Friends of the Earth, Prevent Cancer Now and seven other activist groups visited Ottawa Jan. 30 in an ultimately doomed attempt to persuade Parliament to back an independent review on the herbicide glyphosate. Since then, there has been renewed debate about the use of herbicides in Canada, including on the Saanich Peninsula.
The controversy stems from the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s original decision in 2017 to re-register glyphosate for 15 years, as the herbicide has been blamed for causing cancer and damaging the human gut microbiome by various scientists and environmental organizations around the world.
Some Roundup products, often used by Canadian farmers, contain broad-spectrum glyphosate-based herbicide as the active ingredient.
Brian Hughes of Kildara Farms, described as “one of the most knowledgeable organic farmers on the Peninsula,” does not use herbicides or pesticides and says plant immunity is pushing farmers to use multiple weed killers again.
“The more that glyphosate gets used, the weeds get immune to it and you have to use more of it, more often and use it in combination with other herbicides.”
Glyphosate is often used on plants and grains, and recent investigations found traces of it in a wide range of foods, such as Cheerios and Oreos. However, Health Canada says the amounts are too small to pose a risk to human health.
A statement from Health Canada said, “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.”
Friends of the Earth are unhappy as they believe Health Canada and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s potentially based their decisions on an incomplete scientific picture, not taking into account recent science and not looking closely enough at the Monsanto Papers – a sheaf of documents that seemed to suggest Roundup’s original producer Monsanto (now Bayer) tried to influence scientific studies. They say that there is a conflict of interest as Health Canada used their own scientists to conduct the review of their decision to re-register glyphosate.
“It is unacceptable to allow any government agency to be the sole judge of its own actions. It’s like Dracula in charge of the blood bank,” said Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth. “Apparently, Monsanto has not only polluted Canada’s environment but also our regulatory process,” she added.
Health Canada denies the accusation and says its scientists, “left no stone unturned in conducting this review.”
Back on the Saanich Peninsula, Hughes said consumers increasingly care about how their food is produced.
“People want to know where their food is coming from. It’s become a trust thing,” he said.