Public responses on glyphosate weedkiller published

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has publicly released the 465 responses to its call for information on glyphosate herbicide.

The EPA called for information about glyphosate last year to take another look at the chemical, says Dr Chris Hill, General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms.

It is commonly known as the active ingredient in Roundup, but 89 mixtures containing glyphosate are approved for use in New Zealand.

Members of the public contributed 48 per cent of all responses.  Professional users, such as councils, accounted for 42 per cent; 7 per cent of the responses were from organisations and 3 per cent from those involved in the supply chain. Continue reading

Extra month is added to EPA’s call for glyphosate information

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has further extended its call for information on the herbicide glyphosate.

The current closing date had been tomorrow – Friday 24 September. This has been pushed out to 5pm Friday 22 October.

“We are conscious that some individuals or organisations which may wish to provide input will have had other priorities and pressures to manage due to the COVID-19 alert level changes,” says Dr Chris Hill, General Manager of the EPA’s Hazardous Substances group.

“To ensure these parties get an opportunity to have their say, we have extended the deadline by a month.”

Glyphosate has been used as a weed killer by home gardeners, farmers, and councils in New Zealand since the 1970s. Although it is commonly known as the active ingredient in Roundup, 89 mixtures containing glyphosate have been approved for use in this country.

The EPA monitors international developments and continually reviews global research on hazardous substances, including glyphosate, and says it has no evidence that risks associated with using glyphosate, or its hazardous nature, have changed.

But it believes  the time is right to take another look at this substance.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are reviewing the classification and approval of glyphosate.  Their conclusions are set to be released in mid-2022.

It is issuing a call for information to build a greater understanding of how glyphosate-containing products are being used in New Zealand by the time the EU findings are published and to ensure it is better prepared to assess those findings.

Find out more and respond to the call for information
Read more about glyphosate

Source:  Environmental Protection Authority

EPA extends its call for information on the use of glyphosate

Hard on the heels of news that recent surveys by scientists have found half or more of arable farms and vineyards in some regions have weeds resistant to commonly used herbicides, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has extended its call for information on the herbicide glyphosate by four weeks.

The new deadline to respond is now 5 pm on Friday 24 September.

General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms, Dr Chris Hill, says the EPA wants to hear from more professional users and those involved in the supply of glyphosate.

“While we have had a good response from the public, we want to make sure importers, retailers, professional users and industry groups have had enough time to collate information and provide meaningful data. We have already received one request from a major industry group for an extension. The more information we receive the better informed we’ll be to decide what next steps to take.

“So far, professional users, industry organisations and suppliers have made up just over 40 percent of total respondents; the rest are members of the public. We have received 136 responses since we opened the call for information at the end of April.” Continue reading

New study links common herbicides and antibiotic resistance

A new study finds that bacteria develop antibiotic resistance up to 100,000 times faster when exposed to the world’s most widely used herbicides, Roundup (glyphosate) and Kamba (dicamba) and antibiotics compared to without the herbicide.

This study adds to a growing body of evidence that herbicides used on a mass industrial scale, but not intended to be antibiotics, can have profound effects on bacteria, with potentially negative implications for medicine’s ability to treat infectious diseases caused by bacteria, says University of Canterbury scientist Professor Jack Heinemann, one of the study’s authors.

“The combination of chemicals to which bacteria are exposed in the modern environment should be addressed alongside antibiotic use if we are to preserve antibiotics in the long-term,” he says.

An important finding of the new study was that even in cases where the herbicides increase the toxicity of antibiotics they also significantly increased the rate of antibiotic resistance, which the study’s authors say could be contributing to the greater use of antibiotics in both agriculture and medicine.

Previously these researchers found that exposure to the herbicide products Roundup, Kamba and 2,4-D or the active ingredients alone most often increased resistance, but sometimes increased susceptibility of potential human pathogens such as Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli depending on the antibiotic.

“We are inclined to think that when a drug or other chemical makes antibiotics more potent, that should be a good thing. But it also makes the antibiotic more effective at promoting resistance when the antibiotic is at lower concentrations, as we more often find in the environment,” Professor Heinemann says.

“Such combinations can be like trying to put out the raging fire of antibiotic resistance with gasoline.”

‘Agrichemicals and antibiotics in combination increase antibiotic resistance evolution’ was published online in the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ on 12 October.

Source: University of Canterbury

Glyphosate and the decline of honey bees – expert reaction to new research

New research from the US has found the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup could be contributing to the decline of honey bees.

Published in PNAS, the research, titled ‘Glyphosate perturbs the gut microbiota of honey bees’, found glyphosate altered the gut bacteria in bees – making them more susceptible to harmful bacteria and infections and hindering their ability to pollinate.

Better guidelines for glyphosate use are needed especially surrounding bee exposure, according to the researchers, because current guidelines assume bees are not harmed by the herbicide.

The herbicide glyphosate is expected to be innocuous to animals, including bees, because it targets an enzyme only found in plants and microorganisms, the paper says. However, bees rely on a specialized gut microbiota that benefits growth and provides defense against pathogens.

Most bee gut bacteria contain the enzyme targeted by glyphosate, but vary in whether they possess susceptible versions and, correspondingly, in tolerance to glyphosate.

Exposing bees to glyphosate alters the bee gut community and increases susceptibility to infection by opportunistic pathogens.

Understanding how glyphosate impacts bee gut symbionts and bee health will help elucidate a possible role of this chemical in colony decline.

Better guidelines for glyphosate use are needed especially surrounding bee exposure, according to the researchers, because current guidelines assume bees are not harmed by the herbicide.

The Science Media Centre has published expert comment collected by the UK and Australian Science Media Centres

Dr Andres Arce, evolutionary ecologist at Imperial College London:

“Motta et al investigated whether dietary exposure to glyphosate, a commonly used herbicide thought to have a low toxicity in animals, could alter the bacterial gut microbiome of honeybees. The bacterial microbiome plays a number of roles in keeping bees healthy, such as by helping them resist disease and process nutrients, so any pesticide induced alterations to the microbiome could indirectly affect bee health.

“The study demonstrates that the bacterial microbiota in honeybees can be altered by exposure to glyphosate. Crucially, Motta et al also demonstrate that pesticide exposure also appears to affect bee health by increasing susceptibility to a common insect pathogen. Interestingly, bees that were not exposed to the pathogen showed comparable survival to bees that were never given glyphosate.

“This study highlights how commonly used pesticides, even those marketed as being targeted at specific plants or animals, can unintentionally affect non-target organisms. It also highlights the importance of considering exposure over an extended period of time (>1 day) and the importance of multiple stressors, such as the effect of pesticide and disease. Both are typically overlooked when assessing pesticide safety and both are likely to be important in the wild.

“This study is part of a growing trend towards looking at more complex interactions between animals, their microbiome, and interacting stressors. Understanding these interactions is essential to quantify the hazards associated with pesticide use and is essential if we are to develop strategies that allow us to continue using pesticides, which are vital to modern agriculture, whilst minimising their effects on the natural world.”

Prof Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex:  

“This is a well conducted study which finds that ingestion of low concentrations of glyphosate alters the natural bacterial gut community of honeybees and makes them more susceptible to harmful pathogens. In recent years it has become increasingly apparent that gut bacteria play a vital role in maintaining good health, in organisms as diverse as bees and humans. The finding that these bacteria are sensitive to the most widely used pesticide in the world is thus concerning.

“One might wonder how bees could ever become exposed to a herbicide in the real world. Glyphosate kills plants, so contaminated flowers will soon be dead and of no interest to bees. Nonetheless, glyphosate IS sometimes found in bee food stores, at concentrations similar to those used in this study.

“Those of us that study bees have long ago come to the conclusion that colony health is adversely affected by a number if interacting stressors, including exposure to cocktails of insecticides and fungicides, impacts of pathogens, and effects of poor nutrition. It now seems that we have to add glyphosate to the list of problems that they face. This study is also further evidence that the landscape-scale application of large quantities of pesticides has negative consequences that are often hard to predict.

“It is worth noting that, although this study was of bees, these findings are highly relevant to other beneficial organisms for almost all animals harbour beneficial gut microbes.”

Dr Oliver Jones, Associate Professor of Chemistry at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia:

“This is quite a complex piece of work which investigates the effect of the pesticide Glyphosate on some of the bacteria that live in the guts of bees (the bee microbiome), rather than its effects on the bees themselves. The authors state that Glyphosate exposure can change the type of bacteria in the bee’s gut and this change may have negative effects on the bees’ overall health by, potentially, making them more susceptible to pathogens.

“The work is an interesting and novel approach. However, to my mind the doses of glyphosate used were rather high. The exposures were also relatively short so it is not known if any of the changes that were seen were short or long term. In addition, only 20% of the adult bees that were exposed to the pesticide were recovered and tested further so we don’t know what the effects on the other 80% were.

“A confusing result is that the bees exposed to the highest dose of Glyphosate seems to show far fewer effects than those exposed to a lower dose after three days. This effect was shown to be reproducible, but was not explained.

“It should perhaps be kept in mind that the paper shows only that Glyphosate can potentially interfere with the bacteria in the bee gut, not that it actually does so in the environment. There are also countries, such as Australia, where Glyphosate is used but where bees are generally doing well.

“So in short, I think the work is a potentially interesting piece of the overall puzzle of bee health, but not the whole picture.”

Dr Jones had no conflict of interest to declare.

No others were received.

Source:  Science Media Centre

EPA unfazed by health experts’ demand for glyphosate to be banned

The Environmental Protection Authority has shrugged off criticism of its processes by a group of public health experts.

Writing in the latest edition of the New Zealand Medical Journal, the experts argued the authority used unsound methodology in its comments on the herbicide glyphosate, which is used in many weedkillers including Roundup.

AgScience posted an account of their argument HERE.

Glyphosate had been criticised as probably carcinogenic by a specialist agency of the World Health Organisation but the EPA rebutted this.

In their article in the New Zealand Medical Journal, the health experts say the rebuttal was unsound.

The health scientists were led by Professor Jeroen Douwes, of the Centre for Public Health Research at Massey University in Wellington, who wants the herbicide restricted.

He and his team also want the EPA to cancel the report which clears glyphosate of serious health risks.

They say the methodology of the EPA report was not of a sufficient standard to overturn earlier findings that Glyphosate was probably carcinogenic.

But Radio New Zealand reports the authority as saying the scientists themselves have produced a deficient argument.

The EPA said the article contained very little new information and relied significantly on media references and opinion.

It acknowledged public concern around glyphosate, but said it is a scientific organisation and its decisions must be based on evidence and data.

“EPA’s decision-making processes are more extensive and complex than implied in the commentary. The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act requires us to follow a set process when considering chemicals for reassessment, which is costly.

“The process ensures we spend taxpayers’ money wisely, and that we address those chemicals which present the biggest threat to human health and our environment, in priority order,” the statement said.

The authority added glyphosate was on a watchlist, but other chemicals remained more dangerous.

“For example, paraquat (a weed killer) is currently undergoing reassessment, to be followed by chlorpyrifos (a pesticide), because both chemicals are determined to be considerably more harmful to people and our environment than glyphosate at the present time. This reflects the EPA’s commitment to protecting human health and environmental safety.”

According to an earlier Radio New Zealand report yesterday, Professor Douwes said:

“I don’t think we need glyphosate for private use and so a ban (on private gardens) could be introduced.”

He didn’t think an outright ban would be justified, but he said he did believe some signage on the packaging would be useful to raise awareness of what people are using to they can protect themselves.

He also said a ban could be considered on the use of glyphosate by local councils but it could be too soon to ban the herbicide from farms.

Call for withdrawal of EPA report on weedkiller’s links to cancer

Public health experts have criticised New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for its treatment of the herbicide glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans”. This spurred several countries to ban or restrict the herbicide’s use.

But in this country, the EPA was sceptical of the IARC’S conclusions and commissioned another report. This concluded that glyphosate was unlikely to be genotoxic or carcinogenic to humans.

The New Zealand Medical Journal now has published a critique of the EPA’s report on glyphosate which says it should be withdrawn.

The EPA argued that the difference between its report and the IARC’s arose because the IARC is a “hazard-identification authority”, whereas the EPA is a “regulatory body that needs to cast the net more widely”.

According to the abstract of the article just published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, the authors conclude that the EPA process for evaluating the carcinogenicity of glyphosate was flawed and the post hoc justification invalid. There is no mention of risk assessment or “net-benefit approach” in the EPA report and there is no discussion of current New Zealand glyphosate exposures.

Further, the EPA report quotes heavily from a European Food Safety Authority report, “which is itself markedly flawed, and like the EPA report, relies heavily on industry-funded and industry-manipulated reviews”.

Given the scientific flaws in both reports, the researchers urge that the EPA report be withdrawn; the EPA respond to the concerns raised and for a reassessment to be conducted; and clearer process and better understanding of science be used to inform any future review of hazardous substances in New Zealand.

The critique of the the EPA is reported HERE by scimex.

A post by the authors of the critique was published in SciBlogs (HERE) in August last year.


Glyphosate is the target of another report sounding health and environmental warnings

Debate about the acceptability of Monsanto’s glyphosate has been refuelled by a “state of the science” review released by Pesticide Action Network International.

The Soil and Health Association cited the review in a press statement today, describing it as the product of a large body of research documenting the adverse human health and environmental impacts of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides which (the association maintains) “underscores the need for these to be phased out globally”.

The association is one of several environmental and health advocates which say the monograph on the world’s most widely used herbicide, commonly known as Roundup, should serve as a wake up call for regulators, governments and users around the world.

These advocates say the adverse human impacts detailed in the review include acute poisoning, kidney and liver damage, imbalances in the intestinal microbiome and intestinal functioning, cancer, genotoxicity, endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental reduction, neurological damage, and immune system dysfunction.

The association’s press statement says:

“Aggressive public relations and marketing by glyphosate’s developer, Monsanto, has resulted in the widespread perception that the chemical is ‘safe’. Registration processes continue to allow its use without raising concerns about its safety even as new data identifying adverse effects emerge.

“This review dispels the so-called safety claims and highlights the urgent need to re-examine the authorization of products containing glyphosate. A full chemical profile is presented, along with the regulatory status of products containing glyphosate in many countries and information on viable alternatives.

The association’s press statement also refers to  the 2015 classification by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.

Just a few weeks ago, however, a peer-reviewed study by four independent expert panels dismissed the IARC’s  conclusion that the weedkiller was “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

The 16 experts concluded:

“The data do not support IARC’s conclusion that glyphosate is a ‘probable human carcinogen’ and, consistent with previous regulatory assessments, further concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans.”

The panel’s findings are consistent with the conclusions of regulatory authorities around the world.

Since IARC classified glyphosate, regulatory authorities in the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Australia have publicly reaffirmed that glyphosate does not cause cancer.

Most recently, the US Environmental Protection Agency reiterated its conclusion that glyphosate should be classified as “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans”.

In May , the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) again concluded that glyphosate “is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet”.

In this country, a report on glyphosate commissioned by the Environmental Protection Authority was released late in August. It says the broad-spectrum herbicide is unlikely to be carcinogenic and should not be classified as a mutagen or carcinogen….

The executive summary says:

The majority of human studies did not show an association between exposure to glyphosate and cancer. Although a small number of studies with a limited number of participants [used by WHO’s IARC committee in its decision that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”] found a weak association between glyphosate exposure and increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), others did not”. The studies that found no association between glyphosate exposure and NHL included the largest and most reliable, which included over 50,000 participants… “Based on the inconsistency in the results of the studies on glyphosate exposure and NHL, and the lack of any association in the largest, most robust study, it was concluded that there is no convincing evidence of an association between glyphosate exposure and the development of cancer in humans.

According to a report in GM Watch, the Pesticide Action Network International review has been published ahead of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s meetings on the safety of the chemical later this month.

The European Chemicals Agency is also expected to make a recommendation on glyphosate, which will inform the EU’s decision on whether to ban, restrict, or re-approve the chemical without restrictions.