Congressman Ted Lieu Makes Statement on His Glyphosate Concerns: The Activist Hobbyhorse Rides Again

Congressman Ted Lieu who represents California’s 33rd district (which includes Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Palos Verdes Peninsula, and Santa Monica) issued a statement on his concerns about glyphosate. Below is his statement:

REP. LIEU STATEMENT ON NEW GLYPHOSATE SAFETY CONCERNS

March 15, 2017
Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WashingtonToday, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) issued the following statement regarding reports that unsealed court documents raise new questions about the safety of Monsanto weed killer Roundup and its chief ingredient glyphosate.

“New questions about the safety of Monsanto weed killer Roundup are deeply troubling. I worked on the glyphosate issue last term and I believe consumers should immediately stop using Roundup, whose core ingredient glyphosate has been labeled a likely carcinogen and has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. We need to find out if Monsanto or the Environmental Protection Agency misled the public.”

“Reports suggest that a senior official at the EPA worked to suppress a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review of glyphosate, and may have leaked information to Monsanto. I believe that a Department of Justice investigation is warranted to look into any potential misconduct by employees of the EPA. I also believe a congressional hearing is immediately warranted.”

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Let’s unpack this.

New questions about the safety of Monsanto weed killer Roundup are deeply troubling. I worked on the glyphosate issue last term…”

According to Judy Frankel, an anti-biotechnology campaigner writing in Huffington Post, in June 2016, Lieu met behind closed doors with “independent scientists” and “EPA scientists” and “urged the EPA to ban RoundUp.” These scientists provided “testimony that it [glyphosate] poses an unreasonable risk to humans, animals, and the environment” These scientists contended glyphosate is “linked to autism, Alzheimer’s, cancer, birth defects, obesity, gluten intolerance, among other health issues.” The other health issues are probably cooties and stuff that chemtrails also covers. The first red flag here is “linked to.” This is not linked in the same way smoking and cancer is linked. No, this is in the way if two different variables have increases over time, they can appear linked. You can link autism with sales of organic food, which is supposed to magically prevent all the things that glyphosate magically causes.

 

and I believe consumers should immediately stop using Roundup, whose core ingredient glyphosate…”

I suspect the city park’s employees of Petaluma might disagree with Rep. Lieu.

Recently, the tony City of Petaluma stopped using RoundUp as an experiment. The result was a 1700% increase in cost for less effective organic treatments and real health problems for the applicators. According to a story in Petaluma Argus-Courier, “The treatments are also said to be extremely pungent during application, with several workers complaining of eye irritation and one experiencing respiratory problems….Those attributes have required the use of new protective equipment, something that was not required with Roundup.”

[glyphosate] has been labeled a likely carcinogen and has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The best IARC could do, despite the monograph study group being shepherded by  Christopher J. Portier – an activist from the American anti-pesticides NGO, the Environmental Defense Fund; was to declare that glyphosate as a Class 2a hazard. This classification put glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp) in the same category as 73 other things, including night shift work and hairdressing. IARC lists sunlight, wood dust, and alcohol as larger cancer risks.

To get glyphosate into the 2a classification took a monumental effort to distort findings. As toxicologist Frank Schnell says, They are “designed to make your head hurt, so that you won’t hear that soft little voice of common sense in the back of your head whispering ‘this is all bullshit, isn’t it?.’…Stupid nonsense dressed up to look like complicated science is still just stupid nonsense.”

Myles Powers and his friend James, scrutinized the IARC monograph (as the report is called) and found that the citations the mongraph uses say something quite different than the results cited in IARC’s report. The video is less than 20 minutes and well worth your time, especially if you are Rep. Ted Lieu.

As for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, here is what the Environmental Protection Agency concluded: “there is conflicting evidence for the association between glyphosate exposure and NHL. No association between glyphosate exposure and NHL was found in population-based case-control studies in the United States, Canada or France. Additionally, the large prospective Agricultural Health Study (AHS) with 54,315 licensed pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina did not show a significantly increased risk of NHL. A population-based case-control study from Sweden suggested an association between glyphosate exposure and NHL; however, this finding was based on only 4 glyphosate-exposed cases and 3 controls.” Got that? 54,315 licensed pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina showed no increase versus a small study of “only 4 glyphosate-exposed cases…”

In the right light and the right camera angles, you could make this molehill to look like a mountain.

“Reports suggest that a senior official at the EPA worked to suppress a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review of glyphosate, and may have leaked information to Monsanto. I believe that a Department of Justice investigation is warranted to look into any potential misconduct by employees of the EPA. I also believe a congressional hearing is immediately warranted.”

In other words, a whistleblower probably found that HHS was doing activist science and leaked word to the press. The HHS review was part of Environmental Protection Agency’s review of glyphosate following the IARC classification.

Because, here is what the EPA found regarding glyphosate: “Based on a weight of evidence approach from a wide range of assays both in vitro and in vivo including endpoints for gene mutation, chromosomal damage, DNA damage and repair, there is no in vivo genotoxic or mutagenic concern for glyphosate.” That’s sci-speak for “we found bupkis.”

The technical scientific term for what the EPA found with regard to harm from glyphosate is “diddly squat.” They were as lucky at finding problems with glyphosate as I was with getting to second base with Mary Sue Horsley. And it wasn’t for lack of trying, either by the Obama administration or me, I’m sure.

This hobbyhorse in the activist’s apocalypse rodeo keeps getting trotted out and this time Congressman Lieu decided to ride it. Yippee-ki-yay, Motherfucker.

Further Reading/Reference:
The EXtension TOXicology NETwork information on glyphosate: http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/dienochlor-glyphosate/glyphosate-ext.html

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How do experts determine the safe level of a chemical?

“The main rule in toxicology is that ‘the dose makes the poison’. At some level, every chemical becomes toxic, but there are safe levels below that,” wrote Bruce Ames, who is the creator of the Ames Test which determines if a chemical is mutagenic.

Welcome to California, home of chemophobia and flawed risk assessment. Photo by the author.

A Prop 65 sign in a Starbuck’s Coffee outlet. Photo by the author.

Ames says that in the 1970s the prevailing thinking was that “we should assume that even low doses might cause cancer, even though we lacked the methods for measuring carcinogenic effects at low levels.” The assumption has never left, one need only to look at the ever-present Proposition 65 signs or listen to Vani Hari (aka the Food Babe).

At the time experts also assumed that:

  1.  only a small proportion of chemicals would have carcinogenic potential
  2. testing at a high dose would not produce a carcinogenic effect unique to the high dose; and
  3. carcinogens were likely to be synthetic industrial chemicals.
    It is time to take account of information indicating that all three assumptions are wrong. – Bruce Ames, 2005.  (my emphasis)

Ames points out that our test for carcinogenicity of feeding animals near-fatal doses of the chemical is flawed because, “High doses can cause chronic wounding of tissues, cell death, and consequent chronic cell division of neighboring cells, which would otherwise not divide.”

How should a “safe” level be arrived at?

The basic steps to arriving at a safe level are:
  1. Determine a Point of Departure:

    This means to review the scientific data available on the toxicity of a compound and select the most sensitive endpoint. So if a chemical causes liver toxicity at a concentration of 1 mg/kg, kidney toxicity at 50 mg/kg and stomach ulcers at 0.1 mg/kg – the 0.1 mg/kg would be selected as the point of departure because if you pick a concentration that prevents stomach ulcers, you will by design also protect against the liver and kidney toxicity (because you need higher concentrations of the chemical to cause those). Furthermore, typically you are looking to pick a NOAEL (No Observable Adverse Effect Level) as a Point of Departure (POD), as this is the highest concentration of a “substance at which there are no biologically significant increases in frequency or severity of any effects in the exposed humans or animals.” (International Council on Harmonisation, 2011)

2. Determine how many modifying factors or uncertainty factors you should use.

The International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) appendix 3 gives examples of the modifying factors to use, depending on what kind of study was conducted to determine the POD. Modifying (or uncertainty) factors provide a cushion to human exposure based on factors like which animal was used for the study, the duration of the study and whether the POD is a “No Observable Adverse Effect Level” (NOAEL) or LOAEL.

The “safe” level is really a concentration that would be highly unlikely to cause an adverse effect in even the most sensitive individuals. Using the modifying factors (in step 2 of appendix 3), this concentration results in a very conservative value. These “safe” levels are referred to as PDE (Permissible Daily Exposure), ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake), RfD (Reference Dose) and other things depending on the agency that is generating them, but they all mean the same thing: the level that would not be expected to produce an adverse effect. These values are expressed as either mg/day (where an adult body weight of between 50 and 70 kg is used as a “typical” body weight) or expressed as mg/kg body weight/day.

That’s it. The equations used, and the modifying factors suggested also differ slightly between agencies, but the general concept remains the same.
So when a safe level is determined by toxicologists using best available science, and regulators arbitrarily increase the safety factors, Schnell correctly notes, “the general public commonly misinterprets those bureaucratically generated ‘safe’ levels of exposure as legitimately established thresholds of effect…”
As Frank Schnell, who is a Board Certified PhD in Toxicology, explained, “If you’re standing near the rim of the Grand Canyon admiring the view, you’re probably safe. Nevertheless, as improbable as it is, it’s not entirely impossible that a very strong gust of wind might blow you over the edge. To make sure that you were safe, even under very windy conditions, you could step back ten paces or so–that’s what regulators call a ‘safety factor.’ But, to imagine that stepping back 100 paces, or even a mile, would make you even more safe under implausible conditions (a tornado?) would be not only misguided, but counterproductive, as well, because then you couldn’t see the Grand Canyon, at all.”

 

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