SFT statement on republication of the Séralini study and today’s global assessment on neonicotinoid insecticides

Tuesday 24th June

The Sustainable Food Trust welcomes the news of today’s republication of Professor Séralini’s chronic toxicity study on the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup and the genetically modified (GM) maize, Monsanto’s NK603.

The republication returns the study to peer-reviewed literature so that it can be considered and built upon by other scientists.

We also welcome the publication of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment on Systemic Pesticides, which draws attention to the damaging consequences of neonicotinoid insecticides.

The neonicotinoid review, and the republication of the Séralini study, should be seen as an urgent wake-up call, since both papers call into question the adequacy of the current regulatory process, specifically the protocols that have been used to assess the safety or otherwise of all newly licensed chemicals and pesticides for agriculture since the Second World War.

Patrick Holden, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, said:

“The most obvious deficiency relates to the fact that the current approval process is based on animal feeding trials of only 90 days, a totally inadequate duration when one considers that chronic diseases in animals and humans do not usually manifest until mid-life.

The second deficiency relates to the newly emerging science of epigenetics, which demonstrates that endocrine systems can be seriously disrupted by the presence of chemical residues at concentrations as low as a few parts per billion. This turns on its head the logic of an approval process based on MRL (maximum residue levels), since it is becoming increasingly apparent that these chemicals have patterns of non-linear response.”

Given these concerns, the Sustainable Food Trust feels there is a strong case for an urgent review of the regulatory process for licensing both the herbicide Roundup and the neonicotinoid class of insecticides. A fundamental review of the entire process for licensing agricultural chemicals is required to ensure that in future the public interest is better served.

Professor Pete Myers, Chief Executive of Environmental Health Sciences and scientific advisor to the SFT says:

“Only the tiniest fraction of agricultural chemicals have been studied for health effects by independent scientists. Over the last two-decades there has been a revolution in environmental health sciences that suggests the proportion of diseases attributable to chemical exposures is far bigger and more significant than previously understood. The tools we have available to us to say what is safe and not safe are deeply flawed. They are not based on two decades of development in the fields of endocrine disruption and epigenetics, but instead on tests developed in the 1950s. They do not reflect the complexity of mixtures, or the way in which chemicals interact.”

Notes on the Seralini study

The study found severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal disturbances in rats fed GM maize and low levels of Roundup, below those currently permitted in drinking water in the EU. The negative health outcomes were also observed in rats fed GM corn, with or without applications of the Roundup spray

The study was first published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) in September 2012, but was retracted in November 2013. The republication of the study by Environmental Sciences Europe, owned by Germany’s Springer group, contains extra material addressing the criticisms of the original publication and the raw data supporting the study.

The key points are:

The world’s most commonly used herbicide, Roundup, causes severe liver and kidney damage and sex-dependent hormonal effects, such as mammary tumours from very low environmental levels (0.1 ppb)

The herbicide Roundup should be considered as an endocrine disrupting chemical, and present safety-regulations controlling its use should be urgently reviewed

Given that the majority of agricultural GMOs are engineered to carry the pesticide Roundup, this study calls into the question the safety of all first generation Roundup Ready crops

Why does the Seralini study continue to be relevant?

It is the world’s first long-term toxicity study on the lifetime effects of the widely available herbicide Roundup. We call for the urgent replication of the study, and an immediate long-term assessment of the health impacts of the herbicide Roundup, and all genetically modified crops containing the Roundup Ready gene.

This study calls into serious question the global regulatory standards for toxicology, which currently only require 90-day feed-trials to produce any evidence of harm. The Seralini study found long-term negative health consequences caused by exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides, which did not become apparent until adulthood. The Sustainable Food Trust urges the immediate implementation of the precautionary principle to prevent the on-going use of these herbicides until further long-term studies can be conducted into their accumulative impacts on public and environmental health.

For further comment or interview requests, please contact Aine Morris on 07940 267516


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