Monsanto Mayhem

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December 27, 2016 | 24,743 views

Story at-a-glance

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a series of public meetings to review evidence that glyphosate may cause cancer in humans
  • Biotech trade group CropLife America has been weighing in heavily on the EPA’s decision and even succeeded in getting a supposedly “anti-industry” expert removed from the EPA’s advisory panel
  • Washington became the first U.S. state to sue Monsanto over PCB pollution, noting that despite millions of dollars spent by the state for cleanup, the chemicals are still causing harm to protected salmon and orcas
  • Missouri’s largest peach farmer is suing Monsanto for damage caused by dicamba drift; Monsanto sold dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean seeds to farmers before the herbicide designed to go with them had gotten federal approval, which led to some farmers spraying older, drift-prone and illegal formulations of dicamba

By Dr. Mercola

In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is the research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), determined glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, to be a "probable carcinogen" (Class 2A).

This determination was based on evidence showing the popular weed killer can cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and lung cancer in humans, along with "convincing evidence" it can also cause cancer in animals.

Monsanto has maintained that the classification as a carcinogen is wrong and continues to tout glyphosate (and Roundup) as one of the safest pesticides on the planet. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), meanwhile, has yet to take an official position regarding the virtually unchecked use of this poison on U.S. soil.

The EPA postponed — at the behest of the industry — a series of public meetings it intended to hold earlier this year to discuss glyphosate research, particularly that linking it to cancer. In December 2016, those meetings finally took place.

Will the EPA Side With Industry or Move to Protect Americans' Health?

More than 250,000 public comments were filed with the EPA prior to the glyphosate meetings, at which another 10-plus hours of in-person public commentary is expected from scientists, activists and industry giants.

"The exercise is academic by design, but powerful economic forces are hard at work hoping to influence the outcome," The Hill reported, adding:1

"An official regulatory nod to cancer concerns could be devastating to Monsanto's bottom line, not to mention its planned $66 billion merger with Bayer AG, as well as to other agrichemical companies that sell glyphosate products.

Monsanto is also facing more than three dozen lawsuits over glyphosate cancer concerns and needs EPA backing to defend against the court actions."

Already, in September 2016, the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs released its glyphosate issue paper to evaluate the chemical's carcinogenic potential,2 in which it proposed glyphosate was not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

Many experts disagree, however, and have suggested glyphosate is not only a probable cause of cancer in humans but also a "likely cause."

In a review published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, a team of scientists thoroughly reviewed the research behind the IARC's ruling, noting an association between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was found based on available human evidence.3

Associations between the chemical and rare kidney tumors, genotoxicity and oxidative stress and even DNA damage in the blood of exposed humans were also revealed.

EPA Removed 'Anti-Industry' Scientist From Panel at Industry's Request

After the public commentary period and meetings end, a scientific advisory panel will get to work offering the EPA its best sound scientific advice on whether glyphosate poses a risk of cancer to humans. At least, that's how it's supposed to work.

But industry is working hard to ensure that any science not on their side is overlooked by their friends in high places. Biotech trade group CropLife America is one group worth watching. They've launched a "full-fledged assault" against the team of IARC scientists who determined glyphosate's carcinogenic status.

Not only is CropLife trying to get IARC's U.S. funding cut, but it's demanding the EPA reject IARC's classification of glyphosate and allow for its continued virtually unchecked use in the U.S. First they tried to convince the EPA to forgo the scientific meetings over glyphosate entirely.

When that didn't work (although they did succeed in getting the EPA to postpone the meetings for several months), they sent the EPA criteria to use in selecting their expert panel.

After the EPA panel was in place, they told the EPA to remove epidemiologist Peter Infante, doctor of public health, saying he was biased against the industry. The EPA complied, even though Infante denied the allegations, but gave no explanation as to why the expert consultant was removed.4

This, coupled with an earlier snafu in which the EPA posted, then promptly removed, a favorable glyphosate safety assessment, has left environmental and consumer groups doubtful that the EPA will uphold its mission to protect public health. Patty Lovera, assistant director of the advocacy group Food & Water Watch, told The Hill:5

"Their track record is awful … We don't want to throw in the towel entirely. We want to try to hold them to their mission. But there is clearly evidence of industry influence. They aren't doing anything to inspire confidence that they're taking a serious look at this."

Does Glyphosate Contribute to Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS)?

MIT scientist Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D. and colleagues have published a new study detailing the mechanism by which glyphosate may contribute to the fatal neurodegenerative disease ALS. A significantly increased risk of ALS has been noted in glyphosate-exposed workers.

The disease involves several protein mutations in glycine-rich regions, and the researchers suggested glyphosate may play a role in ALS by mistakenly substituting for glycine, an amino acid essential for the synthesis of DNA, during protein synthesis as well as by disrupting mineral homeostasis and setting up a state of gut dysbiosis.6 They wrote in the Journal of Bioinformatics and Proteomics Review:7

" … [W]e paint a compelling view of how glyphosate exerts its deleterious effects, including mitochondrial stress and oxidative damage through glycine substitution.

Furthermore, its mineral chelation properties disrupt manganese, copper and zinc balance, and it induces glutamate toxicity in the synapse, which results in a die-back phenomenon in axons of motor neurons supplying the damaged skeletal muscles."

Monsanto Sued Over PCB Pollution

Monsanto's mayhem doesn't start or end with glyphosate, unfortunately. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) were produced from the 1930s through the 1970s.

Their high-burning temperature made them a sought-after chemical for use as fire retardants and insulators, primarily in electronic devices although also in plastics, flooring and other industrial products.

After an estimated 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the U.S. — the majority by Monsanto — it was revealed that they're incredibly toxic and persistent in the environment.

They were finally banned in 1979 after their carcinogenic potential and ability to accumulate in the environment were revealed; however, their toxicity was known to Monsanto long before that, perhaps as early as the 1950s and likely by 1970.8

PCBs have also been linked to infertility and reproductive and endocrine damage along with neurological effects, including damage to learning and memory. They're known neurodevelopmental toxins as well.

Monsanto (and Monsanto-related entities) is now facing at least 700 lawsuits on behalf of people who claim their exposure to PCBs caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma.9

In December 2016, Washington became the first U.S. state to sue Monsanto over PCB pollution. The state is seeking damages on several grounds, including Monsanto's failure to warn about PCBs, and its negligence and trespass for harming the state's natural resources.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson said they expect to win hundreds of millions or billions of dollars from Monsanto, noting that despite millions of dollars spent by the state for cleanup, the chemicals are still causing harm to protected salmon and orcas. As reported by CBS News, Ferguson stated:10

"It is time to hold the sole U.S. manufacturer of PCBs accountable for the significant harm they have caused to our state … Monsanto produced PCBs for decades while hiding what they knew about the toxic chemicals' harm to human health and the environment."

In addition, an increasing number of U.S. cities, including Seattle, Spokane, Washington and San Diego, San Jose, Oakland and Berkeley, California, have filed lawsuits against the company for causing disastrous environmental pollution.

Peach Farmer Sues Monsanto Over Illegal Dicamba Drift

As an increasing number of weeds develop resistance to glyphosate, biotech giants are working on a number of new GE crops that are "stacked" with a number of genetically engineered (GE) traits that, for instance, make the crops resistant to multiple pesticides.

Monsanto's new GE Roundup Ready Xtend soybean, for instance, is not only resistant to Roundup but to the herbicide dicamba, which is prone to drifting, as well.

The U.S. EPA approved Monsanto's new weedkiller, XtendiMax, which goes along with its Roundup Ready Xtend cotton and soybeans — GE plants designed to tolerate both glyphosate and dicamba — in November 2016.

However, Monsanto sold dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean seeds to farmers before the herbicide designed to go with them (which is supposedly less prone to drifting) had gotten federal approval. Earlier this year, when farmers sprayed their new GE crops with older, illegal formulas of dicamba, and it drifted over onto their neighbors' non-dicamba-resistant crops, devastating crop damage was reported in 10 states.11

Bader Farms, Missouri's largest peach grower, is now suing Monsanto, claiming that dicamba drift damaged more than 7,000 of their peach trees in 2015, adding up to $1.5 million in losses, and another 30,000 trees, totaling millions in losses, in 2016.12

Dicamba Drift Leads to Alleged Murder

Tensions are rising as an increasing number of desperate farmers plant Monsanto's dicamba-resistant crops and spray the damaging herbicide illegally without permits. In November 2016, a dispute over dicamba drift turned deadly, when Arkansas soybean and cotton farmer Mike Wallace was allegedly fatally shot by another farmer.

Wallace had complained to the Arkansas Plant Board that his crops were damaged by dicamba, which had drifted over after being sprayed on a farm just over the state border in Missouri. Allan Curtis Jones, who allegedly shot Wallace, worked at the farm where the dicamba was illegally sprayed. Modern Farmer reported:13

"According to a news release by the Mississippi County Sheriff's Office, Jones allegedly told deputies he and his cousin … met up with Wallace to discuss the dispute concerning the alleged spraying of dicamba on the farm where Jones works. When Wallace grabbed Jones by the arm during the argument, Jones pulled out a gun and shot the older man, who was unarmed."

Dicamba damage was also noted in 200,000 acres of soybeans in Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri in the summer of 2016, along with 42,000 acres of peaches, watermelons, alfalfa and other crops in Missouri alone.

"The damaged crops have pitted farmer against farmer and strained relationships in the region, especially in light of the fact that insurance companies won't compensate farmers for losses caused by wrongful or 'off label' herbicide applications due to drift," Modern Farmer reported.14

Meanwhile, dicamba-resistant weeds have already sprouted in Kansas and Nebraska, raising serious doubts that piling more pesticides on crops will help farmers. " … [P]iling on more pesticides will just result in superweeds resistant to more pesticides. We can't fight evolution — it's a losing strategy," Nathan Donley, Ph.D., a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, told EcoWatch.15

To protect not only the people on earth now, but also those that will make up future generations, it's important that the widespread environmental contamination caused by chemicals like dicamba, glyphosate and PCBs is not allowed to happen all over again.

Test Your Personal Glyphosate Levels

If you'd like to know your personal glyphosate levels, you can now find out, while also participating in a worldwide study on environmental glyphosate exposures. The Health Research Institute (HRI) in Iowa developed the glyphosate urine test kit, which will allow you to determine your own exposure to this toxic herbicide.

Ordering this kit automatically allows you to participate in the study and help HRI better understand the extent of glyphosate exposure and contamination. In a few weeks, you will receive your results, along with information on how your results compare with others and what to do to help reduce your exposure. We are providing these kits to you at no profit in order for you to participate in this environmental study.

In the meantime, eating organic as much as possible and investing in a good water filtration system for your home are among the best ways to lower your exposure to glyphosate and other pesticides. In the case of glyphosate, it's also wise to avoid crops like wheat and oats, which may be sprayed with glyphosate for drying purposes prior to harvest.

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1, 4, 5 The Hill December 12, 2016
  • 2 EPA.gov September 12, 2016
  • 3 J Epidemiol Community Health doi:10.1136/jech-2015-207005
  • 6, 7 J Bioinfo Proteomics Rev 2(3): 1- 21.
  • 8 Red, Green and Blue August 23, 2016
  • 9 Reuters October 15, 2015
  • 10 CBS News December 9, 2016
  • 11 EcoWatch August 23, 2016
  • 12, 15 EcoWatch
  • 13, 14 Modern Farmer November 4, 2016