AN INDEPENDENT review into the safety of glyphosate is not necessary but would hold no fears for the farming sector according to the chief executive of Grain Growers.
Speaking following calls from the Cancer Council of Australia to conduct a review into glyphosate’s safety, David McKeon said he was comfortable with the findings of a 2016 Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) reconsideration report on the herbicide, but said a new review would reinforce the message the product is safe.
Mr McKeon said he did not want another review into glyphosate as it would take APVMA resources away from other chemistries it was researching but acknowledged a full review may be of benefit in terms of consumer acceptance of the product.
“The more time we tie up with going over old products that are not in need of review the more we fall behind in finding safe and new chemistry, but it would underscore the point glyphosate is safe,” Mr McKeon said.
CropLife Australia, the nation’s peak body for the plant science sector said a new review was not necessary following the APVMA research in 2016, which followed the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report which found glyphosate was a probable carcinogen.
“The community can remain confident in the APVMA’s comprehensive reconsideration nomination assessment of glyphosate in 2016 following the IARC report,” said CropLife Australia chief executive Matthew Cossey.
“Their assessment found no grounds for glyphosate to be reconsidered.”
Mr McKeon said the body of evidence surrounding glyphosate’s safety exceeded that of many other chemicals.
“There has been a lot of time and energy put into researching glyphosate over the years and it all comes back showing the product is safe.”
He said IARC’s finding regarding its cancer causing properties needed to be taken in context.
“There is a risk but other substances on that list such as tea and coffee and salt are household items.”
Meanwhile the Federal Opposition is calling for a Senate Inquiry into Australia’s chemical regulatory process following a report by the ABC’s 4 Corners program that highlighted the APVMA receives funding from the chemical companies whose products it is in charge of regulating.
“The inquiry will consider the funding arrangements for the APVMA and any impact they have on its independent, evidence-based decision making,” shadow minister for agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon said.
However, agriculture minister David Littleproud said the APVMA funding model was in line with those used for regulatory bodies in other sectors.
“A cost recovery model funds independent regulators across multiple industries and this is appropriate,” he said.
He said decisions on chemical safety needed to be left to scientists.
“Politicians don’t make decisions on which chemicals are safe or how they should be used; the scientists do – as they should.
“I back the APVMA and I am confident the APVMA is competent and independent.”
However, the Greens supported Mr Fitzgibbon’s call.
The Greens agriculture spokesperson Senator Janet Rice called on the Coalition government to immediately instigate an independent and transparent review into the chemical’s impact on people’s health.
“The concerns over the safety of the chemical glyphosate raised by the World Health Organisation and now Cancer Council Australia are very serious,” she said.
“It is imperative that the Coalition government immediately instigate an independent and transparent review into the health effects of the chemical.”
Duncan Young, president of WAFarmers’ grains group, said recent news around glyphosate, such as the recent Californian jury ruling that glyphosate caused a Californian man’s cancer, had led to public panic around what was a safe product.
“The public need to understand the Australian regulatory system is supported by highly-qualified and globally respected medical and toxicological scientists who have decades of experience and knowledge on agricultural chemicals,” he said.
“It is crucial that any debate on farming is informed and based on scientific evidence and not on rhetoric driven by emotion.”
Faced with the backlash of the 4 Corners report, the National Farmers Federation has launched an online campaign where it seeks to engage with consumers and present them with clearly explained information on how the herbicide works.