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Glyphosate Risks To Human Health Ignored: Where Is The Duty Of Care?

Bayer-Monsanto's June 24 announcement of a US$10.9 billion pay out (1) to people who have been harmed by Glyphosate, is effectively an admission of guilt.

Spokesperson for The People’s Inquiry 2020 Asha Andersen says, “The Ministry of Health, The Environmental Protection Agency, WorkSafe and the Ministry for the Environment all have a duty of care to the people of Aotearoa New Zealand and they are currently failing us. The Government cannot prove these chemicals are safe, and in fact, the vast body of independent evidence states that they are not safe, they persist in the environment and can cause serious harm, not only to human, animal and insect health, but also our waterways and soils.”

“New Zealand Government authorities and contractors are still using Glyphosate/Roundup throughout our environment and public spaces, despite decades of mounting evidence of the actual and potential harm caused by this and other pesticides and herbicides. The People’s Inquiry 2020 Te Uiuinga a te Tāngata, is hearing every day from people who have been harmed by toxic chemicals, including roadside poisons and poisons used in agriculture and conservation. Where there is even a hint of doubt about the safety of a particular substance, The Precautionary Principle must be employed to reduce unnecessary risks to public health and our environment. Currently however, this duty of care is sorely lacking and can be seen in the fact that our NZ Environmental Protection Authority (NZEPA) has never undertaken a legal prosecution despite on going serious breaches to the Hazardous Substances Act. Our regulatory bodies are not protecting the public from any unintended consequences from the multiple risks of chemical poisons. There are no longer any acceptable excuses, we need to see public servants held accountable for failing to protect human health,” says Andersen.

The German pharmaceutical company Bayer recently purchased the US chemical company Monsanto and thereby inherited thousands of lawsuits from people who had developed non-Hodgkins Lymphoma from using Glyphosate. Monsanto claimed for decades that their product Roundup was safe and did not cause adverse health effects. However, recent lawsuits and independent scientific testing has challenged this, as well as exposed Monsanto's deceptive marketing campaigns. US$billions have already been paid out in compensation, including $2 billion to a Californian couple (2) in May 2019, who had both developed cancer after using Roundup.

Studies have found Glyphosate affects neurological development, nerve cells and neurotransmitter systems including serotonin and dopamine (3). Its effect on hormones is another area that has been widely studied, where findings showed it affects key enzyme processes responsible for healthy human hormone function (4). The poison has also been detected in rainfall in Canada, the USA and Argentina (5) and groundwater in New Zealand (6).

Alarmingly, Christchurch City Council has recently announced (7) that after several years of poison free roadside and park management the Council is looking to return to using this controversial toxic chemical claiming it is necessary to “save money”. However, this move is incredibly short sighted when more sustainable methods of weed control would not only be beneficial to our environment, safer for public health and benefit the economy in the longer term.

The NZEPA has never conducted a valid risk-assessment of Glyphosate and instead commissioned a review to rebut the report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that argued glyphosate and its formulations probably caused cancer. It is unclear whether NZEPA was pressured from well-established industry lobbyists working for Bayer-Monsanto.

The question must be asked, “Is the New Zealand government and the departments responsible for the on-going wide spread use of Glyphosate/Roundup prepared to carry the liability of harm to human health?”

If you or someone you know, have been harmed by Glyphosate or other toxic chemicals or poisons at work, home or elsewhere The People’s Inquiry 2020 wants to hear from you. The Inquiry is welcoming submissions from around New Zealand and can be contacted through the website www.peoplesinquiry2020.nz


1. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jun/24/bayer-109bn-settlement-monsanto-weedkiller-roundup

2. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/may/13/monsanto-cancer-trial-bayer-roundup-couple

3. e.g. Martínez MA, Ares I, Rodríguez JL, Martínez M, Martínez-Larrañaga MR, Anadón A. Neurotransmitter changes in rat brain regions following glyphosate exposure. Environ Res. 2018;161:212-219. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2017.10.051

4. Richard S, Moslemi S, Sipahutar H, Benachour N, Seralini GE. Differential effects of glyphosate and roundup on human placental cells and aromatase. Environ Health Perspect. 2005;113(6):716-720. doi:10.1289/ehp.7728

5. Lupi L, Bedmar F, Puricelli M, Marino D, Aparicio V, Wunderlin D & Miglioranza K. Glyphosate runoff and its occurrence in rainwater and subsurface soil in the nearby area of agricultural fields in Argentina. Chemosphere, 2019 : 225, 906-914. available at : http://www.asacim.org.ar/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Luppi.pdf

6. Close, M., & Humphries, B. (2019). Report: National Survey of Pesticides and Emerging Organic Contaminants (EOCs) in Groundwater 2018. Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited. Available from: https://www.esr.cri.nz/assets/National-Survey-of-Pesticides-and-EOCs-in-GW-Report-for-RC-v2.pdf

7. https://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/121681701/plan-to-restart-using-toxic-weedkiller-in-christchurch-labelled-shortsighted

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