Ethylene Oxide/Sterigenics Updates

Pesticide Companies Accused of Withholding the Truth from Regulators

agriculture-g318048f3a_1280-2-300x172The big pesticide companies are once again being accused of manipulating science to get what they want; this time by withholding evidence of pesticide toxicity from European Union (EU) regulators in order to get their pesticides approved. The tactic is not only unethical but is against the law. And finally, researchers are starting to shine a light on this scandal.

New research from Swedish researchers, chemist Axel Mie and toxicologist Christina Ruden, published in the journal Environmental Health reveals that several pesticide manufacturers withheld unfavorable results of toxicity tests for the developing brain from European authorities. The manufacturers–including Bayer, Syngenta, and Nissan Chemical–had conducted developmental neurotoxicity tests to win regulatory approval for their products and submitted them to the US EPA but not to the European Food Safety Authority.

The Swedish researchers discovered that 9 out of 35 developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) studies were withheld from EU regulators despite clear legal requirements to disclose them. In fact, the EU authorities did not even hear about these tests until years later. As a result, the negative studies were not considered by EU regulators during their first authorization of the nine pesticides: abamectin, ethoprophos, buprofezin, fenamidone, fenamiphos, glyphosate-trimesium, pymetrozine, pyridaben, and fluazinam. The pesticides were used on tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes, and eggplants.

Sadly, this is not the first time that the researchers found pesticide manufacturers using this unethical tactic. A year ago, they discovered that an industry-sponsored study on the neurotoxic effects of glyphosate on rat offspring was not shared with EU officials. The DNT study showed glyphosate impacted a neurobehavioral function–motor activity–in rat offspring at a dose not previously known to cause adverse effects, which might have been relevant in the assessment of the herbicide.

The safety evaluation of pesticides in the European Union relies on toxicity studies commissioned and funded by industry. When the industry decides to hide the potentially toxic effects of its pesticides, it jeopardizes everyone. This is why Mie and Ruden are recommending that regulators cross-check to see if all studies performed by the industry have been submitted when a pesticide is up for approval. They further suggest that toxicity studies should be commissioned by the authorities, not industry insiders with huge conflicts of interest, and that companies who do not follow the law should face legal consequences.

As environmental attorneys, we could not agree more with these recommendations. The current system of regulatory approval is rigged in favor of industry. Government regulators–who are responsible for protecting human health–cannot count on industry insiders to be truthful when huge profits are at stake. That is naïve in the extreme and puts everyone at risk.

It is up to the authorities to take industry insiders out of the equation if they want the truth.

Scientific integrity and public health are on the line.


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