Wednesday, 20 November 2013

10 rats

What did our EPA know about the risks when it approve the spraying of grass with Roundup before feeding it to cows? That's what I wanted to know after I discovered what was going on.

So I used the truly wonderful FYI website to lodge an OIA request. Fonterra had already told me they'd run into a brick wall getting this information, and the nice man from Nufarm had also said that the scientific studies submitted to the EPA were "obviously" confidential for commercial reasons. So I tried to cover off that angle in my request, pointing out that there was nothing to lose commercially because Roundup Transorb is not generic glyphosate so purveyors of the scummy generic could not rely on Monsanto's expensive research.

The EPA noted that reasoning but did not respond to it. They with-held the studies because Monsanto had given them "in confidence" and Monsanto didn't want me to see them. Brilliant.

On the other hand, they did release the application form and it makes interesting reading by itself because it summarises evidence on six types of toxicity testing. Here is each toxicity and the test group used:

Acute oral            10 rats
Acute dermal        10 rats
Acute inhalation    rats (unstated number)
Skin irritation        rabbits (unstated number)
Eye irritation         rabbits (unstated number)
Sensitisation         20 guinea pigs

Those don't look like big samples to me. One rat died on the acute oral test, but that was acceptable. For the acute inhalation test, they used two concentrations. No rats died at the low concentration but 80% of them died at the high concentration, so the critical level was said to lie between these two dosages. Get the idea? Full details here.

Then, immediately following the little potted accounts of these tests is a Summary which begins
"Results from several investigations establish that the acute toxicity and irritation potential of (glyphosate IPA formulation) in humans is low" (emphasis added)
That's quite a leap of faith in my opinion. Put it alongside the fact that confidential research was also allowed to be submitted, and you might be forgiven for thinking that someone doesn't give a rat's arse about transparency or normal standards of scientific inquiry which require disclosure.

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