Like the cigarette companies, Monsanto continues to defend Roundup (Glyphosate) as safe to use, but accumulating scientific evidence shows it could be among the most dangerous products on earth.
The world’s top selling herbicide is now implicated in a series of epidemics of fatal chronic kidney disease that’s affecting poor farming regions across the world, according to research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
In Sri Lanka, 15% of the population is affected – 400,000 patients and 20,000 deaths. Therefore, the president ordered that glyphosate be banned a couple of weeks ago.
“An investigation carried out by medical specialists and scientists reveals that kidney disease is mainly caused by Glyphosate. President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the immediate removal of Glyphosate from the local market soon after he heard of the contents of the report,” S.M. Chandrasena, Deputy Minister of Economic Development told reporters. He said the 25,000 people currently fighting the disease would be assisted with funds for medical expenses and clean drinking water.
The paper, Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka?, suggests that a combination of glyphosate in areas where there are heavy metals in the drinking water can lead to the disease.
“Glyphosate acts as a carrier or a vector of these heavy metals to the kidney,” explains Dr. Channa Jayasumana, the study’s principal author.
Metals like arsenic and cadmium can be present naturally in the soil or added by spreading fertilizer. Heavy metals, glyphosate and other herbicides have been found in urine samples of kidney patients, according to health officials there.
This mysterious form of kidney disease has been killing tens of thousands of agricultural workers in Central America, Sri Lanka and India. Although it is completely treatable in wealthier countries, more people have died from it in El Salvador and Nicaragua than from diabetes, AIDS and leukemia combined over the last five years, reports Center for Public Integrity.
El Salvador also passed legislation to ban dozens of agrochemicals including glyphosate last year, but it has yet to be signed into law.
Brazil, Chile Move Against Monsanto
Action against glyphosate is also underway in Brazil, where the Federal Public Prosecutor is calling on the Justice Department to ban it. Other GMO herbicides are also targets: 2,4-D and active ingredients methyl parathion, lactofem, phorate, carbofuran, abamectin, tiram and paraquat, according to GMWatch.
Legal actions have been filed to compel Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) to reevaluate the toxicity of those active ingredients. The prosecutor wants the products banned until a final conclusion is reached.
The previous week, Brazil’s Federal Appeals Court unanimously ruled to cancel cultivation of Bayer’s Liberty Link GM Maize.
In Chile, locals are cheering derailment of the “Monsanto Law,” which would have allowed multinational agribusiness corporations to patent the majority of heritage seeds – which local farmers would then have to buy from them. The new center-left Chilean government withdrew the bill.
“We reject this law because it is a threat to family farms and to biodiversity,” says Lucía Sepúlveda of the Alliance for a Better Quality of Life/Pesticide Action Network of Chile. There have been massive protests against the proposed law.
Small farmers are already struggling against big agribusiness there, which exports products to the US and elsewhere. They expect the corporate lobby to reintroduce the bill.
The same is true in Colombia, where last year farmers held a strike in protest of their own Monsanto Law, which was inserted into a free trade pact with the US. Seed patenting bills are also anathema in Argentina, Venezuela and Mexico.
South Africa Pulls Deceptive Monsanto Ad
Meanwhile in South Africa, Monsanto has been ordered to pull a radio ad that touts GMO crops without substantiation.
The ad said genetically engineered crops “enable more food to be produced sustainably while using fewer resources; provide a healthier environment by using less pesticides; decrease greenhouse gas emissions and increase crop yields substantially.”
Independent, credible data is required by South African law, and since Monsanto did not provide it, the ad was pulled.
“We are elated with this decision,” says Mariam Mayet, executive director of the African Centre for Biosafety, which filed the complaint. “It appears Monsanto does not have much regard for South African law as it is hell bent on disseminating false information to the South African public.”