The battle for glyphosate authorisation in Europe has been won by the multinationals that produce it and by the agricultural companies that only think in terms of short-term profit. But the war has reached a turning point and halving the validity period from 10 to 5 years has opened a breach.
Following the decision of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed to renew authorisation for the use of the glyphosate herbicide on European land, I wanted to call Fiorella Belpoggi, a doctor who has been carrying out scientific research for 40 years and now heads up the “Cesare Maltoni” cancer research centre, part of the Istituto Ramazzini in Bologna.
An extraordinary woman who has decided to bring forward the results of her pilot study because her conscience told her to and because it was only right that the Minister for Agriculture Maurizio Martina would know what he was voting for, considering that just three months’ exposure is already “able to alter certain key biological parameters that mainly regard markers linked to sexual development, genotoxicity and the alteration of intestinal flora”.
For all these reasons, I really wanted to try and understand what Belpoggi thinks about the decision to authorise glyphosate for another five years, rather than ten. A person who is not only aware but also without prejudice. Because although all those organisations working to ban it totally are left “disappointed”, the halving of the authorisation’s validity period is no small thing.
“Satisfied is a big word. But the risk should be governed”, Belpoggi told me, “we need to develop a forward-thinking pathway to get glyphosate out of Europe”. A pathway that also considers the need to dispose of the stock available to farmers. “What would happen if, as of tomorrow, we were no longer able to use glyphosate?”, a question that leads to an equally worrying response and that would probably lead to illegal disposal, even more harmful to the environment. For this reason, giving workers the chance to metabolise and implement the “phase out” is a necessary step.
But I was really struck by what the Bolognese research centre is trying to set up, specifically a global, shared study that can finally shed light, in the space of a few years, on the real consequences for the health of human beings and the Earth, also from a carcinogenic standpoint. A study that, once concluded, would not only bother Monsanto, but even “scare” it. Because independent research has this effect on those that have something to hide and this is why the chemical giants have been doing anything they can to manipulate studies and valid information for years. The “Monsanto papers” published in instalments by French paper Le Monde have gone down in history, revealing how the American multinational tried to cover up research and manipulate it with studies by researchers on the Saint Louis pay roll.
“Do you know what I say? That Monsanto is worried we’ll really do the research”. And I, or rather we who have signed the #StopGlyphosate petition really do hope so. This is why it’s important to raise money on a global level so that the results can be published independently before the next glyphosate authorisation expiration date, in December 2022. In the meantime, I bask in the thought that multinationals without scruples can be scared of an intelligent, battle-hardened woman who works in Italy.