Safe Pesticides? Here’s how ‘Science’ is Letting us Down

Safe Pesticides? Here’s how ‘Science’ is Letting us Down

In a previous blog post (The lies we are – literally – fed every day), we introduced an article by André Leu, an Australian organic farmer, author and director of Regeneration International. Originally published in the March 2019 issue of Acres U.S.A. magazine, Leu’s article discusses how current methods of testing miss most diseases caused by pesticides.

In this blog post, we delve deeper into the ‘glyphosate debate’. 

What is glyphosate?

Glyphosate is a herbicide that is applied to the leaves of plants to kill both broadleaf plants and grasses. It’s one of the major ingredients in the weedkiller Roundup.

Glyphosate came into the spotlight recently when groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson won a massive civil case against Bayer’s Monsanto, claiming that Roundup caused his cancer. A paper by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) showed how glyphosate caused cancer in test animals, although the manufacturer states that it does not cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma or any other cancer. Nevertheless, the decision by the IARC and the verdict in the Dewayne Johnson court case agreed that glyphosate is linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 

Throughout his work, Leu has revealed that the testing guidelines for the effects of chemicals on human health have led to inaccurate results (read more about this in our previous blog post). Leu says that the published studies on glyphosate (and other pesticides) use numbers of animals that are too small to detect any of the current cancers, and therefore there is no basis to say that it doesn’t cause cancer. 

Looking at non-Hodgkin lymphoma as an example: this cancer affects 18.4 people per 100,000 in America. This means that to positively determine that glyphosate does not cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma, an experiment would need a control group of 100,000 rats along with three dose groups of 100,000 rats each – 400,000 rats in total. But guidelines suggest that only 100 animals are required per group, which doesn’t give the disease sufficient chance of presenting in this small sample size. There is no published evidence that a study of the adequate size has ever been done on a pesticide.

Leu says: “The fact is that the current testing protocols can only tell us if a pesticide causes a disease. It cannot tell us if a pesticide is safe. Finding no evidence that a pesticide does not cause cancer, autism or other diseases in a study is not the same as saying that the chemical in question does not cause these diseases.”

The link between glyphosate and the autism spectrum of diseases 

The developed world is currently experiencing an autism epidemic. “A dramatic increase in a disease like this should be attributed to environmental and lifestyle factors rather than genetics,” Leu says. The brain is the largest collection of nerve cells, and pesticides such as glyphosate are significant contributors to the ADHD, autism, schizophrenia and bipolar spectrums of diseases because of the way they damage developing nerve cells. 

However, there are a number of reasons that chemicals are not being found responsible for an epidemic like autism, such as:

  • The failure of current best practice testing guidelines, which need to be changed to reflect the real rate of diseases in our communities
  • There has never been any testing of diseases in children 
  • Test groups are statistically too small 
  • Since autism can be evident at birth, there needs to be testing on the mother and fetus. 

Leu cites the peer-reviewed scientific papers by Samsel and Seneff, which have extensively reviewed the published medical and scientific literature on glyphosate. Their findings? That glyphosate is responsible for disrupting multiple metabolic and other biochemical pathways in animals. 

Samsel and Seneff presented a significant amount of peer-reviewed scientific evidence about the harm that glyphosate causes, which government regulators, the pesticide industry and some research scientists have rebutted, stating that glyphosate is not toxic enough to cause multiple diseases. However, these deniers have no evidence of its safety. 

“The fact is that studies using Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) or similar guidelines that do not find cancer, autism or any other diseases, cannot say that a chemical does not cause these diseases. The absence of a disease in these tests does not mean that it does not cause the disease and is safe. The opposite is true. It means there is no evidence that the chemical is safe.”

Moving towards a safer solution

If, like Leu, you believe that pesticides are harmful to human health, the best thing you can proactively do for your family is to buy organic food, or at the very least, food that is produced sustainably. At Zylem, we see ourselves as being part of the solution. We promote sustainable agriculture (producing crops that are better for human health) by focusing on improving soil health and reducing (and eliminating) inputs like glyphosate. Get in touch to find out more about what we do:

Interested in reading the full article interview? 

Visit Acres USA to purchase a back issue and read the original article along with other interesting content. 

Leave a Reply