Roundup and Birth Defects: Is the Public Being Kept in the Dark?

The pesticide industry and EU regulators knew as long ago as the 1980s-1990s that Roundup, the world's best selling herbicide, causes birth defects – but they failed to inform the public.

This report, co-authored by international scientists and researchers, reveals that industry's own studies (including one commissioned by Monsanto) showed as long ago as the 1980s that Roundup's active ingredient glyphosate causes birth defects in laboratory animals.

Questions in the EU Parliament

The following EU parliamentary questions to the European Commission (EC) have been asked about Roundup, some of them about our report:

  • Glyphosate: concern over the delayed glyphosate review, 3 Oct 2011, Question from Sir Graham Watson (ALDE), Answer from the EC
  • Cultivation of genetically-engineered seed and use of Roundup weed killer in EU Member States, 13 Sept 2011, Question from Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL), Answer from the EC
  • Glyphosate: recent and worrying reports, 1 Aug 2011, Question from Linda McAvan (S&D), Answer from the EC
  • Review of glyphosate, 20 July 2011, Question from William (The Earl of) Dartmouth (EFD), Answer from the EC
  • Glyphosate: using Monsanto's research on the substance to inform decisions on its safety for use, 20 July 2011, Question from Timothy Kirkhope (ECR), Answer from the EC
  • Review of glyphosate, 12 July 2011, Question from William (The Earl of) Dartmouth (EFD), Answer from the EC
  • Suppression of information about the side effects of glyphosate in the herbicide 'Roundup', 30 June 2011, Question from Franz Obermayr (NI), Answer from the EC
  • Public kept in the dark on Roundup link with birth defects, 27 June 2011, Question from Michail Tremopoulos (Verts/ALE), Answer from the EC
  • Roundup herbicide spray, 27 June 2011, Question from Andreas Mölzer (NI), Answer from the EC
  • Consequences for the EU of the discovery of a new pathogen in Monsanto's GMO products, 13 March 2011, Question from Kartika Tamara Liotard (GUE/NGL), Answer from the EC
  • Renewal of registration of glyphosate, 10 Feb 2011, Question from Michail Tremopoulos (Verts/ALE), Answer from the EC
  • Error in the Commission's answer to my written question on glyphosate, 15 Dec 10, Question from Michail Tremopoulos (Verts/ALE), Answer from the EC
  • Safety standards regarding widely used pesticide, 1 Oct 2010, Question from Michail Tremopoulos (Verts/ALE), Answer from the EC

The facts are these:

  • Industry has known from its own studies since the 1980s that glyphosate causes malformations in experimental animals at high doses
  • Industry has known since 1993 that these effects also occur at lower and mid doses
  • The German government has known since at least 1998 that glyphosate causes malformations
  • The EU Commission's expert scientific review panel knew in 1999 that glyphosate causes malformations
  • The EU Commission has known since 2002 that glyphosate causes malformations. This was the year it signed off on the current approval of glyphosate.

But this information was not made public. On the contrary, the pesticide industry and Europe's regulators have jointly misled the public with claims that glyphosate is safe. As a result, Roundup is used by home gardeners and local authorities on roadsides, in school grounds, and in other public areas, as well as in farmers' fields.

As recently as 2010, the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, BVL, told the Commission there was "no evidence of teratogenicity" (ability to cause birth defects) for glyphosate.

BVL made this comment in its rebuttal of an independent scientific study by Argentine scientists which showed that Roundup and glyphosate cause birth defects in experimental animals at concentrations much lower than those used in agricultural spraying. The study was prompted by reports of high rates of birth defects and cancers in areas of South America growing genetically modified (GM) Roundup Ready soy, which is engineered to tolerate being sprayed liberally with glyphosate herbicide.

In its rebuttal of the Argentine study, BVL cited as proof of glyphosate's safety the industry studies submitted for the Commission's 2002 approval of glyphosate (the approval that is currently in force in Europe).

But the authors of the new report obtained the approval documents and found that contrary to BVL's claim, industry's own studies, conducted in the 1980s and 1990s, showed that glyphosate/Roundup causes birth defects in experimental animals.

Download the report - Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?

By Michael Antoniou, Mohamed Ezz El-Din Mostafa Habib, C. Vyvyan Howard, Richard C. Jennings, Carlo Leifert, Rubens Onofre Nodari, Claire Robinson, John Fagan. Published by Earth Open Source, June 2011

Monsanto's Response to - Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?

EOS Response to Monsanto - Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?

New data on health aspects of Glyphosate? Response to Earth Open Source's report from the German ministry for risk assessment, BfR

In the interests of transparency and so that readers can check the accuracy of the statements in our report, we have made available those parts of Germany¹s 1998 draft assessment report (DAR) on glyphosate that we cite.

The files are as follows:

Download the peer-reviewed version of the report, published 2012 in the Journal of Environmental and Analytical Toxicology as "Teratogenic effects of glyphosate-based herbicides: Divergence of regulatory decisions from scientific evidence".

Roundup and Birth Defects: Is the Public Being Kept in the Dark?

The pesticide industry and EU regulators knew as long ago as the 1980s-1990s that Roundup, the world's best selling herbicide, causes birth defects – but they failed to inform the public.

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