Sunday, March 29, 2015

Guinea Pigs?

 Or lab rats?
Rarely is that damage instantaneous, but it’s safe to say that novel biotechnologies broadly deployed may well have unexpected consequences. Yet unlike Europeans, Canadians, Australians and others, we don’t subscribe to the precautionary principle, which maintains that it’s better to prevent damage than repair it.

We ask not whether a given chemical might cause cancer but whether we’re certain that it does. Since it’s unethical to test the effects of new chemicals and food additives on humans, we rely on the indirect expedient of extensive and expensive animal testing. But the job of the F.D.A. should be to guarantee a reasonable expectation of protection from danger, not to wait until people become sick before taking products off the market. (You might have thought that government’s job was to make sure products were safe before they were marketed. You’d have been wrong — Rezulin or phthalates, anyone?)

Even now, when it’s clear that more research must be done to determine to what degree glyphosate may be carcinogenic, it’s not clear whose responsibility it is to conduct that research. The public health agencies of other countries? Independent researchers who just happen to be interested in the causes of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the cancer with which glyphosate is associated, according to the I.A.R.C.?

Or — here’s an idea — how about Monsanto, which has made billions of dollars selling glyphosate and the associated seed technology. (The company produces crop seeds that are resistant to glyphosate, which can thus be freely sprayed onto fields, in theory killing all plants but the crop. This scheme isn’t working as well as it once did for weed control, because many weeds have become glyphosate-tolerant. But that’s another story.)

Now that the safety of glyphosate is clearly in question, perhaps it’s time to mandate that the corporation — not the taxpaying public — bear the brunt of determining whether it should still be sold. Since the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have the resources to test, let Monsanto pay for the necessary, and independent, research.
Stop Making Us Guinea Pigs (Mark Bittman, New York Times)
Two scientists who, last year, warned in The Lancet of a “silent pandemic” of toxins damaging the brains of unborn children in North America have spoken out yet again. Doctors Philippe Grandjean of Harvard Medical School and Philip Landrigan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine have released a list of 12 chemicals commonly found in food, clothing, furniture, and the environment that they believe are causing not only lower IQ levels but also increasing the incidence of ADHD and autism in children.

As James Hamblin explains in an excellent article in The Atlantic, “The Toxins that Threaten Our Brains,” children are our society’s unwitting chemical sentinels. Children are far more susceptible to the negative effects of chemical exposure than adults, and yet they are largely unprotected. In the historic case of lead, it wasn’t until enough children began showing signs of lead poisoning that politicians paid any attention. It’s not for lack of knowing, but more for the lack of political will and the lobbying strength of the chemical industries...

Many consumers assume there is a comprehensive and trustworthy process of vetting chemicals before putting them on the market, but that is misconception. The United States still has its Toxic Substances Control Act, passed in 1976 by President Gerald Ford, but Landrigan describes it as “an obsolete, toothless, broken piece of legislation” that wasn’t even able to ban asbestos, a known carcinogenic; it continues to be used in the U.S. Upon its creation, the TSCA grandfathered in a shocking 62,000 chemicals with no toxicity testing required whatsoever.
The fact is, it’s a chemical Wild West out there and consumers are very much on their own.

The children of low-income families face the greatest dangers because their parents’ limited resources can’t provide them with the pricey flame-retardant-free furniture, organic food, and natural cleaning agents and body care products that wealthier families can afford (although few make it a priority, more due to lack of awareness or taking the problem seriously enough).
Children have become unwitting 'chemical sentinels' for the U.S.(Treehugger)

But these were tested on animals, because that's what the elites think of the rest of us.

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