Glyphosate is under the spotlight again as a new study has claimed exposure to very low doses may cause liver disease in rats.
Scientists from the UK, Italy and France fed female rats tiny amounts of Roundup, glyphosate’s commercial name, in water over a two-year period.
They concluded consumption of small quantities of the chemical, well below the permissible concentration levels of regulators across the world, were associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in rats, which could suggest a human health risk.
Dr Antoniou from King’s College London, who led the research, said: “The findings of our study are very worrying as they demonstrate for the first time a causative link between an environmentally relevant level of Roundup consumption over the long-term and a serious disease.
“Our results also suggest that regulators should reconsider the safety evaluation of glyphosate-based herbicides.”
In a statement, Monsanto - the manufacturer of Roundup - strongly rejected the findings and said the researchers had a ‘history of using bad science’ to link its products to health issues.
“Similar past studies from these researchers were classified as ‘pseudoscience’ and lacking ethical conduct by the international science community”, the company added.
Scientists on Twitter have already suggested the research could be compromised because it relies on samples from another study which was widely criticised for its methods. This criticism led to the withdrawal of the study, but further controversy followed when it was republished in another journal without review.
Seralini again. Samples are from a retracted study. You can't make bad science good just bc you use 'Omics. t.co/lj3NAjVqjJ— Chad Niederhuth (@chadn737)
The European Agency for Chemical Products (EACP) is currently assessing the safety of glyphosate and a decision on whether to extend its licence in the EU is due at the end of 2017.
In October, Farmers Guardian revealed Merja Kyllonen, one of the MEPs responsible for steering the reauthorisation through the European Parliament, said she ‘expected’ a ban would be complete at the end of 2017.
The pressure has been ramped up by the creation of a European Citizens Initiative (ECI) which is calling on the Commission to outlaw the chemical.
ECI’s are similar to petitions, but they have legal weight. If one million citizens from at least seven member states sign an ECI, the Commission must ‘carefully examine’ the proposal being put forward.
Commissioners are not obliged to act on the request, but they must meet the creators of the ECI to discuss the issue and provide a formal response, explaining the reasons why they have chosen to act or not.
In the US, evidence points to a shift in the opposite direction.
An article tweeted by Trump’s official team said the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – whose declaration glyphosate was ‘probably carcinogenic’ sparked the controversy surrounding the chemical – should not be funded by American taxpayers.
The article brands the IARC and the World Health Organisation (WHO) ‘questionables’ and says their research underpins ‘regulatory fatwas’ based on politics rather than science.
It went on: “The IARC asserts that the commonly used weed killer glyphosate – known commercially by the brand name Roundup – is ‘probably carcinogenic’.
“And there ‘may be’ such a thing as the Easter bunny.”
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the term for a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. It’s usually seen in people who are overweight or obese.
Early-stage NAFLD doesn't usually cause any harm, but it can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis, if it gets worse.
Having high levels of fat in your liver is also associated with an increased risk of problems such as diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.
There aren't usually any symptoms of NAFLD in the early stages. Occasionally, people with more advanced stages of the disease may experience: