Glyphosate impact debated

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By DAVID HILL

The Waimakariri District Council is to seek advice from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, as seeks to make sense of conflicting reports of the risks posed by glyphosate.

Last week the council requested staff to write to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, after advice from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ministry of Health confirmed there is uncertainty among international scientists.

A March 2015 study by International Agency for Research on Cancer reported that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”, while a subsequent study by the World Health Organisation suggested it was “unlikely”.

“How does the Waimakariri district deal with contradictory reports? In something like this we probably won’t get a scientist to say anything more than ‘probable’ or ‘unlikely’ because further studies may show something else,” Mayor David Ayers says.

A recent review by the EPA has also indicated glyphosate is “unlikely to be genotoxic or carcinogenic to humans and does not require classification under HSNO (Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act) as a carcinogen or mutagen”.

The Christchurch City Council has decided not to use glyphosate “because of carcinogenic concerns”.

Mr Ayers said the Waimakariri District Council’s interest in the glyphosate stems from concerns raised by the Kaiapoi Community Board about the impact of spraying in the vicinity of water ways and in particular the Kaiapoi River, rather than concerns of glyphosate being carcinogenic.

However, the possible carcinogenic risk also needed to be considered, he said.

Concerns were expressed of a “die-back” of aquatic life in the Kaiapoi River during the 2012 to 2016 period, however initial Canterbury University studies indicated this was more likely to have been caused by the earthquakes rather than glyphosate.

For now glyphosate spraying is continuing in the Waimakariri district, but there will be further tests will be done to monitor the impact on the Kaiapoi River.

Glyphosate can be found in products like Round-up and in a number of different brands.

“For people who are working in that industry, they will need to take precautions, whereas for home garden use it may be quite different,” Mr Ayers says.