Glyphosate shown to disrupt microbiome 'at safe levels', study claims.
Study on rats said to show that the chemical, found in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, poses ‘a significant public health concern’.
A French farmer sprays glyphosate herbicide produced by US agrochemical giant Monsanto on a field of corn. Photograph: Jean-Francois Monier/AFP/Getty Images.
A chemical found in the world’s most widely used weedkiller can have disrupting effects on sexual development, genes and beneficial gut bacteria at doses considered safe, according to a wide-ranging pilot study in rats.
Glyphosate is the core ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and levels found in the human bloodstream have spiked by more than a 1,000% in the last two decades.
The substance was recently relicensed for a shortened five-year lease by the EU. But scientists involved in the new glyphosate study say their results show that it poses “a significant public health concern”.
One of the report’s authors, Daniele Mandrioli, at the Ramazzini Institute in Bologna, Italy, said significant and potentially detrimental effects from glyphosate had been detected in the gut bacteria of rat pups born to mothers, who appeared to have been unaffected themselves.
“It shouldn’t be happening and it is quite remarkable that it is,” Mandrioli said. “Disruption of the microbiome has been associated with a number of negative health outcomes, such as obsesity, diabetes and immunological problems.”
Prof Philip J Landrigan, of New York’s Icahn School of Medicine, and also one of the research team, said: “These early warnings must be further investigated in a comprehensive long-term study.” He added that serious health effects from the chemical might manifest as long-term cancer risk: “That might affect a huge number of people, given the planet-wide use of the glyphosate-based herbicides.”
Controversy has raged around glyphosate since a World Health Organisation agency – the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – judged it to be a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015.
However, US and European regulators subsequently deemed it acceptable for use, a move campaigners condemned because of regulators’ use of secret industry papers and experts with alleged ties to Monsanto.
The US firm, which recently merged with Bayer in a deal worth more than $60bn, argues that it is being unfairly targeted by activist scientists with ulterior motives.
Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s VP for global strategy told the Guardian: “The Ramazzini Institute is an activist organisation with an agenda that they have not disclosed as part of their crowdfunding efforts. They wish to support a ban on glyphosate and they have a long history of rendering opinions not supported by regulatory testing agencies.”
“This is not about genuine research,” he added. “All the research to date has demonstrated that there is no link between glyphosate and cancer.”
In 2017, the Ramazinni Institute was criticised by members of the US Congress, which has provided it with funding. US congress members have also probed funding for the IARC.
The new crowdfunded pilot study which the Ramazzini Institute compiled with Bologna University and the Italian National Health Institute observed the health effects of glyphosate on Sprague Dawley rats, which had been dosed with the US EPA-determined safe limit of 1.75 micrograms per kilo of body weight.
Two-thirds of known carcinogens had been discovered using the Sprague Dawley rat species, Mandrioli said, although further investigation would be needed to establish long-term risks to human health.
The pilot research did not focus on cancer but it did find evidence of glyphosate bioaccumulation in rats– and changes to reproductive health.
“We saw an increase in ano-genital distance in the formulation that is of specific importance for reproductive health,” Mandrioli said. “It might indicate a disruption of the normal level of sexual hormones.”
The study’s three peer-reviewed papers will be published in Environmental Health later in May, ahead of a €5m follow-up study that will compare the safe level against multiple other doses.
Conservatives Should Care about Institutional Racism.
Contemporary America faces continued racial discord that throws into question our mutual seriousness about the natural rights tradition and our commitment to the demands of republican citizenship. In an effort at self-scrutiny, conservatives should ask ourselves what our first response is in the face of evidence of institutional racism, and then ask ourselves what it should be.
Two cases that exemplify racial tensions in America are catching our nation’s attention.
In one case, Brennan Walker, a black teen, was shot at by retired firefighter Jeffrey Zeigler after knocking on the door of Zeigler’s Rochester Hills, Michigan home. Brennan was in search of directions to his campus after missing the school bus and getting lost on a shortcut to his school.
In the second case, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson (Photo) were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks after a manager accused them of loitering and called the police, claiming the men were trespassers. The men had refused to leave when asked because they were waiting to meet with real estate developer Andrew Yaffe about a business opportunity. Yaffe arrived as the men were led out in handcuffs for trespassing, and vociferously assured the police that the men were waiting for him and therefore not trespassing.
Understanding what is at stake in both of these incidents—and in our own responses to them—is the intention of this essay.
The Walker Case.
In Walker’s case, the moment was caught on Zeigler’s home security video, disproving Zeigler’s claim that he shot in self-defense. This evidence led to his arraignment for assault with intent to murder. Allegedly, Zeigler’s wife can also be heard on the tape asking “Why did these people choose my house?” According to prosecutor Kelly Collins, the video affirms Walker’s account of events, not Ziegler’s. The scene described by Walker is one of hysteria, with Mrs. Zeigler opening the door, yelling and accusing Walker of trying to rob her, and Zeigler responding to his wife’s screams by running down the stairs with a 12-gauge shotgun and shooting at the fleeing Walker.
Several things stand out here. First, Zeigler is a retired public servant who pleaded guilty to shooting at someone during a road rage incident in 2004. However, in online and personal discussions of this case, I have not seen anyone ask whether or not Zeigler has a criminal record. Instead, I have seen or heard multiple people ask whether Walker, the teen who was shot at, has a criminal record. The presumption of criminality lay not with the man whose own surveillance tape accuses him, but with the black boy who was shot at.
Second, the Zeiglers’ recorded response offers a frightening insight into current race relations in America. The Zeiglers saw the appearance of a black boy at their door as a kind of invasion. The mere sight of him led to a quick escalation: an inference that he was there to rob them, cries for help, and a quick resort to potentially lethal self-defense. The immediate fear of someone different from them is captured in Mrs. Zeigler’s expression: “Why did these people choose my home?” Walker was not at the Zeiglers’ door at the head of a mob; he was alone. By “these people,” Zeigler means “black people.” The teenage Walker becomes a symbol to the Zeiglers of all the assumptions they hold about black citizens and their intentions.
The Zeiglers’ unhappy and limited understanding of “these people” is not a merely a lack of political correctness. It is a matter of life and death.
The Starbucks Incident.
Similar themes of swift escalation and prudence forgotten in the face of blackness are present in the Philadelphia Starbucks incident. However, some people mistakenly dismiss the incident as a non-substantial kind of dignity harm, while others view the outcry against the arrest of the two men as a kind of intolerant demand for toleration that exceeds the bounds of justice and moderation.
Other people may focus more on the fairness of the Starbucks policy itself, not on the application of the policy, or even the fact that the men were not loitering, but participating in the common consumer habit of meeting friends and business associates in public places and waiting to make a purchase. The implication of such scrutiny is that the men were expecting special treatment, the kind of treatment not afforded to citizens in a republic of equals.
On the contrary, the problem is not that Nelson and Robinson were expecting special treatment, but that they were not afforded the equal treatment that all citizens should receive in a republic. The sentiment of many of those present was that the men were singled out. Melissa DePino, who posted the vital footage of the incident to Twitter, remarked in her tweet that “All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.” Furthermore, Starbucks “acknowledged that the incident is at odds with a common practice,” noting the reputation of Starbucks as “community hubs” and throwing into question the status of the policy itself. Philadelphia’s police chief has since apologized, saying his actions “"exacerbated” the situation.
What is it like to live in America for Brennan Walker, or for the two Philadelphian men? This is the question I turn to next.
Republican Freedom and the Resistance to Equality.
It is worth quoting Tocqueville, no advocate of any tyrannical democratic impulse, at length here.
There is a natural prejudice that leads man to scorn the one who has been his inferior, long after he has become his equal; real inequality produced by fortune or law is always followed by an imaginary inequality that has its roots in mores; but among the ancients this secondary effect of slavery came to an end. The emancipated man so strongly resembled the men who were born free that it soon became impossible to distinguish him from them. What was more difficult among the ancients was to change the law; what is more difficult among modern peoples is to change mores, and for us the real difficulty begins where in antiquity it ended. This happens because among modern peoples the non-material and transitory fact of slavery is combined in the most fatal way with the material and permanent fact of the difference of race. The memory of slavery dishonors the race, and race perpetuates the memory of slavery.
Tocqueville notes something that American conservatives often deny. The reach of human memory is a long one, and particularly so in the case of race, which combines the remembrance of subordination with a physical marker.
Tocqueville suggests that intermarriage, and its psychological effects, might help us to escape this cycle. In the children born of such marriages, the white parent would see his or her features reflected back and would thus be more inclined to view African Americans as equals rather than inferiors, gradually erasing any remembrance of legalized inequality. In other words, the natural love of one’s own would teach the white American to love his black family members and then neighbors and fellow citizens. This dynamic is captured in Tocqueville’s account in Democracy in America of the sufferings of the white slave owner whose black sons would be sent downriver after death because he had failed to manumit them. Though the master learned justice too late, it was love of his own that enabled him to learn justice at all. This seems to be an extension of Tocqueville’s understanding of self-interest well understood. Perhaps he thought no other motive would work successfully on Americans when it came to race, because they had not yet learned to think of the three races present in America from its inception as being worthy of being included in “the love of one’s own.”
Continued Racial Discord.
Instead of racial reconciliation or integration, however, contemporary America faces continued racial discord that throws into question our mutual seriousness about the natural rights tradition and our commitment to the demands of republican citizenship. Though it is the fashion in many circles to think that the problem of race ended with the success of the civil rights movement, recent scholarship and commentary show this is not the case.
In the recently published Mothers of Massive Resistance, Elizabeth Gillespie McRae convincingly proves “that racial segregation seeped into the nooks and crannies of public life and private matters, of congressional campaigns and PTA meetings, and of textbook debates and day care decisions” from the early twentieth century until the 1970s, and implies that this seepage has not yet been stopped. Similarly, Ta-Nehisi Coates persuasively traces a history of the consequences of institutionalized racism after the passage of the seminal Civil Rights Act, particularly with regard to housing discrimination and predatory loan practices. He notes what he calls America’s “compounding moral debt”: “Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal.” Decades of exploitative and discriminatory housing and banking practices have followed.
These problems exist alongside the many famous instances of police brutality against blacks, from Michael Brown, who was shot by policeman Darren Wilson in a city where the police sent emails to each other comparing blacks to monkeys and dogs, to Philando Castile, who died when he reached to show a police officer his permit to carry a gun. Police officers are three times more likely to subject black Americans to the use of force than they are white Americans, and unarmed black Americans are three times more likely to be shot by police than unarmed white citizens. When it comes to searches and seizures, black Americans are a third more likely to be stopped by police than white Americans, and their chances to be searched at the stop are also three times higher than is the case for white Americans, even though white Americans are found carrying illegal items or substances at a 50 percent higher frequency during pedestrian stops. A similar trend is found in drug arrests: though black drug use is the same or only incrementally higher than white drug use, black Americans are five times more likely to be placed under arrest for possession. All of this occurs against the backdrop of the following statistic from the Bureau of Justice: “1 percent of blacks overall (about 2 percent of black men) commit a violent crime in any given year.”
Undue discrepancies of treatment extend into the realm of medicine, as well, with infant mortality rates and maternal mortality rates among black women and children dwarfing those of white Americans. They even exceed rates in Mexico, where half of the female population lives at or below the poverty level. Similar trends are found in the area of education as well.
It is unacceptable that citizens experience the application and consequences of the law differently when we are supposed to be equal before the law. And it destroys civil society when those committed to public service, such as doctors, teachers, and police officers perpetuate this unequal treatment. Yet, on the right, these important and real issues too often get lost amid accusations of special pleading and frustrations with identity politics. It is to this dynamic that I now turn.
The Conservative Response to Institutional Racism: Protesting Too Much.
There is clearly much reason to believe that the experience of liberty in America is different for white Americans than it is for black Americans, whether we are talking about liberty before the law or in the realm of civil society. Yet the conservative response to this phenomenon has thus far been insufficient, and is often almost totally reactive and defensive.
Complaints about identity politics often miss the mark in our current political situation and are often a way of intentionally or accidentally dismissing a true political problem: the problem of institutionalized racism. Though warnings about the dangers of tribal politics are important, I suggest it is disingenuous to claim, as some have, that the increase in white identity politics is a response to an unreasonable agitation and demand for more equality on the part of blacks. This kind of response fails to recognize the very real and often determinative inequalities that black Americans experience, and the validity of their demands for change as a righteous and republican self-assertion.
While implicit bias, the cause of much of this inequality, is a difficult problem to confront, conservatives seem rarely to acknowledge its existence and its consequences, much less offer suggestions about how to counter it. Sometimes, as a conservative, it feels like we fixate on a mosquito that’s buzzing in our ear while fellow citizens are being stung by hordes of bees. When our first response to cases like Walker’s or the Philadelphia Starbucks customers’ is to complain about the oppressiveness of political correctness, to immediately scrutinize the motives of the black persons involved while leaving the motives of involved others untouched, or to balk about special treatment, something is wrong.
Think here of the common conservative response to accusations of police brutality: the impotent and tepid invocation of the occurrence of “black on black” crime, in spite of the fact that white people are statistically more likely to commit crimes against other white people, because humans tend to be violent toward those with whom we live in closest proximity. Or consider the constant debates on the right about Collin Kaepernick’s protest against the American flag, when compared to the dearth of any serious attempt at understanding the reality of what Kaepernick is protesting. A similar problem appears in the right’s response to the Hamilton cast’s peaceful speech to Vice President Mike Pence. On the whole, we bemoaned a loss of civility and discourse without treating the problematic relationship that the Trump campaign, and the Trump administration, have with race with any comparable attentiveness.
These kinds of examples suggest the weakness of American conservatism in the face of institutionalized racism and represent a major source of tension between conservatives and members of ethnic and racial communities. Understandably, they often take this kind of misdirection and attention to tangential issues as a kind of cluelessness, or worse, malice. It is read as a hesitation to condemn injustice and a willingness to maintain the status quo, a status quo Tocqueville suggests is deeply touched by the county’s original sin of racism in a way that benefits American whites at the expense of American blacks.
In an effort at self-scrutiny, we should ask ourselves what our first response is in the face of evidence of institutional racism, and then ask ourselves what it should be. What would we want the response to this treatment to be if we were the ones who were being arrested for waiting for a friend in Starbucks, or it was our children being shot at for knocking on a door and asking for help when they are in need? Perhaps if we spent as much time decrying what happened in the Philadelphia Starbucks or at the Zeiglers’ house as we spend critiquing responses to such events, the problem of race in America would not be so aggravated in the first place… (by Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo).
Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo is assistant professor of political science at Texas State University.
Expat reality, and sacrifice, is watching your loved ones age from afar.
Seeing my parent age made me question my expat experience.
For expats, seeing friends and family age while abroad can be surprising to see. Getty.
Expat life has taught me a lot of things – resilience, independence, and how to make a mean pesto spaghetti – but after more than seven years in Abu Dhabi, I still haven’t learnt how to accept the ageing process.
The realisation always comes to me while on holiday in Australia, where I go regularly to spend time with my family and friends.
Over the years I thought I had it all sorted: I would return to the family home in Melbourne every six months for three weeks or so, to live up to my role as an active son, brother, cousin and friend – not have them thinking I had shirked my responsibilities . While I am grateful to have succeeded in that regard, I remain unprepared for the steady march of ageing that greets me each time I visit.
At its most natural, growing older is similar to balding – it is a slow and subtle process that creeps up on you. Your loved ones sporadically pick up on it from the mixture of deeper insights you share and the audible groans and grunts that become common when playing sport or, more worryingly, trying to get up off the couch.
But as an expat, the benign nature of personal ageing is replaced by its flipside – the ageing of your parents and other relations.
No amount of video-calling can prepare you for spotting the first strand of white hair on a parent, in person. “What is this?” I pointed when I spotted the suspect follicles on my mother’s left side last week. She laughed it off, thinking I was being playful. But I was indeed outraged. It was akin to someone ripping out pages from my favourite book, and my mind began to race, thinking about whether or not I had missed any signs in recent months of my mother growing older.
Was there a time when I suspected she was slowing down? Is she quicker to get angry? Does she still have her tea the same way? I drew blanks on all of these and came to a realisation that might haunt many expats – that these things happen and we miss them because we live so far away and don’t see our loved ones every day.
The experience was similar when I saw my cousins and close friends’ beards speckled with grey s; they were also amused by how agitated I was as a result of this discovery. Then again, these jolting moments were tempered by the camaraderie and banter that can actually grow when living on the other side of the world. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I agree that one of the benefits of being an expat is how the relationship with your parents often becomes much better.
In my case, previously the stresses of daily life and cultural customs often created something of a hierarchical bond between my mum and I. That has now transformed into more of a friendship. A lot of it comes down to shared experience.
While my expat life is positively luxurious compared with my mum’s migration experience – she fled our native Eritrea in the 1980s for Abu Dhabi and a decade-long stint before reuniting with the family in Australia – she told me she also dealt with her share of seeing friends and family age and pass away while abroad.
I asked her how she dealt with it, to which she replied: “By asking myself what’s the point? Why am I spending this time away from the people I love? Was it the money, the experience and the adventure? Once you know, you stick to it and keep working towards your goal. Like everyone, you and I are getting older and that’s just life.
“But any sacrifice has to have meaning, or it’s just a waste of time.”