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Weed killer found in human urine across Europe

daily alternative | alternative news - Weed killer found in human urine across Europe

People in 18 countries across Europe have been found to have traces of the weed killer glyphosate in their urine, show the results of tests commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe and released today [1].

The findings raise concerns about increasing levels of exposure to glyphosate-based weed killers, commonly used by farmers, public authorities and gardeners across Europe. The use of glyphosate is predicted to rise further if more genetically modified (GM) crops are grown in Europe [2].

Despite its widespread use, there is currently little monitoring of glyphosate in food, water or the wider environment. This is the first time monitoring has been carried out across Europe for the presence of the weed killer in human bodies.

Friends of the Earth Europe’s spokesperson Adrian Bebb said: “Most people will be worried to discover they may have weed killer in their bodies. We tested people living in cities in 18 countries and found traces in every country. These results suggest we are being exposed to glyphosate in our everyday lives, yet we don’t know where it is coming from, how widespread it is in the environment, or what it is doing to our health.

“Our testing highlights a serious lack of action by public authorities across Europe and indicates that this weed killer is being widely overused. Governments need to step-up their monitoring and bring in urgent measures to reduce its use. This includes rejecting any genetically modified crops that would increase the use of glyphosate.”

Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on the European Union to urgently investigate how glyphosate is finding its way into people’s bodies; to increase the levels of monitoring in the environment and in food and water; and to introduce immediate restrictions on the use of glyphosate.

Friends of the Earth Europe commissioned laboratory tests on urine samples from volunteers in 18 countries across Europe and found that on average 44% of samples contained glyphosate. The proportion of positive samples varied between countries, with Malta, Germany, the UK and Poland having the most positive tests, and lower levels detected in Macedonia and Switzerland.

All the volunteers who provided samples live in cities, and none had handled or used glyphosate products in the run-up to the tests which were carried out between March and May 2013.

Glyphosate is used on many genetically modified crops. 14 new GM crops designed to be cultivated with glyphosate are currently waiting for approval to be grown in Europe. Approval of these crops would inevitably lead to a further increase of glyphosate spraying in the EU.

The biggest producer of glyphosate is Monsanto which sells it under the brand name ‘Roundup’. Two weeks ago the US Department of Agriculture announced that it had found GM wheat developed by Monsanto that has not been approved anywhere in the world growing in a field in Oregon, leading to some countries restricting or testing US wheat imports and farmers in the US starting legal cases against the company.

***

Notes:

[1] Urine samples were collected from volunteers in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the UK. A total of 80/182 samples tested were found to contain glyphosate. Volunteers were all city-dwellers and included vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets. No two samples were tested from the same household. The samples were analysed by Dr Hoppe at Medical Laboratory Bremen in Germany.

The full results of ‘Determination of Glyphosate residues in human urine samples from 18 European countries’ by Medical Laboratory Bremen are available online.

daily alternative | alternative news – Weed killer found in human urine across Europe

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Health & Science

Google Now Has Access To Millions of Patients’ Medical Records

A controversial deal between tech giant Google and the National Health Service (NHS) will allow artificial intelligence units access to 1.6 million confidential medical records. Since 2014, Google has partnered with several scientists in an attempt to understand human health, but a new report reveals the data gathering goes far beyond what was originally anticipated.

According to documents obtained by the New Scientist, the data sharing agreement between Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust gives access to the sensitive healthcare data of millions of NHS patients. The chilling and wide-reaching deal allows DeepMind access to the medical records of the 1.6 million people passing annually through the three London hospitals owned by the Trust — Barnet, Chase Farm, and the Royal Free.

The Google-owned A.I. firm announced in February it was working with the NHS to build an app called Streams — intended to help hospitals monitor patients with kidney disease. However, the new information has revealed that the extent of the data being shared goes much further and includes logs of day-to-day hospital activity, records of the location and status of patients, and even logs of who visits them and when.

Results of pathology and radiology tests are also shared, as is information from critical care and accident and emergency departments. In addition, DeepMind’s access to the centralised records of all NHS hospital treatments in the U.K. means the tech company can access historical data from the last five years, all while receiving a continuous stream of new data.

At the same time, DeepMind is developing a platform called Patient Rescue, which uses hospital data streams to build tools to carry out analysis and support diagnostic decisions. The New Scientist explained how it works:

Comparing a new patient’s information with millions of other cases, Patient Rescue might be able to predict that they are in the early stages of a disease that has not yet become symptomatic, for example. Doctors could then run tests to see if the prediction is correct.

While the Royal Free has not yet responded to the question of what — if any — opt-out mechanisms are available to patients, the New Scientist suggests this is unlikely to be a straightforward process. Despite the agreement stating Google cannot use the data in any other part of the company’s business, many will be seriously wary of the access the online tech giant now has to the confidential data of millions of people.

As the New Scientist wrote:

Data mining is the name of the game in the burgeoning field of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and there’s no company in the world better at that than Google.

 

daily alternative | alternative news – Google Now Has Access To Millions of Patients’ Medical Records

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