Science Writing: European Union votes to keep Glyphosate.

This is the second piece of writing for the science writing course. I used the Nature article and information from Science Media center as my sources.

European Union votes to keep Glyphosate: Weed control tool at risk.

The European Union has voted to extend the use of glyphosate for a further five years in the face of broad public controversy about the herbicide’s safety. Glyphosate the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup is the most heavily used modern herbicide thought essential for high yield agriculture. In response to this ruling, Professor Ian Crute, of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board said, “For more than 40 years, glyphosate has enabled environmentally-beneficial tillage practices in arable agriculture globally through highly effective control of damaging perennial weeds. Although the original request was to give a license for the chemical’s use for ten years, this decision removes a significant threat to the competitiveness of European farmers who can now breathe a sigh of relief.”

This ruling is controversial. Although the European Food and the European Chemicals Agency, have concluded there is little evidence of danger from glyphosate. In March 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization Safety Authority, reported that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic in people” and that there is “convincing evidence” that cancer is caused, in experimental animals, following exposure to the chemical.

A European Citizens’’ Initiative petition to ban the use of glyphosate collected more than 1.3 million signatures and the French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to respond by committing to ban Roundup in France.

Grassroots campaigns and politically driven statements, such as these, are building a sense of fear, uncertainty and doubt for the public around the use of glyphosate. This is deeply concerning farmers who stand to lose a valuable tool in weed control.
On the meantime, the Glyphosate Task Force, which represents 22 glyphosate manufacturers in the EU, complained that the vote “categorically ignored scientific advice (and was) mainly influenced by public opinion and driven by politics”.

One important study large study showing no link between glyphosate and cancer in humans was not included in the IARC report because, at the time, it had not yet been published. That study, which tracked the health of tens of thousands of farmers, agricultural workers and their families in Iowa and North Carolina starting in the 1990s, was published earlier this month.

Typical of scientist’s views on the decision is Dr. Christopher Connolly, Reader in Neurobiology at the University of Dundee who stated that “The evidence on the risk to human health from glyphosate is highly controversial, making it difficult for politicians to make a sound science-based decision. We must make the next five years count, so that an evidence-based decision may be made at the end of this period. What is needed urgently is a completely unbiased review of the evidence against glyphosate, bearing in mind the level of exposure. Such evidence must come from a reputable source such as the International Unions of Pharmacologists and Toxicology (IUPHAR).”

In any case, the decision by the EU represents a five-year window for scientists to address the fears the public have.

For now, European farmers can continue using glyphosate.

About sustainabilityandbeauty

My passion is telling the stories of possibility, seeking a sustainable and beautiful future. My training is in science, chemistry, environmental science and teaching.
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