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March 22, 2023

Insurer warns councils over use of Roundup

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Hans Lovejoy

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.’

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  1. What is going to give is cancer next? Cows milk?

    I get worried when insurance companies start dictating what we can and can’t do. There is no guarantee that the insurance industry is at arms length from suppliers of alternative products.

    Let me paint a theoretical picture. Company A is a major shareholder of an insurance giant. Company A is also a maior supplier of garden chemicals.

    WHO produces a finding that garden chemical Glipglop might be carcinogenic. Company A just happens to manufacture an alternative to Glipglop and using its shareholding influence “encourages” the insurance giant to withdraw insurance cover for customers who use Glipglop.

    Seems far fetched? Have a look at how insurance companies influence business and everyday activities. Local Government regularly consults its insurer before it consults its own legal representative in matters involving possible public liability. In other words ignore whether the issue involves distinction between right and wrong. Assess the financial exposure first. Many a social/sporting club struggles to survive because of crippling insurance costs.

  2. Prevention is better than cure Joe. There are numerous independent studies world-wide regarding Round-up, all with findings that should be raising alarm. Odd in this Shire, most of us bleat on about the environment and global warming yet very few want to make changes in the way we live.

  3. Well, there is Scientific evidence that glyphosate is a powerful carcinogenic.
    This is not new. I witnessed these effects back in 1985,while working at the Wollongbah agricultural research station. Glyphosate works by destroying a plant’s hormonal system and it has much the same result when contaminating a mammal’s bloodstream and due to the catastrophic death rates in amphibians (frogs) even Monsanto was forced to print warnings on containers.
    “Let me paint a theoretical picture.” If all the safety testing is carried out by the company that is making billions from it’s sale, how reliable would those assurances of total safety be ?
    Anybody ignoring this extremely belated warning, is not rational, probably thinks global warming is a communist plot and still votes for the National Party.

  4. Studies have been done on Glyphosate in isolation, and have shown it to be toxic to some life forms – it s a patented antibiotic for example. “Roundup”, the most commonly sold and used product containing Glyphosate has “secret” (commercial in confidence) adjuvants which are designed to increase the potency, thus the toxicity of the “active” ingredient. It is no surprise that many distrust the science, when the science has only released results of testing on the “active” ingredient, and only select results of those tests. What Joe Monks asks may well be the case – Cows milk, like human breast milk, now contains Glyphosate. It does not “break down”, like the label said, it is still here, and accumulating higher up the food chain.

  5. All councils should heed this warning as insurance companies are good assessors of risk. Their commercial success and survival depends on it. Joe Monks’ hypothetical scenario should not dissuade anyone from exercising precaution with all synthetic chemicals.
    After a long campaign, the World Health Organisation’s IARC committee has finally restored glyphosate weedkiller to its rightful place as a ‘probable human carcinogen’. It was downgraded to possible carcinogenic status over 30 years ago as, under Monsanto’s influence, corporate (not independent) data claimed it was less toxic.
    Councils should always exercise precaution and protect their workers’ health and safety, and the public, but most Roundup users, recklessly treat the toxic chemical as innocuous. Unprotected council workers spray Roundup (and other toxics) liberally on footpaths, parks, playgrounds, etc. where children, animals and adults are also at risk of harm.
    All Roundup users must now adopt a safety first approach or suffer the consequences of ignoring sound advice.


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