US hype creating unnecessary concern in NZ
21 August 2018
Reports from the US are creating a frenzy of speculation about the food we eat, how it is produced, the residues that remain and the safety of using one of the most widely-used herbicides.
Glyphosate is used in New Zealand by farmers, land managers and home gardeners. It offers effective and safe weed control, is low-volatility and degrades quickly in soil. It has recorded over 40 years of safe use and has been the subject of over 800 studies, all of which have confirmed its safety. Glyphosate continues to be rigorously tested by regulators in New Zealand and throughout the world, with over 160 countries approving its safe use.
This testing has, time and time again, showed that the herbicide poses no threat to human health - when used according to label instructions.
At the heart of the hype is a misleading classification of glyphosate by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)’s in 2015. IARC classifies substances using terms such as ‘possibly’ or ‘probably’ carcinogenic to define the potential hazard of a substance. This has led to a number of everyday products, including coffee, bacon and talcum powder, being categorised as ‘possibly carcinogenic’. But the IARC report is not a risk assessment - it is the type and extent of human exposure that determines the actual risk.
The New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority confirms that glyphosate is safe when used according to label instructions.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) tests residues from commonly used agrichemicals. The food safety regulator confirms that the New Zealand diet is safe and that contaminants are very low - far below levels that would be a food safety risk - and mostly occur naturally. MPI sets very conservative limits for residues in food. These are many times below levels that would be a risk to consumers.
Anyone wishing to know more about glyphosate should review the conclusions reached by regulatory authorities in developed countries that rigorously consider all available data, published and unpublished, in a comprehensive evaluation.
Conclusions about a matter as important as our health must be non-biased, thorough and based on quality science that adheres to internationally recognised standards.