Endocrine disruptors, the commission is latent

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The convictions of the EU General Court and the European Parliament were not enough to awaken this Commission from its slumber over a serious and ongoing health risk to humans, animals and the environment. Endocrine disruptors, which include at the forefront-as it happens-glyphosate and dicamba.

Endocrine disruptors, what are they?

EndocrineDisruptors (EDs), are a heterogeneous group of substances characterized by their ability to interfere, through a variety of mechanisms, with the functioning of the endocrine system. Specifically, with sex hormone and thyroid homeostasis.

‘An endocrine disruptor is an exogenous substance or mixture that alters function(s) of the endocrine system and consequently causes adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub)population.’ (Weybridge, UK, 2-4/12/1996)

Undesirable effects of EDs include their ability to bind to intracellular receptors (IRs), instead of some hormones produced physiologically by our body. Activating or inhibiting transcription of genes in human DNA, with alterations in cellular metabolism. Endocrine disruptors thus provoke hormonal responses that are ‘out of place and out of time,’ including at specific tissue levels, with toxic actions related to their chemical properties.

Pre- and postnatal reproduction and development are the biological stages most sensitive to the endocrine effects of EDs. In particular, exposure to endocrine disruptors can:

– induce particular effects in the fetus that do not manifest themselves until the organism reaches reproductive age,

– stimulate abnormal changes, at the biochemical and/or physiological level, that affect an organism’s reproductive capacity,

– Adversely affect characteristic biological endocrine processes.

Epidemiological studies suggest that there is a correlation between exposure to specific ED groups and alterations in the reproductive system, such as malformations, infertility, increased risk of testicular cancer, and endometriosis. The spectrum of pathologies correlated with these compounds includes increased early abortions, long-term effects on thyroid or reproductive function as a result of damage induced in utero or during childhood, and metabolic pathologies correlated with altered estrogen and androgen homeostasis.

Environmental and food contamination are closely linked, as any substance leaked into the environment cannot avoid entering the food chain. All of these substances-which tend to accumulate in the adipose tissue of humans and animals-can in fact be found in meat, fish, and milk, resulting in their transmission from mother to child during lactation.

The harmful effects of EDs are also revealed at the neurological and behavioral levels, inducing alterations in brain development and differentiation, sexual behavior, and reproductive success. As well as memory alterations and cognitive deficits. (1)

Endocrine disruptors, the EU court ruling

In December 2015, the EU General Court – following an appeal by Sweden, joined by Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Finland – condemned the European Commission for failing to fulfill its duty to protect citizens with respect to risks related to endocrine disruptors. (2)

The European Commission should have amended Annex II to Reg. EC 1107/09, ‘concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market,’ that is, agrotoxics and pesticides. Introducing the appropriate scientific criteria designed to identify endocrine disruptors (EDs) and condition their use based on risk analysis. But the Brussels institution once again (3) failed in its responsibilities.

‘The determination of scientific criteria for the identification of endocrine disrupting properties can only be made objectively, on the basis of scientific data relating to the endocrine system, independently of any other considerations, particularly economic ones’ (EU General Court, Case T-521/14, judgment 16.12.15).

Approval of an active substance for use in agrotoxics and biocides should come conditioned on the absence of endocrine disrupting properties that may therefore produce adverse effects in non-target organisms. Unless their exposure to the active substance in a plant protection product-under the proposed realistic conditions of use-is negligible.

The European Parliament’s diktat to the Commission

In June 2016, the European Parliament had adopted a special resolution, which pointed out that ”according to the ruling issued by the Tribunal, the determination of scientific criteria can only be made objectively on the basis of scientific data related to the endocrine system, regardless of any other considerations, particularly economic ones‘.

Instead, the Commission adopted a sweetened text that prioritizes the interests of the Big 6-which control over 75 percent of the global agrotoxics market-and the chemical industry, over consumer health.

Parliament’s reaction, October 4, 2017. The Strasbourg Assembly voted by a fair majority for a reasoned objection to the European Commission’s text. Reiterating that the protection of citizens’ health must take precedence over partisan economic interests, and Brussels has no title or power to alter this priority. (5)

MEPs therefore called on the Commission to ‘present a new draft without delay.’ Still waiting for concrete solutions after years of connivance between successive Commissioners and the agrochemical giants.(6)

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) For more information and bibliography, see thefree ebook ‘GMOs, the Big Scam’

(2) Judgment 16.12.15, Sweden v. Commission, T-521/14, ECLI:EU:T:2015:976

(3) A relevant precedent pertains to the failure to consider the genotoxic and carcinogenic risks associated with certain process contaminants that characterize the refining of vegetable oils, palm oil in particular. See the article https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/palma-leaks-grande-puzza-di-bruciato-anche-a-bruxelles

(4) Despite adverse agrochemical lobbying, the measure passed with 389 votes in favor, 235 against and 70 abstentions

(5) The text of the European Parliament, at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2017-0376+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

(6) Some insights on toxic lobbies, at https://corporateeurope.org/food-and-agriculture/2015/05/toxic-affair-how-chemical-lobby-blocked-action-hormone-disrupting