Ten NGOs ask China to intervene in global glyphosate

Ten NGOs based in Europe have delivered an Open Letter to the Chinese Embassy in London, pleading with the Chinese people to take direct action to address the global health crisis associated with the increasing concentrations of glyphosate/Roundup in the food supply.

This unusual action, spurred by the recent finding of the WHO Cancer Panel that glyphosate is a "probable carcinogen" for humans, is a response to the very powerful role that China plays in the "glyphosate economy."

The country is the world's largest producer of glyphosate (some of which is used by Monsanto in its Roundup herbicide formulations). It is also the world's largest importer of Roundup-ready GMO soy beans, which always contain traces of the herbicide which then find their way into the animal or human food chain. The Chinese government is broadly supportive of GMO crops, but in the population at large there is a high level of awareness relating to the chemical contamination of the food supply, and this has led to the banning of some GMO imports and to court cases on several occasions in recent years.

In their letter, the NGOs refer to this recent statement by the Argentinian Federation of Health Professionals (representing 30,000 members): "Glyphosate not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease.” On the basis of accumulated experience over many years, Argentinian doctors have called for an immediate ban on glyphosate herbicides in their country. Moves to restrict the use of glyphosate are also taking place in other countries where the chemical is used as a pre-harvest dessicant on grain and other crops.

There is also concern among the membership of the ten NGOs that the original consents for glyphosate, for example in the USA and Europe, were based upon faulty -- and possibly fraudulent -- safety research reports which are, to this day, impossible for independent experts to scrutinize because Monsanto has asked for them all to be treated as trade secrets. The groups have now asked the Chinese authorities to insist that Monsanto gives access to these studies, some of which are more than 35 years old but which contain evidence of malignant tumours among test animals given small quantities of glyphosate in their food supplies.

The signatories to the letter ask the Chinese government to suspend the production and sale of glyphosate and Roundup without delay, and to freeze the imports of RR food products from the United States, Argentina and Brazil. They also ask for urgent safety studies to be carried out, together with a national programme of glyphosate testing (for example, in human urine and breast milk) and an epidemiological study designed to test the impact of glyphosate/Roundup on human health.

Speaking on behalf of the ten groups, Dr Brian John said: "We believe that we are acting here on behalf of the citizens of Europe, who have grave concerns about GMOs and the chemicals that go with them into the food chain. We have been convinced for years of the growing negative impact of glyphosate/Roundup on public health, and there is constant pressure on both sides of the Atlantic for these lethal chemicals to be taken off the market. However, there are many political and commercial obstacles to change; and this is why we are appealing to one of the largest economies in the world to kick-start the process of cleaning up the global food supply system and protecting the health of the people of the planet."

Speaking for the group "Beyond GM" Pat Thomas added: "We've spent far too long pretending that GMOs are somebody else's problem; that in the EU we are somehow protected or immune from their damaging effects. GMOs are a worldwide problem - a growing and global threat to health, environment and food security and we need those in power to heed years of accumulated and alarming evidence and act responsibly to solve the problem. We cannot rely on America, which has for too long acted as the de facto marketing arm of the biotech industry, to act responsibly. But, as one of largest economies in the world, China has the power to change the game and to act as if the future matters."