What is Glyphosate?

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many widely used weed killers. One of the most recognisable brands is Roundup. It is widely used in the UK and internationally in variety of different areas – in farming, sports grounds, golf courses, public open spaces, railway lines, private gardens – and has been used safely for more than 40 years.

Is Glyphosate Safe?

Glyphosate is one of the safest plant protection products in the world.

In March 2017 the European Chemicals Agency (ECA) concluded glyphosate is not a carcinogen and does not cause genetic or reproductive effects. This conclusion followed an extensive review of the available scientific evidence and supports those made by regulatory bodies around the world who have looked at the evidence. These concluded that glyphosate poses no risk to people when used correctly. These include the European Food Safety Authority, the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN.

The only body to conclude that glyphosate might pose a health risk is the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which categorised it as 2A “probably carcinogenic to humans” alongside coffee, red meat, cell phones, aloe vera extract and pickled vegetables. The classification has nothing to do with the likelihood of the substance or activity actually causing cancer. IARC looks at whether it is possible something can cause cancer under any circumstances – a hazard-based approach. According to IARC’s classifications, drinking very hot drinks, working as a hairdresser, and working night-shifts are as likely to cause cancer as glyphosate. Also based on their classification, sunlight and drinking alcohol are more likely to.

Regulatory agencies like the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) look at whether the levels of products encountered by people like farmers or consumers in everyday life can cause cancer – a risk-based approach.

What About the Recent Court Case in America?

A recent decision by a jury in the USA in the case of DeWayne Johnson v Monsanto has found in favour Mr Johnson, a former groundskeeper. Monsanto are the manufacturer of the herbicide Roundup. Johnson claimed that the chemical glyphosate, found in Roundup, caused his terminal cancer. He claimed that the company that makes it, Monsanto, were liable for causing the cancer and of failing to warn him of the health hazards of exposure. He was awarded damages of $289 million by a jury. Monsanto is appealing the decision.

What Can I Do?

Key to the use of all chemicals, whether consumer or professional formulations, is to follow the instructions on the safety label shown on the packaging and to be aware of the correct way to use chemicals in your garden.

The HTA continues to monitor the situation with glyphosate and will issue further updates as necessary.



INFORMATION ON GLYPHOSATE AND THE RECENT COURT CASE IN THE USA AGAINST MONSANTO
13 August 2018

A recent decision by a jury in the USA in the case of DeWayne Johnson v Monsanto has found in favour Mr Johnson, a former groundskeeper. Monsanto are the manufacturer of the herbicide Roundup. Johnson claimed that the chemical glyphosate, found in Roundup, caused his terminal cancer. He claimed that the company that makes it, Monsanto, were liable for causing the cancer and of failing to warn him of the health hazards of exposure. He was awarded damages of $289 million by a jury. Monsanto is appealing the decision.

Roundup, whether the commercial or domestic formula, always contains glyphosate. However, variations in adjuvants between formulae and variations in them geographically, mean that each formulation is different.

Glyphosate has been available for approximately 40 years and approved by regulatory authorities around the globe. Much is known about the way it works and the potential impact to human health, wildlife and the environment. Here in the UK, EU and like regulatory bodies around the world, there exists a very rigid and well-structured testing and approvals programme for any garden chemical, including glyphosate. This approvals process can take many years and extensive studies must be performed to show there is no unacceptable risk to human health, wildlife and the environment.

In 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as 2A “probably carcinogenic to humans” alongside coffee, red meat, cell phones, aloe vera extract and pickled vegetables. This classification has nothing to do with the likelihood of the substance or activity actually causing cancer.

In March 2017 the European Chemicals Agency (ACHA) concluded glyphosate is not a carcinogen and does not cause genetic or reproductive effects.

Tests in the US by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) are ongoing, however their initial tests have shown that formulations are more toxic than glyphosate alone. Mike DeVito from NTP said “We see the formulations are more toxic. The formulations were killing the cells. The glyphosate really didn’t do it.” DeVito said the first-phase results do not mean the formulations are causing cancer or any other disease. While the work does show enhanced toxicity from the formulation, and shows they kill human cells, the NTP appears to contradict the IARC finding that glyphosate and/or its formulations induce oxidative stress, one potential pathway towards cancer. The work is ongoing.

Monsanto are yet to issue a statement referencing the court case ruling, however they issued the statement below following the WHO / IARC ruling classifying glyphosate a 2A carcinogenic risk. https://monsanto.com/company/media/statements/glyphosate-report-response/

The NFU has robustly refuted calls for withdrawal of the approval for use of glyphosate, and the EU has recently reissued authorisation for its use for another 5 years. They have an excellent and informative Q&A Fact Sheet on their website at https://www.nfuonline.com/cross-sector/science-and-technology/crop-protection/crop-protection-key-content/glyphosate/glyphosate-key-content/glyphosate-the-basics-our-qa/

The HTA continues to monitor the situation with glyphosate and will issue further updates as necessary.

Key to the use of all chemicals, whether consumer or professional formulations, is to follow exactly the instructions on the safety label shown on the packaging and being aware of the Safety Data Sheet. This includes using exactly as stated personal protective clothing (PPE), application methods and application rates.

The horticulture industry always has and always will observe diligent safety practices and procedures when using all chemicals approved for use on plants. All nurseries, growers and professional users of any chemical follow strict guidelines and precautionary measures when applying or storing chemicals.

For more information please email policy@hta.org.uk

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