GM Free Cymru

Increased cancer risk associated with Roundup and other GM herbicides

Thanks to the spread of herbicide-resistant GM crops, herbicide use has been increasing rapidly across the world, a factor environmental and consumer groups find particularly concerning. Many of these concerns are concentrated on health effects. More than 2 billion lbs of herbicide / pesticide were used globally in 2007, with one quarter of that total - 531 million lbs - used in the United States in that timeframe, according to a report issued in February by the EPA. And of the more than two dozen top herbicides on the market, glyphosate dominates all with more than 750 U.S. products containing the chemical. Many of these products are variations on the Roundup theme, marketed by Monsanto. The top users of these chemicals are farmers. In 2007 alone, for instance, as much as 185 million lbs of glyphosate was used by U.S. farmers, double the amount used only six years earlier. The next most popular herbicide - atrazine - has less than half the amount of usage of glyphosate, according to EPA data -- and it appears that around 40% of the total chemicals used as pesticides in the USA are glyphosate based. In the "home and garden" sector in the USA, the most commonly used pesticides are 2,4-D (up to 11 million lbs per annum) and glyphosate (up to 8 million lbs per annum).

The new paper cited below (Alavanja et al, 2013) is a broad summary of an extensive literature, and it examines the incidence and causes of many types of cancer. It confirms that glyphosate / Roundup and other herbicides used with GM crops are responsible for increased cancer risk both among farm workers responsible for periodic and ongoing applications of these chemicals, but also in the general population exposed to "incidental" or "accidental" exposure. Monsanto and the other GM multinationals would probably say: "Collateral damage, in pursuit of the greater good....."

One interesting thing to come out of this study is that glyphosate seems to have had much less toxicology research done on it than many of the other chemicals -- presumably because Monsanto has successfully argued that it is safe or benign? And even more interesting is the point that glyphosate is being looked at here, and not Roundup. As Gilles-Eric Seralini and others have pointed out, Roundup is a much more complex chemical cocktail than glyphosate alone, and is associated with much greater cell damage. It is a reasonable assumption that it is also responsible for an increase in cancers in the general population, maybe at a much faster rate than glyphosate alone.

Why has Roundup / glyphosate not been banned in the EU? That's a very good question........

Increased Cancer Burden Among Pesticide Applicators and Others Due to Pesticide Exposure

Michael C. R. Alavanja, Dr PH; Matthew K. Ross, PhD; Matthew R. Bonner, PhD, MPH CA Cancer J Clin 2013 Jan 15. doi: 10.3322/caac.21170. 23 pp.

ABSTRACT A growing number of well-designed epidemiological and molecular studies provide substantial evidence that the pesticides used in agricultural, commercial, and home and garden applications are associated with excess cancer risk. This risk is associated both with those applying the pesticide and, under some conditions, those who are simply bystanders to the application. In this article, the epidemiological, molecular biology, and toxicological evidence emerging from recent literature assessing the link between specific pesticides and several cancers including prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, and breast cancer are integrated. Although the review is not exhaustive in its scope or depth, the literature does strongly suggest that the public health problem is real. If we are to avoid the introduction of harmful chemicals into the environment in the future, the integrated efforts of molecular biology, pesticide toxicology, and epidemiology are needed to help identify the human carcinogens and thereby improve our understanding of human carcinogenicity and reduce cancer risk.


".......An incomplete understanding of human carcinogenicity, however, seems to have resulted in allowing some human carcinogens on to the worldwide market, resulting in excess cancer risk to those who are highly exposed and those who are particularly vulnerable".

".......In the United States, a nationwide use reduction policy has met with resistance politically because of disagreements about the net benefit to health and debate concerning the disproportionate economic impact of these policies on selected groups (eg, farmers, food processors, and pesticide manufacturers) and on food prices."

"......the available scientific evidence does strongly suggest that pesticides do cause cancer in both those who use the pesticides directly and those who are exposed because of applications others make. The problem may well be more extreme in developing counties where regulatory controls are weaker or nonexistent."

".........Controlling exposures is the key to limiting cancer risk."

".......... health care providers should emphasize the importance of minimizing personal exposures to all pesticides to control cancer risk".