14 October 1999
Makers play down glyphosate threat

By Donald MacPhail

CLAIMS that the widely-used herbicide glyphosate could face a European ban have been played down by the British Agrochemicals Association (BAA).

A confidential European Union report, leaked to Channel Four News this week, concluded that glyphosate may kill beneficial insects and spiders.

The report advised that the chemical should not be approved for EU pesticide listings until further tests have been carried out.

But a BAA spokesman said the report was only a standard part of the EU active ingredients review intended to identify areas where more data was needed.

The report had identified a gap in data which had not yet been sufficiently addressed. Glyphosate manufacturers now had an opportunity to bridge that gap.

“The authorities will then look at this data, and make a judgement,” said the BAA spokesman.

The active ingredients review preceded moves to standardise EU pesticide regulations which currently allow countries to approve pesticides unilaterally.

Monsanto, manufacturers of Roundup, the most popular glyphosate brand, said the EU research was based on four-year-old data which had been superseded.

Commenting on the report, a Monsanto spokesman said: “Monsanto is very confident it can rebut the claims of this report.”

Fellow agrochemical company Zeneca, which manufactures glyphosate herbicide Touchdown, echoed this.

A spokesman said: “We have submitted additional research which demonstrates that the risks to arthropods are negligible.”

Separate research from Sweden suggests a possible link between exposure to glyphosate and a higher risk of contracting cancer of the lymph glands.

But the Monsanto spokesman emphatically denied any link, and said that several independent experts had dismissed the Swedish study as “spurious”.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the World Health Organisation and the EU have all concluded that glyphosate is neither mutagenic nor carcinogenic.

“Farmers can carry on using glyphosate knowing that this single study has been contradicted by several independent studies.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture said more information was needed on the effects glyphosate had on non-target species.

An EU spokesman said the research was part of an ongoing re-evaluation by of around 90 pesticides.

“It would be premature to speculate on an individual pesticide,” he said.