The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, has released a study, recently published on-line in The Lancet Oncology, that places glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, in the second highest category for cancer risk of “probable carcinogen.” As noted by Maria Rodale in her must-read Organic Manifesto (Rodale, Inc. [distributed to the trade by Macmillan], New York, New York, 2010), Monsanto’s Roundup is the most widely used weed killer in America since 91% of all soybeans, 85% of all corn, and 88% of all cotton are grown from Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds. She succinctly sums up the concern: the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosphate, “gets inside plants we eat and can’t wash off.”
In Organic Manifesto, reviewed earlier on this website, Maria Rodale set forth a convincing argument that “We must remove chemicals from the process of growing, harvesting and preserving food.” Pesticides are poisons manufactured to kill insects, rodents, fungi and weeds, but as Rodale notes “Traces of all of these chemicals can be detected in virtually each and every one of us.” Besides the consumption of foods tainted by pesticides which “can’t wash off,” she also explains that 60% of the fresh water in the United States is used for agricultural purposes, and “the chemicals used in agriculture leach through the soil and into waterways and poison our drinking water, accounting for two-thirds of all water pollution.”
Maria Rodale’s conclusion that “chemical pesticides have been linked to cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and reproductive and developmental defects” is now bolstered by the study of the International Agency for Research on Cancer which concluded that glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen.” (In addition, malathion and diazinon were also classified by the study as “probable carcinogens.”)
This study has also prompted Mark Bittman’s recent op-ed in the New York Times (March 25, 2015), Stop Making Us Guinea Pigs. Mr. Bittman makes a strong case that the burden should be upon Monsanto to prove that its Round-up is “safe to use” and that “its time to mandate that the corporation-not the taxpaying public- bear the brunt of determining whether it should still be sold.” According to Mr. Bittman, “There is a sad history of us acting as guinea pigs for the novel chemicals that industry develops.” As noted by Maria Rodale in Organic Manifesto, more than 80,000 new chemical compounds have been introduced since World War II, with many used in agriculture: “There are 3,000 so-called high-production-volume chemicals, meaning that more than 1 million pounds of each are produced or imported in the United States each year,” including 4 billion pounds of organophosphate pesticides used annually in the United States.
Further concerns about health problems caused by Monsanto’s Roundup are raised by Cornucopia’s Farm and Food Policy Analyst, Pamela Coleman, PhD, in her recent article in the organization’s newsletter titled Gut-Wrenching, New Studies Reveal the Insidious Effects of Glyphosate. She cites a recent article in the scientific journal Entropy that “available evidence” suggests that glyphosate “may interfere with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract bacteria” and predispose humans to serious health problems.
Mark Bittman also argues persuasively in his op-ed that it is now time that we “finally start labeling products made with genetically engineered food.” As Rodale has noted above, the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosphate “gets inside plants we eat and can’t wash off.” By labeling genetically engineered food, consumers will have the ability to avoid this “probable carcinogen” by choosing not to purchase such food.
Frank W. Barrie (3/27/15)