Call for ‘scientific’ debate on vital herbicide

Glyphosate is used to control weeds and ripen crops. Picture: John Devlin
Glyphosate is used to control weeds and ripen crops. Picture: John Devlin
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Scottish farmers joined others across the UK in calling for a “science-led common sense” approach to be taken ahead of a the final vote on the re-authorisation of glyphosate – the world’s most commonly used herbicide – in Europe this week.

The herbicide, which is widely used by Scottish farmers to control weeds and as a pre-harvest desiccant to help ripen crops, is also frequently used by gardeners, local authorities and groundkeepers.

The decision on re-registration will be taken over the next few days by a specialist EU committee.

The group will consider conflicting reports on the safety of the product, with a study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), claiming that glyphosate is “probably” able to cause cancer, a view which was contradicted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

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Earlier this week, a joint committee of experts from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that glyphosate was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans” exposed to it through food.

Speaking at a meeting of NFU Scotland’s combinable crops committee yesterday, chairman Ian Sands said: “For many, many years, glyphosate has been safely used on Scottish farms to control weeds, help ripen our grain and ensure we continue to produce quality crops on Scottish farms.”

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He said the volume of evidence and the views of influential experts should leave the standing committee members in no doubt that glyphosate should be re-approved, a view which was backed by the European Parliament.