Pes­ti­cides in food may dam­age the brain

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Laura Don­nelly

CON­SUMERS should con­sider go­ing or­ganic be­cause pes­ti­cides on foods are far more dan­ger­ous than was thought, caus­ing dam­age to the hu­man brain, a study sug­gests.

The re­search, pub­lished by the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, warns of the “very high costs” of cur­rent lev­els of ex­po­sure to pes­ti­cides – es­pe­cially for chil­dren and preg­nant women.

It could re­sult in new lim­its on pes­ti­cide lev­els or changes to the la­belling of food­stuffs un­der EU laws which re­quire the UK to re­view its poli­cies by next year.

The study sug­gests that the dam­age caused by pes­ti­cides across the EU amounts to at least £125bil­lion a year, based on the loss of life­time in­come from such dam­age.

The re­port warns of in­creas­ing ev­i­dence that residues from in­sec­ti­cides are dam­ag­ing the brain, and re­duc­ing the IQ of the pop­u­la­tion. And it raises con­cerns that the chem­i­cals could also cause can­cer and dam­age to the re­pro­duc­tive sys­tem. The re­search, com­mis­sioned by the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, is a re­view of sci­en­tific ev­i­dence about the im­pact of or­ganic food on hu­man health.

It says pre­vi­ous at­tempts to as­sess the im­pact of pes­ti­cides have dis­re­garded too much of the re­search, rais­ing con­cerns that reg­u­la­tion of in­sec­ti­cides has been in­ad­e­quate.

The study was car­ried out by the par­lia­ment’s Sci­en­tific Fore­sight Unit, led by the Swedish Uni­ver­sity of

Agri­cul­tural Sci­en­tists. “At least 100 dif­fer­ent pes­ti­cides are known to cause ad­verse neu­ro­log­i­cal ef­fects in adults, and all of these sub­stances must there­fore be sus­pected of be­ing ca­pa­ble of dam­ag­ing de­vel­op­ing brains as well,” the re­port states.

“Such ad­verse ef­fects are likely to be last­ing and one main out­come is cog­ni­tive deficits, of­ten ex­pressed in terms of losses of IQ points.

“The com­bined ev­i­dence sug­gests that cur­rent ex­po­sures to cer­tain pes­ti­cides in the EU may cost at least €125 bil­lion per year, as cal­cu­lated from the loss of life­time in­come due to the lower IQS as­so­ci­ated with pre­na­tal ex­po­sure.”

It goes on to de­scribe the cal­cu­la­tion as “al­most cer­tainly an un­der­es­ti­mate” as it does not con­sider the pos­si­ble con­tri­bu­tion made by pes­ti­cides to con­di­tions such as Parkin­son’s dis­ease, di­a­betes and cer­tain types of can­cer.

The re­searchers rec­om­mend lim­it­ing ex­po­sure to non-or­ganic fruit and veg­eta­bles – and say par­tic­u­lar care should be taken by preg­nant women and chil­dren.

“The ev­i­dence re­viewed in this re­port shows that a de­creased ex­po­sure from the general pop­u­la­tion is de­sir­able from a hu­man health per­spec­tive, in light of the find­ings from epi­demi­o­log­i­cal stud­ies that in­di­cate very high costs of cur­rent lev­els of pes­ti­cide ex­po­sures,” the re­port says.

Pre­vi­ous at­tempts to as­sess the risks have not taken proper ac­count of epi­demi­o­log­i­cal stud­ies, which look at the health of whole pop­u­la­tions, in­stead of lim­it­ing them­selves to sci­en­tific tri­als, it sug­gests.

“Of ma­jor con­cern, these risk as­sess­ments dis­re­gard ev­i­dence from epi­demi­o­log­i­cal stud­ies that show neg­a­tive ef­fects of low-level ex­po­sure to organophos­phate in­sec­ti­cides on chil­dren’s cog­ni­tive de­vel­op­ment,” it states.

And it raises con­cerns that risk as­sess­ment of pes­ti­cides is in­ad­e­quate, fail­ing to ex­am­ine any in­creased risk of can­cer, as well as im­pacts on the body’s hor­mones and ner­vous sys­tem.

Lead author, As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor Axel Mie, said: “Sev­eral prac­tices in or­ganic agri­cul­ture, in par­tic­u­lar the low use of pes­ti­cides and an­tibi­otics, of­fer ben­e­fits for hu­man health.”

Un­der an EU di­rec­tive, mem­ber states are re­quired to pub­lish a national plan to re­duce risks from pes­ti­cides ev­ery five years, with the UK re­quired to up­date its re­stric­tions by 2018.

US stud­ies have shown women’s ex­po­sure to pes­ti­cides dur­ing preg­nancy were as­so­ci­ated with neg­a­tive im­pacts on their chil­dren’s IQ and neu­robe­havioural de­vel­op­ment.

Dr Chris Hart­field, of the National Farm­ers’ Union, said: “Pes­ti­cides are among the most strin­gently reg­u­lated prod­ucts in the world. This Euro­pean Par­lia­ment re­port makes it quite clear that our un­der­stand­ing in these ar­eas is lim­ited, the ev­i­dence is not con­clu­sive.”

Mr Varad­kar did not win the bulk of Fine Gael’s mem­ber­ship but was backed by 51 coun­cil mem­bers and 73 of the party’s MPS

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