Pesticides not leading cause of cancer on P.E.I.: professor

Dave Stewart
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Dr. Len Ritter, professor of toxicology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, displays graphs contained in the Canadian Cancer Society’s latest report that show new cases and age-standardized incidence cancer rates in men are declining in Canada and staying about the same for women. Ritter was speaking to growers, field workers and industry partners in the P.E.I. potato industry on recently.

Dr. Len Ritter, professor of toxicology, says non-Hodgkin lymphoma rates, the cancer most often associated with pesticides, are lower in P.E.I. than anywhere else in the country

There is no evidence that the safe application of agricultural pesticides causes cancer, says a toxicology professor from Ontario.

Dr. Len Ritter, a professor emeritus at the University of Guelph, was in Charlottetown recently to speak to the P.E.I. Potato Board about his research into pesticides.

Fact Box: Cancer rates

Ritter points to statistics released recently by the Canadian Cancer Society that show cancer rates are expected to jump 40 per cent in P.E.I. by 2030. According to the report, that rise in cases will be led by upsurges in prostate and colorectal cancer cases in an aging population.

He points out that non-Hodgkin lymphoma rates, the cancer most often associated with pesticides, are lower in P.E.I. than anywhere else in the country when it comes to men and tied with Quebec for lowest rates in Canada among women.

Ritter says if pesticides were as bad as some say they are, rates of that type of cancer would be higher.

“You see the amount is the lowest in the country. If pesticides were driving it you would expect the reverse to be true,’’ Ritter said.

The toxicology professor says he doesn’t represent the Canadian Cancer Society, but does rely on its data, or Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA).

“My role is not to advocate the use of pesticides; not to promote a pesticide ban. It’s to introduce evidence-based information that I hope will allow people to enter debate on a more informed basis.’’

P.E.I. is on the high end of cancer rates when it comes to lung cancer and melanoma, which Ritter attributes to smoking and exposure to sun.

Ritter said that the international cancer society has identified concerns over Roundup, a commonly used herbicide. It can be used for killing grass before a potato field is plowed under.

“It’s a legitimate question . . . a complex issue. (But) it was always considered to be among the safest herbicides in the world and that continues to be the prevailing opinion.’’

Greg Donald, general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board, said farmers in the province follow Health Canada and PMRA guidelines and don’t spray any more than they have to.

“There is a belief that farmers use pesticides because they want to. They are a tool amongst a number of other things that they use that they need to grow healthy and safe food,’’ Donald said, adding that growers are concerned about the public perception pesticides have.

“We wanted to get the facts,’’ Donald said. “Folks who use these chemicals are trained and use them according to the label.’’

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

Organizations: Canadian Cancer Society, P.E.I. Potato Board, University of Guelph Pest Management Regulatory Agency Health Canada

Geographic location: P.E.I., Ontario, Canada Charlottetown Quebec

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Recent comments

  • Chloe March
    January 10, 2016 - 20:21

    While some farmers may follow the instructions for RoundUp on the label, others do not. Curious, did you study the effects of the use of glyphosate on pre harvest desiccation? So the question I have is how many times a year doe they use Roundup on their crops? Why did you only study the Eastern province? You should not have been the one to do these studies as your connections with the FDA and EPA, this proves to be a clear conflict of interest. Also, Monsanto gives money in the sum of $250,000 for the education at Guelph University, how can that not be a conflict?

  • S McCumsey
    August 01, 2015 - 19:50

    If you follow these issues closely enough you will see a pattern emerge. Dr. Ritter is known for his support for the use of pesticides.....based on very questionable science: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/pcn-talks-back-organic-foods-and-agriculture-are-the-way-to-go

  • Ron Keffie
    June 20, 2015 - 10:34

    Experts at Pesticides. HA! Especially Cottam. One day your going to have to stop misinforming the public about topics you are not qualified to speak about. Dr. Ritter is one of the most knowledgeable toxicologists in the world. (he stayed out of the spotlight on this issue for a long time, he knew public perception as did his predecessor) Ontario hired him to defend the regular accidental use of AGENT ORANGE on their own Forestry Workers. You remember that don't you COTTAM. lol... Agent Orange - 2,4,5-T / 2,4-D Now you all want to be like ONTARIO, the strictest province in Canada. You will figure out one day that The Ontario Liberal Government and Ms. Cottam are literally full of Sh*t when they say and do anything.. ** I hope none of you eat local honey and will campain to end the poisoning, I hear it is contaminated with Pesticides / Neonicotinoids. Ontario will have the only healthy honey soon, they are banning Neonics. This poison get into the bees, the ones that help make the honey. The bees spread it.to the honey

  • wayne k
    June 19, 2015 - 16:04

    even he did not give an actual OK to the RoundUp! as it is not by definition not a "pesticide. Cancer itself is maybe a symptom of Nano-bacteria and it is linked to other conditions. Rife machines? Tetracycline is said to be the only thing that seems to kill it but it needs to be exposed by dissolving a protective Apatite calcium shell. "chelation"

  • Big D
    June 18, 2015 - 20:13

    >"P.E.I. is on the high end of cancer rates when it comes to lung cancer and melanoma, which Ritter attributes to smoking and exposure to sun." Good lord someone with common sense! Smoking a pack a day, drink each weekend until you black out, no sunscreen, hamburgers and gravy for lunch every day and sedentary yet many people insist cancer's only cause is due to pesticides? Denial is strong on PEI.

  • Garth Staples
    June 18, 2015 - 19:00

    Apparently someone brought in to reveal the results of dozens of studies is bogus but someone who read a newspaper article is an expert? THe anti group keep blotting their copy book.

  • WILLIAM H GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G
    June 18, 2015 - 18:23

    NORAHG RESPONDS ABOUT DR RITTER ― HE SPEAKS THE TRUTH ! Dr Leonard Ritter is among several LEADING EXPERTS who have recognized expertise, training and background in matters concerning pest control products. He has 35 years of experience in the field of toxicology and safety concerning these products. Dr Ritter is among GREATLY RESPECTED and HIGHLY RATED EXPERTS who promote ENVIRONMENTAL REALISM and PESTICIDE TRUTHS. http://wp.me/p1jq40-8DV Dr Ritter is a Doctorate-Level Expert and World-Leading Scientific Expert in the Field of Toxicology and Pesticide Safety. He is also aTenured Professor Emeritus of Toxicology in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph in Ontario. He also holds the position of Executive Director at the Canadian Network of Toxicology Centres. Dr Ritter is also one of the nation’s MOST PROMINENT AND KNOWLEDGEABLE SPOKESMEN on the subject of pest control products. He has once again effectively spoken out against the lies and mis-information that are spread by anti-pesticide fanatics on Prince Edward Island. Dr Ritter SPEAKS THE TRUTH ― and deserves CONGRATULATION. NORAHG is the National Organization Responding Against HUJE that seek to destroy the Green space industry. WILLIAM H GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G http://pesticidetruths.com/ For more information about Dr Ritter, go to The Pesticide Truths Web-Site ... RITTER -- OTHER MATTERS ARE FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN PESTICIDES IN CANCER PREVENTION ( Report ) http://pesticidetruths.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Force-Of-Nature-British-Columbia-Conspiracy-Kelowna-2010-01-28-Lowes-Ritter-EarthCare-Ads-pdf-150-dpi.pdf RITTER -- LOTS OF UNQUALIFIED PEOPLE TRYING TO UNDERMINE THE EFFORTS OF THE PMRA -- PESTICIDES DON’T CAUSE CANCER ( Report )   http://pesticidetruths.com/2012/01/26/dr-len-ritter-lots-of-unqualified-people-trying-to-undermine-the-efforts-of-the-pmra/ RITTER -- PESTICIDES DON’T CAUSE CANCER ( Reports ) http://pesticidetruths.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Force-Of-Nature-Myth-BUSTING-Cancer-2012-01-26-Pesticides-Dont-Cause-Cancer-Ritter-pdf-300-dpi.pdf http://pesticidetruths.com/2012/01/27/cancer-is-not-increasing-pesticides-do-not-cause-cancer/ RITTER -- MEDICAL HEALTH OFFICER BASRUR WAS WRONG -- PESTICIDE BAN NEEDS EVIDENCE ( Report ) http://pesticidetruths.com/2012/02/04/medical-health-officer-dr-sheila-basrur-was-wrong-pesticide-ban-needs-evidence-winnipeg-free-press/ RITTER -- COSMETIC PESTICIDE BAN MISCONCEPTION -- MIS-INFORMATION RELATING TO THE RASH OF COSMETIC PESTICIDE BANS IN CANADA ( Report & Official Document ) http://pesticidetruths.com/2012/01/20/deficit-model-non-experts-dr-s-basrur-dr-r-cushman-dr-d-salisbury-cosmetic-pesticide-ban-misperceptions/ https://www.scribd.com/doc/78887987/Pesticides-Full-Report-ENExcerpt RITTER -- ONTARIO INDEPENDENT FACT-FINDING PANEL ON 2,4,5-T – MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR ( Report ) http://pesticidetruths.com/2011/10/27/dr-len-ritter-ontario-independent-fact-finding-panel-on-245-t-message-from-the-chair/

  • Hear This
    June 18, 2015 - 17:18

    Mr. Ritter seems to be doing an about face on this subject which leaves one in doubt of anything he says. We all know that there are vast amounts of money prepared to buy anyone who will spew some lies that keep profits rolling in. The movement to ban pesticides has no vested interest in convincing people other than protecting their health and their loved ones. I know who I'm going to believe.

  • its not butter!
    June 18, 2015 - 16:01

    It may depend on which side your bread is being buttered on?

  • Doctor for hire
    June 18, 2015 - 15:14

    This person says whatever he gets paid to say since 90s. He pops up in news here in there as he defends pesticide use or bovine growth hormone use or claims that there are no benefits to organic farming and organic produce. He lost all credibility when it turned out he worked for Health Canada, regulating pesticides, while at a same time actively supporting Monesanto. Now, disgraced, he travels the country speaking at events put on by pesticide users and pesticide producers. He is in high demand as these days it is not easy task finding scientist willing to put his reputation on line with outlandish claims as he does. I suppose not having much of reputation makes it easier for him. I would like to suggest to PEI Potato Board next fringe scientist they might consider booking for their events - Dr David A. DeWitt 1ups Dr Ritter as he denies evolution.

  • Jill Macdonald
    June 18, 2015 - 15:13

    Those anti agriculture fanatics that can read should do so. This is an independent study. Facts are inconvenient for their misguided talking points. The only studies they like are the ones they pay for.

  • therod
    June 18, 2015 - 14:55

    Lets find the one scientist who believes that pesticides don't cause cancer and have him speak to the potato board...and plaster the good news all over the guardian.

  • Ivy Wigmore
    June 18, 2015 - 13:40

    I'm sick to death of these industry-guided features. Someone brought in by industry is obviously going to say what they want him to. Furthermore, in sharp contrast to what he says here, Len Ritter coauthored this study that found that exposure to pesticides increased the risk of Hodgkin lymphoma. http://www.researchgate.net/publication/237147201_Exposures_to_multiple_pesticides_and_the_risk_of_Hodgkin_lymphoma_in_Canadian_men

    • patrick
      June 18, 2015 - 20:44

      and someone brought in by an anti pesticide group would say what?

    • Parker Shellby
      June 19, 2015 - 13:28

      @Ivy, I think he was saying that despite the increased risk of Hodgkin lymphoma from exposure to pesticides, PEI has lower rates than the rest of the country, because when properly handled and applied the exposure is well below the risk threshold, or that proper use of approved pesticide pose little risk. Which is in line with what he has said before.

  • NoLoveJoy
    June 18, 2015 - 13:35

    Last summer, I stepped out of my front door onto my front deck. My nose scrunched. My brain processed what it was I was smelling, and I knew right away. Pesticides! How do I know this? I used to work on a potato farm. You never forget that smell. Thing is, I don't live even close to any crop field. My point is, they're out there, floating through our warm, summer, PEI breeze. I wish there were alternatives.....

  • Roger Gordon
    June 18, 2015 - 12:09

    He is co-author of a recent scientific paper linking pesticides with Hodgkins Lymphoma!! http://www.researchgate.net/publication/237147201_Exposures_to_multiple_pesticides_and_the_risk_of_Hodgkin_lymphoma_in_Canadian_men

  • wog
    June 18, 2015 - 10:55

    Interesting. I don't know enough on the topic to say this guy is full of it or not, and I am a firm believer in facts and statistics, however I'd need to see more data and more confirmation from a larger group of professors and scientists. One person can be a misnomer, or else too easily bought off. Back this up some more, and I'll be less skeptical.

  • Roger Gordon
    June 18, 2015 - 10:27

    So, a toxicologist has been flown in from Ontario to say that pesticides are "not a leading cause of cancer" and that "there is no evidence that the safe application of pesticides causes cancer." I'm not a toxicologist. I carried out research on the efficacy of biopesticides and chemical ones and published extensively in this field. I do have a broad background in the biological sciences and I'm quite able to review scientific articles, critique methodology and conclusions,and discern the validity or lack thereof in them. The well-researched, well-analyzed studies that I have read point unequivocally to a link between pesticides and certain forms of cancer such as Non Hodgkins Lymphoma and Childhood Leukemia. But the properly conducted studies that make this connection did not compare apples with oranges and did not rely on small sample sizes. Comparing PEI populations with Ontario and other geographic locations without applying robust statistical analyses (Ritter used no stats) is an oranges and apples situation -- especially for illnesses that have multiple causes. Also, NHL is a rare form of cancer, the ‪#‎s‬ are always small, PEI's population likewise, so any statistician will tell you that small#s do not make for good statistical comparisons. His reasoning is flawed and I'm going by the well-conducted meta analyses that contradict the essence of his argument.

    • Non-believer
      June 18, 2015 - 15:05

      Roger, give it a break.

  • Joe Blow
    June 18, 2015 - 10:06

    This is a very slanted article. He's only really saying that non-Hodgkin lymphoma rates are not higher as a result of pesticide use. Compare the rates of other types of cancers on PEI vs across Canada and tell me where we stand.

  • It's hard to change
    June 18, 2015 - 09:47

    He was brought here by the potato board! The difference here folks, is that the potato board and farmers have a vested interest in pesticides for profit - or in the defence of their families' way of life - and little to no interest in changing practice for the betterment of everyone. The concerned citizens' only interest is health and well-being in the community - WHY would they bother if they didn't truly believe that pesticides are harmful. If they're going to state that opponents cherry pick studies maybe they should stop cherry picking who gets articles written about them in the local paper to dispel "myths". Roundup is toxic and I don't think we should wait to see which of our children is affected by its use. Time for safer farming practices and that's on the government, not the farmers. No one hates farmers. No one hates farming. That's ridiculous to assume. They only hate the pesticides and want change.

    • Hear This
      June 18, 2015 - 10:33

      Very well said. This is not a battle with farmers. Islanders love farmers. They grow our food. What we don't like is the control big industry has over farmers and the direction that is taking us.

    • Observer Island
      Observer Island
      June 18, 2015 - 21:39

      Roger Gordon: I believe you also trashed the Health Canada official who also said pesticides pose no danger to health when properly applied, so I'm hardly shocked that you trash yet another expert with a similar message. You've had more than your fair share of airtime and we're getting tired of your rants. You cherry pick studies and trash anyone else that dares to disagree. Your derisive comments on the Stratford Town Council's attempt to educate its councillors and those of other municipalities clearly indicate that there's no room for other perspectives or even factual presentations from Health Canada. If they don't agree 100% with your message, you put them down and criticize anyone else who's willing to listen to them. Where's the "scientist's perspective" in your approach? I'm personally tired of you and your small but vocal group of activist friends who think you know more than the rest of us and are therefore superior. Try to open your mind a little.

  • ****PEI
    June 18, 2015 - 08:58

    Great photo opp.....Right in front of that good 'ol PEI potato Picture on the wall !!!!

  • Baffled islander
    June 18, 2015 - 08:34

    No more breast cancer??

  • Matthew
    June 18, 2015 - 08:33

    This is a fraudulent claim. Tonnes of known carcinogens are put into our soil and eventually water do contribute to causing cancer. Go ahead and look up pesticides used in PEI and then independently check to see if they are known carcinogens... Spoiler: I have and there are. Some of which are among those most disconcerting. Evidence based? Really he is using future predicted cancer statistics and calling that evidence? If he really was looking to provide evidence he would list used pesticides with credible links to independent science that shows their safety. Some scientists and Professors are no more reliable an endorsement than an athlete... They will support what they are asked to and get paid less to set aside their integrity to a greater ill effect. How much did he make in speaking fees for this tripe?

  • Matthew
    June 18, 2015 - 08:25

    This is a fraudulent claim. Tonnes of known carcinogens are put into our soil and eventually water cause cancer. Go ahead and look up pesticides used in PEI and then independently check to see if they are known carcinogens... Spoiler: I have and there are. Some of which are among those most disconcerting. Evidence based? Really he is using future predicted cancer statistics and calling that evidence? If he really was looking to provide evidence he would list used pesticides with credible links to independent science that shows their safety. Some scientists and Professors are no more reliable an endorsement than an athlete... They will support what they are asked to and get paid less to set aside their integrity to a greater ill effect. How much did he make in speaking fees for this tripe?

  • and if you believe that....
    June 18, 2015 - 08:13

    Several things about this article are just plain wrong. 1) This guy has been paid rather well by the potato board to come in and "dispel myths" Ever think his opinion might be slanted? 2) Just because non-Hodgkins is not among the highest types of cancer should not diminish the fact that this type of cancer is directly related to pesticide use (specifically the pesticides we use on our potatoes). The fact that even one child has to suffer through painful chemo and radiation and some go through this and still don't survive...shouldn't that be reason enough to stop using it? what if this happened to your child? 3) He neglects to mention that prostate cancer has been linked to pesticide exposure for the last 20 years! We know this; he knows this; our government knows this....Things need to change. Any Islander who finds comfort in this presentation should take a few minutes to do some research. Here is one meta-analysis which confirms my statements. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15688248

  • bob from cardigan
    June 18, 2015 - 08:02

    question where he gets his funding. question who are university of guelph corporate sponsers. agenda is likely there. even if one person dies of cancer realted to pesticide use, its 1 to many.

  • Quiet Observer
    June 18, 2015 - 07:53

    Facts are wonderful things. Beats the heck out of emotional rhetoric.

  • Wrong Locale
    June 18, 2015 - 07:48

    Poor Dr. Ritter, he mistakenly thought he could come and introduce "evidence based" information. PEI advocates don't want real science they want to cherry pick from poorly done studies. So called cosmetic pesticides cause less harm to the environment than driving a poor mileage car but all they have to do is put pressure on the hypocritical politicians . Then those municipal politicians will drive their SUV to a meeting where they will vote to ban responsible residents from having their own property looking its best and then the will get back in their poor mileage vehicles and drive home, proud that they "saved the environment".

  • lou lou annie
    June 18, 2015 - 07:16

    I question who he was paid by to do the research. I also ask that he put this money where his mouth is, come to PEI for a few years and live next to a potato field if he is secure in what he has learned.

  • reality
    June 18, 2015 - 07:03

    SECOND OPINION "safe application "required on this one - a third and fourth would be in order ,as well

  • Better safe than Sorry
    June 18, 2015 - 06:56

    You might want to read this before you decide who to believe: http://ecowatch.com/2015/01/23/health-problems-linked-to-monsanto-roundup/

  • K. Jean Cottam, PhD
    June 18, 2015 - 06:43

    In Ontario Ritter' is notorious for being a friend of the pesticide industry. My physical location is Ottawa, the capital of Canada. You obviously don't want my comment and don't want to know who Ritter is.

    • and if you believe that
      June 18, 2015 - 18:21

      Thanks for letting us know about his reputation, K. Jean Cottom, PhD. I would love to hear your comments. In my opinion, the Potato Board is just making themselves look bad bringing in these shills. Islanders aren't as stupid as they seem to think we are.