A recently published study reveals that pesticide companies have failed to disclose data related to brain toxicity. What does this mean for toxicity data in other fields of research?
Recently, the U.S. Geological Survey acknowledged that at least 45% of the nation’s tap water is estimated to have one or more types of the chemicals known as per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, or PFAS, also known as forever chemicals. This is, unfortunately, just the latest in a string of similar admissions relating to water quality which have come to light in recent years.
As more Americans grapple with the reality that we are swimming in a soup of toxins and radiation, Europeans are becoming aware of the lack of transparency involving studies of pesticides, and potentially other toxins.
A study published in early June found that some studies of pesticides relating to developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) were submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but not to regulatory bodies within the European Union. It took between 14 and 21 years for EU regulators to become aware of these studies. Once they were aware of the data, they enacted new safety regulations in some cases and continue to evaluate necessary steps in others.
A DNT test typically exposes pregnant female rats to a pesticide to assess their offspring for neuropathological and behavioral changes. The tests have been useful for identifying chemicals which will cause DNT in humans.
The study was first reported on by The Guardian in collaboration with European outlets Bayerischer Rundfunk/ARD, Der Spiegel in Germany, SRF in Switzerland, and Le Monde in France. It has received little attention in the American media.
In their review, “Non-disclosure of developmental neurotoxicity studies obstructs the safety assessment of pesticides in the European Unio,” the researchers write (emphasis added):
“We identified 35 DNT studies submitted to the U.S. EPA and with the corresponding EU dossiers available. Of these, 9 DNT studies (26%) were not disclosed by the pesticide company to EU authorities. For 7 of these studies, we have identified an actual or potential regulatory impact.”
The data in the 9 undisclosed studies found changes in brain size, delayed sexual maturation, and reduced weight gain in the second generation of pregnant laboratory rats exposed to a pesticide. Pesticides which were studied but not disclosed to the EU include the popular herbicide glyphosate, insecticides abamectin, ethoprophos, and pyridaben, and the fungicide fluazinam. These chemicals have been used on tomatoes, strawberries, and potatoes.
The researchers acknowledge that “apparently non-disclosure is a problem that is not rare” and, disturbingly, that there could be “no reliable safety evaluation of pesticides by EU authorities without full access to all performed toxicity studies.”
The researchers stated that the undisclosed DNT studies were produced between 2001 and 2007, but EU regulators only became aware of the studies between 2017 and 2022. The researchers found that once the EU became aware of the DNT studies some changes were implemented, including for the pesticide abamectin, where new safety levels for humans were enacted.
The studies were conducted by various pesticide companies, including Bayer and Syngenta. In the EU pesticide safety studies are commissioned and paid for by the companies seeking approval. While national regulators have the power to penalize companies who fail to disclose toxicity studies, for the moment, none have chosen to do so.
Professor Christina Rudén of Stockholm University, one of the authors of the study, believes the studies should be paid for by regulatory bodies to prevent conflicts of interest. The costs could be recovered from the companies once approved.
“There’s no reason we are aware of to believe that withholding evidence is limited to DNT studies, or limited to pesticides,” she told The Guardian. She also referenced tobacco and PFAS as examples where companies purposefully withheld knowledge about toxicity.
A spokesperson for the European Commission stated that there is a “clear obligation” to submit all “adverse data as part of applications since 2013.”
A History of Corruption
Unfortunately, there is a history of the pesticide and chemical industries influencing EU regulators. For example, in 2019 the Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN) released over 600 documents obtained after a two-year legal battle. At the time of the release of the documents, PAN wrote:
“They show top officials trying to protect chemical and farming interests from incoming European rules that were expected to directly ban up to 32 (page 115) endocrine disrupting (EDC) pesticides. The law set out specifically to protect human, animal health and the environment and followed 25 years of mounting scientific evidence linking EDC pesticides to severe human health impacts and gender-bending effects on animals. They may be the cause of birth defects that shocked France last year and made international news headlines.”
The documents — which were released by order of European Court of Justice — detail an internal struggle between Swedish environmental officials and various European Union officials from agriculture, enterprise, industry, and health over attempts to “water down” the criteria for EDC pesticides by introducing non-scientific factors, such as farming profitability. PAN accuses a European Commission secretary general of attempting to orchestrate a “flawed impact assessment process” and of downplaying health impacts.
A 2022 report from Corporate Europe Observatory also shows that prior to the European Commission releasing details of their proposal to reduce EU dependency on pesticides by at least 50 percent by 2030, the chemical lobby began an attack on the “Farm to Fork” plan. The CEO says this “counter-lobby” of pesticide giants includes Bayer-Monsanto, BASF, Syngenta (now Chinese state-owned), and Corteva (Dow-Dupont). CEO writes:
“This report exposes key lobbying tactics used by the pesticide industry to undermine and derail the EU’s Farm to Fork targets. These tactics range from scaremongering with ‘impact studies’, mobilising third countries (notably the US) to put pressure on the EU, to distracting decision makers with voluntary commitments or other false solutions. While fighting reduction targets tooth and nail, corporations like Bayer also lobby heavily for the deregulation of GM seeds from new techniques like CRISPR-Cas and push digital tools for farmers. This is part of their new business model, to make up for or in addition to pesticide sales.”
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Even chemicals which have already been banned by the EU, such as neonicotinoids, continue to be used under various loopholes. Neonics have been linked to the harm of honeybees and have contaminated most of the world’s honey supply. Earlier this year the European Academies Science Advisory Council warned that EU member states and industry are exploiting loopholes to continue using the harmful chemicals nearly a decade after they were first banned.
“To claim that the threat to food security due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means we have to stick with conventional chemical-dependent agriculture is unjustified,” stated Prof. Michael Norton, EASAC’s Environment Director. “There is plenty of evidence that proposed alternative methods can deliver the same or even better yields while maintaining nature’s ecosystem services.”
Clearly, residents of the European Union member states are facing an onslaught of toxic chemicals, and outsized influence of the industry which seeks to profit off the public’s ignorance and declining health.
Where Do We Go From Here?
What is the public supposed to do when they cannot trust that all of the relevant data is being shared with the regulatory bodies they are supposed to trust? And what about corporate capture of those regulatory bodies? How can the public trust that the corporations and the government regulators are being honest in their assessments of what is safe and effective?
Unfortunately, as noted in the top of this article, the United States is also facing a national emergency when relating to forever chemicals in the water and environment. When it comes to the water supply, you also have residue of psychotropic drugs, lead, and, of course, the one thing Americans pay to put in the water — fluoride.
Fluoride is one of the most illustrative examples of how the industry can influence and shape a conversation around the safety of a particular substance. As I have been reporting since 2020, the fluoride lawsuit has revealed the extent to which the industry will lobby government officials and scientists to reach their desired conclusions.
To wrestle with these infuriating realities is to acknowledge that there is no easy, quick fix for these situations. For one, we’re only discussing the water in the U.S. and the E.U., two of the richest parts of the world. We can only assume that other parts of the world, especially the developing world, are seeing similar corrupting influence from the industries which are poisoning the planet.
If we are ever to change these circumstances, and create a world where we can drink water fully knowing that it is not contaminated with poisons, we need to overcome the media blackouts around these topics. We must expose the corruption within governments and corporations. We must fight for clean water, air, and land for the generations living today and those yet to be born.
Source: The Last American Vagabond
Derrick Broze, a staff writer for The Last American Vagabond, is a journalist, author, public speaker, and activist. He is the co-host of Free Thinker Radio on 90.1 Houston, as well as the founder of The Conscious Resistance Network & The Houston Free Thinkers.
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