By Elena Day
I was gratified to read the article in the New York Times March 27 about the findings of the World Health Organization regarding Monsanto’s Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world. Roundup was “invented” in 1974 and within the last 15 years its use has skyrocketed with the development of crops that are genetically modified to be resistant to Roundup. In 2012, 280 million pounds of Roundup was used on our foodstuffs, including corn, soybeans, rapeseed (canola), and sugar beets. A couple of weeks ago the World Health Organization in The Lancet Oncology, a respected British medical journal, classified Roundup/glyphosate a “probable carcinogen.” It cited evidence that glyphosate can cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma in humans.
Of course, Monsanto is screaming foul and wants a retraction. The usual corporate shills, including Patrick Moore (“there is no evidence of global warming, nuclear energy is great, and I was a founder of Greenpeace many years ago” ) are out there insisting on the safety of Roundup/glyphosate. A French TV host interviewing Patrick Moore asked him to drink a glass since Moore insisted it was safe and persons attempting suicide regularly fail when they do so by drinking Roundup/glyphosate. Moore refused.
If so certain of its safety one wonders why is it that Monsanto opposes labeling of genetically modified foods resistant to and heavily sprayed with Roundup/glyphosate? How silly to ask. It’s a matter of corporate profits and the heck with human health.
Apparently, it has come to light in recent days that in 1985 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified Roundup/glyphosate as a Class C carcinogen. A Class C carcinogen implies suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential. In 1991, after Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto lawyer, started working for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the EPA reversed the decision. The FDA classified GMO’s as “substantially equivalent” to non-GMO foods and “Generally Recognized as Safe.” This classification exempts them from any pre-market safety testing.
And Monsanto wants to keep it that way. In recent days Kansas House Republican Mike Pompeo has reintroduced what has been dubbed the DARK Act, the “Denying Americans the Right-to-Know” Act. The bill would prevent states from adopting their own Genetically Engineered/ Modified labeling laws as well as prevent the FDA from requiring companies to label GE/GM ingredients. It would continue a failed 14-year “voluntary” labeling policy. No companies have voluntarily labeled GMO’s in 14 years.
Cancer, ugh, scary. I’m all for finding a cure for cancer and I ran for the cure until my knees couldn’t take it any more. I believe in cancer cure research but I also believe in society’s responsibility to identify and limit cancerous pollutants in the environment. Cancers can be decreased if we limited and/or eliminated chemicals like Roundup/glyphosate until/unless there was certitude of their safety.
There is a precautionary principle that prevails in the European Union, but not in the United States. It states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or environment and no scientific consensus exists regarding the policy, the burden of proof falls on the proponents of that activity. Elements of the principle include taking precautions in the face of scientific uncertainty, exploring alternatives to possibly harmful actions and placing the burden of proof on proponents of an activity rather than on victims of the activity. Lastly, democratic processes must be implemented to carry out and enforce the principle, which includes the public right to informed consent.
Pompeo calls his bill “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.” The bill gives the sole authority to the FDA to require mandatory labeling only if GE/GM foods are ever found to be unsafe or materially different from non-GE/GM foods. If Congress passes this bill Monsanto and the other chemical giants will be assured that independent scientific study will never be authorized or funded. State laws enacted to label GE/GM foods will be void.