As the petition launched to ban glyphosate in European countries exceeds the one million signatures required, the results of a survey carried out on 14 pregnant women are revealed.
The various studies conducted on the world’s most widely-used herbicide, glyphosate, all come to the same conclusion: there is a need for further scientific research and evidence. Until then, the precautionary principle will have to do.
What is the precautionary principle?
The precautionary principle is the need to act to safeguard the environment and health when threats are evident, but there is no scientific certainty as yet. It foresees that any potentially dangerous product can be excluded from the market. For this reason, the European Commission has in the past postponed the renewal of authorisations for weed killers containing glyphosate because the scientific studies do not agree as to its safety. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which reports to the World Health Organisation, has defined it as being “probably carcinogenic”.
Voluntary study on 14 pregnant women
It is even more important that this principle be invoked in light of the results of an Italian initiative launched by the magazine Il Salvagente in collaboration with the A Sud association. Fourteen pregnant women voluntarily decided to check if and when they are exposed to glyphosate. The women live in Rome, so are seemingly not in direct contact with the vast areas of farmland where the herbicide is regularly used.
Traces of glyphosate were identified in all the mothers-to-be with values ranging from 0.43 nanograms per millilitre of urine to 3.48 nanograms. Figures that can’t be judged clearly because the law does not foresee a maximum permitted level.
“Glyphosate should never be present in our body”
But according to what Il Salvagente reports, it is clear that “glyphosate should never be present in our body, let alone that of an unborn child”. At least not until it is confirmed that it is harmless to the health of human beings and the environment. This is not the first time this type of analysis has been carried out on pregnant women. A pilot study was conducted in the US in 2014 and found high concentrations of glyphosate in breast milk and urine, proving for the first time that the herbicide accumulates in the human body.
“If we don’t make a change, no one can feel safe. Neither can we believe our children to be safe, not even our unborn children”, explains Riccardo Quintili, editor of the monthly magazine Il Salvagente. “One of the many things that needs to change is the attitude of those who should institutionally defend consumers but who instead are often tarnished by conflicts of interest that cloud judgement”.
The presence of traces of glyphosate in the urine of mothers-to-be can be attributed, among other things, to food. The herbicide has in fact been found in pasta, bread and other flour-based products, as noted by another study, in 2016, conducted on 100 foods (drinking water included) by the very same Il Salvagente magazine. These included derived foods, considering that 85% of animal feed used in intensive breeding contains corn, soya and rapeseed that is genetically modified to resist glyphosate.
For all these reasons, the success of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) in asking the European Commission to propose a legislative act to ban the glyphosate herbicide is news to be celebrated. 1.3 million people have signed the petition. And now there is no more time, or room, for indecision. Or worse, for indifference.