Brussels downplays importance of pesticide toxicity report

Un gaspillage total?

The European Commission says that there is no reason for “crisis-intervention” after a French researcher claimed he had proof that pesticides were much more toxic than their guidelines suggest.

The study, by biologist Gilles-Eric Séralini, looks into the measurements used to set the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of Monsanto’s Roundup pesticides.

The research showed that if the so-called adjuvants used in pesticides are included in the calculations, they amplify the toxicity of their active ingredient greatly.

“Adjuvants in pesticides are generally declared as inerts, and for this reason they are not tested in long-term regulatory experiments. It is thus very surprising that they amplify up to 1000 times the toxicity of their active principle in 100% of the cases where they are indicated to be present by the manufacturer,” the study says.

Séralini claimed that human cells began to commit suicide when exposed to the pesticides in petri dish experiments.

A first analysis by the European Commission’s health and consumer’s directorate showed that the report did not provide any new information.

“It looks like that, in this paper, the test design is very much targeted towards provoking an expected effect, so no reason for a ‘crisis-intervention’,” said Frédéric Vincent, the spokesperson for health and consumer affairs.

“As you know, there are some rules to be followed when new scientific evidence is supposed to have been put forward by a researcher,” he added. “M. Séralini did not really follow them on his GM study some months ago.”

Séralini’s previous study, which showed that rats exposed to Monsanto genetically modified maize and Roundup pesticides, was retracted after fierce criticism of its research methods. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said the study was “of insufficient scientific quality”. Last week a group of 41 scientists requested that the report be reinstated.

The European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) – whose members include many of the world’s largest pesticides manufacturers, including BASF chemicals, Dow Agrosciences, Monsanto and Syngenta – said the new research paper was not up to sufficient standards of scientific enquiry to contribute to the literature on pesticide safety.

“The testing model used by the authors is inappropriate for drawing any conclusions regarding real life toxicity relevant to humans,” read an ECPA statement.

The European Commission says that pesticides can have severe undesirable effects if they are not strictly regulated.

In EU law, the term pesticides refers to insecticides, acaricides, herbicides, fungicides, plant growth regulators, rodenticides, biocides and veterinary medicines.

Pesticides have to undergo strict testing before they can be approved in the EU. They cannot be used in the EU unless it is scientifically proven that they do not harm people's health, do not cause "unacceptable effects on the environment", and that they are effective against pests.

European Commission

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  • European Crop Protection Association: Website

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