By Connor Lynch
Health Canada announced last month it was standing by its approval of glyphosate, arguing that objections raised against the herbicide last year by environmental groups aren’t supported by science.
Grain Farmers of Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture agreed. Health Canada has defended a valuable tool for farmers on good scientific principles, said OFA president Keith Currie: “(Glyphosate) is a very useful tool for us. We want to make sure it’s the right tool, and scientific research has led to the decision.”
“We have concluded that the concerns raised by the objectors could not be scientifically supported when considering the entire body of relevant data,” the Health Canada report said. “Our scientists left no stone unturned in conducting this review.”
Last year, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) issued its re-approval of glyphosate, the active component of Monsanto’s Round-Up herbicide, after reviewing more than 1,300 studies. A number of environmental groups, including the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice, objected, arguing that the agency was ignoring credible evidence of danger. Eight objections were filed in total, which Health Canada was obliged to respond to.
Objections to glyphosate, a popular herbicide used on many crops, including corn and soybeans, were raised globally after the World Health Organization in 2015 called glyphosate a probable carcinogen.
Farmers and scientists erupted in anger. But Health Canada has sided with farmers again.
Toxicology expert Dr. Len Ritter said that the World Health Organization’s announcement back in 2015 that glyphosate was a probable carcinogen left many scratching their heads. “It’s a bit surprising that, 45 years after it was introduced, they class it a probable carcinogen, considering it had been the most-used herbicide in the world.”
As for the Health Canada decision, Ritter said it was the right one, long overdue. “(It) wasn’t really new. It’s what everybody has been saying all around the world for 2.5 years.”
An analysis by 20 Health Canada scientists concluded that glyphosate is safe. “A team of 20 of our best scientists reviewed the evidence before coming to this decision,” said Health Canada spokesman Thierry Belair.
Glyphosate has been a regular feature in the news. Last year, CTV News ran the headline: “Weed-killing chemical found in pasta, cereal and cookies sold in Canada: Study.” Many farmers weren’t pleased. “This is super disappointing that you ran a story (with click bait) from activists whose study is to do one thing — create fear about agriculture and how my family and I farm,” wrote Saskatchewan crop farmer Lesley Kelly.
In the United States, the story of the herbicides has ups and downs. In California, a judge ruled the state couldn’t label glyphosate as cancer-causing. However, a California groundskeeper was awarded $289 million after his lawyers argued his terminal cancer had been caused by Round-Up. Those lawyers have since argued Canada is wrong to allow the use of glyphosate. The court decision was excoriated in a Washington Post editorial, which wrote that the World Health Organization’s decision to consider glyphosate “probably carcinogenic” was not supported by science. Said the Post: “Its risk assessments suggest that working as a barber or hairdresser is only slightly less hazardous than being exposed to mustard gas.”