Preconception exposures to phthalates effect in fathers on reproductive success via embryo quality

Dad’s exposure to phthalates in plastics may affect embryonic development

Abstract

STUDY QUESTION
Are preconception urinary concentrations of phthalates and phthalate alternatives associated with diminished early stage embryo quality in couples undergoing IVF?

SUMMARY ANSWER
Male, but not female, urinary concentrations of select metabolites of phthalates and phthalate alternatives are associated with diminished blastocyst quality.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY
Although phthalates are endocrine disrupting compounds associated with adverse reproductive health, they are in widespread use across the world. Male and female preconception exposures to select phthalates have been previously associated with adverse reproductive outcomes in both the general population and in those undergoing IVF.

Parental contributions to early embryo development: influences of urinary phthalate and phthalate alternatives among couples undergoing IVF treatment, Oxford Journals, Medicine & Health, Human Reproduction, Advance Access10.1093/humrep/dew301, October 28, 2016.

“Odd ducks Bob, Squish, and Slim. The Boon company seems very proud that their ducks are “BpA-free, Phthalate-free, and PVC-free” I bet they are also Gluten-free, Fat-free, and Sugar-free. So go ahead and eat one!” said Jamie – Image © all rights reserved.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION
This prospective cohort included 50 subfertile couples undergoing IVF in western Massachusetts.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS
This study includes the first 50 couples recruited from the Baystate Medical Center’s Fertility Center in Springfield, MA, as part of the Sperm Environmental Epigenetics and Development Study (SEEDS). Relevant data from both partners, including embryo quality at the cleavage (Day 3) and blastocyst (Day 5) stages, were collected by clinic personnel during the normal course of an IVF cycle. A spot urine sample was collected from both male and female partners on the same day as semen sample procurement and oocyte retrieval. Concentrations of 17 urinary metabolite were quantified by liquid chromatography mass spectrometry and normalized via specific gravity. Generalized estimating equations were used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95% CI, with urinary phthalates and phthalate alternatives fitted as continuous variables and embryo quality as a binary variable.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE
The 50 couples contributed 761 oocytes, of which 423 progressed to the cleavage stage, 261 were high-quality cleavage stage embryos, 137 were transferrable quality blastocysts and 47 were high-quality blastocysts. At the cleavage stage, male urinary monoethyl phthalate concentrations were positively associated with high-quality cleavage stage embryos (OR = 1.20, 95% CI 1.01–1.43, P = 0.04); no other significant associations were observed at this stage. At the blastocyst stage, male urinary concentrations of monobenzyl phthalate (OR = 0.55, 95% CI 0.36–0.84, P = 0.01), mono-3-hydroxybutyl phthalate (OR = 0.37, 95% CI 0.18–0.76, P = 0.01), mono-n-butyl phthalate (OR = 0.55, 95% CI 0.42–0.73, P < 0.01) and monomethyl phthalate (OR = 0.39, 95% CI 0.26–0.60, P < 0.01) were inversely associated with high-quality blastocysts. A borderline statistically significant relationship was observed for male concentrations of mono(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (OR = 0.52, 95% CI 0.27–1.00, P = 0.05) and cyclohexane-1,2-dicarboxylic acid-monocarboxy isooctyl ester (OR = 0.21, 95% CI 0.04–1.03, P = 0.05) at the blastocyst stage. Similar inverse associations were observed between male urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations and likelihood of transferrable quality blastocysts. For female partners, select metabolites were positively associated with odds of high or transferrable blastocyst quality, but the observed associations were not consistent across blastocyst quality measures or between sex-specific and couples-level models. All models were adjusted for age of both partners, urinary metabolite concentrations of female partners and male infertility status, while models of blastocysts were additionally adjusted for embryo quality at cleavage stage.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION
Our modest sample included only 50 couples contributing one cycle each. In addition, non-differential misclassification of exposure remains a concern given the single-spot urine collection and the short half-life of phthalates.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS
Our results suggest an inverse association between male preconception concentrations of select phthalate metabolites and blastocyst quality, likely occurring after genomic activation. If corroborated with other studies, such findings will have public health and clinical significance for both the general population and those undergoing IVF.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTERESTS
This work was generously supported by grant K22-ES023085 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The authors declare no competing interests.

Online calculator that tries to predict IVF success released

A woman’s age is the most important factor in her chances of having a baby

Abstract

Objective
To develop a prediction model to estimate the chances of a live birth over multiple complete cycles of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) based on a couple’s specific characteristics and treatment information.

Design
Population based cohort study.

Setting
All licensed IVF clinics in the UK. National data from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority register.

Predicting the chances of a live birth after one or more complete cycles of in vitro fertilisation: population based study of linked cycle data from 113 873 women, The BMJ 2016;355:i5735, 16 November 2016.

Participants
All 253 417 women who started IVF (including intracytoplasmic sperm injection) treatment in the UK from 1999 to 2008 using their own eggs and partner’s sperm.

Main outcome measure
Two clinical prediction models were developed to estimate the individualised cumulative chance of a first live birth over a maximum of six complete cycles of IVF—one model using information available before starting treatment and the other based on additional information collected during the first IVF attempt. A complete cycle is defined as all fresh and frozen-thawed embryo transfers arising from one episode of ovarian stimulation.

Results
After exclusions, 113 873 women with 184 269 complete cycles were included, of whom 33 154 (29.1%) had a live birth after their first complete cycle and 48 925 (43.0%) after six complete cycles. Key pretreatment predictors of live birth were the woman’s age (31 v 37 years; adjusted odds ratio 1.66, 95% confidence interval 1.62 to 1.71) and duration of infertility (3 v 6 years; 1.09, 1.08 to 1.10). Post-treatment predictors included number of eggs collected (13 v 5 eggs; 1.29, 1.27 to 1.32), cryopreservation of embryos (1.91, 1.86 to 1.96), the woman’s age (1.53, 1.49 to 1.58), and stage of embryos transferred (eg, double blastocyst v double cleavage; 1.79, 1.67 to 1.91). Pretreatment, a 30 year old woman with two years of unexplained primary infertility has a 46% chance of having a live birth from the first complete cycle of IVF and a 79% chance over three complete cycles. If she then has five eggs collected in her first complete cycle followed by a single cleavage stage embryo transfer (with no embryos left for freezing) her chances change to 28% and 56%, respectively.

Conclusions
This study provides an individualised estimate of a couple’s cumulative chances of having a baby over a complete package of IVF both before treatment and after the first fresh embryo transfer. This novel resource may help couples plan their treatment and prepare emotionally and financially for their IVF journey.

Female sexual interest/arousal disorder

Illness inflation – How everyday conditions become medical disorders

Sexual desire: risky drugs with minimal benefit being used to treat dubious conditions.

. New conditions, new treatments
. The search for a female drug
. ‘I would never have done it’
. More drugs in the pipeline

– Read Sexual desire: Risky drugs with minimal benefit being used to treat dubious conditions, by Journal Sentinel‘s special report: Illness inflation, How everyday conditions become medical disorders.
– Enjoy our health infographics album on Flickr.

In vitro fertilization success rate for older women is consistently low

The Misleading Promise of I.V.F. for Women Over 40

” Many young women were understandably seduced by the once widely publicized message that if they chose to delay pregnancy and were then unable to conceive, they could still have babies through in vitro fertilization, also known as I.V.F.

Miriam Zoll was one of them. Married at age 35, she thought she had plenty of time to start a family. After all, she said, “My mother had me at 40, and since 1978, the fertility industry has been celebrating its ability to help women have children at older ages.”

When at 39 she and her husband decided to start a family, they discovered that nature refused to cooperate. Four emotionally and physically exhausting I.V.F. cycles (and two attempted donor egg cycles) later, they remained childless. ” …

… continue reading The Misleading Promise of I.V.F. for Women Over 40NY Times, OCT. 17, 2016.

Do brains of people with autism share same broad pattern of abnormal gene activity?

Genome-wide changes in lncRNA, splicing, and regional gene expression patterns in autism

Abstract

This could mean that the first decade of life could be a critical time for interventions to prevent autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) involves substantial genetic contributions. These contributions are profoundly heterogeneous but may converge on common pathways that are not yet well understood.

Here, through post-mortem genome-wide transcriptome analysis of the largest cohort of samples analysed so far, to our knowledge, we interrogate the noncoding transcriptome, alternative splicing, and upstream molecular regulators to broaden our understanding of molecular convergence in ASD. Our analysis reveals ASD-associated dysregulation of primate-specific long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), downregulation of the alternative splicing of activity-dependent neuron-specific exons, and attenuation of normal differences in gene expression between the frontal and temporal lobes.

Brains of people with autism spectrum disorder share similar molecular abnormalities, medicalxpress, December 5, 2016.

brain by newjon.

Our data suggest that SOX5, a transcription factor involved in neuron fate specification, contributes to this reduction in regional differences. We further demonstrate that a genetically defined subtype of ASD, chromosome 15q11.2-13.1 duplication syndrome (dup15q), shares the core transcriptomic signature observed in idiopathic ASD. Co-expression network analysis reveals that individuals with ASD show age-related changes in the trajectory of microglial and synaptic function over the first two decades, and suggests that genetic risk for ASD may influence changes in regional cortical gene expression.

Our findings illustrate how diverse genetic perturbations can lead to phenotypic convergence at multiple biological levels in a complex neuropsychiatric disorder.

Intermittent explosive disorder

Illness inflation – How everyday conditions become medical disorders

Millions may have ‘intermittent explosive disorder’. But critics say it is just bad behavior.

Independent experts say the new definition is an example of ‘medicalization’ – turning common behaviors into medical conditions that call for treatment.

– Read Millions may have ‘intermittent explosive disorder.’ But critics say it is just bad behavior, by Journal Sentinel‘s special report: Illness inflation, How everyday conditions become medical disorders.
– Enjoy our health infographics album on Flickr.

Glyphosate and its Metabolite AMPA Transport from Land to Sea

Herbicide found in German estuaries, transported to the Baltic Sea

Marine pollution is a problem worldwide, but it is particularly acute in semi-closed seas. Areas surrounded by land are more at risk of pollution than open marine areas, due to increased human input, such as chemicals from industry and agriculture, e.g. pesticides and fertilisers.

The Baltic Sea, a semi-closed sea in northern Europe, is one of the most polluted seas in the world. Due to significant agricultural inputs leading to eutrophication, oxygen levels in the sea have declined, creating large ‘dead zones’ and challenging the survival of marine biota.

This study focused on pollution of the Baltic Sea from Germany. The Baltic Sea is bordered by four German states. The German Baltic drainage basin (which receives inflow from three rivers) is characterised by lots of human activity. Germany has the highest agricultural activity of all Baltic countries and has in the past contributed to the Sea becoming polluted with hazardous compounds, such as pesticides. Although a number of these compounds have since been banned, many continue to persist in the environment, including the insecticide DDT, which has a known negative effect on biodiversity.

Herbicide found in German estuaries, transported to the Baltic Sea, Science for Environment Policy, 25 November 2016.

Glyphosate and AMPA in the estuaries of the Baltic Sea method optimization and field study, science direct, November 2015.

Muta @ the Baltic Sea by Satorare.

In this study, researchers focused on the levels of a chemical in current use in the EU: the herbicide glyphosate, which may have toxic effects on marine microorganisms.

Germany is Europe’s second largest pesticide consumer. In 2012, over 45 000 tonnes of pesticides were used, 44% of which were herbicides (mostly glyphosate). Glyphosate has been identified in fresh surface- and ground-water bodies in Germany, at concentrations above the European threshold for drinking water (100 nanograms per litre — ng/l); however, its presence in the marine environment is difficult to monitor. Using a suitably sensitive method, this study quantified glyphosate (and its major breakdown product AMPA) in German Baltic Sea estuaries.

Water samples were collected from 10 estuaries between May and September 2012, then analysed for the presence of glyphosate and AMPA. All estuaries were contaminated with AMPA, and nine were also contaminated with glyphosate. Glyphosate was found in concentrations ranging from 28 to 1 690 ng/l, while AMPA was found at higher concentrations (between 45 and 4 156 ng/l), which the authors attribute to AMPA’s higher mobility and stability. However, it is important to note that AMPA is also formed during the breakdown of other chemicals, such as laundry agents and detergents and, therefore, its presence in the samples cannot be attributed to use of glyphosate alone.

The authors looked more closely at the seventh sampling station — Mühlenfliess — which was the most heavily contaminated. Water samples from inbound sampling stations along the stream were analysed. Concentrations of glyphosate were 2 768 ng/l and of AMPA 5 190 ng/l but these decreased (as the water became saltier) towards the estuaries of the Baltic, which suggests its transport into the Sea, the authors say.

Concentrations measured in water samples were also (generally) higher following rainfall than during dry weather, which suggests rainfall may help to transport the compounds.

The data obtained strongly suggest transport of both compounds in rivers, from their site of application into the Baltic Sea. The long-term effects of these contaminants at the concentrations measured here are unknown. The researchers, therefore, recommend assessments of the environmental fate of, and risk posed by, these two contaminants in marine environments.

This study also describes a straightforward analytical method to measure glyphosate and AMPA in marine environments above a concentration of 27 ng/L, which may facilitate monitoring programmes in the future.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and My Body

Where Do EDCs Impact Your Body? When Do These Effects Take Shape?
Who Regulates Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are all around you. If you are going to take control over your endocrine health, you will have to understand what these are and what they may be doing to your body.

Medical, scientific organisations panel members problematic financial relationships with industry

A Comparison of DSM-IV and DSM-5 Panel Members’ Financial Associations with Industry: A Pernicious Problem Persists, 2012

Summary Points

  • The American Psychiatric Association (APA) instituted a financial conflict of interest disclosure policy for the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
  • The new disclosure policy has not been accompanied by a reduction in the financial conflicts of interest of DSM panel members.
  • Transparency alone cannot mitigate the potential for bias and is an insufficient solution for protecting the integrity of the revision process.
  • Gaps in APA’s disclosure policy are identified and recommendations for more stringent safeguards are offered.

Introduction

A Comparison of DSM-IV and DSM-5 Panel Members’ Financial Associations with Industry: A Pernicious Problem Persists, PLOS Medicine, dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001190, March 13, 2012.

All medical subspecialties have been subject to increased scrutiny about the ways by which their financial associations with industry, such as pharmaceutical companies, may influence, or give the appearance of influencing, recommendations in review articles and clinical practice guidelines. Psychiatry has been at the epicenter of these concerns, in part because of high-profile cases involving ghostwriting and failure to report industry-related income, and studies highlighting conflicts of interest in promoting psychotropic drugs. The revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), scheduled for publication in May 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), has created a firestorm of controversy because of questions about undue industry influence. Some have questioned whether the inclusion of new disorders (e.g., Attenuated Psychotic Risk Syndrome) and widening of the boundaries of current disorders (e.g., Adjustment Disorder Related to Bereavement) reflects corporate interests. These concerns have been raised because the nomenclature, criteria, and standardization of psychiatric disorders codified in the DSM have a large public impact in a diverse set of areas ranging from insurance claims to jurisprudence. Moreover, through its relationship to the International Classification of Diseases, the system used for classification by many countries around the world, the DSM has a global reach.

After receiving criticism that DSM-IV had no financial disclosure of panel members, to its credit the APA instituted a mandatory disclosure policy. The DSM-5 panel members are required to file financial disclosure statements, which are expected to be listed in the publication, and the APA has made a commitment to improve its management of financial conflicts of interest (FCOIs).

This new APA requirement makes the DSM’s disclosure policy more congruent with most leading medical journals and federal policies on FCOI. FCOIs are widely recognized as problematic because of the data showing a clear connection between funding source and study outcome whereby results are favorably biased toward the interests of the funder —what has been referred to as the “funding effect”. Some have argued that greater transparency of financial interests may facilitate a decline in FCOIs and a decrease in the potential bias that accompanies them, and that it may encourage professionals and consumers to more critically evaluate medical information. Others are not sure that disclosure will reduce FCOIs and the potential for bias, because transparency alone just “shifts the problem from one of ‘secrecy of bias’ to ‘openness of bias’”. Additionally, there is the concern that disclosure may open the door for subterfuge. That is, when researchers or panel members list every affiliation that they have ever had, including funding from federal agencies, it can create a “signal-to-noise problem,” thereby obscuring the truth about deeply problematic financial relationships with industry.

We have reported elsewhere on industry relationships with DSM-5 task force members. Although the composition of the task force has changed slightly since its formation in 2007 (e.g., Pilecki et al. found 72% of the members had ties in early 2011) industry relationships persist despite increased transparency. Currently, 69% of the DSM-5 task force members report having ties to the pharmaceutical industry. This represents a relative increase of 21% over the proportion of DSM-IV task force members with such ties (57% of DSM-IV task force members had ties). This finding is congruent with emerging data from fields outside of psychiatry suggesting that transparency of funding source alone is an insufficient solution for eliminating bias.

In 2006 we analyzed all DSM-IV panel members’ financial associations with industry. We have undertaken a similar analysis for DSM-5 panels, which allowed us to compare the proportions of DSM-IV and -5 panel members who have industry ties. There are 141 panel members on the 13 DSM-5 panels and 29 task force members. The members of these 13 panels are responsible for revisions to diagnostic categories and for inclusion of new disorders within a diagnostic category.

Three-fourths of the work groups continue to have a majority of their members with financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. It is also noteworthy that, as with the DSM-IV, the most conflicted panels are those for which pharmacological treatment is the first-line intervention. For example, 67% (N = 12) of the panel for Mood Disorders, 83% (N = 12) of the panel for Psychotic Disorders, and 100% (N = 7) of the Sleep/Wake Disorders (which now includes “Restless Leg Syndrome”) have ties to the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the medications used to treat these disorders or to companies that service the pharmaceutical industry.

Gaps in APA’s Disclosure Policy

Although the APA has made the disclosure of FCOIs of DSM panel members more transparent, there are important gaps in the current policy that need to be addressed:

  1. The current APA disclosure policy does not require panel members to specifically identify speakers’ bureau membership but rather cloaks it under “honoraria.” (A speakers’ bureau usually refers to an arrangement between a commercial entity or its agent whereby an individual is hired to give a presentation about the company’s product. The company typically has the contractual right to create and/or control the content of the presentation.) Therefore, despite increased transparency, it remains unclear how many individuals participate on speakers bureaus, because panel members may simply list “honoraria.” None of the DSM panel members identified participation on a speakers bureau. When we did an internet search of the 141 panel members, we found that 15% had disclosed elsewhere that they were members of drug companies’ speakers bureaus or advisory boards. These internet searches were conducted for sources published in the years 2006 (1 year before the task force was appointed) to 2011, a time period congruent with published research on financial conflicts of interest. Searches included peer-reviewed articles, conferences, participation in continuing medical education events (i.e., courses and/or seminars for health professionals) and self-reporting of any industry ties following interviews with the media. Speakers bureau and advisory board participation were included in our analysis only when there was unambiguous information (e.g., “Dr. Smith discloses that he serves on the speakers bureau for Eli Lilly and Pfizer”) and both authors (LC, SK) were in agreement. The nature of these relationships needs to be spelled out more precisely; speakers bureau participation is usually prohibited elsewhere (e.g., for faculty in medical schools), as it is widely recognized to constitute a significant FCOI. Pharmaceutical companies refer to individuals who serve on speakers bureaus as “key opinion leaders” (KOLs) because they are seen as essential to the marketing of diseases as well as drugs.
  2. Exclusions to the APA DSM-5 disclosure policy include unrestricted research grants; that is, panel members are not required to disclose unrestricted research grants from industry. However, we would argue that this exclusion allows for commercial interests to be reflected in the revision process: there is no evidence to suggest that simply because money comes in the form of a large “unrestricted” research grant it does not create an obligation to reciprocate or invoke an implicit bias.
  3. The current policy places high and arbitrary threshold limits on monies allowed from industry: DSM panel members are allowed to receive US$10,000 per year from industry (e.g., for consultancies), and panel members are allowed to have up to US$50,000 in stock holdings in pharmaceutical companies.
  4. In contrast to other disclosure policies (e.g., the Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2007 and the 2011 US National Institutes of Health policy on conflicts of interest), APA’s policy does not require disclosure of the amount of money received from industry.

However, transparency alone cannot mitigate bias. Because industry relationships can create a “pro-industry habit of thought”, having financial ties to industry such as honoraria, consultation, or grant funding is as pernicious a problem as speaker’s bureau participation. Over four decades of research from social psychology clearly demonstrates that gifts—even small ones—create obligations to reciprocate. Also, because of the enormous influences of diagnostic and treatment guidelines, the standards for participation on a guideline development panel should be higher than those set for an average faculty member.

Conclusion

The DSM-5 will be published in about 14 months, enough time for the APA to institute important changes that would allow the organization to achieve its stated goal of a “… transparent process of development for the DSM, and …an unbiased, evidence-based DSM, free from any conflicts of interest” . Toward that goal we believe it is essential that:

  1. As an eventual gold standard and because of their actual and perceived influence, all DSM task force members should be free of FCOIs.
  2. Individuals who have participated on pharmaceutical companies’ Speakers Bureaus should be prohibited from DSM panel membership.
  3. There should be a rebuttable presumption of prohibiting FCOIs among the DSM work groups. When no independent individuals with the requisite expertise are available, individuals with associations to industry could consult to the DSM panels, but they would not have decision-making authority on revisions or inclusion of new disorders.

These changes would accommodate the participation of needed experts as well as provide more stringent safeguards to protect the revision process from either the reality of or the perception of undue industry influence.

Endocrine Disruptors: The Interference of the United States

Part 3 of 3 – Since 2013, the United States has been contesting by all means available the European regulation of these chemicals in the name of free trade

This article by Stéphane Horel was originally published by Le Monde on November 29. This version is translated by the Health and Environment Alliance and republished with permission on Environmental Health News first. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. “Spray” Image European Parliament.

The United States does not hide it. In some cases, they would like to write European law instead of leaving it to Europe. Among the cases: endocrine disruptors, these chemicals that are present in our everyday environment and capable of hijacking the hormonal system of living beings.

Since 2009, the European Commission has been working on the issue of their regulation. The topic is all the more sensitive as this regulation will be unprecedented, imposing new standards for the rest of the world. All trading partners who want to continue exporting their products to the EU, including the United States, will have to comply with them.

In highly technical documents, the American government expresses its position with unreserved criticism and requests that verge on political interference. Of particular note is this text, conveyed to the Commission on January 16, 2015, within the framework of a consultation on the various regulatory options envisaged. It says: “If the Commission were to be provided with evidence supporting an option not among (those) presented, would this be considered?

The question is convoluted but the implication is clear: the United States does not only propose rewriting the law but disputes the very principle of the regulation as far as endocrine disruptors are concerned.

The origin of the tension is the European regulation on pesticides of 2009. Very strict, it foresees a ban on pesticides that have endocrine disrupting properties. This principle of “hazard assessment” a priori antagonizes the U.S. government. “Implementation of any hazard-based ‘cut off’ option,” it writes, “could have severe implications for EU imports of U.S. agricultural goods.” Contrary to the political will of Europe, the U.S. government calls for a return to the traditional philosophy of “risk assessment,” which is undertaken a posteriori.

The United States does not only propose rewriting the law but disputes the very principle of the regulation as far as endocrine disruptors are concerned.

Above all, the Commission cites the opinion issued by one of its official agencies, the European Food Safety Authority, in 2013. This opinion is indeed the basis of its regulatory proposal. But the decision-making process began in 2009 and the “scientific knowledge” on endocrine disruptors has evolved considerably since then.

This U.S. pressure on the EU actually began in June 2013 at the meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade. The U.S. representative shared the “concerns” of his government, but also those of its industry, which feared “significant and unwarranted dislocations in trade.”

In the months that followed, the American concern spread to another WTO committee specifically responsible for pesticides and food. The “aggressive and well-orchestrated attacks” are recorded in a European Commission internal note of August 2015 seen by Le Monde. No one can be mistaken, there is a threat of prosecution looming.

It is in these WTO committees that the question of non-compliance with “international sanitary and phytosanitary measures,” known as SPS, is raised.

A report in March 2016 says that Canada considers the regulation “only served to undermine international trade in agriculture and contravened the fundamental principle of the WTO SPS agreement, which was to base measures on scientific risk assessments and not to maintain them without scientific justification.” Indeed, the U.S. has brought other countries onto its side: by summer 2016, the heterogeneous alliance included more than twenty countries, including China, Togo and Jamaica.

Given that the proposal that causes so much bitterness was adopted in 2009, why did the U.S. wait until 2013 to complain about it within the framework of the WTO? Because 2013 was in fact a pivotal moment in the European decision-making process on endocrine disruptors. At the beginning of 2013, the Commission set on a very different path. Its Directorate-General (DG) for the Environment, which was leading on the dossier, had just proposed its chosen option.

Drawing on the classification used for carcinogenic chemicals, it would allow substances to be divided into two categories: ‘suspected’ or ‘known’ endocrine disruptors. This option is supported by the scientific community, non-governmental organizations and certain member states, including France, while industry is violently, and openly, opposed to it.

A lobbying blitzkrieg against it took place in June 2013. It was a letter from CropLife America, the lobbying organization for the U.S. pesticide industry, which first suggested to the U.S. authorities that they challenge the option with the help of WTO rules.

The U.S. Government should defend itself using the authority of the SPS Agreement under WTO if the EU pursues its proposed new regulatory regime …. without an approach based on risk assessment,” wrote CropLife America, May 10, 2013, to the office of the U.S. trade representative. The letter added: “CLA stands ready to provide supporting documentation.”

Surprisingly, the hostility of the U.S. and its allies has changed little while the position of the Commission has changed radically.

The option of DG Environment, which has since been divested of the file, was buried in July 2013. The new proposal from the Commission announced on June 15, 2016—even though it is judged very protective of the interests of companies—continues to satisfy neither the industry nor the critics at the WTO. A delegation of ambassadors to the EU came to the office of the European Commissioner for Health in July 2016 to express their discontent.

At the end of August, a final warning shot came via WTO. While Canada evoked a “negative, unnecessary and unjustified impact on trade,” the U.S. government continued to challenge the “soundness of the EU’s approach.” As “supporting documentation:” the letters of several industrial organizations including the American Chemistry Council and CropLife America.

MORE INFORMATION

The Investigation
    1. The Manufacture of a Lie.
    2. A Denial of the State of the Science.
    3. The Interference of the United States.
    4. The Discreet but Major Gift to the Pesticides Lobby.

 

 

 

Endocrine Disruptors