Apr 2, 2015

Study claims Roundup poses cancer risk; locals say it won't reduce use of herbicide

A new report published in a scientific journal claims Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world, may be linked to cancer.

However, local farmers and others involved in agriculture did not put much stock in the report and say it will not alter the use of Roundup in the Big Horn Basin.

Roundup is sold in numerous places in the Big Horn Basin, including the Big Horn Coop in Powell, as warehouse clerk Adam Kanode shows on Friday. Photo by Tom Lawrence
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a French-based agency of the World Health Organization, issued the report on March 20. It plans to release a longer version of the study later this year. The IARC claims that the insecticide malathion is also a probable human carcinogen.

The claims set off alarm bells and sparked angry responses from farmers and many in the agricultural industry. Roundup can be sprayed to eliminate weeds without harming Roundup Ready crops such as sugar beets, corn, soybeans and cotton, according to Monsanto, which invented and markets the chemical and the crop seeds.

“I do not think this report will reduce the use of Roundup in the Powell area at this time,” said Rory Karhu, a district conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

He said 90 percent or more sugar beet and corn growers in the Big Horn Basin use Roundup Ready varieties. They apply it two to three times a season “at a high rate,” Karhu said.

The majority of alfalfa growers in the Big Horn Basin do not use the Roundup Ready variety because cutting the crop for hay two to three times per season provides acceptable weed control without the need for chemicals, he said.

Kent Wimmer, Western Sugar’s director of shareholder relations & governmental affairs, said he feels Roundup is “very, very safe” and will continue to be used by almost all beet growers in the region.

“Roundup has been around for 40 years, and it’s one of the safest products we have going,” he said, noting that it can be purchased in grocery stores.

Mike Moore, manager of the Wyoming Seed Certification Service, said he did not put a lot of credibility into the report, and felt it also made an unjustified attack on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), also known as genetically modified crops.

“Notice the regular use of the term ‘could’ in reference to Roundup and Malathion causing cancer,” Moore said. “I could state the same about any chemical and, until proven otherwise, make that claim. They then tie that to the entire GMO technology, which is in no way limited to Roundup or connected

to malathion.
“I still see no credible science in this article, nor anything more than scare tactics,” he said. “Will it have an impact? That will depend on each person/consumer.”

“I still see no credible science in this article, nor anything more than scare tactics,” said Moore, manager of the Wyoming Seed Certification Service.

Fred Hopkin, who farms in the Penrose area, said he has heard similar claims about Roundup in the past.

“If you go on the Internet, there is information, accurate or not, that would suggest all kinds of scary things regarding Roundup,” Hopkin said.

He said he wants to hear a report from the USDA or the Food and Drug Administration before he puts much stock in such claims. He said some activists and attorneys form groups with prestigious-sounding names and issue reports that make wild assertions.

Locals doubt a new report that says Roundup may be linked to cancer will have much of an impact on local use of the herbicide. Photo by Ilene Olson
“Some of what’s out there is absolutely ridiculous,” Hopkin said. “I think most of what’s out there is skewed and used to promote a particular agenda.”

State Rep. David Northrup, who farms on the Willwood, said he was aware of possible negative impacts from the use of the chemical. His family used protective gear when handing it.

“We, the ag people, were originally told that Roundup was safe to use without much protective gear,” Northrup said. “My dad turned up allergic to it almost as soon as he started using it, so yes I have been more cautious  with it in my dealings. Makes you wonder when somebody turns up with an allergic reaction.

“The use of Roundup will continue but perhaps with more caution, at least until a newer chemical can take its place,” he said.

The National Association of Wheat Growers President Brett Blankenship, a wheat farmer from Washtucna, Wash., offered a comment on the study, which he termed “troubling” and not based on new science.

“I appreciate people being concerned about food safety and where their food comes from, but years of regulatory scrutiny and scientific review show the clear facts about the safety of glyphosate use in production agriculture,” Blankenship said.

“The use of glyphosate in wheat production is minimal, but not absent,” he said.

More than 25 years of analysis from global regulatory bodies and the international scientific community, assessing updated data and peer-reviewed literature, has consistently provided the same evidence: the toxicity levels of glyphosate are low and glyphosate is not carcinogenic, Blankenship said.

“The discrepancy between 25 years of scientific analysis and one report, which was based on a limited amount of data, cannot be ignored,” he said.

“The use of Roundup will continue but perhaps with more caution, at least until a newer chemical can take its place,” predicted Northrup, a state representative and Willwood farmer.

The IARC report said farm workers who are exposed to the chemical in large amounts are most at risk. “Glyphosate has been detected in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, indicating absorption,” the report stated.

However, it said those who use it in gardens and lawns are not as likely to develop illnesses.

Powell Parks Superintendent Dal Barton, who is also the city arborist, said he has kept an eye on reports on glyphosate. The city does not use any herbicide products with glyphosate in them, he said.

A 2013 report published in the scientific journal Entropy, said residues of glyphosate has been found in food and could be linked to Parkinson’s disease, infertility and other diseases and health problems.

The Environmental Protection Agency stated in a fact sheet that glyphosate could, in cases where a person was exposed to large amounts, cause congestion of the lungs and an increased breathing rate.

Glyphosate has the potential to cause kidney damage, reproductive effects from long-term exposures at levels above the maximum contaminant level, the fact sheet stated.

Roundup, first developed in 1970 and initially marketed under that name in 1973, is widely popular among farmers. Up to 185 million pounds of glyphosate was used by American farmers in 2007, according to the EPA.

Monsanto, which developed the herbicide as well as the Roundup Ready crops that are used with it, has denounced the study as “junk science.”

Monsanto’s chief technology officer, Robb Fraley, said the scientists were driven by an agenda and resorted to the “cherry-picking” of data to make their case.

“Roundup continues to be trusted by regulators in more than 160 countries around the world,” said a Monsanto official.

Doug Rushing, Monsanto’s director of industry affairs, urged people to look into the issue themselves and to share their information with others.

“Feel free to contact your business network, friends and family and let them know that IARC’s conclusion is not supported by the overwhelming scientific evidence, and therefore IARC’s classification of glyphosate contradicts the conclusions of regulatory and scientific agencies around the globe,” Rushing said in an email. “Roundup continues to be trusted by regulators in more than 160 countries around the world.”

However, consumer groups, plant scientists and environmentalists have been saying for years they had growing concerns about the heavy application of Roundup.

Such talk has been heard in recent years, as weeds that are resistant to glyphosate have appeared. Wimmer said the rise of Roundup-resistant weeds has given the ag community reason to look at new options.

“It is a concern we are working on,” he said.

The question is, will this report make that conversation louder?

The EPA reviewed glyphosate in 1993 and stated it was noncarcinogenic. It is now conducting a standard registration review of glyphosate and is scheduled to announced this year if its use should be reduced.

Mar 31, 2015

For first time in more than 10 years, county population sinks

Park County has shrunk a little.

New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau say Park County’s population dipped by .2 percent, or 165 people, between July 2013 and July 2014.

The bureau figures the county’s population stood at 28,989 people last July, down from 29,154 the year before.

There were more births than deaths over the course of the year, but that was outpaced by the people who moved away, the bureau said in data released Thursday.

Though slight, it was the first decline in population in more than a decade for Park County.

Wyoming’s overall population increased by .2 percent (to 584,153) in that time frame, but 12 of the state’s 23 counties — including all four in the Big Horn Basin — lost residents.

Wenlin Liu, principal economist with the state’s Economic Analysis Division, said changes in the state’s population follow changes in the job market.

“Mainly due to the severe drop in natural gas price in early 2012, the mineral extraction industry lost jobs and there was minuscule total employment growth during the second half of 2012 and most of 2013,” Liu said in a news release.

Meanwhile, in that same timeframe, oil exploration shot up in states like North Dakota, Texas and Colorado. That drew away many Wyoming energy workers and residents, Liu said. (For example, the Census Bureau says Williams County, N.D., remained the country’s fastest-growing, its population shooting up by another 8.7 percent.)

However, Wyoming’s economy gradually regained strength in 2014, “thanks to the strong expansion of oil drilling, rebounding construction and the strength of the service-providing industries,” Liu said.

“There was minuscule total employment growth during the second half of 2012 and most of 2013,” Liu said.

He expects to see faster population growth when estimates for July 2015 are released next year.
Teton County grew the fastest between 2013 and 2014, according to the Census Bureau’s estimates. It grew at a 2.5 percent clip to reach 22,930 residents.

Niobrara County, already the state’s least populated, suffered th

e steepest, 3.4 percent loss to sink to 2,463 residents.
Laramie County remained the state’s most populous, with 96,389 inhabitants.

To put that in a national context, Los Angeles County, Calif., weighed in as the country’s most populated, with 10.1 million residents.

A total of 318.4 million people are believed to be living in the U.S.

Population estimates for cities and towns will be released at a later date.

Local GOP elects new leaders, looks to unite

As they picked a new roster of leaders on Saturday morning, Park County Republicans all agreed they need to move past their differences and unite.

Camara Clifton shares a laugh with Colin Simpson after the two made their pitches to be the local GOP's next leader. In the background, outgoing party chairman Larry French delivers voting instructions.
Now it's up to those leaders, starting with new chairman Colin Simpson of Cody, to find a way to do that over the next two years.

Simpson pledged to draw the party closer together, to bring in more youth, to reinvigorate party fundraising and to include everyone who wants to be involved.

"We can agree on 80 percent of the stuff 100 percent of the time, but don't let the other 20 percent be so divisive that we can't even be in the same room with each other," Simpson said to the gathered precinct committeemen and women who make up the party's central committee. "This is a great group of people. This is a wonderful representation of Park County and let's keep it unified as much as we can and move forward and acknowledge that we're all kind of moving the same direction — as much as 90 people can move in the same direction."

Dissatisfied with the leadership of the past two years, Simpson had chaired a political action committee called "Republicans for Unity" that helped elect some new people to the central committee last year and the "Unity" leaders put forward a slate of candidates for Saturday's election.

Saturday vote totals: Chairman: Colin Simpson 50, Camara Clifton 32; Vice Chairman: David Northrup 52, Martin Kimmet 30; State Committeeman: Richard George 43, Terry Hinkle 39; State Committeewoman: Echo Renner 53, Jo Walker 29; Treasurer: Joyce Boyer 54, Kathy Jacobsen 28Despite opposition from outgoing chairman Larry French leading up to the meeting (he'd said the "Unity" group was trying to "ruin" the party), four of the "Unity" group's five nominees were elected to the Park County Republican Party's leadership.

In addition to Simpson, state Rep. David Northrup, R-Powell, was elected vice chairman, Echo Renner of Meeteetse was re-elected as state committeewoman and Joyce Boyer of Cody was voted in as treasurer. Each got 50 or more votes (upwards of 60 percent) of the 82 cast.

Meanwhile, political newcomer Richard George of Cody defeated "Unity" group leader Terry Hinkle of Cody by a 43-39 margin to become state committeeman.

State committeeman Richard George
In his pitch to the party faithful, George highlighted his youth (at 31, he'll be one of the youngest leaders in some time) and said he simply wants to serve. He said he had no "alliances," having never been to a tea party rally and having skipped a meeting "Unity" group leaders called earlier this month.

"I think it's too bad, because here we are, in a state that's considered conservative, and yet we're divided, in a county that is considered conservative," George said, saying Wyoming should be the standard and pinnacle of conservatism in the nation but is not.

"This party in Park County needs to be united," George said.

Outside of Renner, who clashed with the party's previous leaders at various times over the past two years, none of the incumbents ran for re-election.

French called his time as chairman both wonderful and "a pain in the butt."

"My hope and my prayer and my plea to you is let's stop this crap that's going on. Let's stop it; bite it in the bud, quit it," French said, adding, "Please agree to disagree politely. Discussion is wonderful, and we need to do that, (but) the part that really is offensive and should be — even to Democrats — is when we lapse into personal attacks."

Much of the division followed an effort led by outgoing state committeeman Bob Berry and others to censure state Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, last year for various actions they disagreed with. That included an attempt to strip the superintendent of public instruction of most of her powers.

Coe responded by pledging to "take back" the party from what he called right-wing extremists, which, in turn, prompted French and the party leadership to respond.

Party fundraising became collateral damage in the conflict.

"My hope and my prayer and my plea to you is let's stop this crap that's going on," French said.

While everyone called for unity on Saturday, clear disagreements remained about what the county GOP should do to keep elected officials accountable and whether the party will be best served by staying away from social issues or by sticking to its principles.

Simpson indicated he has some changes planned, including making party meetings every other month instead of monthly and making them less formal.

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