From the current edition of the Big Issue in the North magazine. Please buy a copy when you see a seller.
An agricultural scientist has challenged research claiming a chemical widely used in weed killers is making people seriously ill.
Glyphosate weed killers are sprayed by farmers, local government and gardeners, and also on some imported GM crops used as animal feed. Monsanto is the biggest producer of glyphosate, selling it under the brand name Roundup.
Glyphosate has been approved for use as a herbicide in the Europe Union (EU) since 2002. The approval expires next year but the EU is conducting tests to see if it can be extended.
A group of German scientists have independently studied glyphosate residues in humans.
They found levels were significantly lower in those who ate an organic diet compared with those who ate a largely conventional diet.
They also discovered that chronically ill people had significantly higher glyphosate residues in their urine. The study also found that glyphosate levels in the urine of dairy cows raised in GM-free areas were significantly lower than amongst those fed conventionally.
The scientists fear glyphosate residues have massive potential health hazards for both humans and animals.
They want to see greater studies and believe “the global regulations for the use of glyphosate may have to be re- evaluated”.
But Charlie Clutterbuck, an agricultural scientist from Ribble Valley, disputed the German scientists’ conclusions.
He said: “Although it is not surprising that more glyphosate residues are found in humans and animals who are eating plants given glyphosate, that does not mean higher concentration levels are associated with chronic illness.
“This is not a causal relationship but a casual relationship in the same way that there is an increase in obesity levels corresponding to increased mobile phone use but the two are not causally related.”
James Mills, the National Farmers Union combinable crops adviser, added: “We are confident that the rigorous testing procedures adopted by the EU for all chemical products ensures they are not damaging to humans, animals, agriculture or the environment.
“The use of glyphosate on farms is heavily regulated and the industry also takes responsibility itself under the 2001 voluntary initiative designed to minimise the environmental aspects of pesticides.
“Whilst we should always be interested in new research this one report should not lead to more testing within a registration process that is currently working well.”