Is weedkiller a cancer threat?

YOU don’t have to be a member of Greenpeace to understand that chemicals thought of as game-changers when introduced — DDT or Thalidomide say — might, in the fullness of time, be viewed differently. The law of unintended consequences applies to chemicals in a very forceful way.

A decision is needed about whether we can continue to use glyphosate — Roundup — in crop management. One arm of the WHO has ruled that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans”. However, another arm concluded it is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans”. So, for the moment, it is a case of buyer beware. Clarification is urgently needed.

Despite that conflict, Ireland last year supported a renewal of glyphosate use across the EU for 15 years. Sanity intervened and approval was granted for just 18 months. It is impossible at this stage to make a definitive ruling but prudence suggests we might minimise our exposure to the weedkiller.

Today’s investigation, however, raises two domestic issues. Department of Agriculture correspondence — which might have been prepared differently had the author anticipated publication — suggests the Department is an official lobby for the farm sector rather than a representative of all citizens. This cannot continue.

The investigation also shows that the Department of Health has no role in considering farm chemicals even though they may or may not be carcinogenic. This is reckless and exposes us all dangerously.



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