World Health Organisation Says Most Common Weedkiller ‘Probably’ Causes Cancer

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In March, 2015, 17 experts from 11 countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC; Lyon, France) to assess the carcinogenicity of the organophosphate pesticides tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate (table). These assessments will be published as volume 112 of the IARC Monographs.

Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide, currently with the highest production volumes of all herbicides. It is used in more than 750 different products for agriculture, forestry, urban, and home applications. Its use has increased sharply with the development of genetically modified glyphosate-resistant crop varieties. Glyphosate has been detected in air during spraying, in water, and in food. There was limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of glyphosate. Case-control studies of occupational exposure in the USA, Canada and Sweden reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustment for other pesticides. The AHS cohort did not show a significantly increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In male CD-1 mice, glyphosate induced a positive trend in the incidence of a rare tumour, renal tubule carcinoma. A second study reported a positive trend for haemangiosarcoma in male mice. Glyphosate increased pancreatic islet-cell adenoma in male rats in two studies. A glyphosate formulation promoted skin tumours in an initiation-promotion study in mice.

Glyphosate has been detected in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, indicating absorption. Soil microbes degrade glyphosate to aminomethylphosphoric acid (AMPA). Blood AMPA detection after poisonings suggests intestinal microbial metabolism in humans. Glyphosate and glyphosate formulations induced DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals, and in human and animal cells in vitro. One study reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) in residents of several communities after spraying of glyphosate formulations. Bacterial mutagenesis tests were negative. Glyphosate, glyphosate formulations, and AMPA induced oxidative stress in rodents and in vitro. The Working Group classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A).

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U.S. Approves First Gene-Altered Apples

GMO APPLE

The government on Friday approved the commercial planting of genetically engineered apples that are resistant to turning brown when sliced or bruised.

The developer, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, says it believes the nonbrowning feature will be popular with both consumers and food service companies because it will make sliced apples more appealing. The feature could also reduce the number of apples discarded because of bruising.

But many executives in the apple industry say they worry that the biotech apples, while safe to eat, will face opposition from some consumers, possibly tainting the wholesome image of the fruit that reputedly “keeps the doctor away.” They are also concerned that it could hurt exports of apples to countries that do not like genetically modified foods.

“In the marketplace we participate in, there doesn’t seem to be room for genetically modified apples now,” said John Rice, co-owner of Rice Fruit Company in Gardners, Pa., which bills itself as the largest apple packer in the East.

The Department of Agriculture, which approved the apples for commercial planting, said on Friday that it had considered these issues. However, it said that under the law, approval is based on whether a genetically modified crop poses a threat to other plants. The department determined that the apples posed no such risk.

The so-called Arctic apples — which will be available in the Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties — are genetically engineered in a way to suppress the production of an enzyme that causes browning when cells in the apple are injured, from slicing, for example.

But over time the apples will still rot and turn brown. In November, the Agriculture Department approved a genetically engineered potato developed by the J.R. Simplot Company that uses a similar technique to prevent browning.

The apple will join relatively few other examples of genetically modified fresh produce, including papaya and some sweet corn. Most of the genetically modified food Americans eat is processed, containing ingredients made from engineered corn or soybeans.

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