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André Leu on Monsanto/Bayer Trial: Glyphosate Safety in Question

The recent verdict awarding Dewayne Johnson $289 million, because a jury determined that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer, will open the floodgates for thousands of more people suing the manufacturer, Monsanto/Bayer.

Despite this, the manufacturer continues to state that its studies and the reviews by regulators show that glyphosate does not cause cancer. The manufacturer and regulators, like the U.S. EPA, will not produce these safety studies, to be reviewed by independent scientists and other stakeholders, as they are considered commercial in confidence.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) gave glyphosate the second-highest classification for cancer: 2A, a probable human carcinogen, in 2015. This means that cancer has been found in test animals, with limited evidence in humans. The evidence in humans was a strong association with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The first issue here is if they have the evidence that glyphosate does not cause cancer, why don’t they publicly release it, rather than hiding it?

The other major issue of concern is that the current best practice testing guidelines for pesticides miss the majority of cancers.

The testing guidelines for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD) are regarded as best practice for testing animals for diseases caused by chemicals such as pesticides and are similar to most good practice testing guidelines.

Guideline 451 of the OECD is used for the experimental design of testing chemicals, such as pesticides, for cancers. It requires that: “Each dose group and concurrent control group should therefore contain at least 50 animals of each sex.” This is a group of 100 animals, with an equal amount of males and females. The guidelines also state: “At least three dose levels and a concurrent control should be used.”

This means that there must be one group of 100 animals, usually rats, that are the control and are not dosed with the chemical. There will be three other groups of 100 rats in each group given a dosage of the chemical from highest, middle, to lowest. The number of cancers in each of the dosed groups is compared with the number of cancers in the control group of rats. If the number of cancers is the same between the treated group and the control, then it is considered that the cancers were not caused by the chemical, but by some other means, as the control has not been exposed to the chemical. This is then used to say that a chemical or pesticide does not cause cancer.

There are serious flaws in this method. One of the dosed groups of animals with just one extra cancer than the control results in 1 animal in 100 with cancer. This is the lowest theoretical rate of detection, and it means that cancer would only be detected if the pesticide caused more than 1,000 people per 100,000 people to get cancer. It would miss lower rates of cancer, which are the actual rates of cancers.

The rates of diseases are categorized by the number of people with the disease per 100,000 people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, the rates of common cancers such as lung cancer are 57.5 people per 100,000; colon and rectum cancer 38 per 100,000; non-Hodgkin lymphoma 18.4 per 100,000; leukemias 13.2 per 100,000; pancreatic cancer 12.8 per 100,000; and liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancers 8.3 per 100,000.

For sex-dependent cancers such as breast, ovarian, endometrial, prostate and testicular cancers, the lowest theoretical level of detection is 1 animal in 50 because there are 50 animals of each sex. This means that these cancers would only be detected if they cause more than 2,000 cases of cancer per 100,000 people.

Consequently, despite no evidence of cancer being found in the dosed groups, the study would miss a chemical that could be causing the current epidemic of cancers of sexual tissues. According to the CDC, in 2015 the rate of breast cancer was 124.8 women per 100,000; prostate cancer was 99.1 men per 100,000; ovarian cancer was 11 per 100,000; cancer of the cervix 7.6 per 100,000; and testicular cancer 5.6 per 100,000.

There is no statistically valid way to determine that a dosed group of 100 animals, that shows no sign of cancer, can determine that the chemical in question cannot cause cancer at rates below 1,000 people per 100,000. All of the current cancers found in our communities will be missed.

The only way this could be done statistically would be to have greater amounts of test animals.

The fact is that studies using OECD or similar guidelines, that do not find cancer, cannot accurately say that a chemical does not cause cancer, as they would miss all known cancers.

The Glyphosate Debate

The WHO decision and the Dewayne Johnson verdict agreed that glyphosate is linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The manufacturer states that it does cause this or any other cancer.

The published studies on glyphosate (and other pesticides), even if they used OECD or similar guidelines, use numbers of animals that are too small to detect any of the current cancers and therefore there is no basis to say that it does not cause cancer. It is statistically impossible to use a testing methodology that can only detect cancers to a minimum level of 1,000 cancers per 100,000 people to detect common cancers like lung cancer that occurs at rates of 57.5 people per 100,000 down to liver cancer at rates of 8.3 people 100,000.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma affects 18.4 people per 100,000 in the United States. To positively determine if glyphosate does not cause this cancer an experiment would need a control group of 100,000 rats along with three dose groups of 100,000 rats each — 400,000 rats total. If this experiment showed no sign of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, then it would be statistically probable that it did not contribute to the 18.4 people per 100,000 with the disease. However as far as I know, no such experiment has ever been done.

The fact is that the current testing protocols can only tell us if a pesticide causes cancer. It cannot tell us if a pesticide is safe. Finding no evidence of cancer in a study is not the same as saying that the chemical in question does not cause cancer.

In my opinion it is a gross misrepresentation to say that any of the current published toxicology studies can be used to say that any of the thousands of pesticide products used in the world do not cause cancer and are safe, including glyphosate.

André Leu is the author of Poisoning our Children and The Myths of Safe Pesticides. He is the International Director of Regeneration International.

This article was originally posted on EcoFarming Daily.

International Symposium in Johannesburg Will Highlight the Role of Soil as the Solution to Food Security and Climate Stability

It all started over lunch during the COP 23 Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany, in November 2017. An idea shared over lunch led to a few back-and-forth emails—and here we are: announcing the “4 per1000 Africa Symposium on Soil for Food Security and Climate.” The Symposium will be held October 24-26 (2018), in Johannesburg, South Africa.

During its third meeting, held in Bonn, the Consortium (governing body) of the French government’s “4 per 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate” Initiative met to discuss next steps, or as they referred to it, their “Roadmap 2018.” (Never heard of the 4 per 1000 Initiative? Learn more here.) Consortium members highlighted the need to organize regional networks that could draw attention to the global policy initiative, and pressure policymakers to incorporate the initiative’s climate solution into their overall strategy for meeting the goals established by the Paris Climate Agreement.

That’s when I, representing Regeneration International (RI), suggested that we find allies to host an African “4 per 1000” symposium—and now that suggestion has become a reality. We are about to spread the news, to a wide audience in South Africa, about the great potential of regenerative agriculture and land management to heal South Africa’s soils, increase food security in the region, and restore climate stability.

It’s been important for RI to find a platform to bring together players in soil health, food security and climate health. However we also realize the importance and power of partnerships. That’s why we’re thrilled and honored to be organizing this symposium in partnership with the South Africa-based NEPAD Agency, through its Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), and France’s The 4/1000 Initiative. The timing is perfect for partnering with the NEPAD Agency’s programs—the partnership anchors RI within the CAADP framework which African governments, under the African Union, have signed onto to promote and mainstream the concept of agro-ecological organic regenerative agriculture.

This symposium is much needed at this time, when South Africa, and all of the global south, faces a series of crises. Landscapes are deteriorating every day due to poor management decisions. Year after year, we see a continuous downward spiraling in food security, wildlife habitat, healthy societies and livelihoods.

Small-scale food producers are especially vulnerable to climate disruption, including droughts and flooding. In the restoration of soil carbon, we see tremendous opportunity to build resilience and to not only mitigate, but eventually reverse global warming. What a better way to regenerate both the environment and societies in a continent where agriculture still holds a high place of importance?

The soil is a true ally on the climate crisis front, and Africa has potential to play a big role in this solution journey. Transitioning to regenerative agriculture and land management can help countries fulfill their pledges to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) while nourishing the earth and their populations.

The “4 per1000 Africa Symposium on Soil for Food Security and Climate” will be the first event in South Africa dedicated to communicating the message and strategy behind the “4 per 1000” Initiative. The symposium will bring international stakeholders together with international experts and practitioners to engage in an open debate and to share experiences and lessons on the relationship between soil and climate and the benefits of soil health in supporting all forms of life.

Participants will also have the opportunity to learn more about the work and initiatives that are taking place in Africa, including CADDP and African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), to name a few. We hope the symposium will help build strong support for the “4 per 1000” Initiative and the concept of regenerative agriculture in general.

The symposium is funded in part by RI, NEPAD, the 4 per 1000 Initiative, the German and French governments and registration fees.

Precious Phiri is a member of the Regeneration International (RI) steering committee and also serves as RI’s Africa coordinator. She is the director of IGugu Trust and founding director of EarthWisdom Consulting Co. To keep up with RI news, sign up here for our newsletter.

How Soil Can Improve Food Security While Combating Climate Change

Author: Brian Frederick | Published: March 30, 2018

Dr. Kristine Nichols was the Chief Scientist at the Rodale Institute, an independent research institute for organic farming, from 2014 to 2017. Her training and research focus on the microbes living in soil and how to make soil more productive.

The Rodale Institute was founded in 1947 in Kutztown, PA by J.I. Rodale. Inspired by the nitrogen fertilizer shortages during World War II, Rodale wanted to develop practical methods of rebuilding soil fertility. Today, the institute focuses particularly on compost, soil health, weed and pest management, livestock operations, organic certification, wastewater treatment, and climate change. It is home to the longest running comparative study of organic and chemical agriculture, started in 1981.

Food Tank had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Kristine Nichols about how soil microbes affect agriculture and about some of the trials the Rodale Institute are conducting.

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Drought-Stricken Texans Turn to Cows to Save Their Farms

Authors: Ginger Zee, David Miller, Kelly Harold, Olivia Smith, and Andrea Miller | Published: February 6, 2018

How does a cattle farmer from Texas withstand a drought? In the summer of 2011 as oppressive heat and drought hit Texas, grasses were dying and cows were running out of food to eat. To save their cattle, ranchers were forced to truck their cows to fields of healthy grass.

But as several farms were turning to dust, cattle rancher Jon Taggart of Grandview, Texas, continued run his business.

“I’m proud to say that we harvested cattle every week of the year through that entire drought,” he told ABC News.

How did Taggart stay open while other farmers were struggling?

“The reason was because we planted those deep-rooted native grasses that were designed by somebody a lot bigger than us to survive those droughts,” he said.

Taggart has been raising grass-fed and grass-finished beef since 1999 and owns three stores in Texas called Burgundy Pasture Beef.

While most beef that is sold in stores is finished on grain to fatten them up, Taggart and a small but growing number of farmers are feeding their cows grass exclusively for their whole lives.

That makes the grass as important to the farm as the cows themselves.

“We want an extremely diversified plant population: warm season grasses; cool season grasses; grasses that germinate early; grasses that germinate later.”

That diversity of grass has kept Taggart’s soil healthy even as Texas faces droughts. The grasses ability to hold on to water when it rains has helped keep his farm healthy.

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Stop Buying ‘Fake’ Beef

Author: Dr. Joseph Mercola | Published: January 30, 2018

The average American is slated to eat about 800 burgers’ worth of beef in 2018, or about 222 pounds.1 Where you get this beef, how it’s raised and, ultimately, the way it is prepared make all the difference in how it affects your health and the environment. Source matters — greatly — and part of that includes knowing where your beef was raised. You’d probably assume that beef labeled “Product of the USA” was a product of the U.S., but this isn’t necessarily the case.

In a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, ranch groups R-CALF USA and the Cattle Producers of Washington (CPoW) allege that millions of pounds of imported beef are being labeled as “Products of the USA.” They cite the Tariff Act of 1930, which requires imported beef to be labeled with its country-of-origin, including when it reaches the consumer, “unless the beef undergoes substantial transformation” in the U.S.2

However, the USDA has argued that imported beef can be treated as U.S. beef if it comes from a country with food safety standards that are equivalent to those in the U.S. As reported by the American Grassfed Association (AGA), “Consequently, the Secretary allows multinational meatpackers to label imported beef as ‘Products of the USA’ even if the imported beef receives only minor processing, such as unwrapping and rewrapping the package.”3

Why Is Imported Meat Allowed To Be Labeled as US Meat?

While it seems like labeling meat to let consumers know where it came from would be a straightforward requirement, it’s anything but. The original Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rule, which was approved in 2002 and took effect in 2008, required the country of origin to be listed on meat labels. In 2013, the COOL rule was improved and meat packages were supposed to be required to label where the animal that provided your meat was born, raised and slaughtered.

At the time, industrial meat producers like Tyson, Cargill and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association were among those who spoke out against the rule, calling it unnecessarily costly and “shortsighted,” while fearing it would shrink demand for imported meat. Unfortunately for U.S. consumers seeking greater transparency in their food sources, the meat giants needn’t have worried because global dictators stepped in and essentially told consumers they don’t have the right to know.

In 2015, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled U.S. law requiring COOL labels on meat was illegal, as it discriminated against Canadian and Mexican meat companies and gave an advantage to U.S. meat producers.4 WTO even ordered more than $1 billion in trade sanctions annually against the U.S. if the COOL labels were not weakened or removed altogether. As reported by the Huffington Post:5

“[The] World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling against the country-of-origin meat labels (COOL) that Americans rely on to make informed choices about their food provides a glaring example of how trade agreements can undermine U.S. public interest policies … Mexican and Canadian livestock producers and the U.S. meat processing industry fought fiercely against the policy’s initial enactment and then turn to deregulation-by-trade-agreement as Plan B.”

Americans Want to Know Where Their Meat Comes From

As it stands there is no USDA requirement that beef or pork be labeled to let consumers know what country it came from, despite the fact that Americans overwhelmingly want to know. A Consumers Union poll found that 93 percent of those who responded said they favored country-of-origin labeling.6 And why wouldn’t they? It’s one more way for you to know where your food comes from, providing once commonplace information that has disappeared in the industrial food arena.

By removing COOL, multinational companies are allowed to pass off imported meat as U.S.-raised, while U.S. farmers suffer. AGA noted, “Evidence submitted by the groups indicate that U.S. cattle producers received higher prices for their cattle when the origins of foreign beef was distinguished in the marketplace.” AGA president Will Harris continued:7

“The American Grassfed Family Farmer suffers financially, from this intentional anonymity, more than any other segment of the meat industry. Thank you R-Calf for bringing this injustice to light. Some American Consumers make the decision to pay a premium for beef that is produced in a humane and regenerative manner.

They do this, in part, to positively impact lands, animals and farm communities in the United States. Hiding the National Origin of products from these consumers is a travesty. It should not be tolerated.”

Meanwhile, the lawsuit against the USDA alleges that it’s actually illegal for the USDA to allow meat without country-of-origin labels because it violates the Meat Inspection Act. That act requires COOL on imported steaks and chops, according to Public Justice, which is representing the ranchers’ groups behind the lawsuit.

“And if you don’t believe our suit, believe the USDA itself,” Public Justice reported. “The department had COOL requirements in place for eight years, and it did so in order to be in compliance with the Meat Inspection Act. In other words, the USDA knows its current policies don’t follow the law; it is just captured by corporate interests. It’s time for that to change.”8

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In Ethiopia’s Wheat Diversity, the Seeds of a Wheat Rust Solution

With pathogens like Ug99 evolving and adapting quickly, a diverse agricultural gene pool is often the best insurance for the future.

Authors: Kerstin Hoppenhaus & Sibylle Grunze | Published: January 22, 2018

Ethiopia is one of the oldest cultivating regions not only for wheat, but also for other crops like coffee, millet, and barley. Over thousands of years, the environment and farmers have interacted by selecting and breeding in order to adjust old crop varieties to regional conditions. The result is a unique variety of crop variations, and today, Ethiopia is recognized worldwide as a center for genetic diversity.

The Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov identified these centers as early as 1926. He noticed that in Peru, for example, there were thousands of potato varieties, while South and Central America had many different tomatoes and Central Asia saw a wide variety of carrots.

In Ethiopia, the diversity is in wheat — durum wheat in particular.

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Grocery Store Program Improves Farmers' Adoption of Environmental Practices

Published: January 9, 2018

When grocery stores tout sustainable products, consumers may take their claims at face value. Yet few studies have analyzed whether or not companies who claim to improve the sustainability of their products are actually changing practices in their supply chains.

In a new study published online Dec. 22 in the journal Global Environmental Change, Stanford researchers carried out one of the first analyses of a company-led sustainability program in the food and agriculture space. Studying the agricultural supply chain of Woolworths Holding Ltd. (Woolworths), one of the five largest supermarket chains in South Africa, they found that its Farming for the Future program drove increased adoption of environmental practices at the farm level. Agriculture is one of the largest global environmental polluters, driving deforestation and contributing an estimated 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

“If indeed these company-led policies are effective and able to transform their entire supply chains, then they can potentially transform land-use practices worldwide and have a very positive impact on the environment,” said study co-author Eric Lambin, the George and Setsuko Ishiyama Provostial Professor in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). “Having this kind of evaluation done by independent researchers increases the confidence of the public in these private programs.”

Driving change or greenwashing?

The biggest challenge in evaluating the effects of food store sustainability programs has been gaining access to stores’ private data. For this reason, researchers have focused on certifications led by nongovernmental organizations and multi-stakeholder standards that offer open access to their data, such as FairTrade and the Rainforest Alliance.

“The real question here is, ‘Will companies’ sustainability efforts slow if they don’t have an NGO checking in on them? Will they be actually driving change or is it just greenwashing?'” said lead author Tannis Thorlakson, a doctoral student in Stanford Earth’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER).

Several U.S.-based food retailers with company-led sustainability programs refused to grant Thorlakson access to their data. Eventually, the high-end South African grocery and clothing chain Woolworths gave access.

“It’s really hard to evaluate a company’s sustainability program because you need to know exactly who their suppliers are and how the program works,” Thorlakson said. “Woolworths provided a unique opportunity because they agreed to total academic freedom to evaluate their program and publish results.”

KEEP READING ON SCIENCE DAILY

Grocery Store Program Improves Farmers’ Adoption of Environmental Practices

Published: January 9, 2018

When grocery stores tout sustainable products, consumers may take their claims at face value. Yet few studies have analyzed whether or not companies who claim to improve the sustainability of their products are actually changing practices in their supply chains.

In a new study published online Dec. 22 in the journal Global Environmental Change, Stanford researchers carried out one of the first analyses of a company-led sustainability program in the food and agriculture space. Studying the agricultural supply chain of Woolworths Holding Ltd. (Woolworths), one of the five largest supermarket chains in South Africa, they found that its Farming for the Future program drove increased adoption of environmental practices at the farm level. Agriculture is one of the largest global environmental polluters, driving deforestation and contributing an estimated 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

“If indeed these company-led policies are effective and able to transform their entire supply chains, then they can potentially transform land-use practices worldwide and have a very positive impact on the environment,” said study co-author Eric Lambin, the George and Setsuko Ishiyama Provostial Professor in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). “Having this kind of evaluation done by independent researchers increases the confidence of the public in these private programs.”

Driving change or greenwashing?

The biggest challenge in evaluating the effects of food store sustainability programs has been gaining access to stores’ private data. For this reason, researchers have focused on certifications led by nongovernmental organizations and multi-stakeholder standards that offer open access to their data, such as FairTrade and the Rainforest Alliance.

“The real question here is, ‘Will companies’ sustainability efforts slow if they don’t have an NGO checking in on them? Will they be actually driving change or is it just greenwashing?'” said lead author Tannis Thorlakson, a doctoral student in Stanford Earth’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER).

Several U.S.-based food retailers with company-led sustainability programs refused to grant Thorlakson access to their data. Eventually, the high-end South African grocery and clothing chain Woolworths gave access.

“It’s really hard to evaluate a company’s sustainability program because you need to know exactly who their suppliers are and how the program works,” Thorlakson said. “Woolworths provided a unique opportunity because they agreed to total academic freedom to evaluate their program and publish results.”

KEEP READING ON SCIENCE DAILY

Video: ‘Marketplace Pressure Campaigns to Drive Regenerative Agriculture’ by Ronnie Cummins

Ronnie Cummins of Organic Consumers Association and Regeneration International talks building a regeneration movement in your local community at the Living Soils Symposium Montreal. Learn more about driving the transition to regenerative agriculture here

The Ground Beneath Our Feet

Published: December 4, 2017

During a major soil catastrophe — the Dust Bowl — President Franklin Roosevelt told state governors, “The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”

Still, we treat our soil like dirt. By growing food and storing carbon dioxide and water, the loam and peat that coats the earth sustains us all. In return, we till it, treat it with chemicals and generally walk all over it.

Without healthy soil, food becomes less nutritious and crops become harder to grow. If the crops aren’t healthy, then the 70 percent of the world’s fresh water that’s used for agriculture will be wasted.

2012 study found that about a third of the planet’s topsoil is degraded and that without action, the world will be out of soil suitable for farming within 60 years.

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