According to Bloomberg and other sources, the European Commission may be preparing to recommend a 10-year extension to the approval of glyphosate.
Most famous as the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, off-patent herbicide glyphosate has recently been targeted by environmental and health campaigners, as well as the Soil Association, who cite studies which show that it can be carcinogenic and that it is frequently found in people’s urine.
Authorisation officially ended in the EU in mid-2016, when the Commission gave the chemical an 18 month stay of execution, after EU legislators failed to come to a decision on its future.
In the meantime the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has published an opinion that glyphosate is not a likely human carcinogen, but others cite a 2015 opinion from the World Health Organisation’s cancer research arm IARC, which said the herbicide is ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’.
According to an un-named Commission spokesperson, in light of ECHA’s findings, the EU Commission is set to recommend reauthorisation of glyphosate for a ten year period (shorter than the full 15 years which was previously on the table) in upcoming meetings with EU Member State representatives, according to Bloomberg.
Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett commented, “Whatever the EU decision on the overall authorisation of glyphosate, there is no excuse for the UK government’s continuing failure to introduce a ban on the use of glyphosate in public places such as playgrounds and parks and to end its use pre-harvest.”
Photo Credit: Pixabay
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Just ahead of the latest EU vote on the approval of glyphosate, UN scientists have said that the herbicide is ‘unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans.’
The finding comes from the UN’s Joint Meeting on Pesticides Residues (JMPR) and contradicts an opinion from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) specialist cancer research agency IARC, which classified glyphosate as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ last year. The JMPR included experts from the WHO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
According to JMPR scientists, ‘Overall, there is some evidence of a positive association between glyphosate exposure and risk of NHL [Non-Hodgkin lymphoma – a cancer that develops in the lymphatic system],’ but pointed out that results of the only large-scale study showed no link. Most of the evidence for a link to cancer comes from some, but not all, studies on rodents: ‘In view of the absence of carcinogenic potential in rodents at human-relevant doses and the absence of genotoxicity by the oral route in mammals, and considering the epidemiological evidence from occupational exposures, the meeting concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.’ Glyphosate is also ‘unlikely to be genotoxic at anticipated dietary exposures.’
The group recommended that the acceptable daily intake limit (ADI) for glyphosate should remain at 0-1mg per kilo of body weight, the current level. Last year’s recommendation by EFSA to increase the glyphosate residue threshold from 0.3mg to 0.5 mg/kg is still within these limits.
Photo credit: 123RF – Hans Slegers
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With the loss of the herbicide Totril on 31 August 2016 many onion growers are considering using bromoxynil which has recently been approved for use in the crop. However Andy Richardson of Allium & Brassica Agronomy warned that it could not be used as a straight replacement.
Growers need to consider the different label recommendations of the two products containing bromoxynil (Butryflow SC and Buctril EC) he warned. One reason is that due to the higher risk of crop scorch compared to ioxynil (Totril) and its SC formulation, Butraflow cannot be applied to set crops. It also has a timing restriction and can only be used between 1 May and 30 September, so may be unsuitable for early crops. Buctril currently has no such restrictions.
“We’ve been looking at both products and we’ve been looking at Buctril since 2010. Based on our trials Buctril may be more useful to onion growers than Butryflow),” explained Andy.
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The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has confirmed that it will assess the findings of a report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which concluded that the herbicide glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans.
The report, which was published at the end of July, will be considered as part of EFSA’s on-going peer review of the re-evaluation of glyphosate. The re-evaluation was carried out by the BfR, the German risk assessment body. Germany is the rapporteur Member State (RMS) for glyphosate.
The IARC, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, published a summary of its findings in March 2015, concluding that there was evidence of an association between exposure to glyphosate and development of cancers such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer.
EFSA’s finalised conclusion will be sent to the European Commission and published later this year.
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Updated guidelines from the Weed Resistance Action Group (WRAG) have been published by AHDB in response to the ‘real risks’ of glyphosate resistance developing in UK weeds.
While there are currently no known cases of glyphosate resistance in UK weeds, the guidelines build on global experience to help growers maintain the effectiveness of glyphosate as a weed control option.
Glyphosate has been around for 40 years and has become one of the most frequently used herbicides across UK crop production, partly due to increasing resistance to selective herbicides and the loss of other herbicide products.
James Clarke, WRAG Chair and Science and Business Development Manager at ADAS, warned, “A number of high-risk practices are being increasingly deployed on UK farms which could drive the evolution of glyphosate resistance in UK weeds – including multiple glyphosate applications, sub-lethal doses and suboptimal application timing – and we wanted to be proactive in highlighting the risks and promoting best practice.”
The new Minimising the risk of glyphosate resistance guidelines includes four simple and key messages, supported by more detailed evidence and guidance:
1. Prevent survivors: Avoid repeat applications to surviving plants
2. Maximise efficacy: Apply the right dose rate (reduced rates increase the risk of reduced efficacy), at the right timing, in the right conditions
3. Use alternatives: Use non-chemical options (such as cultivation), where practical, and use other herbicides in sequence
4. Monitor success: Remove survivors and report potential resistance issues to your advisor and/or the product manufacturer.
A two-page summary of the guidelines (AHDB Information Sheet 03) is available from the AHDB website and a full version of the guidelines is available to download from the WRAG website.
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