Genetically engineered (GE) crops are safe for human consumption and pose no danger to environment, an extensive study reveals.
The results of the research, presented in a 420-page report titled “Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects”, were published by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine on Tuesday. It took two years for more than 50 researchers to thoroughly and systematically delve into two decades of hefty literature written on the subject and come up with their final conclusions.
“While recognizing the inherent difficulty of detecting subtle or long-term effects on health or the environment, the study committee found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it find conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops,” read the report.
When a plant is genetically engineered, its genetic material is artificially manipulated so that the plant can obtain characteristics it would not have otherwise, including pest resistance and the ability to endure some kinds of herbicides. For a long time, critics claimed that GE is harmful for humans, causing a variety of diseases, including cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal illnesses, kidney disease, autism and allergies, and also endanger environments in which the plants grow.
United Nations Review Claims Monsanto’s Glyphosate Not Carcinogenic
In the ongoing battle over whether or not Monsanto’s pesticides are a cancer risk to humans, the United Nations has found that glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, is not a cancer risk to humans.
Experts with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have released a statement claiming that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans” exposed to it through food. The World Health Organization (WHO) co-signed the statement with the FAO. The organizations also found that glyphosate is not likely to be genotoxic, destructive to cell’s genetic material, in humans. The groups met last week and published their conclusions on Monday.
“In view of the absence of carcinogenic potential in rodents at human-relevant doses and the absence of genotoxicity by the oral route in mammals, and considering the epidemiological evidence from occupational exposures, the meeting concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet,” the committee wrote.
Interestingly enough, in March 2015 the WHO’s own International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a report which seems to contradict the new findings. The IARC found that glyphosate “probably” contributes to non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans and classified it as a ‘Group 2A’ carcinogen. Aaron Blair, a scientist emeritus at the National Cancer Institute and lead author of the study, told Reuters, “There was sufficient evidence in animals, limited evidence in humans and strong supporting evidence showing DNA mutations and damaged chromosomes.”
The IARC report was published in The Lancet Oncology detailing evaluations of organophosphate pesticides and herbicides. The report concluded that there was “limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.” The evidence for this conclusion was pulled from studies of exposure to the chemical in the US, Canada and Sweden published since 2001.
The researchers found “convincing evidence that glyphosate can also cause cancer in laboratory animals.” The report points out that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) had originally classified glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic to humans in 1985. The IARC Working Group evaluated the original EPA findings and more recent reports before concluding “there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.”
Glyphosate is not only the most widely-used herbicide, it is a key ingredient in biotech giant Monsanto’s popular Roundup products. Glyphosate is only one of Monsanto’s products that have been recently connected to cancer, however. In June 2015 the IARC also found that the weed killer 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, known as 2,4-D, “possibly” causes cancer in humans.
Shortly after the IARC review, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an independent agency funded by the European Union, shot back with their own study, claiming that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.”
If you are keeping score, that’s the FAO, WHO, EFSA, and UN stating that glyphosate does not pose a risk of cancer to humans, and the WHO’s IARC stating that it could be linked to cancer.
However, in the new statement the FAO and WHO deny that the conclusions reached by the IARC are contradictory to their findings. According the WHO, the assessments are “different, yet complementary.”
“IARC reviews published studies to identify potential cancer hazards,” the WHO said. “It does not estimate the level of risk to the population associated with exposure to the hazard.” The FAO/WHO statements says the committee looked at studies to “assess the health risk to consumers from dietary exposure to pesticide residues in food.”
Despite the findings by the WHO and FAO, glyphosate has been linked to other health problems. In 2014 Anti-Media reported on a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health which claims to have found a link between glyphosate and the fatal Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown origin (CKDu), which largely affects rice farmers in Sri Lanka and other nations. In response Sri Lanka has banned glyphosate and Brazil is considering doing the same.
Sri Lanka’s Minister of Special Projects S.M. Chandrasena stated that President Mahinda Rajapaksa issued a directive to ban glyphosate sales in the country.
An investigation carried out by medical specialists and scientists have revealed that kidney disease was mainly caused by glyphosate. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ordered the immediate removal of glyphosate from the local market soon after he was told of the contents of the report.
With the USDA’s 2014 decision to approve a new batch of genetically modified corn and soybean seeds designed to be resistant to glyphosate, we should expect to see an increase in herbicide use overall, and with it, possibly disastrous health effects. In fact, the approval by the USDA now partners DOW Chemical and Monsanto together, a move which will only further entrench the control that corporate entities have over governments. As the corporate and state power become one machine it will be harder for free minds to trust the establishment’s science and rhetoric.
We must remain vigilant, think critically, and question everything. If we learn anything from the battle over pesticide science and safety it should be a reminder not to be dependent on the factory farming-industrial complex and mainstream systems of food production. If we choose to grow our own food, support backyard, front yard, and community gardens we can reduce the need for harmful pesticides and increase our independence.
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