Bethells Spraying Risks Environment and Community Effects

The intended helicopter spraying of crack willow with herbicide over 23 ha of wetland at Te Henga, near Bethells Beach, is another example of New Zealand’s use of crude chemical solutions without deep understanding of environmental risks, according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.
“At a time when aerial spraying of chemicals is now banned in Europe, the so called Eco City of Waitakere intends to spray a wetland with strong dose glyphosate herbicide, in a secret formulation, that is a known aquatic toxin,” said Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.
“Spraying in the Te Henga environment, it is not possible for Council staff to determine where drift may go, or with the formulation confidential, the level of environmental impact from the spraying.”
“It is ironical that the backdrop wallpaper on the Council web-page for the spray program has insect, frog and lizard motifs, when they are just some of the type of species adversely affected by the AGPRO Green Glyphosate 510 intended to be used.” (1)
The highly referenced Glyphosate monograph prepared by New Zealand scientist Dr Meriel Watts for Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP), quotes several research documents showing damage to reptiles, amphibians and insects. Glyphosate affects species right down to the ecological base of the environment with algae and bacteria also affected. (2)
The monograph also says that the human exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides, even at very low doses may result in reproductive and hormonal problems, miscarriages, low birth weights, birth defects, and various cancers—especially haematological cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and hormonal cancers such as breast cancer.
The formulation of AGPRO Green Glyphosate 510 was kept as confidential during the Environmental Risk Management Authority consent application process for its use in New Zealand, however Soil & Health –Organic NZ point out that formulation ingredients are often more toxic than the glyphosate itself.
“Just as with previous aerial spraying in the Auckland region, the public are not fully informed of what is to be sprayed in their environment,” said Mr Browning.
“The watershed of Bethells is at risk from the cavalier approach to biodiversity.”
“It is urgent that Waitakere Eco-City, Auckland Regional Council, Rodney District Council, the landowners and the spraying funders, the Department of Conservation Biodiversity Condition Fund, put the brakes on the intended February 8 spraying, consult with the community and independent experts, and rethink how management of the Waitakere ecosystem should take place.”
Soil & Health has a vision of an Organic 2020 in which aerial spraying of toxins has no place.
Some extracts pasted below.
Glyphosate monograph,
Page 2
Long-term Toxicity
Recently scientists have found harmful effects on human cells at levels of glyphosate too low to have a herbicidal effect, some at levels similar to those found in food. These effects are amplified by the adjuvants in the Roundup formulation, which assist penetration of the cells by glyphosate. Several researchers have reported that glyphosate appears to accumulate in human cells.
Cancer, genotoxicity, endocrine disruption, reproduction
The International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) have declared that glyphosate is not carcinogenic to humans. The US EPA originally classified glyphosate as a Group C “possible human carcinogen”, then re-classified it as Group D “not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity”, then as Group E “evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans”, and then in 2006 rephrased this as “Group E carcinogen with no evidence of human carcinogenicity”.
Yet there is substantial laboratory and some epidemiological evidence that points to the opposite conclusion. Some researchers have concluded that glyphosate and its formulations clearly present a risk of carcinogenic, mutagenic, and reproductive effects on human cells.
Numerous laboratory studies have shown that glyphosate and the Roundup formulation can be genotoxic and endocrine disrupting. One study summarises these effects occurring at doses substantially lower than those used in agriculture, or permitted as residues: at 0.5 mg/kg (40 times lower than levels permitted in soybeans in the US) they were anti-androgenic; at 2 mg/kg they were anti-oestrogenic; at 1 mg/kg they disrupted the enzyme aromatase; at 5 mg/kg they damaged DNA, and at 10 mg/kg there were cytotoxic. These effects can result in crucial outcomes for sexual and other cell differentiation, bone metabolism, liver metabolism, reproduction, development and behaviour, and hormone dependent diseases such as breast and prostate cancer (Gasnier et al 2009).
Studies have demonstrated that glyphosate and/or Roundup cause genetic damage in human lymphocytes and liver cells; bovine lymphocytes; mouse bone marrow, liver, and kidney cells; fish gill cells and erythrocytes; caiman erythrocytes; tadpoles; sea urchin embryos; fruit flies; root-tip cells of onions; and in Salmonella bacteria. Oth­er studies have shown that it causes oxidative stress, cell-cycle dysfunction, and disruption to RNA transcription, all of which can contribute to carcinogenicity.
Laboratory studies have shown that very low lev­els of glyphosate, Roundup, POEA, and the me­tabolite AMPA all kill human umbilical, embryonic and placental cells. Roundup can reduce sperm numbers, increase abnormal sperm, retard skel­etal development, and cause deformities in am­phibian embryos.
Exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides, even at very low doses may result in reproductive and hormonal problems, miscarriages, low birth weights, birth defects, and various cancers—especially haematological cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and hormonal cancers such as breast cancer.
Several epidemiological studies have linked exposure to glyphosate with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, hairy cell leukaemia, multiple myeloma, DNA damage; and one study with spontaneous abortions and pre-term deliveries.
Glyphosate is assumed by regulators to have no neurological effects—the US EPA did not require neurotoxicity studies to be carried out for the registration of Roundup. However there is emerging evidence that glyphosate can affect the nervous system, and in particular areas of the brain associated with Parkinson’s disease. In one case study glyphosate exposure was linked to ‘symmetrical parkinsonian syndrome’. An epidemiological study of children identified a link with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Other effects
Glyphosate damages liver cells and interferes with a number of enzymes important in metabolism.
Page 2-3 (Summary)
Environmental Effects
The environmental effects of glyphosate of greatest concern are those that occur at a subtle level, and can result in significant disruption of aquatic and terrestrial eco-systems, including the agro-ecosystem.
Aquatic effects
Glyphosate is water soluble, and is increasingly found in the environment at levels that have caused significant effects on species that underpin the entire aquatic food chain. Glyphosate and/or Roundup can alter the composition of natural aquatic communities, potentially tipping the ecological balance and giving rise to harmful algal blooms. It can have profound impacts on microorganisms, plankton, algae and amphibia at low concentrations: one study showed a 70% reduction in tadpole species and a 40% increase in algae. Insects, crustaceans, molluscs, sea urchins, reptiles, tadpoles, and fish can all be affected, with vulnerability within each group varying dramatically between species. Effects include reproductive abnormalities, developmental abnormalities and malformations, DNA damage, immune effects, oxidative stress, modified enzyme activity, decreased capacity to cope with stress and maintain homeostasis, altered behaviour, and impaired olfaction that can threaten their survival. Amphibians are particularly vulnerable. Roundup is generally more toxic than glyphosate, especially to fish.
Page 16
Most recently a leading Argentinean scientist, Professor Carrasco of the University of Buenos Aires Medical School, demonstrated significant consistent and systematic malformations in amphibian embryos resulting from very low dose exposure to glyphosate, and warned that comparable effects can happen in humans. In the first part of the study amphibian embryos were immersed in a solution of the herbicide 1,500 times weaker than that used in agriculture: the embryos suffered head deformities. In the second part, the embryos were injected with glyphosate, also at 1,500 times dilution: the impact was even more severe, demonstrating that it is the active ingredient, not the adjuvants that are the problem. Effects included reduced head size, genetic alterations in the central nervous system, increased death of cells that help form the skull, deformed cartilage, eye defects, and undeveloped kidneys. Carrasco also stated that the glyphosate was not breaking down in the cells, but was accumulating. The findings lend weight to claims that abnormally high levels of cancer, birth defects, neonatal mortality, lupus, kidney disease, and skin and respiratory problems in populations near Argentina’s soybean fields may be linked to the aerial spraying of Roundup (Valente 2009; Trigona 2009; Ho 2009).

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