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article imageShould a leading weedkiller be banned?

By Tim Sandle     Jan 20, 2016 in Environment
A debate is taking place about the use of glyphosate-based weedkillers. This is in relation to the possible carcinogenic effects of this widely used farm product.
Glyphosate is a common weedkiller manufactured and marketed by the chemical company Monsanto. The weedkiller can be used with genetically modified crops, as well as for more traditional farming methods. Such is the demand (or the success of the marketing) that global sales for the weedkiller top $5 billion per year.
Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide. By 2007 glyphosate became the most used herbicide in the U.S. agricultural sector. The chemical inhibits enzymes in grasses and other ‘weeds.’ There has been a long running issue concerning whether or not the product is carcinogenic.
The focus of the discussion is the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA), who appear in favor of the permitting the weedkiller to continue to be used. This puts EFSA at odds with the World Health Organization (WHO). Here the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has raised concerns about the weedkiller probably being a carcinogen.
Analysis by IARC indicates glyphosate-based weedkillers are probably carcinogenic to humans. Not so, states EFSA. Central to this discussion is whether the herbicide will be re-licenced for use across Europe.
The EFSA position has attracted criticism from scientists. In fact, 96 researchers have written a letter to the European Union’s health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, warning that the EFSA position is dangerous and not evidence based. Instead they indicated their support of the IARC evidence.
In the letter, the scientists state the EFSA position is not credible because it is not supported by the evidence,” and they go onto say: “we urge you and the European commission to disregard the flawed EFSA finding.”
The scientists note the IRAC data has been gathered by “on open and transparent procedures by independent scientists who completed thorough conflict of interest statements and were not affiliated or financially supported in any way by the chemical manufacturing industry.”
The only response from Andriukaitis to date is to indicate a concern with divided scientific opinion and to indicate a level of confidence in the EFSA and the decisions made by the agency.
This is an important discussion, for The Guardian notes that the glyphosate is used so widely in the U.K. that traces can be detected in bread sold in supermarkets.
More about weedkiller, Herbicide, Glyphosate, Carcinogen, Monsanto
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