A paper released on Wednesday, Aug 19, suggested that the use of herbicides has been driven by flawed and outdated data allowing its massive use across the U.S. to go uninterrupted. The experts behind the document think that it is high time to perform new assessments to address this problem.

Biotechnology is most commonly associated with direct hazards to the health and wellbeing of populations such as modifying human germline and transforming pathogens to biologic armaments. However, the applications of Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are increasingly being observed in the agricultural sector in an intense and swift manner. In the U.S., about 90 percent of soybeans and corn produce are now genetically engineered. GMO food are becoming pervasive and these products do not necessitate labelling from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The paper, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, emphasized two points that warrant the review of existing herbicide regulations to halt threats to human health. The first key factor is the significant increase in the use of herbicides in GMO food and the second point made is the identification of glyphosate, a common herbicide, as a possible human carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO).

"There is growing evidence that glyphosate is geno-toxic and has adverse effects on cells in a number of different ways," says Chuck Benbrook, an adjunct professor at Washington State University. For him, it is time for glyphosate to take a back seat from possible human exposures until scientific experts are able to confirm its effects.

Previous research was not able to assess the characteristics of GMO food and herbicides that pose threats to human health, the paper stated. With this, the researchers think that performing new investigations that will encompass the holistic aspects of plant biotechnology safety is imperative.

The authors included two recommendations in the article to address this growing problem. The first proposition is for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to postpone the approval of Enlist Duo, a herbicide that contains glyphosate, as the previous decision was made in haste and not backed up by complete data regarding its effects on humans and the environment. The second recommendation is for the National Toxicology Program to promptly assess the toxicology properties of glyphosates in its pure, formulated and mixed forms.

In the end, the authors including Dr. Philip Landrigan, a paediatrician, epidemiologist and the Dean for Global Health at the Mount Sinai Medical Centre highlighted the need for appropriate labeling of GMO food. Such intervention will enable the easier monitoring of food allergies and effects of herbicides and satisfy consumers' needs to know what they are eating.

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