Do we test the full formulation or just the active chemical when we study pesticides?

Bread1 (23)

Throughout the world, pesticide risk assessment for toxicity is assessed using only the active chemical.   Never the full solution, better known as formulation, that is sprayed on our soils and crops.

Simply, it is only the active chemical (so that would be glyphosate in the Roundup formulation) that is used in an abundance of industry sponsored animal tests – normally in rats and mice – held with the EPA, WHO and European Union Commission.

The full solution of Roundup is poured on our soils, our GMO crops, and our cereal crops (including wheat and oats). This is never, ever tested in any of these studies held with these big organisations that assess the safety of Roundup.  Because they are only assessing glyphosate, the active chemical.

So no! Roundup is not assessed by these organisations that by and large, represent the world: the World Health Organisation (and all the countries that use WHO studies to confirm safety of pesticides, like my country, New Zealand), USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Commission.

No studies for the full solution.

A growing body of evidence reveals that the full solution, the formulation, that is applied to our soils and crops is stronger and more effective.  But curiously, governments are reluctant to ratify this research.

The full formulation can include:
Adjuvants – this can be broadly defined as any substance added to a spray tank. Adjuvants can also be more narrowly defined as any substance added to a pesticide mixture to improve its physical qualities and hence effectiveness.

This includes surfactants, wetter-spreaders, activators, antifoaming agents, stickers, penetrant enhancers, buffer, antifoaming agents, drift retardents, compatibility agents. In the UK, extenders, wetting agents, sticking agents and fogging agents. [1]

These additives can change the property of the spray solution. This aids the solution to penetrate, target or protect the target organism.

Agricultural adjuvants are used to enhance the performance of the legal amount of a pesticide that may be used.    Adjuvants can be bought as a mix in the stores (in-can) or added to the farmers tank for spraying (tank mix).

Independent studies (unpaid by pesticide industry) find indications of where the problems may be:

Criigen writes of the team at the University of Caen in France who have “proven (from a study of nine Roundup-like herbicides) that the most toxic compound is not glyphosate, which is the substance the most assessed by regulatory authorities, but a compound that is not always listed on the label, called POE-15.   Modern methods were applied at the cellular level (on three human cell lines), and mass spectrometry (studies on the nature of molecules).”

and ” Adjuvants of the POE-15 family (polyethoxylated tallowamine) have now been revealed as actively toxic to human cells, and must be regulated as such. The complete formulations must be tested in long-term toxicity studies and the results taken into account in regulatory assessments”. [2]

Many, many public domain scientists understand it is time to research the effects of the full pesticide mix, and the science now demonstrates that modern systemic/adjuvant technologies with a mix of co-formulants may result in a more toxic product to bees, than simply the active chemical. [3]

This online presentation looks at several factors that may impair honeybee health, to help illustrate some of the concerns faced by the bee industry. [4]

Adjuvants can be toxic to human cells. This study demonstrated that the formulations used in the study were all more toxic to human cells (hepatic, embryonic, placental) than the active chemical glyphosate,alone. [5]

Another study looking at pesticides commonly used in a farming area (where pesticide applicators have children with a higher rate of birth defects) looked at several formulations and compared them to the active chemical. For example, the study of 2,4-D induced cell proliferation (which indicated xenobiotic-mediated estrogenic effects – potentially disrupting the endocrine system in a way similar to Bisphenol A) in the 2,4-D in a formulation, whilst the 2,4-D as just the active chemical did not induce cell proliferation. [6]

A study by Cox and Surgan mentions ‘Despite their name, inert ingredients may be biologically or chemically active and are labeled inert only because of their function in the formulated product. Most of the tests required to register a pesticide are performed with the active ingredient alone, not the full pesticide formulation. Inert ingredients are generally not identified on product labels and are often claimed to be confidential business information.’ [7]

We really don’t know what chemical mix is going on our food, in the case of Roundup: on our soils, our GMO Roundup Ready crops and on our cereals (up to seven days before harvest as a dessicant).

And we don’t know how it affects our health.

The truth is, there is so little money for this research that until people demand more money for research, in the interests of their own health, that it simply won’t happen.

Because as it is only the pesticide companies that supply the studies to the EPA, WHO and EC for direct evaluation, and these organisations are never (logically) going to do anything they don’t have to, in order to get approval for sale of their products.  Independent scientists NEVER supply the studies that form the core studies for safety evaluation of pesticides.

As a result of this lack of research, we don’t know the neurotoxic effects, the endocrine effects, the developmental or the carcinogenic effects of the full solution/formulations that is sprayed on our food.  The most eminent toxicologist in the world – outside of these organisations, does not know this. No-one does.

When does this become a social justice issue?

From what I understand there has only been one long term study of the full solution of Roundup in the world, ever. [8] Yes, it was a GMO study as well. However the scientists additionally separately studied Roundup without feeding the rats GMO food.  We have no study like this, in the world. Yet this has now been retracted by the publisher.

And of course that independently released and published study (unlike every long term study held with the EPA, WHO and EC) was soundly rejected by industry.

How do we get the money to fund this science in the public interest – a levy? a tax?

Or does only France have the money for this research?


How to fix it.


[1] More reading: at Cornell ; Wikipedia; UK Government; USA EPA.

[2]  Ethoxylated adjuvants of glyphosate-based herbicides are active principles of human cell toxicity.  Mesnage R, Bernay B, Séralini GE.   University of Caen, EA2608, Institute of Biology, Risk Pole CNRS, Esplanade de la Paix, 14032 Caen, Cedex, France; CRIIGEN, 40 rue de Monceau, 75008 Paris, France.Toxicology. 2012 Sep 21. pii: S0300-483X(12)00345-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2012.09.006

[3] Ciarlo TJ, Mullin CA, Frazier JL, Schmehl DR (2012) Learning Impairment in Honey Bees Caused by Agricultural Spray Adjuvants. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40848. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040848

[5] Ethoxylated adjuvants of glyphosate-based herbicides are active principles of human cell toxicity. Mesnage R, Bernay B, Séralini GE. University of Caen, EA2608, Institute of Biology, Risk Pole CNRS, Esplanade de la Paix, 14032 Caen, Cedex, France; CRIIGEN, 40 rue de Monceau, 75008 Paris, France. Toxicology. 2012 Sep 21. pii: S0300-483X(12)00345-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2012.09.006.
[6] In vitro studies of cellular and molecular developmental toxicity of adjuvants, herbicides, and fungicides commonly used in Red River Valley, Minnesota. Lin N, Garry VF. Environmental Medicine and Pathology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55414, USA. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2000 Jul 28;60(6):423-39.
[7] Unidentified Inert Ingredients in Pesticides: Implications for Human and Environmental Health Caroline Cox and Michael Surgan. Environ Health Perspect. 2006 December; 114(12): 1803–1806. Published online 2006 August 18. doi: 10.1289/ehp.9374

[8]  Séralini, GE, Clair E, Mesnage R, Gress S, Defarge N, Malatesta M, Hennequin D and de Vendômois JS.  Republished study: long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. RESEARCH Open Access Springer. Environmental Sciences Europe 2014, 26:14.

, , , , No Comment

Comments are closed.