At last the UN has spoken out against the widely-used weedkiller Roundup.
The UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has identified glyphosate, the principle ingredient in Roundup, as a probable carcinogen. They also include as probable carcinogens the insecticides malathion and diazinon, both used in New Zealand. All three will be even more dangerous to health when used than the UN is stating, if the other ingredients mixed into sprays like Roundup are considered.
Monsanto, the owner and manufacturer of Roundup, is contesting the UN classification, but has known the risks of Roundup for decades and has actively promoted its product, effectively dosing much of the world’s environment and food supply with a possible carcinogen. Monsanto deserves a massive class action against it.
Much of the soy and canola products for food or animal feed coming into New Zealand are from Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GE crops. Close to 80% of GE crops are Roundup resistant. Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) in food, for Roundup’s principal ingredient glyphosate, were increased 200 times to 20mg/kg as acceptable and safe, as those GE crops came on stream globally, because spraying with Roundup across the food crop was of course going to increase residues in the final food products. More Roundup in our kai, yet Monsanto and regulators were aware of the science that said this was risky stuff. Shame!
No-Till farming systems are also increasing as a means of reducing ploughing and windblown soil erosion in New Zealand and around the world, and herbicide manufacturers and salespeople seem to think it’s fine to put stock on to graze the herbicide-sprayed pasture ahead of sowing, yet mechanical means of no-till exist that would stop farm animals being exposed to these toxins. A report last year on a pilot study showed glyphosate in American mothers’ breast milk at 1,000 times higher level than acceptable European drinking water.
Herbicides including Roundup are also increasingly being used to ‘wilt’ baleage animal feed crops, and ‘even’ ripening in grain crops here in New Zealand, but should have no place in our food supply or in our streets and parks.
New Zealand’s chemical regulator, the EPA (Environmental Protection Authority – yeah right), and MPI (Ministry for Primary Industries) who are tasked with monitoring and ensuring food safety, both consistently make decisions based on trade rather than for environmental or human health reasons, allowing the continued us of chemicals such as glyphosate, malathion and diazinon unless a serious threat to trade.
I have submitted on several chemical reassessments, including diazinon, to the EPA, which was well aware of research results and many of the very serious health effects that are possible from exposure to diazinon and related organophosphate insecticides. However the EPA allowed the continued use of most organophosphates, and just a year and a half ago, Ravensdown Fertilizer Co-op was given until the end of June 2028 to carry out the importation or manufacture of a diazinon product here.
What we need here is our EPA and agricultural and food safety agencies to get serious about agrichemicals and risk assessment. They should be using the precautionary principle inherent in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act. Even better, government needs to actively assist a transition to organic production systems. A pesticide reduction strategy and insisting on the removal of pesticide residues in food are first steps.