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“I do not know how to teach philosophy without becoming a disturber of the peace.” - Baruch Spinoza

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The popular weedkiller Glyphosate (more commonly known by its brand name Roundup) has been in the news recently. This is due to the almost 9000 litigants claiming that use of the weedkiller has caused their cancer (the cancer specifically being non-Hodgkin Lymphoma). As shocking as this figure may be there is potentially a much bigger scandal which dwarfs these figures. Surprisingly, it has been largely ignored by the mainstream media – this is the link between glyphosate use and autism.

 

For years people have been told that the increasing prevalence of autism which, tends to be experienced by western countries, is simply down to better diagnosis. The figures in the US are alarming –1 in 68 children born will develop autism; a figure which is increasing year on year. Even in the UK, where the figure is more than 1 in 100, you can be confident that if you picked someone at random they'd know or know of someone with autism. The dismissive reasoning put forward of 'better diagnosis' to account for these figures doesn't seem to wash anymore with most people. Just ask someone from the older generation how many children they knew who clearly showed symptoms of autism. Even better, just ask someone from a less developed country how common autism is, the answer in in nearly every case is that it's a rarity.

 

For many people who develop autism, the social cost is huge. Many of these people will live their lives in a constant case of anxiety where they struggle to make sense of the world and require round the clock care. The burden this places on family members and support staff is immense. You'd have thought with what's at stake for families with autistic children, in terms of the social, human and financial burdens, that the mainstream media might at least mention something when potential causes are discovered.

 

 In March 2019 the British Medical Journal published a study which was conducted in 1998-200 in Central Valley, California.The study compiled figures on the rate of autism of people living within 2000 meters of a farm which used pesticides, as oposed to those living more than 2000m away. The stydy concludedthat the 'findings suggest that the risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder increases with prenatal and infant exposure to several common ambient presicides that have been shown to affect neurodevelpopment in experimental studies'. Included within this group was of course Glyphosate – the most widely used pesticide in the US. Thde study further concluded that the 'findings support the need to avoid prenatal infant exposure to pesticides to protect early brain development.' So there you have it in black and white.

 

However, if anyone's under the illusion they're perfectly safe if they don't live next to a farm which uses pesticides such as glyphosate, they'd be very naive indeed. The Environmental Working Group(a non-priofit, non-partisan organisation dedicated to protecting huamn health and the environment) recently published a study they'd conducted on cereals in the US. They found that 20 popular childrens cereals and snacks were contaminated with glyphosate. One of the products tested contained 5 times more glyphosate than the Environmnetal Working Group's benchmark for daily glyphosate exposure. Many of these cereals are also exported worldwide, especially to the UK and Europe where they enter the foodchain. But, it's not just cereals which are contaminated. It's necessary to to know the background to glyphosate use and how it works to understand how we could be exposing our infants and pregnant mothers to it.

 

It all goes back to Genetically Modified (GM)foods. Most people believe that the whole point of GM foods was to simply increase the yield of the plant so that farmers could make more efficient use of their land, increasing their yeild and ultimately their profits. However, increasing the yield of a plant was only one of the ways these seeds have been engineered. One of the most important aspects for the company which pioneered GM foods Monsanto (recently bought by Bayer), was the creation of plants which could tolerate high concebntrations of glyphosate, without killing the crop. This then enables farmers to use as much glyphosate (and other pesticides) as they like, vastly increasing the revenue to Monsanto-Bayer through its sale. Glyphosate was also designed with a short half life, so to be effective over time it requires constant application. But, it's really the mechanism behind how glyphosate works which is most revealing. Glyphosate targets the specific proteins which regulate plant growth. It is an enzyme inhibitor, effectively blocking the function of growth proteins in plants. Unfortunately, not enough research has been done in this area yet, but we can only speculate as to what damage an enzyme growth inhibitor may be doing to a childs brain. For years Monsanto ran a campaign to discredit scientists whose research showed their products in a negative light. Some scientists were even bought out to become proponents of Monsanto, even to the extent of discrediting other scientists. Regardless of this the California studies now coming out not only suggests a clear link between pesticide exposure and autism, but also the supposed safe levels of glyphosate in our foodchain do not apply anymore given this new evidence.

 

Unfortunately as consumers, we can no longer rely on our governments to act with a precautionary ban on certain foodstuffs, especially when large corporate interests are at stake. We can neither rely on being informed of these dangers by our agenda driven mainstream media, which to all intents and purposes have been silent on an issue which could turn out to be one of the biggest scandals ever. What we must do is to make sure we are informed and are clear on the source of what we consume and what it contains due to its exposure to pesticides. In light of the emerging evidence, would anyone in their right mind take the risk of consuming foodstuffs with high levels of gltyphosate, or feeding their child on food contaminated with it?

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