By Don “Doc” Sanders
You probably have seen the television commercials of the law firm Moose & Moose (name changed to protect the guilty), encouraging you to sign up to get a payout for a family member who has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), allegedly caused by Roundup. You know them, I’m sure. One has a cheap toupee. The other is like me — with his own hair, but old.
This seems to be another get-rich-quick scheme that law firms are leeching onto, to reach families who have a loved one newly-diagnosed with NHL cancer. Roundup, aka glyphosate, is a chemical herbicide that efficiently kills broadleaf weeds in crops. It has an unparalleled safety record.
It did, anyway, until 2015, when the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that even though there was no evidence that glysophate was carcinogenic, it “might” cause cancer. This set the news media off, spreading the scare. Naturally, it also set off California regulators, who developed new rules for glyphosate, not because there was cancer evidence, but as a “precautionary principle.”
Nonetheless, glyphosate has been cleared of causing cancer by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Health Canada, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the German BfR, an agency dedicated to strengthening consumer health protection.
You may remember from an Ohio’s Country Journal column I wrote in 2018 about the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declaring that Roundup “may” cause cancer. Here’s a snippet from that column:
“In 2015, the United Nations’ International Agency for Research on Cancer also classified glyphosate as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ noting alleged evidence of glyphosate being associated with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“It was later discovered that a National Institute of Health (NIH) employee with access to the data conveniently withheld relevant glyphosate data from the 2015 IARC study. When all this data was included, it was clear that no association existed between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”
Glyphosate has been around for 40 years. In that time, there’s been no scientific documentation reported by the EPA or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it causes cancer. Please understand that in the court of public opinion, just because a jury of 12 is presented a lawyerly argument that glysophate causes cancer, doesn’t make it so.
This time the “gang of deceptors” used the original data and combined it with five other studies to report a new conclusion. About 20 cases of NHL are diagnosed per 100,000 humans annually. The alarmists report that glyphosate increased the incidence of NHL by 41%.
In reality, the NHL cancer relative risk rate increased to 1.41%. That amounts to one additional new case annually per 100,000 individuals. I don’t want to minimize the pain, suffering and life-threatening diagnosis of NHL for anyone. But really? One new case!
Following the IARC’s screwed up interpretation, a new epidemiological joint survey was completed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and presented to the United Nations and the WHO. They concluded, from a study of 45,000 people who handled Roundup in the 1990s, that the herbicide poses no cancer risks in our food, and that it does not affect our genetics.
Glyphosate has an extraordinarily short half-life on crops. This means that Roundup doesn’t leave residues, unlike the old chemical compounds of 50 years ago. Those earlier herbicides were environmentally long-lasting products. For instance, atrazine and dieldrin were sometimes detected in the water supply at unsafe levels after applications of the herbicides were made outside the legal approval use.
As a further protection today, farmers can’t just go to the field and spray a crop with any herbicide whenever they please. The EPA requires that farmers and custom operators attend training classes on the use of chemical herbicides and pass a written test prior to using any chemical herbicide.
And be aware that there are no areas in the world where chemicals can’t be detected. The key is the level detected. In the case of glyphosate, recommended dose levels are 1,000 times less than the minimum levels that might cause health issues. A good analogy is salt we use in our diet. A dash of salt often makes food tastier. Salt applied in large amounts, though, can be unhealthy — even lethal in extremely excessive amounts.
Even organic foods are not residue-free. Organic foods are grown under different approved chemical use standards, certified by the National Organic Program as safe at the dosage prescribed, just as Roundup is classified safe by the EPA under different standards.
No matter how the food you eat is grown — under National Organic Program certification or EPA regulations — I recommend washing your fresh fruits and vegetables prior to serving.
Donald E. Sanders, DVM, is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Diplomate of the American College of Theriogenology, the branch of veterinary medicine concerned with reproduction, including the physiology and pathology of male and female reproductive systems of animals and the clinical practice of veterinary obstetrics, gynecology, and andrology.
A practicing veterinarian since 1968, Dr. Sanders has consulted on the reproduction of cattle, horses, swine, sheep, and small animals in Ohio and throughout the continental United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Russia, South Korea, China, and Japan. He was named by Bovine Practitioner Journal as one of the Top 20 Bovine Veterinarians in North America in 2013 and has authored numerous books on cattle and swine reproduction. From 2006-2013, Dr. Sanders served as an Associate Clinical Professor for the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University, Marysville, Ohio.