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EPA Finds No Grounds To Reassess Glyphosate

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has determined there are no grounds to review the approval for the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in weedkillers such as Round Up.

The Environmental Law Initiative (ELI) applied to the EPA in February 2024 to decide whether there are grounds to reassess glyphosate and glyphosate-containing substances, citing significant new information about the negative effects of the substance.

After reviewing information provided by ELI and recent international research on the substance, a decision-making committee of the EPA has decided there are no grounds for a reassessment.

"What we received from the applicant does not meet the criteria for significant new information and does not justify a reassessment of this substance - particularly when considered alongside the findings of other international regulators," says Dr Chris Hill, General Manager Hazardous Substances and New Organisms.

Regulators from jurisdictions including the European Union, Australia, and the United States extensively reviewed glyphosate. They concluded it should not be classified as a carcinogen and that any potential risks from using the substance have not changed.

"We carefully weighed the information provided by the applicant alongside a large amount of other evidence and consider that products containing the substance are safe to use if the existing rules are followed," says Dr Hill.

"We will review any new research on glyphosate that shows a change in the risks and is relevant to the New Zealand context."

Notes:

  • The studies supplied by the applicant as significant new information were largely literature reviews, which are not usually used to justify changes to the hazard classification or rules for use.
  • In 2021, the EPA issued a call for information on glyphosate and received a total of 465 responses from members of the public, professional users, and suppliers of glyphosate.
  • The information received helped us better understand the concerns around glyphosate, how it is used in New Zealand, and the potential risks to human health and the environment. It also helped us understand the impacts if it was made unavailable.
  • Analysis of the information received from the call for information did not indicate evidence of new risks that would warrant a reassessment of glyphosate.

Background on glyphosate approvals in New Zealand

  • Glyphosate was approved for use before the HSNO Act came into force in 1996. A number of glyphosate-containing substances were moved into the HSNO framework during a ‘transfer’ process in 2004.
  • At the time of this transfer, glyphosate-containing substances were assessed and assigned rules for use. They were also assigned hazard classifications.
  • Since then, there have been several applications under the HSNO Act seeking approval to import and manufacture glyphosate-containing substances.
  • These applications were assessed to determine whether the benefits of using the substance outweigh the adverse effects, in a process that looks at potential effects on the environment, public health, Māori culture, people and communities, and the economy.
  • Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the weed killer Round Up, one of 92 formulations containing the chemical that are approved for use in Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • Establishing grounds is a specific legal requirement that must be met under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) Act before an application can be made for a substance to be reassessed. A reassessment is a formal review of the rules controlling a substance that is already in use in New Zealand.
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