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A group of scientists are calling for federal environmental regulators to recall Roundup from store shelves in the United States, indicating that Monsanto’s widely used weed killer and herbicide poses an unreasonable risk to human health in a variety of ways.
On June 14, California Representative Ted Lieu took a group of independent scientists to meet with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and conducted a congressional staff briefing on the harmful side effects of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.
The group urged the EPA to ban Roundup, indicating that it endangers humans, animals and the environment. The scientists indicate that Roundup may increase the risk of cancer, as well as birth defects, autism and other health problems.
The meeting was closed to the public, but reports indicate that the scientists argued that cells trying to form proteins can latch onto glyphosate contained in Roundup instead of the glycine they usually use, creating a damaged protein that causes the cell to malfunction, resulting in health problems.
Monsanto Roundup Health Risks
The meeting comes at a time when the widespread use of glyphosate-based herbicides is under close scrutiny in the U.S. and abroad.
Monsanto faces mounting questions from environmental and health officials as more information becomes available about the potential link between exposure to Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and other cancers.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared that glyphosate is likely a cancer-causing agent, and both the EPA and FDA are currently conducting a safety review of glyphosate.
The EPA review of Roundup risks has come under fire from both sides of the debate over the safety of the weedkiller. A report on the review was due last summer, but is still incomplete. However, in April the EPA accidentally posted what was labeled as a final report on it’s website, indicating that it did not consider glyphosate a carcinogen. The report was quickly taken down, but not before it was widely disseminated.
At the briefing, the group told EPA scientists and congressional staffers that glyphosate could cause a vast array of health problems, that it’s antimicrobial nature and widespread use could be contributing to antibiotic resistance, and that it negatively affects the soil.
Monsanto has aggressively criticized the IARC’s decision and other critics of glyphosate, dismissing the IARC findings as agenda driven and based on “junk science.”
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has also conflicted with the IARC findings, declaring glyphosate to be safe.
Scientists and supporters on both sides of the debate have called the processes of the other unscientific, and the European Commission has delayed the renewal of glyphosate’s license across Europe and glyphosate products may be recalled in Europe if its license is not renewed by June 30.
In addition, the EPA is being pressured from both sides, with Rep. Lamar Smith, Chairman of the U.S. House, Science, Space and Technology Committee, sending a letter to the agency earlier this month questioning the involvement of EPA scientists with the IARC’s decision. The letter questions the IARC’s integrity and calls for interviews with a number of EPA scientists and officials, as well as documents on the agency’s ongoing glyphosate review.
Roundup Lawsuits in the U.S.
Amid the continuing debate within the regulatory community, Monsanto now faces a growing number of Roundup cancer lawsuits in the United States, typically involving individuals diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following heavy exposure to the herbicide as a farm or agricultural worker.
The complaints allege that the manufacturer recklessly promoted Roundup and pushed greater and greater use of the chemical, without disclosing the potential health risks.
A recent U.S. Geological Survey on glyphosate usage nationwide found that an estimated 2.6 billion pounds of the herbicide has been sprayed on America’s agricultural land over the two decades since the mid-1990s, when Monsanto introduced “Roundup Ready” crops that are designed to survive being sprayed with glyphosate, killing the weeds but not the crops.
In all that time, the FDA has never tested for residue or buildup in the food sold to Americans nationwide. In a report published in 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticized the FDA for this deficiency in its pesticide program.
The lawsuits over Roundup allege that plaintiffs may have avoided a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or other cancers if they had been warned about the Roundup risks for farmers, landscapers and others in the agricultural industry, as safety precautions could have been taken or other products could have been used to control the growth of weeds.