental pollutants." [EHP Vol. 108, No. 8 (August 2000), pgs. 769-776.]


Quote: "For late abortions, preconception exposure to glyphosate (OR = 1.7 ; 95% CI, 1.0-2.9) , thiocarbamates (OR = 1.8 ; 95% CI, 1.1-3.0) , and the miscellaneous class of pesticides (OR = 1.5 ; 95% CI, 1.0-2.4) was associated with elevated risks. "

Male Pesticide Exposure and Pregnancy Outcome

David A. Savitz1,2, Tye Arbuckle1,3, Diane Kaczor2 and Kathryn M. Curtis1,2 + Author Affiliations

1Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, NC 2Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, NC 3Bureau of Reproductive and Child Health, Laboratory Centre for Disease Control Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Potential health effects of agricultural pesticide use include reproductive outcomes. For the Ontario Farm Family Health Study, the authors sampled Ontario farms from the 1986 Canadian Census of Agriculture, identified farm couples, and obtained questionnaire data concerning farm activities, reproductive health experience, and chemical applications. Male farm activities in the period from 3 months before conception through the month of conception were evaluated in relation to miscarriage, preterm delivery, and small-for- gestational-age births. Among the 1,898 couples with complete data (64% response), 3,984 eligible pregnancies were identified. Miscarriage was not associated with chemical activities overall but was increased in combination with reported use of thiocarbamates, carbaryl, and unclassified pesticides on the farm. Preterm delivery was also not strongly associated with farm chemical activities overall, except for mixing or applying yard herbicides (odds ratio = 2.1, 95% confidence interval 1.0-4.4). Combinations of activities with a variety of chemicals (atrazine, glyphosate, organophosphates, 4-[2,4-dichlorophenoxy] butyric acid, and insecticides) generated odds ratios of two or greater. No associations were found between farm chemicals and small-for- gestational-age births or altered sex ratio. Based on these data, despite limitations in exposure assessment, the authors encourage continued evaluation of male exposures, particularly in relation to miscarriage and preterm delivery. Am J Epidemiol 1997;146:1025-36.


An Exploratory Analysis of the Effect of Pesticide Exposure on the Risk of Spontaneous Abortion in an Ontario Farm Population

Tye E. Arbuckle, Zhiqiu Lin, and Leslie S. Mery

Environ Health Perspect 109:851-857 (2001) . [Online 14 August 2001]


The toxicity of pesticides on human reproduction is largely unknown-- particularly how mixtures of pesticide products might affect fetal toxicity. The Ontario Farm Family Health Study collected data by questionnaire on the identity and timing of pesticide use on the farm, lifestyle factors, and a complete reproductive history from the farm operator and eligible couples living on the farm. A total of 2,110 women provided information on 3,936 pregnancies, including 395 spontaneous abortions. To explore critical windows of exposure and target sites for toxicity, we examined exposures separately for preconception (3 months before and up to month of conception) and postconception (first trimester) windows and for early (< 12 weeks) and late (12-19 weeks) spontaneous abortions. We observed moderate increases in risk of early abortions for preconception exposures to phenoxy acetic acid herbicides [odds ratio (OR) = 1.5 ; 95% confidence interval (CI) , 1.1-2.1], triazines (OR = 1.4 ; 95% CI, 1.0-2.0) , and any herbicide (OR = 1.4 ; 95% CI, 1.1-1.9) . For late abortions, preconception exposure to glyphosate (OR = 1.7 ; 95% CI, 1.0-2.9) , thiocarbamates (OR = 1.8 ; 95% CI, 1.1-3.0) , and the miscellaneous class of pesticides (OR = 1.5 ; 95% CI, 1.0-2.4) was associated with elevated risks. Postconception exposures were generally associated with late spontaneous abortions. Older maternal age (> 34 years of age) was the strongest risk factor for spontaneous abortions, and we observed several interactions between pesticides in the older age group using Classification and Regression Tree analysis. This study shows that timing of exposure and restricting analyses to more homogeneous endpoints are important in characterizing the reproductive toxicity of pesticides.

Key words: atrazine, carbaryl, developmental toxicity, epidemiologic methods, glyphosate, herbicides, pesticides, phenoxy acetic acid herbicides, spontaneous abortion, thiocarbamates, triazine, windows of vulnerability.