– By Kara Moses
A report found traces of weedkiller in the urine of 182 volunteers living in urban areas across Europe.

Should we wait for conclusive scientific studies before becoming concerned about an issue? A report released last week by Friends of the Earth and GM Freeze poses this exact question.

The campaign groups were reporting the results of their small snapshot study that found traces of glyphosate, one of the most widely used weedkillers in the world, in the urine of 182 volunteers living in urban areas across Europe. Glyphosate is known under the brand name Roundup and produced by biotech giant Monsanto.

The study was basic, the sample size was small, the report was unpublished. But could it point to an important issue for further investigation?

Academics denounced the findings as “not scientific”, saying the results could not be taken seriously and that campaign groups should submit their work to peer-reviewed journals to provide a “genuine contribution to the debate”.

Other scientists refused to comment on the study, saying that without it having gone through the review process there was simply no way of commenting on the findings.

But charities and NGOs often don’t have the resources or expertise to undertake full scientific studies and publish them in journals. Is it even their role to do so? By producing snapshot studies that simply point to an issue, as long they don’t make any grand claims based on their findings, aren’t they simply doing their job of raising awareness of issues that affect society and the environment?

Friends of the Earth think so. Vicki Hird, said: “These tests highlight a need for government authorities across Europe to carry out rigorous testing with far bigger samples to discover how widespread this issue is and whether there are any health impacts from low-level exposure.”

Some might argue that groups like FoE are our eyes and ears, giving a voice to people, species and issues that could otherwise go unnoticed. They hold powerful companies such as Monsanto to account and stand up for justice in a world where the priority is usually profit.

The role of such organisations is to point out the failings of the regulatory process, not to act as the regulatory process. This is the role of government. Read more

Source: The Guardian.com.blog

Photograph: Julia Williams/Getty Images/Flickr RF