The World Health Organisation says it probably causes cancer in humans. It has been banned outright in countries as diverse as the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, France, Colombia and Sri Lanka. France has banned its use in parks and schools, and the EU is conducting a safety review of it. And in Shepway it is being used in the award winning Lower Leas Coastal Park (pictured) by Shepway District Council (SDC) and by Kent County Council (KCC) across the district. “It” is glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, the weed-killer developed by the US agrochemical giant Monsanto.
Monsanto developed Glyphosate in the 1970s and have been selling it to farmers under the Roundup brand-name ever since. First used on agricultural land to eradicate weeds and grasses that compete with crops, but its use has spread into streets and parks around the our district, the UK and many other countries globally.
But now, after more than forty years of use and years of assurances by Monsanto about its safety, evidence is emerging that glyphosate is harmful to humans and insects and promotes antibiotic resistance.
In 2016 the most damning study to date on the health impacts of glyphosate was published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organisation. Seventeen scientists concluded that glyphosate “was probably carcinogenic to humans.” While previous studies had found glyphosate impairs cognitive capacities in bees and damages the DNA of snails and amphibians, the news that it was probably harmful to humans prompted bans and an EU safety review.
Considering the growing body of evidence linking glyphosate to widespread biological impacts, some may ask whether it is time KCC & SDC, ban the herbicide or at least suspend its use until the outcome of an EU investigation is completed by the end of 2017. Surely better to err on the side of caution, especially as the award winning Lower Leas Coastal Park is an area where lots of families take their children to play.
Tests have found traces of the residue in the urine of people from 18 different European countries, and in over 60% of breads sold in the UK. It has even been found in Germany’s 14 best-selling beers, stirring public unease.
The Environment Agency said in response to enquiries from the Shepwayvox team“If new evidence shows that glyphosate is no longer safe, the EU Commission has the power to withdraw authorisation for its use,”. But member states do not have to wait for the EU to withdraw authorisation, as the Environment Agency seems to suggest. National and local authorities have the power to decide which chemicals are used in public spaces.
We also to contacted Monsanto who didn’t respond, but have previously said “regulatory authorities around the world…have found no evidence of carcinogency.” Monsanto has labelled the IARC study “junk science” and have paid a consultancy company called Intertek, which tests the safety of chemicals for companies, to review the study. This decision will invite scepticism that any review financed by Monsanto will not be objective.
Surely in light of the growing concern about the use of glyphosate, both KCC & SDC ought to review the evidence about the product’s safety. They should consider ways that can reduce the use of glyphosate on a site-by-site basis, look at alternative options or suspend or ban its use across our wonderful district. We hope SDC and KCC will carry out a review as soon as possible.