Dept still assessing 'probable' cancer-causing herbicide

2015-05-24 10:01
Poison sign from Shutterstock

Poison sign from Shutterstock

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Johannesburg - The Department of Agriculture is still determining whether a compound in about 100 locally used pesticides, and that has been found by an international agency to "probably" cause cancer, will have to be regulated.

"In its recent evaluation in March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), as the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organisation (WHO), came to the conclusion that there is limited evidence of possible carcinogenicity associated with glyphosate, which could result in non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans," it said.

"The IARC concluded that glyphosate should now be classified as a carcinogenic substance in Group 2A which means that it is probably carcinogenic to humans."

The department said that following the publication of the IARC's report there had been public concerns raised about "human exposure" to glyphosate.

‘Robust assessment process’

"There are about 100 products containing glyphosate currently registered for use in South Africa. Glyphosate has been registered for use in South Africa and all over the world for over 40 years," it said.

"All glyphosate-based products that are registered for use in South Africa have been through a robust chemical risk assessment process. Based on current risk assessments, glyphosate poses a minimal risk to users and the general public, provided it is used according to label instructions and safety statements."

It said this was in agreement with other risk assessments conducted by the United States' Environmental Protection Agency, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and the European Food Safety Authority.

"The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, however, takes the IARC’s findings very seriously and will examine the data and assessment done for the IARC classification and determine whether any regulatory action is necessary."

The IARC classifies substances and certain professions on a scale of how much it could be carcinogenic.

Group 1 is for those things that are definitely carcinogenic to humans, while 2A is "probably" carcinogenic and 2b "possibly" carcinogenic.  Group 3 is not classifiable and 4 is probably not carcinogenic to humans.

Most widely used herbicide

Glyphosate is possibly that most widely used herbicide in the world.

The results of the IARC findings have been criticised by certain international agrochemical companies, including biotech company Monsanto whose herbicide Roundup was one of the first commercially available products containing glyphosate.

Monsanto is often the target of environmental activists and according to reports tens of thousands of people around the world, including in South Africa, protested on Saturday, particularly against the company's use of glyphosate.

Read more on:    health and safety  |  health

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