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Daily News Blog

30
Jan

The Fallacy of Glyphosate Exemptions Demonstrates the Importance of Sound Science on Hazards and Solutions

Brighton and Hove City Council's use of glyphosate concerns advocates amidst EU's reapproval despite the science

(Beyond Pesticides, January 30, 2024) The City Council of Brighton and Hove (England) is preparing to expand the use of glyphosate after widespread public complaints over the growth of Japanese knotweed and a program of manual clearance. This imminent local land management decision flies in the face of substantial research on the health and ecological impacts of glyphosate-based herbicides, including from Aaron Blair, PhD—former chair of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) working group on glyphosate and former branch chief (now scientist emeritus) of the Occupational Studies Section, National Cancer Institute (NCI). Advocates are concerned that the city council is basing this rationale on the fact that the European Commission reapproved use of glyphosate in 2023 for a ten-year period and not the body of scientific literature on health and ecosystem effects as well as alternative practices and products.

According to a recent ENDS Report, “The [City of Brighton and Hove] council banned the use of glyphosate in 2019 – with an exception for killing invasive species [‘in exceptional cases’] such as Japanese Knotweed – after it was linked to health concerns and a decline in bee populations. As part of this it was agreed that the removal of weeds in parks and on hard surfaces would be undertaken manually as an alternative approach to using pesticides.” After a January 23 city council meeting, it appears that councilors are leaning toward a “controlled-droplet application of glyphosate” as of January 18, 2024. This move would broaden the existing policy of applying glyphosate to allow certain exceptions to its institution as a general practice. While the existing policy does not universally ban glyphosate, the city relied on manual weed management for the past five years.

There is much more in this piece on the specifics of the City of Brighton and Hove’s ordinance and the compelling science that has supported the elimination of glyphosate use in communities around the U.S. and around the world, in addition to large awards from jury verdicts for those exposed and harmed. Before getting to that, it should be noted that the demand for glyphosate use typically does not address the question of holistic Japanese Knotweed management strategies, which are critical to this “invasive” plant as well as all unwanted plants and the impact that control strategies have on ecosystem health and ecological balance. While eradication has been a driving force for many land managers and members of the public, those in the field have increasingly come to question the viability of that strategy. Eric Burkhart, PhD, a botanist, ethnobotanist, and agroforester from Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center (in Penn State University’s experimental forest) and associate professor at Penn State, says the following about a holistic management strategy: “After more than 25 years of trying to control this invasive species, I have acquired a great deal of respect for this herculean plant. I’m resolved not to concoct any fanciful notion of ever eradicating it. Invasive knotweed is here to stay.” From his experience using glyphosate and other elimination strategies, he learned that, “I had not carefully considered trying to restore what once grew where the knotweed intruded.” Experience has brought Dr. Burkhart to recommend the following: “. . .re-planting areas with vigorous native woody shrubs and trees such as dogwoods and willows. Live staking is reported by many sources to be a good option. Knotweed is less vigorous in shade, so establishing an overstory or other competition will help to suppress growth.” More on this can found at a Penn State Extension webpage. Beyond Pesticides notes that initial clearing of an area can be achieved with managed goat grazing, and chemicals are counterproductive to ecological balance and a restorative and regenerative strategy. While Beyond Pesticides does not recommend specific companies, Browsing Green Goats and Goat Guardian explain a strategy of clearance that is being used across the country. There are too many examples of sustainable land management with goats to list here, but a few to check out include South Portland, Maine, and Connecticut College. For more background on managed goat grazing, see Beyond Pesticides’ goat demonstration at the 36th National Forum, Organic Neighborhoods: For healthy children, families, and ecology, Irvine, California.

The Council Committee on Weed Management in the Environment, Sea Downs, and The Sea in Brighton and Hove City Council put forward an ordinance change to consider controlled-droplet application or conventional application of glyphosate:

  • Recommendation 4: Subject to approval at Budget Council, to amend the current policy to support the use of glyphosate to manage weeds on all hard surfaces and instruct the council’s City Environmental Management Services to engage with contractors to use a controlled-droplet application to manage and remove weeds from across the city in 2024, as described more fully in paragraphs 3.21 to 3.24 and 3.28 to 3.29. Further to this, Committee agrees to delegate authority to the Executive Director – Economy, Environment & Culture, in consultation with the Committee Chair, to determine the most effective approach for weed management in future years based on the outcomes achieved in 2024.

OR

  • Recommendation 5: Subject to approval from Budget Council, to amend the current policy to support the use of glyphosate to manage weeds on all hard surfaces and instruct the council’s City Environmental Management Services to engage with contractors to use traditional glyphosate to manage and remove weeds from across the city in 2024, as described more fully in paragraphs 3.25 to 3.29. This will be subject to a review in winter 2024 to see if there is an option to move to a controlled-droplet application for 2025. Further to this, Committee agrees to delegate authority to the Executive Director – Economy, Environment & Culture, in consultation with the Committee Chair, to determine the most effective approach for weed management in future years based on the outcomes achieved in 2024.

While the mainstream press has focused on the cancer effects of glyphosate/Roundup and the jury verdicts against Monsanto/Bayer, the manufacturer of glyphosate/Roundup, the scientific literature on glyphosate has raised a range of serious adverse health and ecosystem effects.

As time passes since the IARC decision, a review of the science that links glyphosate/Roundup to science may be helpful. As a keynote speaker at Beyond Pesticides’ 34th National Pesticide Forum in Portland, Maine, Dr. Blair discussed IARC’s research on the linkage between the herbicide glyphosate and cancer. Dr. Blair, who has published  over 450 scientific and medical journal articles on environmental and occupational causes of cancer, discussed in detail the methodological approach and scientific background on.”

The methodology for the 2015 study includes data from rodent bioassays, mechanistic data, and epidemiological studies. The rodent bioassays found a relationship between glyphosate exposure and the diagnosis of rare cancers, including renal tubule carcinoma, hemangiosarcoma, pancreatic islet-cell adenoma, and skin cancer. The mechanistic studies found evidence of DNA and chromosomal damage, as well as oxidative stress—all of which are indicators of cancer. Meanwhile, the epidemiological studies found an association with non-Hodgkins’s lymphoma in case-control studies from the United States, Canada, and Sweden (but not in the Agricultural Health Study that Dr. Blair was part of in Iowa and North Carolina—Dr. Blair mentioned at the Forum that “epidemiological studies….[are] not always that clear-cut [with human data]” and scientists, “have to look at the totality of what is going on.”) The IARC evaluation process includes the composition of working groups of between 15 to 30 scientists from diverse disciplines going through a literature review of publicly available research from epidemiological, bioassay, mechanistic, and exposure studies. Out of the four levels of classification, Dr. Blair’s IARC working group assigned glyphosate under category 2A, which determines the assigned pesticide or chemical as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” “You usually [get to probable cause assessment through] limited evidence in human… and sufficient evidence in animal [studies].” To listen to Dr. Aaron Blair’s full keynote, click the link here. [Timestamp: 22:00]

Understanding the scientific process that led to IARC’s 2015 assessment is important for advocates who wish to challenge claims made by the petrochemical industry, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and more recently the European Union that disputes the connection between glyphosate and human health. Reports such as “Merchants of Poison” uncover Monsanto’s (now owned by Bayer) efforts to interfere in scientific analysis, media coverage, philanthropic involvement, and higher education efforts to spread disinformation and misinformation on the health impacts of glyphosate. EPA staff and managers have also been found to have an “unholy alliance” with industry actors such as Bayer. Beyond Pesticides has also reported on industry efforts on dicamba and atrazine in which Bayer and BSF, “engaged in a variety of deceitful, unethical, and possibly fraudulent practices to enable [their] use.” In 2022, the EPA revisited their 2017 decision declaring their conclusion that glyphosate is not carcinogenic after, “the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit handed down a ruling that held EPA’s 2020 approval of glyphosate was unlawful.“ According to an “independent evaluation of available data for glyphosate”, the EPA found “no risks of concern to human health from current uses of glyphosate,” “no indication that children are more sensitive to glyphosate,” “no evidence that glyphosate causes cancer in humans,” and “no indication that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor.”

Advocates are concerned that the use of glyphosate is a self-fulfilling prophecy in that this approach aims to create ecosystem imbalance to address ecosystem imbalance. Beyond IARC’s work, there is extensive scientific evidence linking glyphosate to a range of human and ecological health effects. Regarding human health, see the article Scientists Express Concern Over Widespread Use of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides where, “Following the carcinogenic classification by IARC, a research study published in Environmental Health linked long-term, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys.” Adding to the body of science, more studies in the last year corroborate the health risks posed by glyphosate exposure to male reproductive systems, behavioral and gut health, and neurodegenerative disease and sleep function.

Beyond Pesticides—through ManageSafe, ManageSafe’s resources on Japanese Knotweed, and previous reporting on glyphosate health, safety, and environmental justice impacts across the supply chain— has a plethora of resources underscoring the danger of pesticide application exemptions in creating wiggle room for state and local authority to spray glyphosate and harmful petrochemical pesticides in local communities.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.  

Source: ENDS Report

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