1.   Require toxicity studies research the full pesticide formulation – including adjuvants.

Test finished products. Ingredients entering a manufacturing process do not necessarily represent the chemical composition of the final product. Some molecules disappear; others interact to form new compounds when exposed to different substances or changes in temperature and pressure. A better way to understand a product's impact on human health and the environment is to test the final product. (J.Warner & J.Ludwig. Nature 536, 269–270 (18 August 2016) doi:10.1038/536269a)

Throughout the world, pesticide risk assessment for toxicity is assessed using only the active chemical.  For example, there is no research into the full solution of Roundup, or any glyphosate based herbicides (GBH), held as part of US Environmental Protection Agency, the World Health Organisation or the European Union toxicological assessments.

It is only the weaker active chemical (Eg. glyphosate in the Roundup formulation) that is used in an abundance of industry sponsored animal tests – normally in rats and mice – held with the EPA, WHO and European Union Commission.

Fungicides on our cereals represent a health hazard

The full solution of Roundup is in soil, on GMO crops, and cereal crops (including wheat and oats). Farmers and chemical sellers understand the full formulation can have different effects depending on the final mixture applied to soils or food crops.

A growing body of evidence indicates the full solution, the formulation, that is applied to soils and crops is stronger and more effective.  The 'other' ingredients are not inert, they contribute to the toxicity of the complete formulation and at times may be more toxic than the declared active ingredient.

While regulatory risk assessment uses glyphosate as an acid - the active ingredient formulated into the mixture of a glyphosate based herbicide (GBH) is usually formulated as a salt. As a salt it will absorb into the plant more effectively. However there is no risk assessment of glyphosate as a salt. Scientists believe this may lead to risk assessment that does not correctly assess risk. (Cuhra, M. (2015c). Glyphosate nontoxicity: the genesis of a scientific fact. J. Biol. Phys. Chem. 15, 89–96. doi: 10.4024/08CU15A.jbpc.15.03)

A 2012 independent study revealed that ethoxylated adjuvants found in glyphosate-based herbicides were up to 10,000 times more toxic than the active ingredient glyphosate. [1]  These adjuvants are never assessed by the WHO, EPA or EU.

Adjuvants, or inert ingredients or not declared on the Roundup label in many countries.  Propylene glycol; glycerine; sodium sulfite; sodium benzoate; sorbic acid; sodium salt of o-phenylphenol; light aromatic petroleum distillate; methyl p-hydroxybenzoate; 3-iodo-2-propynyl butyl carbamate and 5-chloro-2-methyl 3(2H)-isothiazolone are examples of some of the ingredients used.

Many of the above listed adjuvants are associated with causing genetic damage, skin irritation, thyroid damage, and reduced fertility. [2]

Current study parameters are narrow and do not reflect the need to take into account delicate responses of the endocrine system to chemicals that act similarly and/or can influence - the hormone system - which may be as low as parts per billion or parts per trillion - particularly in the fetus; infant; child and adolescent - who are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of chemicals in critical stages of development, referred to as 'developmental windows.'

Many scientists understand that individual ingredients may not harm biological pathways, however when in a mixture they can combine to potentially become synergistically harmful. (Goodson et al 2015. Assessing the carcinogenic potential of low-dose exposures to chemical mixtures in the environment: the challenge ahead. Carcinogenesis. 2015 Jun;36 Suppl 1:S254-96. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgv039 )

The system is flawed - provide the weaker active chemical, frequently as a different ingredient from the one used in the full formula, and only look at industry studies at high levels. Never at the level we are exposed to on a daily basis.

Research from independent science investigating the endocrine and autoimmune systems is not accepted. Much is dismissed. These ‘industry standards’ are the result of consultation between industry and agency. Independent science is excluded.

We tested the toxicity of 9 pesticides, comparing active principles and their formulations, on three human cell lines (HepG2, HEK293, and JEG3). Glyphosate, isoproturon, fluroxypyr, pirimicarb, imidacloprid, acetamiprid, tebuconazole, epoxiconazole, and prochloraz constitute, respectively, the active principles of 3 major herbicides, 3 insecticides, and 3 fungicides..... Despite its relatively benign reputation, Roundup was among the most toxic herbicides and insecticides tested. Most importantly, 8 formulations out of 9 were up to one thousand times more toxic than their active principles. Our results challenge the relevance of the acceptable daily intake for pesticides because this norm is calculated from the toxicity of the active principle alone. Chronic tests on pesticides may not reflect relevant environmental exposures if only one ingredient of these mixtures is tested alone.
— Major Pesticides Are More Toxic to Human Cells Than Their Declared Active Principles. Mesnage et al 2014. [3]

Until the full formulation is researched, pesticide safety is unequivocally compromised.


What are adjuvants?
Adjuvants - or inert ingredients - can be broadly defined as any substance added to a pesticide spray tank. Adjuvants can also be more narrowly defined as any substance added to a pesticide mixture to improve its physical qualities and hence effectiveness.

This includes surfactants, wetter-spreaders, activators, antifoaming agents, stickers, penetrant enhancers, buffer, antifoaming agents, drift retardents, compatibility agents. In the UK, extenders, wetting agents, sticking agents and fogging agents. [2]

These additives can change the property of the spray solution. This aids the solution to penetrate, target or protect the target organism.

Agricultural adjuvants are used to enhance the performance of the legal amount of a pesticide that may be used.    Adjuvants can be bought as a mix in the stores (in-can) or added to the farmers tank for spraying (tank mix).

Adjuvant POEA

POEA can today be excluded from GBH (glyphosate based herbicides, Eg. Roundup) formulations. What was it replaced by?  This does not have to be disclosed by industry.

All now understand the adjuvants can be more toxic than the active ingredient. Yet the adjuvants are never investigated when assessing toxicity of the herbicides, pesticides and insecticides on our food today.

Only assessing the 'active ingredient/chemical' is akin to taking the brakes out of the car and assessing the brakes separately for safety and then declaring the vehicle safe.


I later wrote to the study author to obtain more information, the information is detailed in this blog post here.


[1]  Ethoxylated adjuvants of glyphosate-based herbicides are active principles of human cell toxicity.
Mesnage R1, Bernay B, Séralini GE.  Toxicology. 2013 Nov 16;313(2-3):122-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2012.09.006. Epub 2012 Sep 21.

 [2] Major Pesticides Are More Toxic to Human Cells Than Their Declared Active Principles Mesnage R., Defarge N.,   de Vendômois J.S., Séralini G. E.. Biomed Res Int. 2014; 2014: 179691. Published online Feb 26, 2014. doi:  10.1155/2014/179691. PMCID: PMC3955666

[2] More reading: at Cornell ; WikipediaUK GovernmentUSA EPA.

[3]  Glyphosate Monograph. Pesticides Action Network Asia and the Pacific.  Dr. Meriel Watts. P.6