Monsanto's Roundup Causes Cancer
The most common chemical used in Australia by farmers and gardeners to kill weeds “probably” causes cancer, according to the World Health Organisation.
The finding by the French-based International Agency for Research of Cancers that the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup glyphosate is likely to be a carcinogen has shocked the agricultural sector.
The multi-weed killer remains approved for safe use in Australia, except around waterways, and throughout the world. The federal government’s Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority has not commented on this week’s WHO finding or decided whether it plans to review the safety of glyphosate, which makes up the bulk of Australia’s $1.5 billion annual herbicide sales.
Since its invention by chemical company Monsanto in 1974, glyphosate has become the most common herbicide sprayed by all farmers worldwide, usually applied after autumn rain and before crops like wheat, barley and canola are sown to kill weeds.
Monsanto yesterday reacted with “outrage”, accusing the WHO cancer agency of “agenda- driven bias”. It claimed the ruling was inconsistent with decades of safety reviews and more than 800 studies showing glyphosate is safe for human health.
South Australian grain grower Mark Jaensch has been using Roundup and other cheaper or generic brands of glyphosate on his 500ha of crops for the past 30 years.
He is about to order another 600 litres of the herbicide today as he waits for a good autumn break on his Callington farm to signal the start of new weed growth, spraying time and, finally, crop sowing.
Ironically, his glyphosate chemical use has increased since the 1990s when he started using new “direct drilling” methods, sowing crop seeds directly into old stubble beds without the usual ploughing to control weeds in a bid to preserve soil moisture and prevent erosion, topsoil loss and dust storms.
“I’m reliant on it; we can’t put our crops in without (glyphosate), it would be hard to replace it,” Mr Jaensch said.
“But to be honest, I’m not too worried about this new (WHO warning); unless something comes out more concrete than ‘probably causes cancer’, I think it’s just scaremongering I mean it’s not even classed as a dangerous poison on the label and you can still buy it in a spray can from the supermarket.”
Mr Jaensch said the chief difference from the 30 years ago was that he was now a better and safer user of herbicides such as Roundup.
His big tractor with its air-conditioned cab has charcoal filters to prevent him breathing sprayed chemicals, laws are much stricter about under what weather and wind conditions herbicides can be used, and most farmers now must undertake a safe chemical course before being able to buy products.