Bayer intent on Monsanto merger

In an effort to convince the European Commission to approve its merger with Monsanto, Bayer has offered to sell further seed and pesticide businesses. A recent report from the international panel of experts on sustainable food systems (IPES) expressed concern that if the merger is given the go ahead 70% of the agro-chemical sector will be controlled by three giant agro-chemical companies, Dow-Dupont, ChemChina and, if approved, Bayer/Monsanto. This will leave our food systems reliant on fewer and fewer types of seeds and more vulnerable to disease outbreaks. Over 500,000 people have signed a petition opposing the merger, but will the Commission listen?

US lawmakers threaten IARC funding over Roundup assessment

Just how far does Monsanto’s reach go? Politicians in the US are now threatening to stop funding the World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer research program through the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), due to its classification of glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen” in 2015. Monsanto has spent huge sums lobbying the US Congress over recent years in an effort to push back against the negative classification. We hope that the WHO and IARC are strong enough to withstand such open bullying tactics, find new funding sources in order to maintain independence and the independent assessment of glyphosate, which red flags its potential for damaging health and the environment.

HPV vaccination programme in the UK expands to gay men

Following a trial programme, the UK government have announced a nationwide HPV vaccination programme for men who have sex with men (MSM). The programme will cover men under 45 to protect them against non-cervical HPV related cancers. Amidst serious questions about the safety of the HPV vaccine, the lack of evidence that the vaccine protects against cancer and other countries banning its use due to the level of adverse reactions associated with it, this is a bold and unprecedented move for the UK. The vaccine is designed to protect against a limited number of virus strains, of which there are a 100 or more and it is accepted that older MSM are likely to already be infected with HPV. Despite assurances from the manufacturer it is not known whether the vaccine will be protective or not. Although the programme will now extend to MSM in the UK, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has decided not to include young boys in the HPV vaccination programme. Interestingly, the Throat Cancer Foundation have now written to the JCVI threatening to take legal action unless their decision is reversed. We will continue to report on developments.

EU tightens controls on BPA use

The European Commission (EC) has just published a new regulation tightening the existing restrictions on the use of Bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disrupting chemical often used in food packaging and plastic food containers. It has now reduced the amount of chemical allowed to migrate from plastic materials containing BPA into food, along with further restrictions on food contact materials for children aged 0-3 years. The EC has also mandated EFSA to do a full re-evaluation of BPA to decide if any further action to protect consumers is necessary. We hope that the rest of the world follows the EU’s lead as there is still huge demand worldwide for BPA plastics.