Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Comment on critique of Samsel and Seneff glyphosate review

Meanwhile, it is an old and dirty industry trick, once outright denial of a chemical's ill effects has failed, to argue, "Maybe this substance is dangerous at high doses but humans are not exposed to that much so it's fine to keep it on the market".

Between the evidence emerging that a substance is dangerous and its actually being pulled off the market, there is plenty of "horse trading" over expected levels of exposure by industry and regulators. The discussion often stalls over industry claims that humans can't be exposed to dangerous levels.

Fortunately in Europe, the pitfalls of this argument have become obvious to EU member states. Pitfalls include: endocrine disruptors (such as Roundup and glyphosate) can exercise toxic effects at extremely low doses that have never been properly assessed in regulatory tests; we don't know the effects of bioaccumulation or of combination effects with other toxins, which can make so-called "safe levels" not safe at all; what's safe for one individual may not be safe for a vulnerable individual, such as the developing foetus, young or old people, or people with compromised immune systems; and exposures themselves can vary hugely and are largely uncontrollable by the individual.
A new peer-reviewed paper argues that glyphosate-based herbicides are contributing to the modern diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions in recent decades. The paper suggests mechanisms through which this may be happening.

A critique of the study has been published in the Huffington Post by food writer Tamar Haspel.

Ms Haspel says the paper forms conclusions based on "nonexistent" evidence and that it is an example of "bad science".

We are not in the business of defending the Samsel and Seneff paper. We do see over-extrapolations in it. For example, the authors claim, "glyphosate may ... be the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies."

The evidence in the paper doesn't, in our view, justify the claim that glyphosate is "the most important factor" in the development of these illnesses. We're all exposed to numerous pollutants and it's likely that many play a part. Perhaps some do so through similar mechanisms to those laid out in the paper.

So one day, perhaps, a well-informed critique of this paper will appear. However, Ms Haspel's article is not it. In fact, her arguments unwittingly perpetuate and support the worst deceptions of industry polluters.
Thus the EU Parliament and Council wrote a new pesticide law with a "hazard cut-off" clause, which says that any substance shown to be an endocrine disruptor--and there's evidence that Roundup and glyphosate are endocrine disruptors--is automatically banned. Under the letter of the law, no horse trading is allowed.

Unfortunately, the letter of the law is one thing and implementation another. So horse trading over levels of exposure continues and known endocrine disruptors like Roundup remain on the market.

No one who cares about human health and the environment should encourage industry and regulators in this horse trading. Nor should they imply it's the job of independent scientists or the public to prove a substance is dangerous or that we are exposed to dangerous levels. It isn't. As the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) likes to remind us, it is the job of industry to prove its products are safe before they are allowed onto the market.

In the EU we need to constantly remind regulators about the letter of the pesticide law and ensure it's enforced. In the EU and elsewhere, the precautionary principle is part of the regulations of many countries and should be used.

Industry has NOT proved that glyphosate and Roundup are safe according to up to date scientific knowledge.

Comment on critique of Samsel and Seneff glyphosate review

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