Reality-Check
February 4, 2016
The Zika virus comes from mosquitoes not Monsanto (EN/FR)
Zika virus comes from the Aedes aegypti mosquito

An Aedes aegypti mosquito feeding on a human. Image courtesy James Gathany – PHIL, CDC, Wikipedia.

Before you start seeing pop-ups in your social media news feeds that Monsanto is causing the Zika virus which is causing panic in Brazil, think before you react because it’s simply not based on current facts. In a recent blog post by Jon Rappoport, called Zika? Monsanto’s Roundup associated with smaller heads, he claims that babies being born with smaller heads (microcephaly) and brain damage in Brazil are due in part to pesticides and herbicides. We think it sensible to post this reply to give you the facts so far — and to help stop the spread of misinformation and unnecessary fear.

Never mind that Monsanto is not in the mosquito business. We are focused on seeds and crop protection products, not bugs.

Rappoport implicates the herbicide glyphosate, the central ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide, Roundup, in microcephaly and cranial malformations, quoting one study from 2010 called Glyphosate-Based Herbicides (GBH) Produce Teratogenic Effects on Vertebrates by Impairing Retinoic Acid Signalling.

But, he fails to mention that regulatory authorities and independent experts around the world agree that glyphosate does not cause adverse reproductive effects in adult animals or birth defects (teratogenic) in offspring of these adults exposed to glyphosate, even at very high doses. This conclusion is based on multiple studies in laboratory animals that have been conducted to examine the potential for such effects. These include studies in which laboratory animals, their offspring and the next generation of offspring have been examined for adverse effects. (References: WHO/FAO, 2004; U.S. EPA, 1993; European Commission, 2002; Williams et al, 2000).”

Also in regards to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) IARC statement that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, Rappoport doesn’t mention that three out of four WHO programmes and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) agree glyphosate does not present a cancer or human health risk, as well as the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) recent peer-reviewed scientific conclusion that glyphosate is “unlikely to be carcinogenic.”

Then he fails to include what more credible voices, including the WHO and the US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have said about the Zika virus so far.

The WHO has said on its website:

The CDC says on its website:

Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.”

We’ll let you make your own mind up. This misinformed, and obviously biased, blog post is already being shared in small numbers on Twitter and Facebook, and in at least one instance has been posted underneath comments on a Zika virus news story as ‘evidence’. We can only encourage people to apply critical thinking before believing such outlandish claims.

Below are updates on facts of the story published by our US colleagues:

You can also find links on our US website to third party news stories quoting a few scientific experts.

Français:

Depuis quelques jours la presse digitale s‘est largement faite l’écho, de manière outrancière, d’une rumeur concernant Monsanto, le virus Zica et la microcéphalie.

Autant la question du virus Zica, disséminé par les moustiques, et des risques pour la santé sont une affaire extrêmement sérieuse, autant la rumeur qui a circulé sur Monsanto est scandaleuse. Des activistes ont en effet mis en place une stratégie efficace d’amalgame, relayé par des journalistes complaisants ou peu scrupuleux.

La réponse est très simple : Monsanto n’a aucun lien avec le virus, aucun lien avec l’insecticide utilisé pour tuer les moustiques, aucun lien capitalistique avec la société qui vend cet insecticide. La position est disponible ici . Vous pouvez l’utiliser à tout moment et la communiquer à vos contacts professionnels et privés.

Nous faisons le nécessaire pour stopper cette rumeur. Un plan a été mis en place comprenant : fourniture de la position et appel téléphonique des journalistes, réactions sur médias sociaux, position postée au bas des articles sur internet. Nos principaux contacts professionnels et institutionnels sont aussi informés.

Robb Fraley, CTO, a également écrit un article éclairant que vous pouvez consulter ici .

Comments

    stephanie
    |
    February 15, 2016
    I haven't read any reports suggesting pesticides developed by you or your Japanese associates caused the Zika virus. This article does nothing to assure me that said pesticides used in the water in parts of Brazil are not the cause of microcephaly. This article seems to be an effort to confuse even further the possible cause and effect relationships between your company and this grave disaster.
    Reply
    EU Corporate Engagement Team
    |
    February 16, 2016
    Dear Stephanie, Thanks for your comment. The article was published by us to provide the facts of what is known so far and to counter the misinformation being spread online. But, if you're still confused/sceptical of our efforts please see below quotes from three scientific experts from the Australian Science Media Centre to provide a variety of expert perspectives and reflect independent opinion on this issue. Views expressed are the personal opinions of the experts named. If you have more questions please do ask us, EU Corporate Engagement Team. Dr Ian Musgrave is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine, School of Medicine Sciences, within the Discipline of Pharmacology at the University of Adelaide. "The recent expansion of the range of Zika virus, coupled with its linkage to the rise of microcephaly in Brazil, where babies are born with very small heads, is the focus of international concern. However, a recent report from the group “Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Villages” has claimed that the outbreak of microcephaly is due to a pesticide used to control the mosquitoes that carry Zika virus. This claim is not plausible. The pesticide in question is pyriproxyfen, a replacement for the organophosphate pesticides that the mosquitoes are becoming resistant to. Pyriproxyfen acts by interfering with the hormonal control growth cycle of insects from hatching, to larvae, to pupa. This hormone control system does not exist in organisms with backbones, such as humans, and pyriproxyfen has very low toxicity in mammals as a result. An adult human would need to eat a teaspoon full of the raw pesticide to reach the threshold levels for toxicity seen in animals. In terms of how much is present in water reservoirs that have been sprayed with pyriproxyfen to control mosquito larvae, a person would have to drink well over 1,000 litres of water a day, every day, to achieve the threshold toxicity levels seen in animals. The effect of pyriproxyfen on reproduction and fetal abnormalities is well studied in animals. In a variety of animal species even enormous quantities of pyriproxyfen do not cause the defects seen during the recent Zika outbreak. Pyriproxyfen is poorly absorbed by humans and rapidly broken down so even the minute amounts humans would be exposed to via water treatment would be reduced even further. As well, pyriproxyfen is relatively rapidly removed from the environment as well, so overall exposure will be low. The “Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Villages” only evidence for the role of pyriproxyfen is that spraying began in 2014. While the evidence that Zika virus is responsible for the rise in microcephaly in Brazil is not conclusive, the role of pyriproxyfen is simply not plausible. " Professor Ary Hoffmann is a Australian Laureate Fellow, Department of Genetics & Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne. He researches new pest control options to control mosquitoes. "Pyriproxyfen is a widely used chemical in agriculture and in the pet industry and has been around for a while. It is a growth inhibitor of insect larvae. There is no direct evidence that it is associated with human birth defects – insect development is quite different to human development and involves different hormones, developmental pathways and sets of genes, so it cannot be assumed that chemicals affecting insect development also influence mammalian development. Chemicals can be effective in local Aedes mosquito control, but it is true that the effects often are quite temporary because new mosquitoes will emerge as larvae develop and emerge from breeding containers. This is one reason why public health campaigns often focus on reducing the number of breeding sites around the home, which can be quite an effective control mechanism. A variety of other options are currently being explored to control mosquitoes or to inhibit their ability to spread disease. The GM mosquito approach represents only one of several possible approaches – for instance, it is also possible to suppress mosquitoes by releasing males that are sterile or incompatible with females from natural populations, without the use of GM. Another possibility is to introduce Wolbachia strains of mosquitoes that reduce viral transmission." Adjunct Professor Andrew Batholomaeus is a consultant toxicologist from the School of Pharmacy, University of Canberra and the Therapeutic Research Unit, School of Medicine, University of Queensland. "Pyriproxyfen is an insect growth regulator with a mechanism of action that is highly specific to insects. Pyriproxyfen is used on a wide variety of crops and is recommended by the WHO for addition to drinking water storage vessels to prevent the spread of deadly diseases such as malaria. Studies in rats and rabbits have shown pyriproxyfen to have no reproductive or developmental effects at doses up to at least 100 mg per kg of body-weight every day. This intake would be equivalent to an average human female consuming 6 grams of the compound per day. The acceptable daily intake of pyriproxyfen set by the WHO is 100 micrograms per kg of body-weight per day for a lifetime. This equates to approximately 6 mg per person per day. By contrast the WHO recommended addition of pyriproxyfen to drinking water storage is a maximum of 10 micrograms per litre which would deliver a daily dose of 20 micrograms. A microgram is one millionth of a gram. Thus, the intake of pyriproxifen in Brazil from treated drinking water is of the order of 300 times lower than the safe limit set by the WHO. All of this information is readily available to any genuine scientist looking dispassionately at the potential causes of the Zika virus outbreak or the rise in malformations in Brazil. Also readily available is the knowledge that the use of pyriproxifen is driven by WHO recommendations and not the marketing activity of any multinational or other corporation. The potential human health consequences of discouraging the use of pyriproxyfen in drinking water storage and other mosquito-reduction programs is catastrophic with potential deaths and serious disease from otherwise avoidable malaria, dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases numbered in at least the hundreds of thousands. If these reports and suggestions are motivated by anything other than ignorance and poor scholarship they are deserving of the most strident condemnation. Journalists covering this story would do well to research the background of those making and reporting the claims as the underlying story and potential public health consequences may be far more newsworthy than the current headlines."
    Reply

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