Ten NGOs based in Europe have delivered an Open Letter to the Chinese Embassy in London, pleading with the Chinese people to take direct action to address the global health crisis associated with the increasing concentrations of glyphosate/Roundup in the food supply.
This unusual action, spurred by the recent finding of the WHO Cancer Panel that glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen” for humans, is a response to the very powerful role that China plays in the “glyphosate economy.” The country is the world’s largest producer of glyphosate (some of which is used by Monsanto in its Roundup herbicide formulations). It is also the world’s largest importer of Roundup-ready GMO soy beans, which always contain traces of the herbicide which then find their way into the animal or human food chain. The Chinese government is broadly supportive of GMO crops, but in the population at large there is a high level of awareness relating to the chemical contamination of the food supply, and this has led to the banning of some GMO imports and to court cases on several occasions in recent years.
In their letter, the NGOs refer to this recent statement by the Argentinian Federation of Health Professionals (representing 30,000 members): “Glyphosate not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease.” On the basis of accumulated experience over many years, Argentinian doctors have called for an immediate ban on glyphosate herbicides in their country. Moves to restrict the use of glyphosate are also taking place in other countries where the chemical is used as a pre-harvest dessicant on grain and other crops.
There is also concern among the membership of the ten NGOs that the original consents for glyphosate, for example in the USA and Europe, were based upon faulty — and possibly fraudulent — safety research reports which are, to this day, impossible for independent experts to scrutinize because Monsanto has asked for them all to be treated as trade secrets. The groups have now asked the Chinese authorities to insist that Monsanto gives access to these studies, some of which are more than 35 years old but which contain evidence of malignant tumours among test animals given small quantities of glyphosate in their food supplies.
The signatories to the letter ask the Chinese government to suspend the production and sale of glyphosate and Roundup without delay, and to freeze the imports of RR food products from the United States, Argentina and Brazil. They also ask for urgent safety studies to be carried out, together with a national programme of glyphosate testing (for example, in human urine and breast milk) and an epidemiological study designed to test the impact of glyphosate/Roundup on human health.
Speaking on behalf of the ten groups, Dr Brian John said: “We believe that we are acting here on behalf of the citizens of Europe, who have grave concerns about GMOs and the chemicals that go with them into the food chain. We have been convinced for years of the growing negative impact of glyphosate/Roundup on public health, and there is constant pressure on both sides of the Atlantic for these lethal chemicals to be taken off the market. However, there are many political and commercial obstacles to change; and this is why we are appealing to one of the largest economies in the world to kick-start the process of cleaning up the global food supply system and protecting the health of the people of the planet.”
Speaking for the group “Beyond GM” Pat Thomas added: “We’ve spent far too long pretending that GMOs are somebody else’s problem; that in the EU we are somehow protected or immune from their damaging effects. GMOs are a worldwide problem – a growing and global threat to health, environment and food security and we need those in power to heed years of accumulated and alarming evidence and act responsibly to solve the problem. We cannot rely on America, which has for too long acted as the de facto marketing arm of the biotech industry, to act responsibly. But, as one of largest economies in the world, China has the power to change the game and to act as if the future matters.”
Open Letter to the People of China
Ambassador Liu Xiaoming
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
49 Portland Place , London W1B 1JL
Request for urgent letter to be forwarded to President Xi Jin-ping and Premier Li Ke-qiang
To the Chinese people,
To Xi Jin-ping, President of the People’s Republic of China
To Li Ke-qiang, Premier of the People’s Republic of China
OPEN LETTER: The Impact of Glyphosate/Roundup on global health
We write to you as members of various non-governmental organizations in Europe, to draw your attention to one of the biggest health problems currently facing the planet – namely the ill health epidemic associated with the ongoing (and expanding) use of the chemical glyphosate and its main formulation called Roundup. As you will know, the latter is a proprietary product marketed by the Monsanto Corporation and other companies worldwide, on the pretence that it is harmless to human beings but lethal to plants. In addition to being widely used as a weedkiller, it is also used increasingly with herbicide-tolerant GMO crops and as a dessicant prior to the harvesting of wheat and other crops. In situations where “industrial agriculture” is practised, it is sprayed on a vast scale, affecting not just farm workers but also the inhabitants of neighbouring communities. It is therefore widely found nowadays in the food supplies of many countries, including the People’s Republic of China, and is traceable in animal tissues, human urine and breast milk, and a wide variety of marketed food products. This is well documented in the science literature.
We have been investigating the claims that glyphosate and Roundup are “safe” products, and we respectfully ask you to bear in mind the following recent findings:
1. A working party of the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that glyphosate is now considered to be “a probable human carcinogen”. (1) Their full report – as yet unpublished – will contain the full evidence underpinning the conclusion. The IARC Panel has given glyphosate a 2A categorisation for humans, as well as stating that genotoxic effects in other mammals are “sufficiently demonstrated”. As you may know, a 2A categorisation in the IARC is equivalent to category 1B in the European Union, which means that glyphosate cannot receive a new EU authorisation (the matter is currently under review).
2. Recently the Argentinian Federation of Health Professionals (representing 30,000 members) stated: “Glyphosate not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease.” On the basis of accumulated experience over many years, the doctors have called for an immediate ban on glyphosate herbicides in their country (2).
3. Following various leads into the archives of the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we issued a short report (3) that shows that both Monsanto and the EPA knew of the link between glyphosate and cancer as long ago as 1980, since malignant tumours and other organ damage had been recorded in rat and mouse feeding studies which were, and still are, treated as trade secrets (4). Our revelations confirmed other findings published by Caroline Cox in 1995 and by the Institute of Science in Society in 2014 (5) . The myth relating to the “relative safety” of glyphosate herbicides was promoted by both Monsanto and the EPA in 1981, and has been kept alive ever since by American, EU and other regulators around the world for purely commercial reasons. We are also uncomfortable with the business practice of hiding away important scientific findings by classifying them as trade secrets, thus disallowing public scrutiny of such documents. From a European perspective, in our view EFSA and other EU agencies have also turned a blind eye to the accumulating evidence of harm since 2002.
Arising out of the above, we are genuinely frightened by the harm currently being done to the health of your citizens and indeed the health of people across the planet.
We understand that China already is the largest producer and exporter of glyphosate in the world, including supplies exported to Monsanto for use in the manufacture of Roundup formulations worldwide. Accordingly, we ask that your Government accepts that it shoulders, together with Monsanto, some responsibility for the devastating harm to public health in those countries importing glyphosate/Roundup from China. We are also concerned that there may be massive claims for compensation in the near future.
China is also the largest importer of “Roundup Ready” (RR) soybeans and maize, thus contributing to the ongoing production of these varieties in the USA, Argentina and Brazil. It will be no easy thing to close down factories and to ban the use of the chemical in town and country; and if imports of RR soy and maize are stopped, they will have to be replaced with other products.
But we respectfully ask you to take a global lead in this matter.
First, will you please commission appropriate scientific institutions in China to carry out independent long-term carcinogenicity, teratogenicity, endocrine developmental disruption, and multiple-generation reproduction toxicity tests on glyphosate alone, and on Roundup formulations? These studies should be carried out by institutions with no commercial or academic interest links with the glyphosate and/or related products industries, and with no connections to the earlier safety evaluation of glyphosate and/or related products. We also believe that in China, as elsewhere, there should now be a nationwide programme of testing for glyphosate residues in surface water, underground water, animal and human urine, breast milk and blood. In parallel, we hope that you will see merit in a nationwide epidemiological investigation of the link between glyphosate/Roundup pollution (including traces contained in imported GM soybeans) and the increased incidence of malignant diseases during the past 20 years.
Second, before such studies are commissioned, we ask you as an essential precautionary measure immediately to suspend production/sales and exports of glyphosate, to suspend imports of Roundup formulations, and to suspend imports of all agriculture products (such as RR varieties) containing any glyphosate residues.
Finally, given the past frauds practised by IBT and Craven Labs in carrying out industry tests on pesticides, including glyphosate, we urge
you to challenge Monsanto to place certain key reports (6) immediately into the public domain. If the corporation will not cooperate by releasing these documents without deletions or alterations, we will assume that there has been scientific malpractice and that the WHO findings of a glyphosate/cancer link are well founded. Glyphosate should have been banned globally 35 years ago, and Roundup should never have been placed on the market. After decades of health damage, it must be in the interests of the whole world for these lethal chemicals to be taken immediately out of use before any more harm is done.
While many scientists in Europe and the Unites States share the concerns expressed above, there are many political and commercial obstacles to change. If China could take a lead in the manner which we respectfully suggest, placing the safety and good health of future generations above the commercial aspirations of multinational corporations, that would be something of truly historical importance for our planet.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Dr Brian John, GM-Free Cymru, Wales, UK
Peter Melchett, The Soil Association, UK
Dr John Fagan, Earth Open Source, London, UK
Dr Mae-wan Ho, Institute of Science in Society, London, UK
Michael O’Callaghan, Global Vision Foundation, Geneva, Switzerland
Henry Rowlands, Global GMO Free Coalition, Bulgaria
Claire Robinson, GM Watch, UK
Pat Thomas, Beyond GM, London, UK
Sandra Smith, GM-Free Scotland, UK
Lawrence Woodward, GM Education – Citizens Concerned about GM, UK
1. Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate (2015)
Kathryn Z Guyton, Dana Loomis, Yann Grosse, Fatiha El Ghissassi, Lamia Benbrahim-Tallaa, Neela Guha, Chiara Scoccianti, Heidi Mattock, Kurt Straif, on behalf of the International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group, IARC, Lyon, France
Lancet Oncol 2015. Published Online March 20, 2015 dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S1470-2045(15)70134-8
International Agency for Research on Cancer 16 Volume 112: Some organophosphate insecticides and herbicides: tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon and glyphosate. IARC Working Group. Lyon; 3–10 March 2015. IARC Monogr Eval Carcinog Risk Chem Hum (in press).
2. Argentina: 30,000 doctors and health professionals demand ban on glyphosate
4. It has been further revealed to us by our consultant, that Bio/dynamics used three studies to dilute the data found on kidney tumors, but went even further by fraudulently using five unrelated historical controls to dilute the tumor data found in the testes of male rats. The study clearly showed that glyphosate caused testicular tumors in all three of the test groups. However, the experiment’s own control animals showed zero incidence of tumors in the testes of male rats.
5. Cox C. Glyphosate, Part 1: Toxicology. J Pesticide Reform, 1995, 15, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Eugene, OR.
ISIS Report 26/03/14
Glyphosate and Cancer: New research shows that the low levels of glyphosate found in human urine can promote the growth of human breast cancer cells, confirming the carcinogenic potential of the herbicide known since the 1980s
Dr Mae Wan Ho
6. “A Three-Generation Reproduction Study in Rats with Glyphosate” (Final Report; Bio/dynamics Project No. 77-2063; March 31, 1981) — submitted by Monsanto to EPA
“Addendum to Pathology Report for a Three-Generation Reproduction Study in Rats with Glyphosate. R.D. #374; Special Report MSL-1724; July 6, 1982″ EPA Registration No 524-308, Action Code 401. Accession No 247793. CASWELL#661A” — submitted by Monsanto to EPA
“A Lifetime Feeding Study of Glyphosate (Roundup Technical) in Rats” (Report by GR Lankas and GK Hogan from Bio/dynamics for Monsanto. Project #77-2062, 1981: MRID 00093879) — submitted by Monsanto to EPA. Including the study’s 4-volume Quality Control evaluation of the Bio/dynamic assessment performed by Experimental Pathology Laboratories, Inc. (2,914 pp).
Also Addendum Report #77-2063
Knezevich, AL and Hogan, GK (1983) “A Chronic Feeding study of Glyphosate (Roundup Technical) in Mice”. Project No 77-2061. Bio/dynamics Inc for Monsanto. Accession No #251007-251014 — document not available but cited in EPA 1986 Memo.
Follow-up study: McConnel, R. “A chronic feeding study of glyphosate (Roundup technical) in mice: pathology report on additional kidney sections”. Unpublished project no. 77-2061A, 1985, submitted to EPA by Bio/dynamics, Inc.