Recent findings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) into the key ingredient in world’s top selling chemical weed killer, Roundup, has been supported by the NSW councils’ insurer.
It’s prompted calls for risk assessment reviews and a ‘cautious approach’ of its use throughout the state’s local governments.
StateCover, who are ‘Local Government’s Workers Compensation Insurer’ says ‘that formulations containing glyphosate, including ‘Roundup’ and other similar products, were assessed as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’, according to a WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report.
Roundup is the flagship product of controversial US corporation Monsanto, who also produce genetically modified foods and ‘terminator’ seeds. The company has a long history of attempting to control the global food market through patent laws.
The StateCover internal memo to councils say WHO’s findings ‘contrasts with information included in existing safety data sheets, which indicate the relative safety of the chemical.’
‘Australian regulators, including Safe Work Australia and WorkCover NSW have not provided advice or direction relating to the use of glyphosate at this time.
However, given this new information, it is recommended that councils take a cautious approach and investigate their use of glyphosate and other hazardous chemicals used for weed control.’
The position taken has been welcomed by Nadia de Souza Pietramale from Byron Shire Chemical Free Landcare. She told Echonetdaily, ‘It is great to see a drop of accountability.’
‘Council and other local and state government agencies such as RTA, NPWS, Crown Lands etc are still using it in drains, creek line, dunes, etc. Also there is zero regulation with regard local residents spraying it with no sign or safety gear in public foot path or public land adjacent to the front of their property.’
Echonetdaily asked Byron Shire Council if it has responded to StateCover’s advice and assessed its current weed control chemicals.
Council’s infrastructure services director Phil Holloway replied that council maintains ‘Safe Working Method Statements’ for herbicides employed by staff.
‘These are updated as advice is received from Statecover,’ he said.
‘Council staff and their contractors who use herbicide have undertaken appropriate training and aspire to minimise its use.
‘Plus, to help reduce our herbicide use, we have recently purchased a portable steam machine which is currently being used for weed control at the shire’s playgrounds.
‘It will also be treating pavements and garden beds in the town and village centres,’ Mr Holloway said.
Yet despite the WHO warning, Reuters reported on November 12 that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) claimed it was ’unlikely’ to cause cancer in humans.
Barbara Lewis reported that EFSA scientists, who worked with experts from EU countries, said their study differed from the WHO study in that it considered only glyphosate, whereas the WHO had assessed groups of related chemicals.
‘They said the toxic effects could be related to reactions with other constituents,’ she wrote.
However Greenpeace called the EFSA’s report ‘a whitewash’, claiming EFSA ‘defied the world’s most authoritative cancer agency.’