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AUGUST 15, 2019

Sick to the Stomach: Pesticides and the Cocktail of Toxicity

by COLIN TODHUNTER

https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/08/15/sick-to-the-stomach-pesticides-and-the-cocktail-of-toxicity/

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Dame Sally Davies is the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England and recently released the CMO annual report for 2019. The report focuses on UK engagement with global health and forging partnerships.

However, there appears to be no mention of cancers in the report, a serious omission according to environmental campaigner Rosemary Mason. Like many others, she has been campaigning tirelessly for many years to draw attention to the links between agrochemicals and certain cancers and health conditions.

In response to the report, Mason has written an open letter addressed to Sally Davies (and has also sent a copy to Werner Bauman, CEO of Bayer).

Mason’s letter is presented below.

Dear Professor Dame Sally Davies

I have just read your CMO’s Report for 2019 in the Lancet. I note your statement: Across the UK, there are significant and widening inequalities in a range of health outcomes, including healthy life expectancy, infant mortality and obesity.

What about the huge increases in cancers in the UK? Were you asked by Werner Baumann (Bayer CEO) not to mention them while he tries to decide whether to fight the 18,400 lawsuits from people in the US who claim that Roundup caused their cancer or to settle them? If you add the 13,605 new cases of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosed in 2015 (the latest figures produced for the UK) and they all were to take out lawsuits against Bayer, he would probably agree to settle.

Pesticide Action Network UK’s analysis of the last 12 years of residue data published by the Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF)shows that there are unacceptable levels of pesticides present in the food provided through the Department of Health’s School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS). Residues of 123 different pesticides were found, some of which are linked to serious health problems such as cancer and disruption of the hormone system.

In many cases, multiple residues were found on the produce. This is another area of serious concern as the scientific community has little understanding about the complex interaction of different chemicals in what is termed the ‘cocktail’ effect. We have also found that the levels of residues contained on SFVS produce are higher than those in produce tested under the national residue testing scheme (mainstream produce found on supermarket shelves). When Nick Mole, Policy Director of PAN-UK sent these findings to the Department of Health, he was told that pesticides are not their concern.

That is a shocking statement to hear from an organisation meant to be protecting people’s health. There are many papers that show that obesity is associated with low diversity of bacteria in the gut microbiome. Thousands of UK children, mainly in deprived city areas, are already classed as severely obese when they leave primary school. Children are being poisoned from their very first days at school. It is no wonder children in Britain have the highest levels of obesity in the world and the UK is the most obese country in western Europe.

Were you aware that documents released under a freedom of information request showed that between the coalition taking power in May 2010 and the end of 2013 the Department of Health alone had 130 meetings with representatives of the industry?

Yours sincerely

Rosemary Mason

(MB, ChB, FRCA)

Rosemary Mason also attached a 20-page document to the letter for the attention of Sally Davies and Werner Bauman.

In it, Mason states that each year there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers, with no treatments making any difference to the numbers.

In the UK there were 13,605 new cases of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2015 (and 4,920 deaths in 2016)2: there were 41,804 new cases of bowel cancer in 2015 (and 16,384 deaths in 2016); 12,547 new cases of kidney cancer in 2015 (and 4,619 deaths in 2016); 5,736 new cases of liver cancer in 2015 (5,417 deaths in 2016); 15,906 new cases of melanoma in 2015 (2,285 deaths in 2016); 3,528 new cases of thyroid cancer in 2015 (382 deaths in 2016); 10,171 new cases of bladder cancer in 2015 (5,383 deaths in 2016); 8,984 new cases of uterine cancer in 2015 (2,360 deaths in 2016); 7,270 cases of ovarian cancer in 2015 (4,227 deaths in 2016); 9,900 new cases of leukaemia in 2015 (4,712 deaths in 2016); 55,122 new cases of invasive breast cancer in 2015 (11,563 deaths in 2016); 47,151 new cases of prostate cancer in 2015 (11,631 deaths in 2016); 9,211 new cases of oesophageal cancer in 2015 (8,004 deaths in 2016); and 5,540 new cases of myeloma in 2015 (3,079 deaths in 2016); 2,288 new cases of testicular cancer in 2015 (57 deaths in 2016); 9,921 new cases of pancreatic cancer in 2015 (9,263 deaths in 2016); 11,432 new cases of brain cancer in 2015 (5,250 deaths in 2016); 46,388 new cases of lung cancer in 2015 (and 35,620 deaths in 2016). In the US in 2014 there were 24,050 new cases of myeloma.

Mason wonders whether industry influenced the decision not to mention cancers in the CMO 2019 report and reserves a special place for Bayer in her document.

Bayer has stated that transparency creates trust. The company says it embraces its responsibility to assess its products’ safety. An advertisement that Bayer placed in Politico and the Farmers’ Guardian on 19/12/2018 said:

“Transparency creates trust. At Bayer, we embrace our responsibility to communicate how we assess our products’ safety — and we recognize that people around the world want more information around glyphosate. This month, we published more than 300 study summaries on the safety of glyphosate on our dedicated transparency website.”

However, Mason implies this is little more than PR and provides a brief and disturbing history of the company and claims that Bayer has never been transparent in its life.

She then goes on to note that life expectancy is falling in Britain and the US and argues that people are being poisoned by weedkiller and other pesticides in our food.

As mentioned in Mason’s letter, Pesticide Action Network UK’s analysis of the last 12 years of residue data (published by the Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food) shows there are unacceptable levels of pesticides present in the food provided through the Department of Health’s (DoH) School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS).

Residues of 123 different pesticides were found, some of which are linked to serious health problems such as cancer and disruption of the hormone system. Moreover, residues contained on SFVS produce were higher than those in produce tested under the national residue testing scheme (mainstream produce found on supermarket shelves).

In her document, Mason also discusses the deleterious effects of agrochemicals on the gut microbiome, the collective genome of organisms inhabiting our body, and notes increasing levels of obesity are associated with low bacterial richness in the gut. She refers to certain studies and lays the blame squarely at the door of agrochemicals, not least the use of glyphosate, a strong chelator of essential minerals, such as cobalt, zinc, manganese, calcium, molybdenum and sulphate. In addition, it kills off beneficial gut bacteria and allows toxic bacteria such as clostridium difficile to flourish. She states that two key problems caused by glyphosate residues in our diet are nutritional deficiencies, especially minerals and essential amino-acids, and systemic toxicity.

At this point, it must be stressed that children and young people are especially vulnerable. In a 2016 article that appeared in The Guardian, developmental neurobiologist and science writer Mo Costandi discussed the importance of gut bacteria and their balance. In adolescence, he explained, the brain undergoes a protracted period of heightened neural plasticity, during which large numbers of synapses are eliminated in the prefrontal cortex and a wave of ‘myelination’ sweeps across this part of the brain. These processes refine the circuitry in the prefrontal cortex and increase its connectivity to other brain regions. Myelination is also critical for normal, everyday functioning of the brain. Myelin increases a nerve fibre’s conduction velocity by up to a hundred times, and so when it breaks down, the consequences can be devastating.

Gut microbes control the maturation and function of microglia, the immune cells that eliminate unwanted synapses in the brain; age-related changes to gut microbe composition might regulate myelination and synaptic pruning in adolescence and could, therefore, contribute to cognitive development. Upset those changes, and there are going to be serious implications for children and adolescents.

Findings published in the journal ‘Translational Psychiatry’ provide strong evidence that gut bacteria can have a direct physical impact on the brain. Alterations in the composition of the gut microbiome have been implicated in a wide range of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including autism, chronic pain, depression, and Parkinson’s Disease.

Many important neurotransmitters are located in the gut. Aside from affecting the functioning of major organs, these transmitters affect our moods and thinking. Feed gut bacteria a cocktail of biocides and is it any surprise that many diseases are increasing?

Yet we are still being subjected to an unregulated cocktail of agrochemicals. Regulatory agencies and governments appear to work hand in glove with the agrochemical sector.

In her document, Rosemary Mason discusses the nexus between government, health institutes, the Gates Foundation and a profiteering pharmaceuticals industry and the fact that many of its products escape effective regulatory controls and are pushed onto an unsuspecting public, especially children.

Mason touches on a lot more but also notes a failure by the media to discuss the impact of agrochemicals on public health primarily because so many journalists are fed reports and press releases by the very organisations with an interest in protecting industry.

Perhaps her most damning comments are reserved for Cancer Research UK (CRUK):

“CRUK’s vision ‘is to bring forward the days when all cancers are cured’ is complete fabrication by the pesticides industry.”

It’s a bold statement. Readers can access Rosemary Mason’s latest document here (and all her previous documents here) and may draw their own conclusions.

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More articles by:COLIN TODHUNTER

Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.

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