“One can find over 300 harmful chemicals of industrial origin in a placenta. Poisons that affect development in the most delicate stage of life, the intra-uterine one”. And, because of food pollution due to use of organophosphate insecticides in agriculture, “every year, 13million IQ points are lost”. Because of chemical pesticides, in short, we get sick, even deadly sick, and become less “intelligent”. The alarm was set off by Patrizia Gentilini, a member of the Scientific Committee of the Institute Society of Doctors for the Environment (ISDE), among the participants of the national congress of the movement for health “democratic medicine”, which ended not long ago (Saturday, November 21) in Florence.
“I am an oncologist in a hospital. For the last ten years, I have been engaged in the health defense and prevention of risks from environmental exposure. The adverse effects of the pesticides used in agriculture on the hormonal and endocrine systems are documented and cause neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease), diabetes, tumors. Especially during the early stages of life”. All the toxic substances pass from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy, explains Gentilini to In Terris. The hematologist-oncologist is also one of the signatories of the letter sent by a group of experts – doctors, biologists, and physicists – along with peasants and ordinary people, in the month of April, to the Holy Father, as “the most authoritative voice that raises critically in a complex and unfair social and economic reality. Pope Francis was asked to intervene on the question of “an agro-alimentary model that aims at commodification and profit”, in order to “affirm the centrality of rural farming, respectful of the Mother Earth, to which mankind belongs and which must be preserved”. “Paised be”, the Pontiff’s so-called “green” Encyclical Letter, published in May, probably represents the most felt and relevant answer to this appeal.
Last September 24, ISDE awarded a prize in memory of the founder, Lorenzo Tomatis, former president of the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon (IARC). “The meeting with Tomatis was fundamental for me,” Gentilini says. “I was struck by a sentence he said on the occasion of my invitation to intervene on the question of incinerators at the Forlì Municipal Council: “Generations to come will not forgive us what we are doing’. Behold, they are committed to defending the lives of the unborn, the fetus and mother’s milk from contaminating substances”.
Tomatis was “the first one to denounce cancer risks due to use of glyphosate”, the herbicide marketed by Monsanto and the most sold in the world, ranked this year by the international agency for research on cancer of the World Health Organization, as “carcinogenic for animals” and “a probable high-risk carcinogenic for human beings”. From a study published in the scientific journal “The Lancet Oncology”, after three years of research coordinated by 17 experts from eleven countries, comes out a strong epidemiological connection between exposure to glyphosate, the lymphoma non-Hodgkin’s disease and childhood leukaemia.
Although the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), has defined those risks as “improbable” these last days, dr. Gentilini’s opinion and that of her other colleagues, who are doctors and specialists, is that many researches are in line with the report stilled by World Health Agency. Also because EFSA has analyzed only the active ingredient, deferring to the Member States the evaluation of the toxicity of the final products used in the fields.
In June 2016, the European Commission will have to decide whether to renew the authorization for the use of pesticides containing glyphosate. In the meantime, over 30 Italian associations for protection of the environment have signed a document in which they ask the authorities, relevant ministries, and public bodies, to apply the “precautionary principle” for the protection of public health.
An appeal has been sent to the Italian mayors, to prohibit the use of pesticides – as the Municipality of Livorno decided – which, during the month of October, has approved a motion to prohibit the use of glyphosate on the local agricultural and non-agricultural lands. “In Italy, there is the highest rate of childhood cancer in Europe”, Gentilini relates. For infants, the risk of toxic substances is twice as high as for adults.
Herbicides are harmful to health, people and the environment. The experts have no doubts. Hence, investment in organic farming is a moral imperative. Thus, dr. Gentilini, now in retirement, has switched from theory to practice. Together with her husband, a physicist and a descendant of Antonio Pacinotti, the inventor of the dynamo, she has created an organic farm in the family’s historic colonial villa, on four hectares of land, in Tuscany. “I grow vegetables”, she comments with a smile. And she tells us that they renovated the farm with ecological materials and furnished it with the fruits of the labor of the women from a cooperative association “Fraternity and Alliance” (AFA) founded by Arturo Paoli in Brazil. She installed solar panels to meet the needs of electrical energy and heating.
“Pacinotti was among the first ones to develop methods of transformation of heat into energy”, Gentilini relates. “Too often technology is a tool of violence on nature. The strength and energy of life are, on the other hand, all in the Mother Earth”. Health starts from protecting it. A slap in the face of the devotees of technology and a caress to humanity.