PESTICIDE NEWS The Journal of Pesticide Action Network UK
An international perspective on the health and environmental effects of pesticides
Is this the end of the road for glyphosate? On Thursday, 9th November, EU Member States vote on whether to re-authorise the most widely used weedkiller in the world. How did we get here?
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: • Ensuring high standards of environmental protection after Brexit • Alternatives to Highly Hazardous Pesticides • An update on Mals - the first organic town • A ranking of big cotton retailers in 2017 • Is cotton conquering its chemical addiction? A new report
TAKE ACTION - PROTECT OUR ENVIRONMENT When the UK leaves the European Union, we are due to lose a number of key environmental principles which underpin EU law. These principles have helped protect the UKâ€™s natural heritage for decades. The good news is that some MPs are taking action to prevent this from happening and have tabled amendments to
get environmental protections added into the EU Withdrawal Bill. But they canâ€™t do it alone and urgently need support from their fellow MPs and concerned citizens like you. MPs will start debating the Bill on 14th November. Please write to your MP today to ask them to support the inclusion of environmental protections. Click below.
ALTERNATIVES TO HIGHLY HAZARDOUS PESTICIDES Newly published guide PAN UK has published an new booklet 'A short guide: Alternatives to highly hazardous pesticides' as a contribution to the Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHP) approach promoted by the UN agencies since 2006. It explains how phasing out HHPs and replacing them with safer and sustainable alternatives is possible, technically and economically, and how governments and supply chain actors can help put alternatives into practice. Case studies describe alternative methods for managing pests, crop diseases or weeds in coffee, cotton, horticulture and cereal production in tropical and temperate regions. Find the guide on our website here. 2
ROUNDING UP THE FACTS The story of glyphosate in Europe (so far…) By William Hargreaves: Science and Technology Policy Master’s Graduate, former PAN UK Intern, and Freelance Science Writer and Reporter.
As the dawn once again approaches for glyphosate renewal following its 18-month temporary license extension in June 2016, it’s time to look back and ask the question: how did it get to this point? How did the world’s most commonly applied pesticide become the subject of a furious debate between groups of scientists and politicians?
cotton, and sorghum crops (wheat is still under development). Crops produced from RoundUp Ready seeds are sterile, resulting in the need for farmers to continuously re-purchase the most recent strain of seed from Monsanto. The efficiency of the herbicide active ingredient is why glyphosate is found virtually everywhere in the food-chain. A 2016 study showing that 99.6% of a cross-section of 2,009 Germans had traces of glyphosate residues in their urine.1
A brief history of glyphosate and Monstanto
Glyphosate was first discovered to have herbicidal properties in 1970 by Monsanto chemist, John E. Franz. It was later patented by Monsanto in 1974, and was marketed under the trade-name RoundUp. Glyphosate is a ‘broad-spectrum’ herbicide active ingredient which is primarily deployed to treat annual broad-leaf weeds and unwanted grasses.
The carcinogenicity debate
In March 2015, the cancer-research arm of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), published the 112th edition of its monograph series, in which they conclude the carcinogenicity status of several chemical substances in each volume based on the available peer-reviewed literature and their expert opinions. This report preceded the official opinion on glyphosate by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – the primary agency of the EU for risk assessments regarding food safety – in November 2015.
For decades, glyphosate has been widely regarded as a “safe” herbicide. Coupled with its effectiveness against a wide variety of broad-leaf weeds and at a very low expense to the farmer, it has risen to the very top in terms of application volume of any pesticide worldwide. In 1996, the first batch of “RoundUp Ready” soy-bean crop seeds – varieties genetically modified to be tolerant to glyphosate – were distributed to farmers in the US following approval by the US regulatory body, the EPA. This led to the development of glyphosate tolerant varieties of corn, rapeseed, alfalfa,
The EFSA opinion was based on the risk assessment provided by the [German] Federal Institute of Risk Assessment (BfR) as acting Rapporteur Member State for glyphosate in the final addendum to the Renewal Assessment Report (RAR), also published in March 2015 (BfR 2015). 3
The story of glyphosate in Europe (continued...) Evidence of carcinogenicity is broken up into three categories: epidemiological (human evidence), animal carcinogenicity studies (e.g. rats), and mechanistic evidence (e.g. in-vitro tests).
been significantly undermined. Industry lobbying groups such as the European Crop Protection Agency (ECPA) have consistently pointed to the use of Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) as a means of defending the use of these studies in the review. However, compliance with GLP does not guarantee validity and relevance of the study design, statistical rigour and attention to sources of bias.2,3
Epidemiological Evidence The sub-type of cancer which is most strongly associated with exposure to glyphosate is non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), which is a rare form of cancer. All of the available human studies were ardently dismissed by the BfR as ‘not reliable’, on the grounds that the positive findings were due to chance and methodological flaws. This is largely contrary to what is actually described in the publications. IARC carried out a careful and thorough evaluation of the epidemiological data, considering the strengths and weaknesses of each study.
"Several statistically significant results of carcinogenicity had been ‘ignored’ by the risk assessment agencies"
Animal Carcinogenicity Evidence The respective sub-conclusions for this category are vastly different between the two institutions. The studies included in the IARC review found a significant positive trend for tumours in both mice and rats, which is enough to satisfy their criteria of ‘sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in animals’. IARC reviews only studies from publicly available peer-reviewed literature.
Seven of those industry-sponsored studies revealed eleven significantly increased incidences for six different tumour types across both mice and rats, including three studies which revealed significant incidences of malignant lymphoma in mice. The BfR pointed to several reasons why these results are ‘false-positives’. In mid2016, the details of these studies were released by EFSA.
The BfR dossiers to EFSA, and later to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), included publicly unavailable industrysponsored studies, with significant information about these studies undisclosed. The inclusion of these studies by the BfR, which fed the entire EU glyphosate risk assessment process, has been vehemently criticised by NGOs, scholars, MEPs, and the wider general public alike, asserting that the scientific integrity of the bodies and the robustness of the risk assessment process had
Peter Clausing of PAN Germany critiques the aforementioned reasons given by the BfR in brilliant detail4, whilst Dr. Christopher Portier, a leading environmental and carcinogenicity specialist, wrote a letter to EU Commission President Juncker, imploring him to reconsider the findings by EFSA and ECHA on the grounds that several statistically significant results of carcinogenicity including malignant lymphoma had been ‘ignored’ by the risk assessment agencies. 4
The story of glyphosate in Europe (continued...) Moreover, the BfR have been accused of ‘plagiarising’ Monsanto of their own glyphosate risk assessment. At the very least, we know that they did not write their own initial assessment but simply commented on the summaries of the animal carcinogenicity studies provided by the GTF. This is confirmed in the RAR which fed EFSA’s conclusion in November 2015.5
cells. Oxidative stress can lead to many physiological conditions including gene mutations and cancers, as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.6
Crucially, the regulation that governs the EU risk assessment process stipulates that only the active ingredient itself is reviewed and subsequently regulated. The fact that Mechanistic Evidence IARC had found strong evidence of two For IARC, the mechanistic evidence does cancer-inducing mechanisms associated not contribute to the overall conclusion with glyphosate formulations and AMPA of a substance’s carcinogenicity. However, on mammalian cells poses a big question monograph 112 specifically states that there about the real-life dangers of glyphosateis strong evidence of glyphosate inducing based formulations such as RoundUp. A oxidative stress and genotoxicity, both farmer exposed to chemical formulations known cancer-inducing mechanisms. The such as RoundUp is exposed to a mixture BfR accepts that the mechanistic data that of chemicals which can interact with each is reviewed by IARC does strongly infer that other and form other substances which glyphosate, glyphosate formulations, and can be more dangerous than the separate the main metabolite of glyphosate: AMPA, known constituents. This is known as the does induce oxidative stress in mammalian ‘cocktail effect’.
The story of glyphosate in Europe (continued...) Environmental effects
process. The Commission adopted a temporary extension to allow for ECHA to conduct its assessment with the aim of achieving a greater consensus. Despite ECHA agreeing with the opinions of BfR/ EFSA and attributing no carcinogenic hazard to glyphosate and strengthening the position of the EU risk assessors, the recent voting results reveals that the temporary license approval has had quite the opposite effect to what the Commission had hoped for.
Sub-lethal exposure to glyphosate found at normal agricultural levels affects a bee’s cognitive capabilities, affecting their navigation, with potential longterm negative consequences for colony foraging success.7 Glyphosate is also damaging to aquatic life, owing to its high water solubility. As well as direct effects on aquatic life such as fish, amphibians, and crustaceans; it has the potential to indirectly ‘tip the ecological balance’ by altering the composition of aquatic communities i.e. microorganisms, plankton, algae, which underpin the entire aquatic food chain (ibid.). Contrary to the voice of the ECPA, glyphosate also has a soil erosion effect, which one study in a French vineyard confirmed by reporting the release of highly toxic DDT residues - which had previously been stored in vineyard soil - as a result of glyphosate application.8
On the 25th October 2017, there was an informal vote on a 10-year glyphosate renewal proposal at the phytopharmaceuticals (PAFF) meeting. According to two officials that were briefed on the talks at the meeting, two states – including Germany - abstained from the vote, with a further ten states including France, Italy and Belgium all voting against the proposal. The number of states voting against a proposal had risen from one to ten during the 18-month extension period, which indicates a huge political shift.
The decision to renew pesticide approval in the European Union is cast by a vote by delegates representing the 28 Member States, known formally as the Council of the EU [not to be confused with the EU Council, of course]. According to the rules, a blocking minority can be achieved by the opposition of thirteen of the member states, or by a group of countries representing at least 35% of the bloc’s population, if it includes a minimum of four member states.
The key states that failed to support the proposal were France, Belgium, Italy, Germany. President Emmanuel Macron recently pledged that France will look to innovation to reduce pesticide use, and also spoke out against the EU regulation process, citing ‘hidden interests’ as playing a role in the conclusions made by the risk assessment bodies. Support for glyphosate renewal is a key battleground policy in Germany, and one which has left Chancellor Angela Merkel in a seemingly impossible position, explaining why Germany has consistently abstained in European votes up to now.
In June 2016, the European Commission called for a vote on a 15-year renewal proposal of glyphosate. France voted against the proposal, with a further seven states, including Germany, abstaining. This was enough to achieve the necessary blocking minority to halt the renewal 6
The story of glyphosate in Europe (continued...)
to bring the issue of pesticides to the forefront of political debate, and could well precipitate real agricultural change in Europe in years to come.
The Commission have explored seven, five and three-year approvals to be drafted for an official vote on the 9th November, the last possible opportunity to achieve a consensus.
Sources suggest that Italy would support a five-year extension in order for the region to ‘adjust’ to a future without glyphosate. This position is in line with MEPs who recently called on the Commission to adopt a resolution which would see the total phaseout of glyphosate by 2020. This resolution has been well supported by the ‘Stop Glyphosate’ European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) petition, which many of you may have supported and which currently stands at 1.3 million signatures. It is not known if France and Belgium will support this notion, but is certainly in line with the French commitment in 2008 to cut pesticide use by 50% by 2020.
https://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/ news/overwhelming-majority-of-germans-contaminated-byglyphosate/ 1
Myers, J., vom Saal, F., Taylor, J., Akingbemi, B., Arizono, K., Belcher, S., Colborn, T. and Chahoud, I. (2009). Good Laboratory Practices: Myers et al. Respond. Environmental Health Perspectives, [online] 117(11), pp.A483-A484. Available at: https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2801173/ [Accessed 9 Oct. 2017]. 2
Buonsante, V., Muilerman, H., Santos, T., Robinson, C. and Tweedale, A. (2014). Risk assessments insensitive toxicity testing may cause it to fail. Environmental Research, [online] 135, pp.139-147. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/ article/pii/S0013935114002473 [Accessed 9 Oct. 2017]. 3
PAN Germany (2017). The Carcinogenic Hazard of Glyphosate: BfR's "Weight of Evidence Approach". [online] Hamburg: PAN Germany. Available at: http://www.pan-germany. org/download/The_Carcinogenic_Hazard_of_Glyphosate.pdf [Accessed 11 Oct. 2017]. 4
BfR (2015) Final Addendum to the Renewal Assessment Report. Berlin: BfR. Available via: http://registerofquestions.efsa. europa.eu/roqFrontend/outputLoader?output=ON-4302 5
A temporary renewal proposal with detailed clauses for either a partial or total glyphosate phase-out would allow farmers the time to adapt to non-chemical farming methods, such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Government subsidies could support farmers financially through the process as well as investing in the development of less-intensive farming methods. The glyphosate debate has done much
Mandal, A. (2017). What is Oxidative Stress? [News Article] News Medical. Available at: https://www.news-medical.net/ health/What-is-Oxidative-Stress.aspx [Accessed 11 Oct. 2017]. 6
PAN International (2016). The Glyphosate Monograph. [online] Penang: PAN Asia Pacific. Available at: http://issuu.com/pan-uk/ docs/glyphosate_monograph_complete?e=28041656/43997864 [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017]. 7
Sabatier, P., Poulenard, J., Fanget, B., Reyss, J., Develle, A., Wilhelm, B., Ployon, E., Pignol, C., Naffrechoux, E., Dorioz, J., Montuelle, B. and Arnaud, F. (2014). Long-term relationships among pesticide applications, mobility, and soil erosion in a vineyard watershed. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, [online] 111(44), pp.15647-15652. http://www.pnas.org/ content/111/44/15647.abstract [Accessed 13 Oct. 2017]. 8
UPDATE: MALS, AN ORGANIC ITALIAN TOWN In Pesticide News Issue 108, we were introduced to the residents of Mals by Philip Ackerman-Leist. He inspired us with the story of how the people in this Italian town fought to rid their community of pesticides.
Direct democracy is, however, only as good as the grassroots education and organisation that precedes it. As citizens of Mals concerned about the influx of fruit orchards and their heavy use of pesticides began to coalesce, they formed an
In March 2016, following a referendum in which 75% of the population voted for their town to go “pesticide-free”, Mals Town Council passed new regulations to dramatically restrict the use of synthetic pesticides in the municipality and promote organic agriculture. In this second instalment he returns to share the practical steps the townsfolk took to move towards an organic environment and an update on the current situation in which the people of Mals find themselves... Although the people of Mals probably didn’t realise the fortitude of the young mayor whom they elected just prior to the unfolding of the pesticide drift crisis in Mals, they did have a sense of Mayor Ulrich Veith’s core principle that “The people are sovereign”. Ulrich was an advocate of “direct democracy,” and as a result, one of Ulrich’s first initiatives, albeit a quiet one, was to encourage the municipal council to make referendums binding. In other words, any referendum passed by citizens of the town had to be taken up by the council. That move would prove to be critical in the unfolding of the Mals success story. 8
“Advocacy Committee” to coordinate not just activities but also messaging.
spokesperson who is a pharmacist— someone who deals with the maxim, “The dose makes the poison” on a daily basis— also proved advantageous. continued...
They wisely chose the town pharmacist, Dr. Johannes Unterpertinger, to be the committee’s spokesperson. Not only is Johannes a rooted and respected elder in the community, but he is also an articulate scientist skilled in rhetoric. Having a
Below - this farming family in Mals had to place their crops inside greenhouses to protect them from pesticides sprayed by neighbouring apple growers. Credit: Douglas Gayeton
UPDATE: MALS (continued...) But it was Johannes’ determination to ensure that decisions were based on solid science and the precautionary principle that ultimately made his leadership so important. Prior to the referendum vote in 2014, the Advocacy Committee and other supporting organizations sponsored nearly two-dozen public forums that featured experts, civil discourse, and a focus on achieving a common vision for the town’s future. In reflecting back on their success, Johannes sums up the tactics that he and his fellow townspeople employed to garner the support of ¾ of the voters for the referendum: 1. Always provide factual and objective information, particularly about the health risks posed by pesticides. 2. Invite the world’s best experts on the environment, medicine, and toxicology to give public lectures. 3. Engage the best lawyers. 4. Win over the local farmers to your cause. 5. Present a project that is focused on health, politics, social issues, ethics, and ecology.
Some of them have also filed defamation lawsuits against Austrian-born filmmaker and author Alexander Schiebel, who has documented the Mals story from his home in Mals and worked with the Umweltinstitut München (“Munich Environmental Institute”) to build awareness of pesticide use in the South Tirol. Perhaps most insidious of all, however, was the spraying of glyphosate on Ägidius Wellenzohn’s organic orchard just prior to his apple harvest this past September. Featured on the cover of PAN-UK’s June 2017 Pesticide News, Ägidius shifted from conventional fruit growing to organic methods three decades ago, and he doesn’t use any outside inputs—not even organically approved substances such as copper or sulfur. The perpetrator(s) not only ruined his 2017 harvest, but Ägidius must also forego his organic certification for the next three years. Find out more here. Nonetheless, Ägidius and his fellow Malsers know what it takes to be organic pioneers, in the orchard and in the political arena: perennial persistence.
Philip Ackerman-Leist, is a professor at Green Mountain College. He and his wife, Erin, farmed in the South Tyrol region of the Alps before beginning their 19-year homesteading and farming venture in Pawlet, Vermont.
What are the people of Mals facing now?
Achieving a pesticide-free future is more a complex act of constant vigilance and ongoing strategising than it is a simple ballot initiative. Regional lobbyists and bureaucrats continue to try and undermine the legality of the referendum and the ensuing ordinances in Mals, while simultaneously working to dismantle direct democracy and local control efforts elsewhere in the region, lest other communities follow suit.
His new book 'A Precautionary Tale: The story of how one small town banned pesticides, preserved its food heritage and inspired a movement' is due to be published on 13th November 2017. Find it on Amazon in the UK here. 10
COTTON RANKING 2017 Leading brands improve performance to set targets to source 100% sustainable cotton by 2020. but many still fall short An annual report by PAN UK, Solidaridad and WWF, assessing the performance of 75 of the world's largest cotton retailers has found that only 21% (one fifth) of sustainably grown cotton is actively sourced by companies. Leading the way are international retailers IKEA, C&A, H&M, M&S and Tchibo GmbH, but overall, big brand progress on cotton sustainability is insufficient. PAN UK is calling on all companies using large volumes of cotton
“Uptake of more sustainable cotton is our best chance of protecting worker health and the environment from pesticide pollution”, said Keith Tyrell, Executive Director, PAN UK. “Despite overall policy progress, it’s disappointing that none of the companies have adopted policies to completely eliminate highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) in the cultivation of the cotton they use.” Full report on our website.
PESTICIDES AND FOOD: is low dose exposure harmful? Join PAN UK at the Royal Society of Medicine in London on Monday, 20th November 2017
FULL DETAILS 11
A new report by PAN UK investigates the current rate of pesticide use in cotton and examines its trends and patterns of use. The debate on pesticide use in cotton in recent years has been severely distorted by the use of figures that are out of date and inaccurate. We took a detailed look at six countries and regions who between them account for around four-fifths of the worldâ€™s cotton production: Africa, Australia, Brazil, China, India and the United States. Findings suggest that while insecticide use declined in some areas in the early part of the century following the introduction of GM cotton varieties, it is on the rise again
as farmers struggle to control secondary pests like aphids and whitefly. The report also finds that pesticide poisoning remains a serious problem in smallholder cotton farming. Progress is not uniform: some countries have achieved and sustained significant reductions in pesticide use, while others have seen use rise. It is worthwhile noting that those countries who have been most successful at cutting pesticide use â€“ and in keeping it low â€“ have been those who have embraced Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Find the full report on our website.
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