Nutrition

Endocrine disruptors, the Commission is nowhere to be seen

Endocrine disruptors, the Commission is nowhere to be seen

An EU Court of Justice sentence and a few European Parliament resolutions have not been sufficient to stir this Commission to the grave and current risk towards the health of human beings, animals and the environment. Endocrine disruptors, which include in the forefront – it just so happens – glyphosate and dicamba, but also Bisphenol A (BPA).

Endocrine disruptors, what’s it about?

Endocrine disruptors (ED) are a varied group of substances characterized by the ability of interfering, through several mechanisms, with the functioning of the endocrine system. In particular, with the homeostasis of sex hormones and thyroid.

‘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)

Among the side effects of ED’s pointed out is the capacity of binding to the Intracellular Receptors (IR), as opposed to certain hormones that are physiologically produced by our bodies. By activating or blocking the transcription of genes in human DNA, with alterations in cellular metabolism. The endocrine disruptors provoke hormonal responses this way ‘out of place or out of time’, also in relation to specific tissues, with toxic actions linked to the chemical properties.

Pre and post-natal reproduction and development are the biological phases most sensitive to ED’s endocrine effects. Among other things, exposition to endocrine disruptors may:

– induce effects on the fetus that will not manifest until the organism will reach the reproductive years,

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

– affect negatively the characteristic endocrine biological processes.

Epidemiological studies suggest there is a relation between the exposition of specific ED groups and alterations to the reproductive system, such as malformations, infertility, increased risk of testicular tumors and of endometriosis. The spectrum of associated disorders include the growth of miscarriage, long-term effects to thyroid or reproductive functions, as a result of damages in utero or during childhood, metabolic disorders related to an altered homeostasis of estrogen and androgen.

Food and environmental contamination are closely interlinked, since every substance scattered into the environment cannot refrain from entering the food chain. All these substances – that tend to accumulate in the adipose tissue of humans and animals – can in fact be found in meat, fish, milk, with their consequent mother-to-child transmission during breastfeeding.

ED’s side effects are also revealed on the neurological and behavioral levels, inducing alterations in cerebral development, sexual behavior and reproductive success. Or alterations to the memory and cognitive deficits. (1)

Endocrine disruptors, the EU Court sentence

In December 2015 the EU Court  – following an appeal from Sweden, which Denmark, France, Netherlands and Finland have also supported – convicted the European Commission for failing to comply with its duty of protecting citizens against the risks related to endocrine disruptors. (2)

The European Commission should have changed Annex II to Reg. EC No. 1107/09, ‘concerning the placing on the market of plant-protection products’, i.e. agro-chemicals and pesticides. By introducing the specific scientific criteria, identifying the endocrine disrupters (ED), revising the use of products that contain them on a risk analysis basis. Nevertheless Brussels institution fell short, once again, with regards to its responsibilities.  

The specification of scientific criteria for determining the endocrine-disruptive properties can take place only in an objective manner, on the basis of scientific data relating to the endocrine system, regardless of any other consideration, especially of economic nature’ (UE Court of Justice, Case T-521/14, sentence 16.12.15)

The approval of an active substance, for the purpose of its employment in agro-chemicals and biocides, should be influenced by the absence of properties that alter the endocrine system and the consequent risk to produce harmful side effects towards non-targeted organisms. Unless exposure to the active substance in a plant-protection product – in the realistic conditions of its proposed employment – may result negligible.

The diktat from the European Parliament to the Commission

In June 2016 the European Parliament adopted a first resolution on the subject, stating that ‘according to the ruling of the Court, the determination of scientific criteria can take place only in an objective manner on the basis of scientific data relating to the endocrine system, regardless of any other consideration, especially of economic nature’.

The Commission has instead adopted a softened text, that favors the interests of the Big 6 – the giants which control over 75% of the global market in ‘agrotoxics’- and of the chemical industry, over the health of consumers.

The reaction of the Parliament, October 4, 2017. The Strasbourg Assembly voted with a discrete majority a reasoned objection to the European Commission text. Reaffirming that citizens’ health protection must prevail on economic and partisan interests, and Brussels has no title nor power of altering this priority. (5)

The MEP’s have therefore asked the Commission to ‘submit without delay a new project’. Still awaiting for a concrete solutions after years of connivance between successive Commissioners and the agrochemical giants. (6)

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) For more information and bibliography, see our free ebook ‘GMO, the Big Scam’, at https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/en/books/gmo-the-big-scam

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

(3) A relevant precedent relates to the failure to take into account the genotoxic and carcinogenic risks related to process contaminants of vegetable oils, especially palm oil. See article  https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/palma-leaks-grande-puzza-di-bruciato-anche-a-bruxelles

(4) Despite the adverse agrochemical lobbies, the measure was approved with 389 votes in favor, 235 against and 70 abstentions 

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

(6) A couple of things on toxic lobbies, on  https://corporateeurope.org/food-and-agriculture/2015/05/toxic-affair-how-chemical-lobby-blocked-action-hormone-disrupting

About the author

Dario Dongo

Dario Dongo

Dario Dongo, avvocato e giornalista, PhD in diritto alimentare internazionale, fondatore di WIISE (FARE - GIFT – Food Times) e cofondatore del Fatto Alimentare.