Health Canada is looking into re-labelling glyphosate, a popular weed killer. The agency found that more caution could be taken to ensure that agricultural workers were not overexposed to it.
By: Robin Levinson King Staff Reporter, Published on Tue Apr 14 2015
Health Canada is looking into how it labels glyphosate, the most popular weed killer in the world.
Under the name-brand Roundup, glyphosate has come to dominate the herbicide market, earning its maker Monsanto Co. millions of dollars. Health Canada said it’s the most widely used herbicide for many of Canada’s biggest cash crops, such as canola, soybean, field corn and wheat, and insists it is safe to use.
Nonetheless, the health authority announced on Monday that it will begin public consultations to update the product label to reduce human and environmental exposure.
“Products containing glyphosate acid are unlikely to affect your health when used according to label directions,” read the consultation summary provided by Health Canada.
But the agency is recommending a number of changes to the label, including:
Health Canada’s consultation report comes after a re-evaluation of the product in partnership with the United State’s Environmental Protection Agency.
But the report also comes on the heels of scathing warning from the World Health Organization. On March 31, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for the Research on Cancer reclassified the product as “probably carcinogenic.”
“For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” the WHO report read. The WHO report is based on studies of mostly agricultural exposures in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. The WHO also concluded that there is “sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals” based partly off of a1985 study with mice conducted by the EPA. However, in 1991, the EPA reversed its findings, and changed its classification to “evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans.”
“We don’t know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe,” said Philip Miller, Monsanto’s Vice President Global Regulatory Affairs after WHO’s findings were released.
For its part, Health Canada has disagreed with WHO’s findings, and said that WHO did not take into account the level of human exposure when determining if the product is carcinogenic.
“It is important to note that a hazard classification is not a health risk assessment,” the consultation report read. “Pesticides are registered for use in Canada only if the level of exposure to Canadians does not cause any harmful effects, including cancer.”
Health Canada found that normal exposure to the chemical was safe, with chronic dietary exposure for the general population was estimated at 30 per cent of the acceptable daily intake.
But the agency’s revue did find that more caution could be taken to ensure that agricultural workers were not overexposed.
Under the suggested new label, the product would include a warning that it is “toxic to nontarget species.”
Health Canada also said labels need to introduce “spray buffer zones” to protect plants and aquatic plants.
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