Barbara Minton, Natural Society
A professor in Argentina backs up the WHO’s classification of glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, noting that the international scientific community has known for years that the herbicide glyphosate causes cancer.
Backing up the World Health Organization’s recent re-classification, a professor in the Department of Ecotoxicology at the National University of Littoral in Argentinaa and researcher from the primary national research council of Argentina, CONICET, says that “the international scientific community has warned for years, backed up by studies, that glyphosate is carcinogenic. It is good that WHO has recognized this fact.”
Reaction to the re-classification of glyphosate herbicide as a probable carcinogen by the IARC cancer arm of the WHO has been swift and polarizing. While several scientists from across the globe have praised the WHO for finally taking action against this broad-spectrum systemic weed killer, others say this action has no merit. This divergence reflects the great divide between those promoting factory-produced pesticide-based agriculture and those promoting natural and more accessible agroecological farming.
Glyphosate is the active killing agent favored by agro-chemical giants Monsanto and Dow Chemical. It is the key ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide, Roundup, a particularly harsh herbicide used on crops genetically engineered to tolerate it.
Opposition to glyphosate’s recent re-classification comes primarily from the UK’s Science and Media Centre, an establishment group that favors perpetuation of the status quo. This organization published several quotes from scientists disparaging the WHO’s action, claiming that glyphosate herbicides are not a concern under real-life conditions.
“Detailed analysis of the nature and quality of the evidence overall does not support such a high level classification,” remarked Anthony Dayan MD, referring to the chemical’s carcinogenicity. In addition to his membership in Science and Media Center, he is also a member of Scientific Alliance, a group promoting the spread of GMO’s among other environmentally hostile projects.
In the US, the National Corn Growers Association reacted negatively to the IARC’s decision. According to them:
“The movement to reclassify glyphosate as a class 2A probably carcinogen ignores the findings of more than four decades of credible scientific research. In doing so, this decision creates unnecessary fear and confusion over the proven safety record of this important agricultural tool.”
While the voices of negativity remain active, support for the re-classification of glyphosate has almost overwhelmed them. From Argentina and Brazil, where large scale pesticide-based farming has been the norm for many years, the positive response has been steady and strong. It reflects first-hand knowledge of the problems that arise from large-scale GMO agriculture and the heavy pesticide load it requires, and the emerging fact that only a few large corporations benefit from it while for small farmers it can be ruining.
A report from the National Cancer Institute in Brazil also praised the IARC re-classification verdict, highlighting Brazil’s prominent position in the global ranks of pesticide use. According to this report, pesticide use may currently be placing the population of the country at risk of cancer and other diseases. The report calls for Brazil to phase out GM crops and develop an agroecological model for food production.
Predictably, Monsanto rejected the IARC findings, while scientists who have warned of the dangers to health from glyphosate view the re-classification as spurring the debate about the world’s agricultural systems.
“The widespread adoption of GMO corn and soybeans has led to an explosion in the use of glyphosate – a main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup and and Dow’s Enlist Duo,” said Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group. “Consumers have the right to know how their food is grown and whether their food dollars are driving up the use of a probably carcinogen.”
These events may be viewed as an escalation in the clash of the two directly opposed farming methods. While history tells us the ultimate winner will be agroecological farming, we will see one of the greatest battles of the century before that happens.
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