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Monsanto’s flagship pesticide linked to cancer and antibiotic resistance” - 2 April 2015

PAN International calls for strong response!

The International Agency for Research and Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

The IARC concluded that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. The decision was made after 17 scientists met on March 20 at the IARC to assess the carcinogenicity of the herbicide glyphosate and 4 organophosphate pesticides.

“Monsanto’s weed-killer glyphosate is wreaking havoc with the health of children and rural communities in Argentina,” said Javier Souza, chair of Pesticide Action Network International. “Thousands of people suffer from glyphosate poisoning related illnesses and the cancer rates are two to four times higher than the national average”. Souza from Argentina, referred to his country’s 24 million hectares of crops, mostly soybeans, genetically engineered (GE) to resist glyphosate. In 2014, 79 million gallons of glyphosate were applied on soybeans and other crops in Argentina. Ahead of Argentina is Brazil with 40 million hectares of GE crops, mostly soybeans. Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia also grow millions of hectares with GE soy resistant to glyphosate.

Monsanto is the creator of its brand-name herbicide Roundup, containing the active ingredient glyphosate, and of GE soybean, corn, and cotton resistant to withstand applications of glyphosate. Glyphosate has become the most heavily used herbicide in the world, bringing billions of dollars in profits to the giant biotech company. In the United States, about 94% soybeans, 89% corn, 91% cotton are GE resistant to glyphosate.

“Glyphosate and other herbicides have been linked to antibiotic resistance,” said Judy Hatcher, vice-chair of PAN International. “The combination of carcinogenicity and antibiotic resistance by Monsanto’s flagship pesticide are two loud wake-up calls for the global community. Policymakers as a matter of highest priority, should keep the next wave of genetically engineered seeds – containing glyphosate and other old, hazardous chemicals – off the market” she added.

Researchers in New Zealand have found that formulations of herbicides containing glyphosate, 2,4-D, and dicamba can lead to development of antibiotic resistance in disease-causing bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella.

“In Asia glyphosate is widely used and the link with carcinogenicity and antibiotic resistance is an area of concern for farmers and agricultural workers who are exposed” said Sarojeni Rengam from PAN Asia Pacific.

“Experience in Africa and other parts of the world show that toxic agrochemicals affect the poorest of the poor, and this situation cannot go on as usual” said Abou Thiam from PAN Africa.

“Hazardous pesticides are part of an obsolete technology and don’t belong in agriculture” added Keith Tyrell from PAN UK. Carina Weber from PAN Germany remarked “This is an opportunity for policymakers to exercise their political will and move the world forward towards sustainable, healthy agriculture, free from toxins”.

As a result of the new research, PAN International calls on governments and policymakers to take first emergency measures to curtail and stop the use of herbicide formulations containing glyphosate applied to genetically engineered seeds and crops. And the network urges governments to develop action plans within the next 60 days to layout how they will address the concerns highlighted in recent studies. Furthermore, PAN International urges governments to stop the release and marketing of highly hazardous pesticides, and establish policies to promote safer agricultural practices that protect workers, consumers, the environment, and provides a dignified living to farmers.


Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is a network of over 600 participating nongovernmental organizations, institutions and individuals in over 90 countries working to replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives.

Contact: Javier Souza, Chair of PAN International & PAN Latin America:, 0054 11 36171782 Paul Towers, PAN North America:, cell: +1 916 216 1082 Sarojeni Rengam, PAN Asia Pacific:, +6 04 657 0271 Abou Thiam, PAN Africa:, +221 338254914 Keith Tyrell, PAN UK:, +44 7588 706224 Susan Haffmans, PAN Germany:, +49 40 3991910 25

Auckland spray is “probably carcinogenic” - 22 March 2015

Weed Management Advisory – Media Release – 22nd March 2015

The World Health Organisation’s cancer research arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), has this week re-classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. The IARC reassessment published in the Journal Lancet Oncology is a wake- up call for Auckland Council and Auckland Transport says the Weed Management Advisory group (WMA). Speaking from New York where she is one of the authors of UNEP’s forthcoming global assessment of gender and the environment, Dr Meriel Watts said that the use of this chemical on the roads, parks and sports fields in Auckland cannot now continue in the face of this latest damning assessment.

“For more than 25 years we have known of the evidence that glyphosate can cause cancer. But the regulators in New Zealand, and in other countries, have refused to heed it. As a result, countless numbers of children have been exposed to this chemical from roadside weed spraying as they walk to school, and in the parks and sports fields where they play” said Dr Watts.

“Children are particularly susceptible to carcinogens”.

Dr Watts, who is a scientist and author has published several authoritative books on the subject of pesticides and cancer including her 2013 “Poisoning Our Future: Children and Pesticides” which details the scientific evidence for the insidious effects of pesticides on children.

“Children are not little adults. The activities they do make them more prone to accumulate pesticides in their bodies; and their developing bodies make them more prone to the negative effects of these toxic chemicals like glyphosate. Yet, governments and industry overlook these impacts on children’s health despite the availability of safer alternatives.”

The WMA says that they have been documenting, detailing and promoting these safer alternatives for years and that Auckland Council and Auckland Transport must wake-up now, drop their baffling and disturbing opposition to nonchemical weed management, and stop using glyphosate.

“It is totally unacceptable to continue to expose people, and especially children, to glyphosate in light of this ruling from the IARC,” said Dr Watts. She emphasised that the IARC is a conservative scientific body “and if they say that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen we can be sure that it is”.

The WMA said they will be pursuing this urgently with Auckland Council, especially in view of the fact that the Long Term Plan budget proposes dropping nonchemical weed control in favour of increasing the use of pesticides. Hana Blackmore said this flies in the face of all reason, Council’s own adopted policy, and the 2014 Human Rights Impact Assessment that confirms that continuing to expose Aucklanders to these toxic chemical sprays is a violation of their human rights.

“Both Auckland Council and Auckland Transport have a fundamental duty to keep people safe and protect their health and wellbeing. They need to take this latest UN Report and our human rights seriously, and eliminate these chemicals from our environment and our children’s lives” said Hana Blackmore.

The WMA will be presenting to Auckland Council before Easter.


Safe Food Campaign media release 4 December 2014

New Zealand baby food contained nearly 800 times more pesticides than baby food in Europe, according to a recent analysis. This evidence and why this is a risk to New Zealand babies will be presented tomorrow to the Primary Production Committee by Dr Meriel Watts of the Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa and Alison White of the Safe Food Campaign(*).

Their oral submissions are in support of a petition presented to parliament earlier this year calling for zero tolerance of pesticides in baby food.

“We want New Zealand to follow the European directives which basically stipulate a zero tolerance policy”, stated Ms White. “Three of the pesticides found in New Zealand baby food are hazardous for young children and babies in the womb. Kiwi babies deserve the same level of protection as they have in the EU.”

Analysis of a government study shows more than 30% of New Zealand baby food contained pesticide residues whereas less than 1% (0.04%) of European baby food did so.

Five pesticides were detected in 32 baby food samples of the last NZ Total Diet Survey of 2009, which included testing of formula, cereal based, custard/fruit and savoury weaning foods. The EU analysis of 2,062 baby foods showed residues in only 0.04% of samples in 2010.

“Some of the pesticides found are carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, for which no safe level has been scientifically established, and doses thousands of times lower than those generally considered toxic are known to interfere with normal human development,” said Ms White.

“Children have unique windows of vulnerability which adults do not have”, said Dr Watts. “Extremely low doses which may not have an immediate effect on adults can critically interfere with children’s ongoing developmental processes. This may result in lifelong alterations in growth and development, organ formation, as well as disease occurrence. One of the key outcomes of exposure to even tiny amounts of pesticides like chlorpyrifos is lowered IQ and delayed development.”

Dr Watts is senior scientist for the Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific, and last year published a book Poisoning our future: children and pesticides, in which she collates a substantial amount of research on why children are at risk from pesticides, even from very low doses.

The Safe Food Campaign also thinks the government should do a more extensive analysis of baby food.

“More extensive and regular surveys need to be done of baby food not only to monitor the proposed legislation but also to provide a more adequate baseline for comparison over time and with other countries,” said Ms White.

New Zealand Joins International Action to Protect Children from Pesticides. - 9th June 2014

With the world using about 50 times more pesticides today than six decades ago, their harmful impact on the environment and human health has increased alarmingly – and evidence is growing that children are especially vulnerable.

On World Environment Day, Pesticide Action Network (PAN)  Asia and the Pacific and PAN North America jointly launched a campaign to  protect children from pesticides.

Aside from those used in agriculture and food production, pesticides used in homes, schools, gardens and public places expose children to debilitating and life-long health problems including  birth defects, asthma, autism, cancers, diabetes, and other childhood and adult-onset diseases and disorders.

“Infants are infinitely more sensitive to pesticides than adults. At the early stage of their lives their immune systems, their endocrine systems and their neurological systems are all still developing, their brains are developing and they’re very sensitive to the effects of even very small doses of pesticides,” said Dr. Meriel Watts, senior scientific advisor to PAN AP and a New Zealand-based specialist on pesticides, and author of the book published last year, Poisoning our Future: Children and Pesticides -

The campaign highlights 20 pesticides that are particularly hazardous for children. All of them interfere with children’s developing hormonal system (endocrine disruptors). Some cause acute poisoning, many are implicated in cancers including childhood cancers, and some cause behavioural changes and reduced intellectual ability in children. Twelve of the 20 are known to contaminate breast milk  and 11  have been found in placental cord blood and/or children’s first faeces – meconium – meaning the children are being born pre-polluted.

“That children are being born already contaminated with pesticides that will undermine their intellectual ability and their health for the rest of their lives, is a tragedy beyond measure. This must stop. It is up to every government to make sure that children are protected from these damaging chemicals by banning them and making sure they are never again used in our countries,” Dr. Watts said.

Whilst the European Union has already banned 12 of the 20 pesticides, New Zealand continues to use 14 of them, including  7 banned by the EU. Some of these were partially reassessed by the EPA last year but their use was allowed to continue because  farmers/growers said they need them.

“Apparently the New Zealand government cares more about what growers say they need, even though safer alternatives exist, than it does about children’s health and the future of society. Just one of those pesticides, chlorpyrifos, known to reduce children’s IQ, is linked by international scientists with a silent pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity that is undermining the functioning of society.”

A summary of the effects of the 20 pesticides can be found here.

Factsheets on the 20 pesticides can be found at

The 20 pesticides are: atrazine,   carbaryl,   chlorothalonil,   chlorpyrifos,   cyhalothrin,   cypermethrin,   DDT,   deltamethrin,   diazinon,   dichlorvos,   malathion, mancozeb,   maneb,   methamidophos,   methyl parathion,   monocrotophos,   paraquat,   parathion,   permethrin,   propoxur.

Chlorpyrifos found in NZ streams - it should have been banned - 25th of July 2013.

A just published scientific study* on levels of pesticides in New Zealand streams has found that the most frequently detected pesticide is the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos, found in 87% of samples taken from South Island streams.

“This is devastating news for New Zealand”, said Dr Meriel Watts of Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand. “Pregnant women and small children should not be exposed to chlorpyrifos. At very low levels it interferes with brain development in the unborn foetus and newborn infants, resulting in altered brain structure, lowered IQ, and behavioural changes including pervasive developmental disorder, leading to potential long-term consequences for social adjustment and academic achievement. The effects reported in studies are regarded by some scientists as comparable to those of lead and tobacco smoke. Chlorpyrifos is also an endocrine disruptor interfering with androgens, oestrogen, and thyroid hormones, and is a risk for breast cancer.”

Chlorpyrifos is persistent in the environment and bioaccumulative. Residues of chlorpyrifos are widespread in the Arctic, even more common than endosulfan which New Zealand banned in 2008, and there are worldwide efforts  to get it listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants for a global ban.

Residues of chlorpyrifos have been found in the air over the Southern Alps, and this latest study found it in pine needles on organic farms were it is not used, indicating both its ability to move away from were it is used and its persistence in the environment.

“The EPA have recently reassessed chlorpyrifos  and given it the green light even for aerial spraying despite its volatility. But they failed to  assess it for persistence and bioaccumulation. They failed to assess it for long range transport, and they failed to properly assess it for neurodevelopmental effects. They completely ignored a detailed submission from PAN ANZ of information on safer alternatives for every one of chlorpyrifos uses that EPA had identified, and instead decided that because growers said they need it, they can have it.  The EPA did an appalling job of its reassessment and now we have even more evidence that this chemical must go. What will it take before the EPA decides to protect the environment and peoples health rather than chemicals?”

  • Shahpoury et al. 2013. Chlorinated pesticides in stream sediments from organic, integrated and conventional, farms. Environmental Pollution 181(219-225).

Guatemala and India block listing of toxic paraquat formulation in the Rotterdam Convention Geneva - 10th of May 2013.

Industry representative deceives delegates by speaking on behalf of Guatemalan government.

Failure to list will deprive countries of their right to know and to take informed decisions about import Geneva, Switzerland (10 May 2013) – More than 120 government parties to the Rotterdam Convention support the listing of paraquat (20%) as a severely hazardous pesticide formulation in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. However, at the 6th Conference of Parties, Guatemala together with India blocked the listing of paraquat. A Convention listing would not ban paraquat but simply require exporters to notify and get permission from importing countries. Guatemala gave a long list of initial reasons for opposing the listing but finally admitted that they feared a listing would result in some countries in the region saying no to imports of paraquat from Guatemala (a major formulator of the herbicide). Delegates were even more surprised when they finally learned that the delegate speaking on behalf of the Guatemalan government at the beginning of the negotiation was actually an industry observer who did not reveal his identity to negotiators until a day later. The Secretariat later on expelled him from the conference. Nevertheless, the co-chairs of the Working Group concluded that no consensus for listing was achieved and proceeded to draft a decision document postponing the discussion to the next COP. The next day the African Group supported by others requested that the discussion on the listing of paraquat continue at this COP because the misconduct of the industry representative from Guatemala had derailed the process. However, this additional session did not change the position of India and Guatemala. Read the full Press Release here.