Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Time to Ban Monsanto's Roundup Weedkiller—But Will EPA Act?

April 22, 2018  
Organic Consumers Association   by Alexis Baden-Mayer

Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is the most-used agricultural chemical ever. Mounting scientific evidence of its human health impacts indicates that it may also be the most devastating.

TAKE ACTION! Tell the EPA: Ban Monsanto’s carcinogenic glyphosate-based Roundup weedkiller! Please add your own comments, especially if you or your loved-ones have been sickened by exposure to glyphosate.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been conducting its required 15-year re-registration review of glyphosate since 2009. The agency was supposed to reapprove or ban the chemical by the end of 2015. We assumed that glyphosate would get the stamp of approval for another 15 years while President Obama was still in office.

Then, in March 2015, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) panel of cancer experts, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), did its own review of the latest science on glyphosate. The IARC panel of 17 scientists unanimously agreed to reclassify the chemical as a probable human carcinogen.

The IARC cancer finding forced the EPA to take its glyphosate review more seriously. That slowed down the process. Now, the decision is in the hands of the Trump administration’s EPA.

Campaign to ban glyphosate alive and well, despite pro-chemical EPA

Under Trump, the EPA is controlled by the notorious Scott Pruitt who has a cozy relationship with Monsanto, one of his former campaign funders.

We probably have a better chance of getting Pruitt fired than we have of getting him to ban glyphosate.

That said, the campaign to ban Monsanto’s Roundup is winning around the globe. And here in the U.S., despite a pro-chemical EPA, there’s plenty of activity around opposition to glyphosate.

Non-Toxic Neighborhoods campaigners are getting localities to stop using glyphosate on parks and playgrounds.

Testing that revealed glyphosate in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and other so-called “natural” foods has spurred a movementto get these products out of grocery stores—which would mean getting glyphosate out of the U.S. food supply chain.

Even local hardware stores are dropping Roundup and going organic.

Cancer victims take Monsanto to court

Meanwhile, farmers, farm workers, landscapers and gardeners who used Roundup and developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) are suing Monsanto in courts across the country.

Earlier this year, in a federal court in California where 380 of these lawsuits have been combined into a single case, scientists educated the court on glyphosate-cancer science. The judge must review scientific experts’ methodologies for analyzing the scientific evidence to make sure they are valid. Ultimately jurors will decide whether the scientific evidence shows that Roundup causes NHL. The judge will determine which experts may testify at trial after a hearing set for May 10.

According to Carey Gillam, reporting for U.S. Right to Know, and the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the following experts testified for the plaintiffs.

Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Epidemiology Department at UCLA, walked the judge through a series of epidemiology studies conducted over the years that show statistically significant risk factors linking glyphosate to cancer. The literature shows that the risk to individuals considered “routine users” of glyphosate was significant, she testified. When asked if the studies she evaluated show that glyphosate has caused NHL in people, her reply: “Yes, I think they do.”

Dennis Weisenburger, M.D., Chair of the Pathology Department of the City of Hope Medical Center where he specializes in the study of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, described a series of studies that show DNA damage in people exposed to glyphosate, including through aerial spraying. Research shows that both glyphosate and formulations like Roundup cause genetic damage that leads to NHL, he said. In one study, the North American Pooled Project the risk for NHL increased almost twofold for people who used glyphosate more than two days per year.

Alfred Neugut, M.D., Ph.D., a practicing medical oncologist and professor of cancer research, medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University, began his testimony by saying research shows a connection between glyphosate and NHL with great specificity. The consistency in study findings is something that cannot be ignored, he said, as scientists have seen repeated evidence linking glyphosate to NHL. “Every time you look what comes up? Glyphosate and NHL,” said Dr. Neugut.

Charles Jameson, Ph.D., who served as program leader for the National Toxicology Program at NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for 12 years and was a member of the IARC working group that concluded glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, detailed the body of research that led him to conclude that glyphosate and Roundup can cause NHL at real-world exposure levels that farmers, farm workers and others face when spraying the herbicide. The science showing that glyphosate-based herbicides cause oxidative stress is important, as is the known link to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, he explained

Christopher Portier, Ph.D., who over the course of a lengthy career, has held prominent leadership positions with the U.S. government, including, Associate Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences National Toxicology Program, Director of the National Center for Environmental Health, Center for Disease and Prevention, and Director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, was also an “invited specialist” to the IARC review on glyphosate. “To a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, given the human, animal, and mechanistic evidence, glyphosate probably causes NHL, and the probability that glyphosate causes NHL is high,” he said.

Aaron Blair, Ph.D., the Overall Chair of the IARC glyphosate review, explained how he weighed the totality of the epidemiology studies to support his opinion that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.

Matthew Ross, Ph.D., part of the mechanism section of the IARC glyphosate review, explained why the strong evidence that glyphosate is genotoxic and causes oxidative stress are relevant to carcinogenicity in humans.

Chadi Nabhan, M.D., F.A.C.P, a board-certified clinical medical oncologist who, until last year, treated approximately 30 lymphoma patients per week, currently serves as Medical Director of Cardinal Health. In his testimony, Dr. Nabhan discussed the process by which IARC determines whether chemicals and substances are carcinogens. The agency has a high bar in consideration for what chemicals or substances it will review, he said. Exposures must be high and the animal data must be strong. Since 1965, IARC has reviewed over 1000 agents and found around 20 percent to be carcinogens. “In my opinion, the [NHL] risk [of exposure to glyphosate] is clinically significant enough that patients should be aware of it,” said Dr. Nabhan. “The IARC report is very convincing.”

Lawsuits reveal Monsanto-EPA collusion

If these experts are all permitted to testify without restriction, the court’s glyphosate-cancer review will be far more rigorous than the EPA’s. This is especially true given what we know now (from evidence uncovered in the lawsuit) about how the EPA’s review has been corrupted by Monsanto.

It all started when EPA scientists saw that a 1983 mouse study provided evidence that glyphosate was carcinogenic. Monsanto managed to convince EPA political appointees to overrule the scientists and declare that the study proved that glyphosate was not carcinogenic. This Orwellian misstatement of the facts continues to be repeated as a mantra by EPA decision-makers still under Monsanto’s sway.

Congress weighs in, attempts to discredit IARC

In February, the U.S. Congress weighed in on the glyphosate-cancer connection. The House Science Committee held a hearing, “In Defense of Scientific Integrity: Examining the IARC Monograph Programme and Glyphosate Review.” For the Republican leaders of the committee, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Vice Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), the purpose of the hearing was to attempt to discredit WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The strategy backfired, as the hearing only stirred public concern over Roundup’s carcinogenicity and Monsanto’s undue influence over EPA decision makers. Chairman Smith’s witnesses were not credible. In fact, they are among the chemical industry’s most notorious shills:

Dr. Timothy Pastoor was identified as “CEO, Pastoor Science Communications.” Until 2015, he worked for Syngenta as Principal Scientist. At Syngenta, he spent his time menacing independent scientists like Dr. Tyrone Hayes, who he threatened to have lynched and even threatened Dr. Hayes’ wife and daughter with sexual violence.

Dr. Robert Tarone was listed a “(retired) mathematical statistician, U.S. National Cancer Institute and Biostatistics Director, International Epidemiology Institute.” In fact, in his “retirement,” Tarone was paid by Monsanto as a consultant to one of the company’s lawyers.

Dr. Anna Lowit was truthfully presented as a senior science adviser at the EPA. What wasn’t mentioned is that documents uncovered in the lawsuits filed by Roundup-exposed cancer victims put Dr. Lowit at the center of EPA-Monsanto collusion. A 2013 letter from EPA toxicologist Marion Copley to Jess Rowlands, the former deputy director in the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) who is currently the subject of an Office of Inspector General investigation, says Dr. Lowit:

. . . intimidated staff on CARC [Cancer Assessment Review Committee] and changed HIARC [Hazard Identification Assessment Review Committee] and HASPOC [Hazard and Science Policy Committee] final reports to favor industry. ... Just promise me to never let Anna on the CARC committee, her decisions don't make rational sense. If anyone at OPP is taking bribes it is her.

Calling a carcinogen a carcinogen

The testimony provided by Drs. Pastoor, Tarone and Lowit’s was particularly untrustworthy compared with the testimonyof Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson’s only witness, Jennifer Sass, Ph.D., senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council, who said in her testimony:

“This hearing is about the ability of a public health agency to call a carcinogen a carcinogen, even if it makes a huge amount of money for a powerful corporation,” Dr. Sass testified. “Are we willing to sell out the public’s right to know about harmful chemicals in the places we work live, and play, just so that Monsanto Co. can sell more glyphosate?”

The committee’s Democratic members produced a scathing minority report, “Spinning Science & Silencing Scientists: A Case Study in How the Chemical Industry Attempts to Influence Science.” The report outlined the tactics Monsanto has used to suppress scientific evidence that Roundup causes cancer and evade regulation, including secretly ghostwriting scientific journal articles on glyphosate, discrediting critical independent scientists, and discretely paying scientists, journalists and journal editors to do this dirty work.

The most egregious example the report cites is that of A. Wallace (“Wally”) Hayes: Former Editor-in-Chief for Vision and Strategy at Food and Chemical Toxicology. Monsanto paid him $16,000 to retract a study he published by Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini that found that Roundup and genetically modified glyphosate-resistant corn caused tumors in rats—in levels below regulatory limits for food and drinking water. Not only did he do this, he lied about it. According to the report:

Hayes told the New York Times that he had not been under contract with Monsanto at the time of the retraction and was paid by the company only after he left the journal. “Monsanto played no role whatsoever in the decision that was made to retract,” he told the newspaper.

This lie would never have been uncovered if it weren’t for the lawsuits filed on behalf of Roundup-exposed cancer victims that, as the report states, have “revealed hundreds of pages of internal Monsanto e-mails, memorandums, and other records that clearly show Monsanto engaged in a decades-long concerted effort to fend off any evidence suggesting potential adverse human health effects from glyphosate and more recently to undermine IARC’s findings.”

The results of ongoing investigations and court testimony will likely undermine the legitimacy of the EPA’s decision, should it approve glyphosate. As consumers whose food supply is contaminated with glyphosate, we need to keep up the pressure on the EPA, regardless of Pruitt’s ties to Monsanto.

TAKE ACTION! Tell the EPA: Ban Monsanto’s carcinogenic glyphosate-based Roundup weedkiller! Please add your own comments, especially if you or your loved-ones have been sickened by exposure to glyphosate.

Alexis Baden-Mayer is political director for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). Sign up here for news and alerts from OCA.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Glyphosate: Commission responds to European Citizens' Initiative and announces more transparency in scientific assessments

European Commission logo

Strasbourg, 12 December 2017
Glyphosate: Commission responds to European Citizens' Initiative and announces more transparency in scientific assessments
With the Communication adopted today, the Commission replies to the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) "Ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides" and commits to presenting a legislative proposal in 2018, to further increase the transparency and quality of studies used in the scientific assessment of substances.
In responding to the European Citizens' Initiative, the European Commission addresses the concerns of EU citizens and announces measures to make the process to authorise, restrict or ban the use of pesticides more transparent in the future.
Today's Communication sets out the way forward:
  • In replying to the Citizens' Initiative, it provides a detailed explanation of EU rules on pesticides;
  • It announces a legislative proposal for spring 2018 to enhance the transparency, quality and independence of scientific assessments of substances, such as public access to raw data, and;
  • It announces future amendments to the legislation to strengthen the governance of the conduct of relevant studies, which could include for example the involvement of public authorities in the process of deciding which studies need to be conducted for a specific case.
In addition, and following a thorough scientific assessment of all available data on glyphosate concluding that there is no link between glyphosate and cancer in humans, and a positive vote by Member States' representatives on 27 November 2017[1], the Commission today adopted a renewal of the approval of glyphosate for 5 years. While 15 years is the period that the Commission usually proposes for authorisations when all approval criteria are met, glyphosate is no routine case. This issue has been discussed several times by the Commission that has been working during the last months towards a decision which gathers the broadest possible support by Member States, while ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment in line with EU legislation. The Commission's final proposal for a 5 year renewal took also into account the latest non-binding Resolutions adopted by the European Parliament.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "It's great that well over a million EU citizens have invested their time to engage directly on an issue that matters. The Commission has listened and will now act. We need more transparency about how decisions are made in this area. Next spring the Commission will also deliver proposals on drinking water we promised in response to another successful Initiative. In sum, I am a strong supporter of the right of citizens to engage in this manner and am pressing the Parliament and Council to make speedy progress on our proposals to make it easier for European Citizens' Initiatives to be successful in the future."
Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: "From the beginning of my mandate I have been a strong supporter of increased transparency in decision-making as well as in the terms of access to the scientific studies underlying the approval of active substances. I will put forward a proposal to address these issues by spring 2018. However it is equally important that Member States assume their responsibility when it comes to the authorisation of pesticides in their own markets. They must also ensure that pesticides are used sustainably and in full compliance with label requirements. Transparency, independence, and sustainable use of pesticides are our objectives. They should underpin our work and this is where my focus will be".
The Commission's reply to the three requests of the ECI:
1. “Ban glyphosate-based herbicides, exposure to which has been linked to cancer in humans, and has led to ecosystems degradation”:
Member States are responsible for the authorisation, use and/or ban of glyphosate-based products on their territories. In the EU, only substances for which there is objective evidence of safe use are approved. Following a thorough scientific assessment of all available data on glyphosate concluding that there is no link between glyphosate and cancer in humans, and a positive vote by Member States' representatives on 27 November 2017, the Commission today adopted a renewal of the approval of glyphosate for 5 years.President Juncker put this issue on the College agenda on several occasions, to ensure full political ownership by the Commission. Based on these political discussions, and taking account of the position of the European Parliament, the Commission decided to reduce the length of the proposed renewal from the standard 15 years to 5 years, which also ensured the widest possible support from Member States.
2. “Ensure that the scientific evaluation of pesticides for EU regulatory approval is based only on published studies, which are commissioned by competent public authorities instead of the pesticide industry”:
The Commission fully agrees that transparency in scientific assessments and decision-making is vital to ensuring trust in the food safety regulatory system. Maintaining and improving a strong, transparent and independent scientific assessment is crucial. The Commission will put forward a legislative proposal in 2018 covering these and other relevant aspects such as the governance of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA),by spring 2018. The Commission will propose to change the current rules to make sure that scientific studies are publicly available. Citizens must be able to understand how such far-reaching decisions to authorise or ban certain substances are taken. Political responsibility and greater transparency are two sides of the same coin.  
3. “Set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use, with a view to achieving a pesticide-free future”:
EU policy is already directed towards reducing dependency on pesticides and achieving a pesticide-free future as requested by the European Citizens' Initiative. The Commission will strive to ensure that Member States comply with their obligations under the Sustainable Use Directive and reduce dependency on pesticides. Member States have also been invited to establish more precise and measureable targets in their National Action Plans. In addition, in order to monitor trends in risk reduction from pesticide use at EU level, the Commission will establish harmonised risk indicatorson top of the existing national risk indicators. These would enable the Commission to determine the effectiveness of measures when assessing future policy options. The Commission will re-evaluate the situation on the basis of the resulting data and assess the need for EU-wide mandatory targets for pesticides.
Next steps:
-   On the preparation of a legislative proposal: In January 2018, a report will be published on the Fitness Check of General Food Law which will take stock of the legislation in place. A public consultation will also be launched to feed into the preparation of the proposal to be presented by spring 2018.
-   On a more sustainable use of pesticides, the Commission will follow-up with the Member States on the basis of a report published last October.
The procedure for the renewal of the approval of the active substance glyphosate generated a great deal of interest and a broader debate on the authorisation and use of pesticides in the EU. On 27 November 2017, Member States voted in favour of the Commission's proposal for a 5 year renewal of the approval.
On the request of President Juncker, the issue has been discussed several times by the College of Commissioners. The Commission has been working towards a decision which gathers the broadest possible support by Member States, while ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment in line with EU legislation. It followed a comprehensive and transparent scientific process, where more than 6.000 pages of scientific assessment were made public.
While 15 years is the period that the Commission usually proposes for authorisations when all approval criteria are met, glyphosate is no routine case. Other legitimate factors were taken into consideration when setting the appropriate period for renewal, such as the fact that additional information on the substance is being published at a high rate. Moreover, the Commission's final proposal for a 5 year renewal took into account the latest non-binding Resolutions adopted by the European Parliament. The decision formally adopted today, also carefully considered the European Citizens' Initiative "Ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides".
Already at the beginning of his mandate, President Juncker announced that governing by abstention is not an option and proposed changing the so-called comitology rules in order to enhance transparency about the positions taken by Member States and ensure more political accountability in the decision making process for our citizens.
 For more information:
All documents, including the related decisions adopted today by the Commission, will be available here.
Follow us on Twitter: @Food_EU
 [1]Appeal Committee on 27 November 2017, a positive opinion was reached with Member States, 18 of them (65.71% of the EU's population) voting in favour of the renewal, 9 (32.26%) against and 1 (2.02%) abstaining.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

CALL to NULLIFY "Unlawful" EU Glyphosate Renewal

Cross-party Pressure Builds For EU Decision on Glyphosate to be Annulled      December 7, 2017

/Eric Andrieu and Olivier De Schutter
Former UN Special Rapporteur says the EU Commission's Implementing Regulation is unlawful
The Greens/EFA group will try to build a majority in the European Parliament to refer the EU’s decision to renew the licence for glyphosate to the European Court of Justice. The Greens and MEPs from the S&D political group are calling for the decision to be annulled.

The calls follow a new report from Professor Olivier De Schutter, a Belgian international human rights lawyer who now sits on the UN's Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and who formerly served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. In his report, Prof De Schutter outlined the reasons why the EU Commission's Implementing Regulation, which lays out the terms on which glyphosate's approval will be renewed, is unlawful and should be annulled. 

His view is shared by the MEPs Eric Andrieu and Marc Tarabella from the S&D political group. They stated, "The re-authorization of this potentially carcinogenic substance for 500 million European citizens violates the existing European regulations on pesticides and several provisions of EU treaties." 

The MEPs added that Prof De Schutter's report confirms that the EU vote to renew glyphosate for another five years "does not respect the precautionary principle".

Pesticides must not harm human health

In his report, Prof De Schutter stated that the renewal contravenes the EU pesticide regulation, which seeks to ensure that no pesticides shall be authorized unless they have no harmful effects on human health and no unacceptable effects on the environment. He wrote that by renewing the approval of an active substance with harmful effects that are amply demonstrated and acknowledged, the Commission broke the law. 

Prof De Schutter added that the Commission's Implementing Regulation laying down conditions for glyphosate's renewal breaks the EU pesticide regulation's requirement that the approval and marketing of pesticides should enhance the functioning of the internal market.

He explained that the Implementing Regulation leaves it up to EU member states to protect groundwater, applicators, non-professional users, and non-target animals and plants from potential harm caused by glyphosate. Thus, wrote Prof De Schutter, "The Regulation opens the door to the adoption of a variety of national (or even subnational) regulatory regimes that would defeat its harmonisation purpose. Therefore, it appears that the Implementing Regulation breaches [the EU's pesticide regulation] insofar as it does not enhance the good functioning of the internal market."

Attempt to reverse a harmful decision

Philippe Lamberts, co-president of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, said: “We will now try build a majority in the European Parliament to take this to the European Court of Justice and will appeal to the Member States that rightly objected to the Commission’s proposals to join us. We must attempt to reverse what is set to be a deeply harmful decision. It will be clear to anyone that reads Prof De Schutter’s meticulous report that the Commission has been led by business interests. They disregarded not only the European Citizens’ Initiative and the view of the European Parliament, but also serious scientific warnings. Despite the large scale concern, they pressed ahead without even allowing a pause for further investigation. The German government in particular has questions to answer. It seems they are more interested in ensuring the proposed Bayer-Monsanto merger goes ahead than protecting the health of their own citizens."

Prof De Schutter commented: “The Commission has transformed into an institutional crisis what was, initially, a public health issue. It has dismissed the views of the International Agency of Research of Cancer (IARC) of the WHO, according to which glyphosate represents a ‘probable risk of provoking cancer in humans’. It did so despite the fact that the IARC’s findings are far more respected by the scientific community than those of the European agencies — the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) — which have adopted their views based primarily, it now appears, on the documents provided by Monsanto. This is unacceptable. The Court of Justice shall have no choice but to annul the Implementing Regulation, for violation of the requirement to ensure a high level of protection of human health and of the environment, and for violation of the right of citizens to file a ECI — and to contribute thereby to the democratic life of the Union.”


The European Commission is due to adopt the Implementing Regulation on 12 December. There is then a two-month period in which any Member State or the European Parliament can file an action for annulment of the implementing regulation.

For Prof De Schutter's full report, see:

The Greens/EFA in the EU Parliament
Eric Andrieu, S&D MEP:

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Image result for tHE CONVERSATION
A controversial weedkiller has won a new five-year lease in Europe, but citizens are fighting back

Academic rigor, journalistic flair

The controversial pesticide Glyphosate – which is the key ingredient in one of the world’s bestselling weedkillers – has recently had its license renewed by the EU for another five years. This means it will continue to be used by both farmers and homeowners, and will be available for sale across Europe. This is despite ongoing debates about how safe the pesticide actually is.
The decision came just weeks before the current license was due to expire in December and broke a months long impasse between member states who had previously rejected renewals for 15 and ten years.
Despite Brexit, the UK is still affected by the EU’s decision, because it is part of the EU’s agriculture, environment and food safety regimes until March 2019. After that date, a separate process, and a longer license for glyphosate, may beckon.

Why the controversy?

Glyphosate is so controversial because it has previously been linked to cancer. In 2015, The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer stated that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”. But since then, two EU agencies – the European Food Safety Agency and the European Chemicals Agency – have concluded that it is safe.
In the run up to the re-licensing decision, around four million European citizens signed various petitions calling for a ban on the pesticide. Behind the scenes, the organisation WeMove.EU – which describes itself as a citizens’ movement campaigning for a better Europe – has been coordinating much of the effort.

How have they campaigned so far?

Cmpaigners have used a range of strategies – days of action, petitions, protests – but most prominently, earlier this year WeMove.EU launched a European Citizens’ Initiative, which has given the campaign a way into the formal EU decision making process.
The European Citizens’ Initiative is the EU’s flagship (but still not widely known) effort to establish participatory democracy in the EU. It was introduced by the Lisbon treaty and has since become a major instrument in addressing democratic change.
A citizens’ initiative has to be backed by at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least seven out of the 28 member states. These citizens can then call upon the Commission to make a legislative proposal on an issue where it is perceived that EU action is required
Has this ever happened before?
Since the initiative was launched in April 2012, only four campaigns (including Ban Glyphosate) have succeeded in gaining one million signatures out of 47 that have been proposed. A further 21 have been rejected outright on the grounds that they fell outside the treaties. Over zealousness by the Commission in implementing the European Citizens’ Initiative, excessive requirements on organisers, and a lack of follow-up have been blamed for the low legislative impact.
So it’s not hard to see why by 2016 – just four years after coming into operation – the initiative was almost on the point of collapse. But reforms to the regulation which governs the initiative have been proposed, and the Glyphosate campaign – as well as Brexit which has prompted four additional campaigns – has breathed new life into it.

So has the campaign made a difference?

Ban Glyphosate is the fastest growing campaign in the history of the European Citizens’ Initiative. And by the beginning of July 2017, the campaign had met both the thresholds in terms of signature count and countries involved.
WeMove managed this through a combination of their network of partner organisations – including Greenpeace, Corporate Europe Observatory, Campact and over 90 other organisations. They also used a sophisticated online signature collection system, and an active social media strategy formed around the slogan: “We could get toxic Glyphosate banned, but only if we act together”.

In the UK, the campaign also received an early boost when the link was retweeted by the celebrity naturalist Chris Packham. Support from citizens in the UK was considerable and with over 94,000 signatures, it is the only one of the four successful European Citizens’ Initiatives to meet the threshold in the UK.

What’s next?

Despite the re-licensing of glyphosate, the organisers say that banning a single pesticide was only one part of the campaign. It is claimed that highlighting the strength and depth of citizen opposition to widespread pesticide use and to the existing approval system were the ultimate goals. And efforts will no doubt continue in the EU up to Brexit, and well beyond.
That said, the UK was one of the 18 member states that voted to renew the license. And ultimately, in light of this decision, the main aim of the campaign – an outright ban on the sale and use of glyphosate – looks to have so far been unsuccessful.
But despite this, the pesticide remains a source of controversy. Germany’s support for its re-licensing turned out to be the the result of a decision made by the agriculture minister, Christian Schmidt, against the views of other ministers and without consulting Angela Merkel. While in France, Emmanuel Macron vowed to press ahead with a phasing out of the chemical within three years regardless of the re-licensing. And given that the Commission is obliged to give a response to the European Citizens’ Initiative by early next year, it may still be a case of watch this space.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Now It's Criminal - Question of Homicide? EU Faces New Charges

Criminal complaint filed against EU authorities after glyphosate approval

Published: 05 December 2017
Court gavel
Approval was gained via covert industry influence and copy-pasting of manufacturers’ documents instead of independent evaluation, NGOs say
An alliance of environmental NGOs on Monday launched criminal proceedings in Austria, Germany, Italy, and France against the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment, BfR, over the EU approval of glyphosate.

Citing their own investigations, US court documents (the so-called "Monsanto Papers"), and a report on plagiarism, the NGOs state that BfR and EFSA have not conducted an independent, objective and transparent assessment of the health risks of glyphosate, as required by the EU Pesticide Regulation 1107/2009. As a result, glyphosate has once again been approved in Europe, when it would otherwise have failed to meet the legal requirements for authorization. The NGOs are concerned that serious damage to health will occur as a result of what they term official misconduct.

Allegation of plagiarism with deliberate concealment of the author

Substances with carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic properties are not allowed to be authorized for use as pesticides, according to the EU Pesticide Regulation. The NGOs say that BfR did not even evaluate those published studies that deal with these potential effects of glyphosate, but instead uncritically adopted the assessments from the manufacturers’ application for authorization. In the process they deliberately obscured the industry origin of the assessments, as the report of the plagiarism expert, Dr Stefan Weber, notes.

As an example, Dr Helmut Burtscher-Schaden of GLOBAL 2000, who commissioned the plagiarism report from Dr Weber for the Austrian environmental organization GLOBAL 2000, showed a graphic that reveals that 94% of BfR’s chapter on genotoxicity came from the industry dossier written by the former Monsanto employee (and later consultant to the company) Larry Kier. But among the small percentage omitted is the information that would enable someone to identify that the Monsanto man was the source!

Dr Weber said of BfR’s report, “All in all, the writers of the report must be accused of significant scientific misconduct and of fulfilling all the definitional criteria of text plagiarism in the sense of conscious deception about the true authorship.”

The authorities reject these accusations. EFSA director Bernhard Url even said they were part of "an orchestrated campaign to discredit the scientific process behind the EU assessment of glyphosate”, while EFSA’s Jose Tarazona told the EU Parliament that the accusations of plagiarism and copy-paste come from “people that do not understand the process”. He showed examples of passages that had been copy-pasted from industry but then contradicted by the authorities, with their own comments written in italics. 

But Dr Burtscher-Schaden said that Tarazona took these passages from part of the assessment report that did not deal with independent studies and which are not subject to allegations of plagiarism. He therefore believes that Tarazona misled the Parliament.

Given this disagreement between the authorities and the NGOs, Dr Burtscher-Schaden said he wanted to obtain “an independent and objective test” of the NGOs’ case from a court of law.

Lawyer Dr Josef Unterweger commented: "If plagiarism serves to produce false evidence, then that is not just a matter of copyright. If a [pesticide] authorization authority produces an incorrect report, then it is liable for it. This is called official liability or state liability. If a pesticide is in circulation, which may have been out of circulation for years without a false report from the authority, then the authority that produced the false report is liable for any damage that has since occurred."

If such damage included causing serious illnesses like cancer, then it might even be a question of homicide, Dr Unterweger added.

No unbiased examination of scientific facts

GLOBAL 2000 cited recently published US court records, also known as the "Monsanto papers”, as evidence that EFSA and BfR never intended to carry out a proper assessment of the link between glyphosate and cancer. The NGO refers to an email released as part of the Monsanto Papers, in which an EPA employee states that EFSA was minded to reject IARC’s “probable carcinogen” verdict on glyphosate. This email was sent before IARC’s monograph had even been published or EFSA had begun its review of the evidence that IARC drew upon. GLOBAL 2000 believes that this shows that an independent and objective evaluation was ruled out from the start.

Suspicion of (indirect) influence by Monsanto

According to court records released in the US, the contact person for EFSA at the US EPA was Jess Rowland, the same senior EPA toxicologist who was dubbed Monsanto's "mole" at the EPA. He is suspected of having conspired with Monsanto and is alleged to have successfully prevented an independent cancer assessment of glyphosate by another US agency. It also appears that he influenced EFSA to give glyphosate a clean bill of health in a teleconference with EU member states, GLOBAL 2000 stated.

PAN Germany's toxicologist and board member, Dr Peter Clausing, revealed in May 2017 that at this teleconference, a remark by Jess Rowland led EFSA to exclude a pivotal cancer study from its assessment. GLOBAL 2000 said, “A satisfactory scientific justification could not be provided by EFSA.”

For all the above reasons, the environmental organizations GLOBAL 2000, PAN Europe, PAN Germany, PAN Italia and Generations Futures are filing criminal charges against BfR and EFSA. The NGOs are also concerned that if the regulatory authorities failed to conduct themselves properly in the case of glyphosate, they may have done the same with many other pesticides.

GLOBAL 2000 commented: “The shortcomings in the approval process of glyphosate have shaken the confidence of Europeans in the authorities and the authorization process. Comprehensive reform and education is required. This can be done by judicial investigations, but also by parliamentary investigations. Only when this happens and the necessary consequences are drawn can the confidence of Europeans in their institutions be restored in the long term.”

GLOBAL 2000 said the case could not be taken straight to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and that the groups instead aimed to escalate it to the ECJ via a domestic court. But the ECJ told Reuters it was not possible to take pan-European EFSA to a national court. However, as BfR is a domestic agency within Germany, it seems that it would not be protected in this way. As for the case against EFSA, Dr Burtscher-Schaden told GMWatch that the NGOs were considering various ways forward.

Helmut Burtscher-Schaden’s book, The Glyphosate Files: Smoke and mirrors in the pesticide approvals process, is available here:

Video released by GLOBAL 2000 to accompany the press conference announcing the court actions:

Article in German by GLOBAL 2000:

Monday, November 27, 2017


Scandal erupts around German glyphosate vote

 Published: 27 November 2017

 Minister of agriculture goes rogue, votes for glyphosate renewal in spite of environment minister's opposition
Today a qualified majority of EU member states voted for the Commission proposal to renew the authorization of glyphosate for five years. Germany voted in favour, despite having previously abstained from voting on the topic due to a difference of opinion between the environment ministry (which opposes renewal) and the agriculture ministry (which supports it).

Now a number of news reports circulating in Germany indicate that the German YES to glyphosate was sent to Brussels by the minister for agriculture Christian Schmidt (CSU, Bavarian Regionalist Conservatives), without the consent of and even against a explicit written veto by his colleague, the minister of environment Barbara Hendricks (SPD, Social Democrats). 

This is a serious and unexpected break of procedure and trust within the government.

The division in the German government over glyphosate has been confirmed by Hendricks in the following words (confirmed by her spokesperson in writing): 

"Exactly two hours before the start of the Appeals Committee meeting, today at 12:30, I clearly stated to my colleague Mr Schmidt over the phone that I still disagree with renewing the approval of glyphosate, even under certain conditions. It was therefore also clear that Germany had to abstain at the appeal committee meeting. At 13:07, Mr Schmidt confirmed to me by SMS that the disagreement remains.

"Apparently at the same time a different directive was issued to the representative of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Brussels than was agreed between us. Anyone interested in building trust between interlocutors cannot behave in that way."[1]