Sierra Club Member Testifies on Dangers of Pesticides/Herbicides in Letter Below:
September 26, 2017
To the members of New York City Council’s Committee on Health:
I would like to express my thanks to Committee on Health members for holding this hearing, in particular Councilmember Ben Kallos for introducing Intro 0800-2015, which would ban toxic pesticides and herbicides, such as Monsanto’s “Roundup,” from New York City public spaces. Also, very special thanks must go to Paula Rogovin and her students at PS 290 for studying the dangers of pesticides and urging Councilmember Kallos to write this bill. Kudos to Ms. Rogovin and the children!
It’s hard to understand why the dangerous herbicide known as “Roundup” containing the endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) has been permitted for use in NYC’s parks and buildings in the first place, given its known dangers. Children and fetuses are most vulnerable to glyphosate and other EDCs, which interfere with normal human hormone function. Although this bill banning toxic pesticides from NYC parks and public spaces is an important first step, it only removes exposure in a limited way i.e.: to the lungs and skin and potential ingestion by children who tend to put fingers into their mouths. It is relevant to note that other sources of glyphosate pose further risks. For instance, elevated levels of birth defects have been shown to occur in animals that feed on crops heavily laden with glyphosate, and in farm community populations where large quantities of the herbicide are used.
Glyphosate has also been linked with antibiotic resistance since it has the potential to render antibiotics less effective against bacteria, as well as nervous system toxicity, and possibly cancer. Although further research is needed, the World Health Organization (WHO) has seen fit to classify glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen,” due to evidence of cancer in laboratory animals fed on glyphosate containing foods.
In addition, a new review of hundreds of scientific studies involving glyphosate has illustrated its effects on the human body. The paper describes how, along with other variables, these effects could combine to create health problems including gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.
Enzymes are responsible for forming and breaking down molecules in cells, such as for the absorption of nutrients, or to detoxify or eliminate foreign chemicals from the body. They are also able to convert various elements. Research shows that glyphosate damages the cytochrome P450 (CPY) gene pathway, essential for the normal functioning of various systems. Because of glyphosate’s ability to disrupt the CPY pathway or inhibit enzyme production, this could trigger a deleterious ripple effect on human health. For example, humans exposed to glyphosate have decreased levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which is necessary for the active signaling of serotonin—a neurotransmitter. Suppressed serotonin levels have been associated with weight gain, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Although this paper does not yield any new scientific discoveries, it does examine older studies and put them in a new light. From the watchdog group, Food and Water Watch: “Critics will say the links between glyphosate and health problems made in this paper are purely correlational, but this work is important because it brings all of the possible health effects of glyphosate together and discusses what could happen: something the USDA, EPA and FDA have failed to do.”
More from Food & Water Watch: “Just as Monsanto attempted to discredit Seralini’s study on rats fed GE corn, the company called this peer-reviewed journal article “another bogus study” due to its “bad science.” In a classic pot-calling-the-kettle-black scenario, what Monsanto doesn’t mention is that the majority of research showing glyphosate’s safety has been done by Monsanto itself, which could be called bad science as well due to its limited and biased nature.”
Finally, while more independently funded studies may be required, we as a society must exercise the “precautionary principle,” as they do in Europe and elsewhere. Although the jury may still out on glyphosate, sufficient evidence has been demonstrated to cause concern. Let us at the least err on the side of caution, prior to dousing our environment, our food and our children with toxic substances. I strongly urge the Committee on Health to take this small first step–support Intro 0800-2015 and vote the bill into law. Let’s ban glyphosate and other toxic herbicides and pesticides from all New York City parks and public spaces!
Gusti Bogok, Co-chair Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Gas Task Force
Chair, Green Sanctuary Committee, Community Church of New York, UU
130 W16th Street, #41
New York, NY 10011