“It might surprise you to learn that there is no scientific proof of safety for the majority of the pesticides, additives or chemicals that companies put in our food and our body care and household products. Most are not tested, and when there is testing, it misses the vast majority of diseases at the normal rates at which they occur due to faulty protocols.”
In an opinion piece published in the March 2019 issue of Acres U.S.A. magazine, André Leu – an Australian organic farmer, author and director of Regeneration International – discusses how current methods of testing miss most diseases caused by pesticides. Leu is the author of “The Myths of Safe Pesticides” and “Poisoning Our Children” books in which he delves into a wealth of respected scientific journals to present peer-reviewed evidence that disproves the claims of chemical companies and pesticide regulators.
In this blog post, we summarise some of the key points made by Leu in his article.
Why should we be concerned?
The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that there is a global epidemic of non-communicable chronic diseases (NCDs), which are the leading (and growing) cause of mortality in the world. Examples of NCDs are stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. These are not diseases you can catch from other people; their causes are a result of environment and lifestyle.
Leu believes that pesticides and chemicals are strongly implicated in this global epidemic of NCDs. However, he says that the full extent of their role is being ignored by researchers and health professionals: “This is because the current best practice testing guidelines for pesticides, food additives and chemicals are designed to miss the majority of diseases.”
How does this occur?
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for the Testing of Chemicals (similar to most testing guidelines) are regarded as best practice for testing animals for diseases caused by chemicals.
Essentially, Leu argues that the guidelines sizes for animal testing groups are too small to achieve accurate results. The guidelines require a test group of at least 100 animals and a control group of at least 100 animals. Each group must contain at least 50 animals of each sex.
So, if you are testing for cancers caused by a chemical, for example, the numbers of cancers in the test group are compared with the number of cancers in the control group. If the numbers are the same, then the researchers will conclude that the cancers were not caused by the chemical, allowing people to say that a chemical or pesticide does not cause cancer.
Let’s say that just one animal from the test group gets cancer. The results will then say that the chemical caused one animal in 100 to contract cancer – 1%, or 1,000 people per 100,000. But what if the actual rates of cancer from environmental exposure are below 1% (as they often are)?
In humans, rates of diseases are reported as the number of people with the disease per 100,000 people. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports incidences of these common types of cancers as follows:
- Lung cancer: 57.5 people per 100,000 (0.0575%)
- Colon and rectum cancer: 38 per 100,000 (0.038%)
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: 18.4 per 100,000 (0.0184%)
- Leukemias: 13.2 per 100,000 (0.0132%)
- Pancreatic cancer: 12.8 per 100,000 (0.0128%)
- Liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancers: 8.3 per 100,000 (0.0083%)
All of the above cancers occur in far less than 1% of the population, meaning that a group of 100 animals simply cannot present sufficient evidence.
The problematic testing methodology is further exacerbated in that some cancers are more common among (or only apply to) a certain sex, whittling the test group down to only 50 animals because there are just 50 animals of each sex in a group.
For these reasons, Leu says: “There is no statistically valid way to determine that a dosed group of 100 animals that shows no sign of cancer can determine that the chemical in question cannot cause cancer at rates below 1,000 people per 100,000. All of the current cancers found in our communities will be missed.”
Studies that use OECD or similar guidelines that do not find cancer, autism or other diseases, cannot conclusively say that a chemical does not cause these diseases, because the absence of a disease does not mean that the chemical does not cause the disease and is safe. Leu says that the opposite is true – it means there is no evidence that the chemical is safe.
“In my opinion, it is a gross misrepresentation to say that any of the current published toxicology studies can be used to say that any of the thousands of pesticide products used in the world do not cause cancer or other diseases,” Leu says.
Pesticides and people
Most people get their exposure to pesticides from the food we eat. We are also exposed to chemicals in body care and household products. Yet neither the pesticide and medical industries nor the government regulators have any evidence to state that known nerve toxins are not contributing to the current NCD epidemic.
Leu suggests that parents should ensure that their families eat only organic foods from reliable sources that can prove that toxic pesticides have not been used in their production.
A better way to grow
At Zylem, our key focus is promoting sustainable agriculture (and thus reducing or eliminating pesticide use) by focusing on improving soil health. Get in touch to find out more about the healthy way to grow plants: https://www.zylemsa.co.za/contact-us/.
Interested in reading Leu’s full interview?
Visit Acres USA to purchase a back issue and read the original article along with other interesting content.