In the spring of 2016, the European Parliament was debating the risks and rewards of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup). 48 of the 751 parliament members agreed to submit their urine to researchers at Bio-Check, a laboratory in Leipzig, Germany. The European Commission was preparing to approve a new fifteen-year authorization for glyphosate. Even though genetically modified crops are cultivated in only a tiny fraction of European farmland (Spain), glyphosate weed killers are a mainstay on conventional, nonorganic farms.
While glyphosate was embraced by European farmers as safe, GMO crops were not. This drove the GMO industry crazy and they constantly sought to reassure their market. Testing for glyphosate in urine, foods, and beverages was fairly widespread in Europe but interest was building as people heard more and more concerns about this “safe” weed killer. When the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued their proclamation in 2015 that glyphosate was a “probable human carcinogen”, the European public began to pressure their governments to change their attitudes towards the week killer.
In May 2016, the results of the parliamentary pee test were in: every single parliament member, who participated, tested positive for glyphosate in their urine. In fact, the laboratory said the average rate of glyphosate found was 1.7 micrograms per liter, an amount that was roughly seventeen times the permitted level of glyphosate in European drinking water!
Jean Lambert, a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, described the results as “frightening”. She stated, “These test results show that no matter where we live, what we eat, or our age we cannot escape exposure to this toxic substance. With glyphosate widely used in cities, in urban parks and public spaces, on streets and pavements, the European Commission must bow to public pressure and put the safety of people and the environment ahead of the profits of chemical industry giants.”
But money continued to influence behind the scenes. Germany’s “independent” Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) discounted the significance of glyphosate in urine saying the body excretes the chemical quickly out of the body and thus, it is not harmful. However, when you fact-check and look at the details of the data–guess what you find? The data for their “independent” report comes from the Glyphosate Task Force which is a consortium of chemical companies, including Monsanto who was trying to win support for the renewal of glyphosate’s license in Europe! When the inconvenient truth was brought to the BfR’s attention, they responded that because so many studies were submitted to them, they were unable to look at all of them in detail, so they had relied on the industry consortium “descriptions and assessments” of the studies rather than going through each study independently.
This is how governmental regulators whitewash results. It works the same way in the United States. The German agency, BfR, submitted their findings to the European Commission. By accepting these findings as legitimate, Greenpeace director, Franziska Achterberg, said the European Commission “has defied the world’s most authoritative cancer agency (the IARC) in order to please corporations like Monsanto.”
96 scientists signed a letter to the European Commissioner for health and food safety asking him to disregard the BfR’s flawed findings on glyphosate. They issued “a call for a transparent, open and credible review of the scientific literature.” They reiterated that the IARC’s decision “was truly credible because it relied on open and transparent procedures by independent scientists who completed thorough conflict-of-interest statements and were not affiliated or financially supported in any way by the chemical manufacturing industry”
In contrast, the 96 scientists stated, “the BfR’s work is not credible because it is not supported by the evidence and it was not reached in an open and transparent manner.” It isn’t verifiable because it is protected by secret, company-only data classifications. Public health demands public access to any data. If a company wants to sell a product that could injure people, regulators should require independent, publicly verifiable testing. It is insane to rely only on company assurances when no one can see or access their data.
Amid this uproar, the European Commission said they would delay a formal vote for a year. But in November 2017, the European Commission granted a 5-year license renewal for glyphosate. It was during that same time, the German company, Bayer, bought Monsanto. No doubt, they exerted considerable influence on those European deliberations. For more information on glyphosate issues, see Whitewash by Carey Gillam and There’s An Elephant in the Room–Exposing Hidden Truths in the Science of Health both available on Amazon.
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