GM Free Cymru

New research ramps up pressure for science-based GM ban in Europe

Press Notice 5th October 2010

A number of highly significant research publications in recent weeks have demonstrated unequivocally that herbicide-tolerant GM crops are associated with large-scale environmental and health effects, and pressure is now building on the European Commission to respond by bringing in an immediate GM moratorium.

At least a dozen studies have now shown that Roundup, the Monsanto herbicide used in conjunction with the cultivation of RR (Roundup Ready) soy and other GM crops, is harmful to aquatic life, insect and bird populations, and to soil biodiversity (1). Residues of Roundup, at far lower concentrations than those allowed in agriculture, interfere with the hormone functioning of human cells and damage human embryonic cells (2). Residues also cause skeletal malformations in foetuses in animal experiments. In the most recently published research, by Professor Andres Carrasco and his team in Argentina, it was discovered that Roundup residues cause malformations in the embryos of chickens and frogs which were very similar to those observed in the offspring of humans who are exposed to herbicide spraying in areas where GM soy is grown on a large scale (3). In April 2010 a commission opened by the provincial government of Chaco in Argentina completed a report analyzing health statistics in the town of La Leonesa and other areas where soy and rice crops are heavily sprayed (4). The commission reported that the childhood cancer rate tripled in La Leonesa from 2000 to 2009 during the large-scale introduction of RR crops. The rate of birth defects increased nearly fourfold over the entire state of Chaco.

Watchdog group GM-Free Cymru has now written to Commissioner John Dalli (who holds the GM portfolio) demanding an immediate science- based freeze on the GM approvals process, pending a careful consideration of the new research findings (5). The group has pointed out that EFSA, the Commission's own "health and safety watchdog", has failed to react to the clear warning signs in the scientific literature over the past few years, simply repeating over and again that GM crops and foods are "just as safe as their conventional counterparts." On that basis, EFSA has lost the trust of member states, NGOs and consumer groups across Europe, and it is widely claimed that it is unfit for purpose and in need of root and branch reform (6).

Speaking for GM-Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: "The Commission cannot continue to exist in a state of denial about the harmful effects of Roundup herbicide and of the GM crops that carry Roundup residues into the food chain. It is required by law to take account of both the direct and indirect effects of the cultivation of GM soy, and maybe Commissioner Dalli should take a trip to Argentina and Paraguay to see for himself the reality of the situation. It is ethically indefensible for Europe to import millions of tonnes of GM soy in to Europe on the basis that the appalling damage being done to human health and the environment is "over there, and not over here." We therefore demand an immediate ban on the use of glyphosate in Europe, and an immediate review of the consents already issued for the import of GM soy into Europe for food and feed use (7).

"Commissioner Dalli says over and again that he insists on facts when it comes to GM assessments, and that all his decisions are science- based. Well, he has the facts and he has the science. What we need from him now is action rather than fine words. If he does not act to protect the health of the people of Europe (and of the GM soy growing regions) he will be held personally responsible for the consequences."


Contact: Dr Brian John GM-Free Cymru Tel 01239-820470


1. See, for example, the following: Relyea, R.A. 2005. The impact of insecticides and herbicides on the biodiversity and productivity of aquatic communities. Ecol. Appl. 15, 618–627 Relyea, R.A., Schoeppner, N. M., Hoverman, J.T. 2005. Pesticides and amphibians: the importance of community context. Ecological Applications 15, 1125–1134. Marc, J., Mulner-Lorillon, O., Bellé, R. 2004. Glyphosate-based pesticides affect cell cycle regulation. Biology of the Cell 96, 245– 249. Bellé, R., Le Bouffant, R., Morales, J., Cosson, B., Cormier, P., Mulner-Lorillon, O. 2007. Sea urchin embryo, DNA-damaged cell cycle checkpoint and the mechanisms initiating cancer development. J. Soc. Biol. 201, 317–327. Schuette, J. 1998. Environmental fate of glyphosate. Environmental Monitoring & Pest Management, Dept of Pesticide Regulation, Sacramento, CA. Santillo, D.J., Brown, P.W., Leslie, D.M. 1989. Response of songbirds to glyphosate-induced habitat changes on clearcuts. J. Wildlife Management 53, 64–71. Springett, J.A., Gray, R.A.J. 1992. Effect of repeated low doses of biocides on the earthworm Aporrectodea caliginosa in laboratory culture. Soil Biol. Biochem. 24, 1739–1744.

2. See, for example, the following: Benachour, N., Séralini, G-E. 2009. Glyphosate formulations induce apoptosis and necrosis in human umbilical, embryonic, and placental cells. Chem. Res. Toxicol. 22, 97–105. Gasnier, C., Dumont, C., Benachour, N., Clair, E., Chagnon, M.C., Séralini, G-E. 2009. Glyphosatebased herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines. Toxicology 262, 184-191. Richard, S., Moslemi, S., Sipahutar, H., Benachour, N., Séralini, G-E. 2005. Differential effects of glyphosate and Roundup on human placental cells and aromatase. Environmental Health Perspectives 113, 716–20. Haefs, R., Schmitz-Eiberger, M., Mainx, H.G., Mittelstaedt, W., Noga, G. 2002. Studies on a new group of biodegradable surfactants for glyphosate. Pest Manag. Sci. 58, 825–833. Marc, J., Mulner-Lorillon, O., Boulben, S., Hureau, D., Durand, G., Bellé, R. 2002. Pesticide Roundup provokes cell division dysfunction at the level of CDK1/cyclin B activation. Chem Res Toxicol. 15, 326–31. Benachour, N., Sipahutar, H., Moslemi, S., Gasnier, C., Travert, C., Séralini, G-E. 2007. Time and dose-dependent effects of roundup on human embryonic and placental cells. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 53, 126–33. Dallegrave, E., Mantese, F.D., Coelho, R.S., Pereira, J.D., Dalsenter, P.R., Langeloh, A. 1993. The teratogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate-Roundup in Wistar rats. Toxicol. Lett. 142, 45-52.

3. Paganelli, A., Gnazzo, V., Acosta, H., López, S.L., Carrasco, A.E. 2010. Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signalling. Chem. Res. Toxicol., August 9.

4. Comision Provincial de Investigación de Contaminantes del Agua. 2010. Primer informe. Resistencia, Chaco. April 2010.

5. Also letter dated 3rd October 2010: For Commissioner Dalli: Science demands an immediate freeze on GMO approvals process. Available on request

"EFSA is not fit for purpose " OPEN LETTER to Catherine Geslain- Laneelle Executive Director, EFSA Parma Italy, 10th December 2007

7. Two soy GM "events" were authorized by the EC for commercialization (food and feed use) in Europe in 2008, following at least one earlier consent. At the time, EFSA advised that the GM soy varieties (from Monsanto and Bayer) were essentially harmless, and the body has not revisited or revised those opinions. In assessing GM soy products for use in Europe, neither the Commission nor EFSA takes account of the health and environmental damage suffered at the place of crop cultivation. CERA Agbios Notes on toxicity etc for RR soy imported into Europe --