What to ban next: Roundup

You will have heard that Monsanto has had a judgement against them recently?claiming glyphosate causes cancer?, and an award of US$289 million has been made to the complainant. quote:

A civil jury in San Francisco has granted US$289m to a groundskeeper who said his lymphoma resulted from years of applying Monsanto’s trademarked Roundup insecticide, which did not include adequate warning of its links to cancer. end quote.

What will probably not surprise you is that the Greens have been looking at getting rid of Roundup for years.

This article ?is from 2016. quote:

In January, the Greens launched a petition calling for an end to the use of glyphosate in public places such as parks and roadsides, and calling on the EPA to formally reassess the chemical’s safety.

“We need to pull this stuff out of the streets and parks,” said Green MP Steffan Browning. “More studies are needed.”

Coinciding with the campaign launch, Browning and the Greens released a comprehensive report on health dangers linked to the popular weedkiller.

Pundits were quick to jump to the defence of agriculture’s favourite spray – it’s the most-used herbicide in the world. In response to the Greens’ campaign, the government-funded Science Media Centre released a primer prominently featuring the she’ll-be-right perspective of Kerry Harrington, a Weed Science lecturer at Massey University. Harrington is not a toxicologist; in fact, his research is practical, focusing on using herbicides rather than on their side effects. However, journalists ignored this fact, and in the week following the Greens’ campaign launch, he was New Zealand’s most widely quoted scientist on glyphosate. end quote.

So, in the usual manner of unbiased journalism, the reporter has already decided which side of the fence is the right one. She is not a toxicologist either, but clearly, she knows best. quote:

However, though the IARC affirms that lab mice can get cancer from glyphosate, they make no claims as to what dose is safe for humans, and whether letting your kids play on a Roundup-sprayed playground is actually dangerous.

Nevertheless, in the year since the IARC report came out, the international reaction has been strong. The reaction has been swiftest in the EU. France has moved to stop selling glyphosate over the counter to the public; other countries are exploring similar actions; and a growing number of cities, most notably Barcelona and Edinburgh, have decided to stop using glyphosate sprays altogether. end quote.

Seems like a typical overreaction. Glyphosate has been used extensively as a herbicide since the mid-1970s. There is no evidence that it causes a significant amount of harm, and certainly no evidence that it has caused a large number of cancer cases. However the subject became topical in 2015, articles like this one came out in 2016 and, as night follows day, we now have a judge award a huge sum of money to someone who has cancer.

Please don’t think I do not have sympathy for the cancer patient. I can understand that he is looking for something to blame but it cannot be proven that glyphosate caused cancer in this case. It is an emotive decision.

And it is a decision that will have a devastating effect on the herbicide industry.

But first, back to the?Scoop?article. quote:

“The court case is an interesting test case based on some relatively new evidence. In 2016, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) re-classfied glyphosate [the active ingredient in Roundup] as a ‘probable human carcinogen’ a decision based on an extensive review of available data including epidemiological [human] studies.

“However, the impact this finding is being debated widely, partly due to the involvement of large corporations and also because the IARC assesses a chemical’s carcinogenic potential but does not generally conduct a full risk assessment, judging where and how contact with the chemical may occur. end quote.

There is the problem. Each case is individual, and there is nothing to prove conclusively that his contact with glyphosate caused his cancer. It might have done, but equally, it might not. quote:

“These additional factors are important in determining the overall risk associated with the use of a chemical in various situations. For comparison and context the IARC has also classified red meat consumption as a probable carcinogen. This is based on good scientific evidence but highlights that understanding wider factors are critical to determining full risk. However, the underlying finding of the IARC stands, glyphosate may cause cancer under the right conditions and exposures.

“The terms of the case are interesting as the plaintiff did not need to demonstrate conclusively that glyphosate caused the cancer, only that it was a plausible contributing factor. Also, Monsanto is unable to prove that glyphosate definitely did not cause the cancer. There is still no proof either way but the success of the prosecution will encourage others to seek remuneration using the IARC classification as evidence. end quote.

See what I mean about it being an emotive decision? No proof, but sue away to your heart’s content.

So how much do you want to bet that Roundup will be the next thing banned here?

The thing is that it is possible that a combination of chemicals in the sprays used might have a carcinogenic effect. This means that glyphosate itself may not be harmful, but that one of the compounds sold, say as Roundup, with chemical additives, may have a different rating because the synergistic effects of the combination of chemicals may be unknown.

Monsanto, and other producers of herbicides could very well come up with chemical compounds including glyphosate that do not cause harm to humans and have no carcinogenic effects whatsoever. No doubt they will be working on this as a solution (pun absolutely intended) right now.

But the genie is out of the bottle now. You can bet your sweet life that the Greens will now be campaigning for the end of glyphosate in all its shapes and forms, telling us all how dangerous it is. When it isn’t – or at least, it’s dangers have not been fully proved. The dangers could be mitigated by wearing protective clothing when using it but of course, we are not capable of thinking for ourselves when it comes to this stuff.

The campaign to tell everyone how dangerous Roundup is will be starting soon.

First, they came for your plastic bags…

Then they came for your weedkiller…