A VETERINARY pathologist has warned the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) findings on glyphosate should serve as a wake-up call for Australian agriculture.
Matt Landos, who currently works in the aquaculture industry in Port Lincoln, South Australia, says he believes the IARC findings that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic should spark a review of the pesticides approval process in Australia.
“Glyphosate is the biggest product in the market, its use is so widespread, yet there is more and more evidence of the dangers of the organophosphate pesticides, which includes glyphosate.
“I think we need to be looking at the APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority) and its procedures in terms of determining the safety of products.”
“This is just another example of the need for change in terms of the way the APVMA makes its decisions.”
Dr Landos acknowledged there had been massive productivity gains by using glyphosate, but said this may prove to be false economy on an overall level.
“If we begin to see increasing rates of cancer and the cost that puts on our health system then that could cost much more.”
However, Adam Blight, corporate affairs manager for Monsanto Australia, which produces the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, said Australians could rest assured products used here were safe.
“The APVMA conducts rigorous testing on all pesticides.
“It is technically competent and globally recognised, it is regarded as a world class regulator, so Australians can be confident the food they eat is produced in a safe way.”
However, Dr Landos said reports such as that from the IARC showed residue levels previously considered to be safe could be harmful.
“Australians need protection, and with the APVMA we have one of the slowest regulators to change in the world. With something like the insecticide endosulfan, we were the 80th country in the world to ban it.”
Dr Landos said although there was farmer outcry at the prospect of changing glyphosate regulations, he was not anti-agriculture.
“I believe we need farmers to carry on farming, not to be killed off, and the evidence is there to suggest farmers have higher rates of cancer than the general population.”
Mr Blight countered, saying he had research suggesting the opposite.
Dr Landos acknowledged changes to pesticide use would be difficult, particularly in industries dealing with bulk commodities such as grains, where premiums for low residue or organic products are less or where glyphosate boosted productivity by big margins, but said it needed to be looked at.
“We need the research and development to be looking beyond the narrow sphere of herbicides for productivity gains.”
“There’s non-chemical technologies for weed control such as microwave energy or steam application showing some promise, so we need to ensure work continues on these types of research.”