By Darío Aranda
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialized field of the World Health Organization (WHO), confirmed the link between the herbicide glyphosate and cancer. And he claimed that it produces genetic damage in humans. Independent scientific and social organizations with no ties to business welcomed the IARC-WHO decision. Monsanto, the creator and largest producer of glyphosate, accused the WHO Agency of doing "junk science." More than 28 million hectares of Argentina are fumigated with the pesticide.
After a year of work by 17 scientific experts from eleven countries, the maximum space for the study of cancer of the WHO categorized glyphosate (the most used agrochemical in the world, pillar of the transgenic model) in the second highest category linked to the Disease: "There is compelling evidence that glyphosate can cause cancer in laboratory animals and there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans." "Limited" evidence means that there is a "positive association between exposure to the chemical and cancer", but that "other explanations" cannot be ruled out.
With the new evaluation, glyphosate was categorized in "Group 2A" (second on a scale of 1 to 5), which means for the WHO: "Probably carcinogenic to humans". The IARC-WHO stated that the herbicide "caused DNA and chromosome damage in human cells" (it is directly related to cancer and malformations) and detailed that glyphosate was detected in water, food and in human blood and urine.
Rafael Lajmanovich is a full professor of the Chair of Ecotoxicology at the Universidad Nacional del Litoral, a researcher at Conicet and has more than 85 investigations on agrochemicals. “The international scientific community has warned for years, with studies, that glyphosate is carcinogenic. It is good that the WHO has recognized it ”, he evaluated. And, as an example, he specified the tests: "The National Library of Medicine of the United States (known as Medline) has more than 500 scientific papers on the toxicity of glyphosate."
Fernando Mañas is a member of the Genetics and Environmental Mutagenesis Group (GEMA) of the National University of Río Cuarto. They have been investigating the effect of agrochemicals for nine years, they made more than fifteen scientific publications and confirmed the relationship between glyphosate and genetic damage, which leads to greater chances of contracting cancer, suffering miscarriages and births with malformations. “The recent classification that the IARC-WHO is a consequence of the growing scientific evidence that has been generated by various independent researchers. This evidence, until now deliberately ignored, implies that millions of liters of a herbicide with carcinogenic potential have been used with the regulations of a practically innocuous substance ”, questioned the doctor in biological sciences. He denounced that for two decades entire populations were "subjected" to chronic exposures of the pesticide "based on criteria developed by the same companies that produce and market" pesticides.
Glyphosate is used in fields with transgenic soy, corn, sunflower, cotton, citrus, apple, pear, quince, vine, yerba mate, pine and wheat. More than 28 million hectares of Argentina. Producers of the herbicide include Syngenta, Monsanto, Basf, Bayer, Dupont, Dow Agrosciences, Atanor, YPF and Nidera. According to the latest statistics from the Chamber of Agricultural Health and Fertilizers (Casafe), in 2012 182 million liters of glyphosate were sold. The Network of Doctors of Fumigated Towns affirms that 320 million liters of glyphosate are thrown in Argentine fields per year.
Raúl Horacio Lucero (molecular biologist and researcher at the Universidad del Nordeste, based in Chaco) and Damián Verzeñassi (Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Rosario) have been studying the impact of agrochemicals for more than a decade. They confirmed malformations and cancer (among other consequences). They agreed on the lateness of the AIRC-WHO classification, but at the same time pointed out how important it is that, on a scale of five, they have classified it in the second category of carcinogenic products. Both researchers urged the "urgent" application of the precautionary principle, in force in the General Environmental Law: in the face of the possibility of environmental damage, it is necessary to take protective measures.
Medardo Avila Vázquez, from the Network of Doctors of Fumigated Towns, explained that, due to the new classification, “glyphosate is as carcinogenic as PCB (a chemical compound that was used in electrical transformers and is now prohibited) and formaldehyde, both members Group 2A ”.
Monsanto, the largest agricultural corporation and producer of glyphosate, responded with unusual violence to the WHO agency. "Monsanto disagrees with junk science," begins the statement sent by Victoria Manny, Head of Management Affairs. The company's newsletter, signed by Robb Fraley, the company's chief technology officer, acknowledges: “We are outraged. The IARC evaluation process is not transparent and its decision is irresponsible ”. Monsanto accused the evaluation of "biased" and denounced experts for not being based on "quality science."
Order to protect health
The National Environmental Action Network (Renace), made up of 23 organizations from all over the country, assured that it is a "common business practice" to affirm the safety of a product, use it and years later recognize its damages. They cited endosulfan and DDT as examples. "The companies argue that it is not proven that it causes harm and government officials deny the evidence of independent scientists," they denounced and claimed as "imperative" in the shift to a production model without pesticides.
The Latin American Pesticide Action Network (Rapal) urged the application of current legislation ("precautionary principle") to immediately limit the use of glyphosate and called on the ministries of Agriculture, Health and the Ministry of the Environment to take urgent measures to "protect health and ban the use of the herbicide." Sofía Gatica, from the organization Mothers of the Ituzaingó Annex (Córdoba) neighborhood, recalled that children die at a young age and suffer disabilities. “Why did the WHO wait so long to recognize what glyphosate does?” He asked, saying: “They cannot play with the lives of our children. They no longer experiment with our people ”.