Roundup toxic to human cells
France 24 Television, Environment, week of 3 February 2009
[Transcript and translation from the original French TV broadcast by GM-free Ireland]
Herbicides, fungicides, pesticides: so many products used daily by farmers. Gloves, a mask, totally waterproof clothing: this is the new outfit for farmers today. Safety instructions are to be taken seriously, whether the use is in the air on on the soil. As for the consumers, they're demanding more and more information on the quality of the fruit and vegetables they eat.
This is the fight of many scientists, who are trying to show the toxicity of these products.
With nine million litres of Roundup sold each year all over the world, the American agrochemical group Monsanto holds a world record.
For the first time, a study led by Gilles-Eric Séralini from the French Committee of Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering, shows that the active principles of Roundup - one of the leading products of this company - could kill human cells, even at infinitesimal doses.
The agrochemical group reacted by means of a communiqué: it considers the French researcher "intentionally misappropriates the normal use of Roundup in order to denigrate the product, even though it's been shown to be safe for 35 years all over the world."
The scientist agreed to reply to our questions:
What is the impact on the environment?
Séralini: "There are several formulae of Roundup which have been classified dangerous for the environment, especially for aquatic life. Quite a lot of it is diffused in the waterways, the rivers, surface water.
When you go further and look at the effects in a test tube, the effects on the cells, effects on laboratory animals, effects on wild animals, effects on farm animals, effects on humans where accidents have occurred, there is no doubt about it.
We don't have to wait thirty years for epidemiological studies in the society to understand that there really is an impact."
What was the company's answer?
Séralini: "For the moment, Monsanto says 'Séralini used the product for something it wasn't meant for.' This is really serious, because it means that they themselves don't do the same tests with their products on human cells at infinitesimal doses, before putting it on the market."
Will this weedkiller be banned?
Séralini: "There is always a hiatus, a gap between the progress of scientific knowledge and that of regulations. One goes at the speed of research, the other goes at the speed of political fights in Parliament. So we imagine there's a gap. However, this gap is dug - rather than filled in - by lobbying, meaning that we're going to continue with useless debates and uncertainties while there aren't any.
But there is an awareness in France since the Grenelle [France's national stakeholder discussions on the environment held in late 2006], with the 50 per cent reduction of pesticides, and stopping false and useless advertising. This is good. We are in the process of re-evaluating a certain number of pesticides. The rhythm we take really depends on the population and the priorities they put to the politicians that they elect."
Faced with the large industrial groups, politicians are beginning to make decisions in favour of the population, backed up by scientific studies that are more numerous and have more media coverage.
A few days ago, the European Parliament made an unprecedented decision. 22 substances used in pesticides were declared carcinogenic, and banned from sale.
Amitrol, Iprodion, or Thiacloprid - so many barbaric names to refer to molecules that are toxic to the reproductive system or the hormone system. This decision applies from now on, but it doesn't concern the previously mentioned Roundup.
Note from GM-free Ireland:
Download related press release:
Different Roundup formulations led to embryonic, umbilical cord and placental cell death and are poorlyl assessed, Committee on Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN), January 2009:
"Glyphosate Formulations Induce Apoptosis and Necrosis in Human Umbilical, Embryonic and Placental Cells" by Nora Benachour and Gilles-Eric Séralini, Chemical Rsearch in Toxicology, 2009, 22 (1), pp 97 105. DOI: 10.1021/tx800218n: