an industrial study on the neurotoxicity of the herbicide withdrawn from European authorities

An inscription denouncing the use of glyphosate on the edge of a rapeseed field in Saint-Rogatien (Charente-Maritime), in April 2021.

The procedure often arouses the surprise of those who discover it: European regulations stipulate that agrochemical companies wishing to have their pesticides approved carry out the required toxicological studies themselves.

But how can you be sure that all the data they have has indeed been transmitted to the authorities? This is the question posed by two Swedish scientists, Monday, September 5, in the journal Environmental Health, about glyphosate. In a brief commentary, Axel Mie and Christina Ruden, researchers at the Department of Environmental Sciences at Stockholm University, announce that they have identified an industrial study, completed in 2001, the results of which – embarrassing – have never been brought to the attention of the European authorities. The authors do not mention it in their article, but the sponsoring firm was the Swiss agrochemist Syngenta.

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The case opens a new front in the controversy over the famous herbicide: this time it is not a question of its carcinogenicity, but of possible deleterious effects on the construction of the brain, during prenatal exposures. “Reading a scientific article published in 2009 [dans la revue Environmental Health Perspectives] by US Environmental Protection Agency toxicologists [EPA]I saw by chance that an industry study researching the possible toxicity of a glyphosate salt for neurodevelopment was briefly mentionedsays Axel Mie. I was very surprised, because I was totally unaware of the existence of such a study. »

His curiosity piqued, the Swedish scientist began looking for other traces of this work, but found none. Neither in the data submitted to the European pesticide policeman, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), nor anywhere on the Internet. “I searched US government databasessays Mr. Mie. There I found a 3,000-page compilation of internal documents with summaries of how EPA scientists evaluated numerous studies, including this one. »

“An effect on neurobehavioral function”

The study in question consisted in exposing pregnant rats to different doses of a glyphosate salt (glyphosate-trimesium) and then evaluating the motor activity of their offspring, compared to that of rats not having been exposed. . According to the EPA’s assessment, write the Swedish researchers, “this study shows that this form of glyphosate has an effect on neurobehavioral function and motor activity in offspring [des rats de laboratoire], at a dose that was not previously known to cause harm”. In particular, the motor activity of animals exposed in utero was reduced, depending on the sex and the doses received, by 45% to 72% compared to those whose mothers had not been subjected to the product.

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