‘Glyphosate Based Herbicides Is Evolving Area’

February 23, 2016

The Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment said the “science surrounding glyphosate based herbicides is an evolving area that the Ministry is following closely,” adding that “it is the Department of Environmental Protection’s position that, until a final decision is made on the use of glyphosates in Bermuda, Ready To Use systemic herbicides at less than 2% active ingredient pose less of a risk to humans and the environment than poorly mixed solutions made from concentrate formulas [48%].”

The full statement is below:

The Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment stresses that the science surrounding glyphosate based herbicides is an evolving area that the Ministry is following closely. The current interim position is based on the most recent independent studies available from November 2015, and we are working to develop local data to inform the best local solution.

1.      Question on banning systemic herbicides

There are two families of herbicides, contact and systemic. Both have a place in weed management.  A Contact herbicide tends to act quickly, killing the portion of the weed it is sprayed on.  They are useful for annual weeds. Systemic herbicides absorb into the system of the plant. These type tend to take longer than contact herbicides but kill the whole plant, even the hard to reach roots; usually on one application. Systemic herbicides are generally very effective against hard-to-remove perennial weeds.

Systemic herbicides tend to be more thorough, able to kill larger weeds and result in the need for less applications, than contact weed treatments.

Regardless of type of herbicide the Department of Environmental Protection evaluates each pesticide on a case by case basis for their acute toxicity, long term health effect and environmental impact, taking into consideration necessity of use and the applicators training.

 2.      Ongoing glyphosate research

The Department of Environmental Protection has been tasked with the development of a study to better understand the level of risk to the public from various potential exposure pathways.

The question of whether glyphosate is present in Bermuda’s environment has proven to be extremely complicated to address. None of the testing for glyphosate can be done locally and even in the US it has proven to be a challenge to find the right combination of laboratories to test for the presence of glyphosate, their surfactants and their break down products. However these laboratories have now been identified and  the study is on track for completion in July 2016.

The study will only look for presence of these chemicals and not establish whether these products are carcinogenic. There are a number of contradictory studies on the issues associated with Glyphosate. The International Agency for Research on Cancer [IARC], the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization [WHO] study that prompted the original ban to import Glyphosate found that the formulation of Roundup is probably carcinogenic. However the subsequent European Food Safety Authority EFSA study in November 2015 reported that the chemical glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans. As such the Department has made sure to include in the Bermuda study the surfactants found in both Roundup and Rodeo. For clarity Rodeo is made by DOW and used by the Ministry of Public Works on the roadsides, rather than Roundup which is made by Monsanto.

3.      Stakeholder consultation

The finalizing of the study dictated the timing of the public/stakeholder meeting.

The Department has been in ongoing  discussion with a number of stakeholders including various Government departments and the Bermuda Farmers Association.

The resulting glyphosate monitoring strategy was presented to the Environmental Authority at their meeting on Thursday 28th January. Subsequently a press release was made to the media on the 2nd February. This press release was the basis of discussion with both a visiting Monsanto Group on the 3rd February and  the public meeting on the 5th February.

The Ministry is committed to open dialogue with all stakeholders to ensure balanced decision making regarding the use of herbicides, in order to ensure the minimum impact to humans and the environment, while addressing the need for effective weed control.

4.      Interim recommendation

The Ministry recognizes that there is a critical need to manage the island’s weeds. The Plant Protection Laboratory has been reviewing potential alternatives and likely candidates will be trialed with the assistance of other government agencies. Further the Department will encourage the development of integrated pest management programs, which look to use a variety of mechanical and chemical  means to manage Bermuda’s invasive plant problem.

It is the Department of Environmental Protection’s position that, until a final decision is made on the use of glyphosates in Bermuda, Ready To Use systemic herbicides at less than 2% active ingredient pose less of a risk to humans and the environment than poorly mixed solutions made from concentrate formulas [48%].

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Comments (3)

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  1. sage says:

    You are more concerned with mollycoddling monsanto marketers than erring on the side of caution. Put some in a glass and drink it, if it’s so harmless.

    • inna says:

      Exactly. I wonder what the Ministry’s response will be when there are no more weeds around to kill! Or birds, or fish or whistling frogs and lizards.

      There is nothing good old fashioned manual labour and a hoe can’t fix!

  2. Kathy says:

    This Ministry is getting on my nerves. The same response with plastic bags – “well, we don’t want to ban plastic bags because the alternative bags that are primarily made from corn have not yet been proven to be safe in the marine environment”

    WAKE UP!!! This mentality DEFIES LOGIC!!! What percentage of our total plastic bags end up in the marine environment and what percentage end up in our smoke stack? Isn’t it better to have a bag that is 100% compostable than not?

    Dept of Environment, we are expecting MUCH MUCH more out of you!!! YOU serve US!!!!!!!!