The possible health risks of weedkiller are the subject of this Utalk. Karin in Amsterdam asks:
“The World Health Organisation has recently classified a herbicide, glyphosate, as ‘probably carcinogenic’. Is there any risk in using products containing it, such as Roundup?
Kurt Straif, of WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer responds: “You have to understand that the monographs programme are a programme of “hazard identification” that is the question: can it cause cancers in humans under some circumstances?”
“Now, your question is more to the question of risk assessment. What is the risk in low dose exposure if you use it rarely in your garden? Most of the cancer studies in humans – and that is currently the best evidence – come from farmers and other professionals applying this in agriculture.
It (glyphosate) is certainly one of the most widely used herbicides and it exists in more than 750 different products being used around the world, and it has more recently even increased in importance because it is used for gen-modified food. Just simply said, the crops are made resistant to glyphosate, and therefore glyphosate can be used widely for this gen-modified food.
“So it is purely a scientific evaluation that it can cause cancer, probably carcinogenic in humans, and it is now to other regulatory national and international agencies to take our evaluation forward and turn it into risk assessment.
“I know that in Europe there is currently the process already in its final stages, but not yet finalised, for the European Food and Safety Agency. So that talks about the glyphosate in food and the residues in food. And we will see how much they can still take our recent assessment into account for their recommendations”.