Environmental group Safe Food Matters Inc. filed an application in federal court Feb. 11, challenging the re-registration of glyphosate, the active ingredient in some RoundUp herbicide products.
This follows Health Canada’s decision in January to reject eight environmental and health groups’ Notices of Objection over the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s (PMRA) decision to re-register glyphosate as an approved herbicide, after a review conducted by 20 of the department’s own scientists.
The groups, including Safe Food Matters Inc. and Friends of the Earth, had sought an independent review of the herbicide after it had been linked to incidents of cancer and there was evidence some scientific studies had been directly influenced by its then-maker Monsanto.
“We have no choice but to go to court on this issue,” Mary Lou McDonald, president of Safe Food Matters, said in a news release. “We point out to the PMRA exactly how this poison is concentrating in certain foods, and all they do is tweak the labels. The feds’ own data shows that label details aren’t followed or enforced.”
Using glyphosate in products has been widely debated across the world, with court cases, bans and restrictions happening in 27 different countries. On the Saanich Peninsula, organic farmers and larger commercial farmers also have strong points of view. Those who use glyphosate say it stops farmers using cocktails of chemicals and it is needed to make large-scale agriculture viable. Brian Hughes, who runs Kildara organic farms in North Saanich, and doesn’t use any chemical herbicides, is dismayed at glyphosate use, especially when it is sprayed on grains.
“They spray grain that’s just about ripe as it speeds up ripening and dries them out. It makes it easier to harvest but then it [glyphosate] ends up in the flour.”
Health Canada who received the Notices of Objection, said in a statement, “We have concluded that the concerns raised by the objectors could not be scientifically supported when considering the entire body of relevant data. The objections raised did not create doubt or concern regarding the scientific basis for the 2017 re-evaluation decision for glyphosate.”
Glyphosate is so popular with farmers that it is in its own sales class, outselling all other rivals. It is often used on plants and grains, and recent investigations found traces of it in a wide range of foods. However, Health Canada says that, in the context of a typical diet, the amounts are too small to pose a risk to human health.
McDonald disagrees, “PMRA estimated dietary exposures based on a 1990s American diet. Today’s diet is dramatically different. We didn’t even know what hummus was then, and now it is a mainstay. In fact, grains and pulses can be up to hundreds of times more contaminated that meat and milk.”
Health Canada denies accusations that its review was flawed and focused on old science saying they “left no stone unturned in conducting this review.”
Health Canada declined to comment on the case and specifically on Safe Food Matters Inc.’s claims, noting only that the court challenge had been filed.