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May 16, 2000


PSRAST scientists and Dr. Joe Cummins


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

I would encourage readers to be cautious about the credibility of some of
the PSRAST scientists and give the following personal experience as an

Prof Joe Cummins was quoted in our local press as claiming that the
herbicide glufosinate caused birth defects in mothers and fathers. I set out
to investigate this claim and made enquires at the producers of the
herbicide and directly to Dr Cummins. He kindly supplied me with the
abstracts from 4 papers to justify his claim. Three of them were from
Japanese studies with pregnant rodents, where herbicide was injected into
the uterus. The company toxicologists and local toxicologists I consulted
for a cross check all agreed that the rat experiments cannot be used to
claim birth defects by herbicide applications in agriculture. The rat
experiments may show the herbicide is toxic, but this was already
established. The fourth abstract referred to a Spanish study looking at
birth problems related to families where one or more parent is involved in
herbicide applications in agriculture - a proper human study. I gathered
from the abstract that the findings found no significant relationship
between glufosinate and birth defects, but decided to contact the primary
researcher as well. She confirms that no relationship was found between
parents applying glufosinate and birth complications or defects. The study
is on-going and will continue to monitor glufosinate together with other
In conclusion, Dr Cummins seems happy to be quoted in a way that implies
that a herbicide is causing birth defects in humans - a very emotive issue -
on very inconclusive evidence. This kind of misinformation is extremely
powerful in developing countries and takes years to counteract.

His presence on the PSRAST team makes me wary.

Muffy Koch
South Africa.