Canada, France head in different directions on glyphosate

Health Canada says it stands by its earlier re-evaluation of the herbicide, finding it safe for labelled use

The Canadian federal health department says it continues to have no concerns about the safety of the glyphosate herbicide after it reviewed eight notices of objection received after it released its final re-evaluation decision on glyphosate in April 2017.

The objections were filed with Health Canada in June and July that year by individuals and on behalf of groups including Safe Food Matters, Right On Canada, Environmental Defence Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation, among others.

Why it matters: Glyphosate is a widely used, safer herbicide than others on the market. Its effectiveness makes it a favourite tool for farmers to control weeds.

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Health Canada said its scientists “assessed the validity of any studies” raised in the objections, “to determine whether any of the issues raised would influence the results of the assessment and the associated regulatory decision.”

The department also noted “concerns raised publicly about the validity of some of the science around glyphosate in what is being referred to as the Monsanto Papers.”

However, 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.”

Furthermore, the department said, “the objections raised did not create doubt or concern regarding the scientific basis for the 2017 re-evaluation decision for glyphosate.”

That re-evaluation, launched back in late 2009 as per routine federal practice for registered pesticides in Canada, ruled in 2017 that products containing glyphosate are “not a concern to human health and the environment” when used following updated label directions.

Health Canada’s “overall finding” from its re-examination of glyphosate found the product is “not genotoxic and is unlikely to pose a human cancer risk.”

Dietary exposure, via food or drinking water, associated with the use of glyphosate is “not expected to pose a risk of concern to human health,” the department said at the time.

Health Canada said its scientists “left no stone unturned in conducting this review,” having access to “all relevant data and information from federal and provincial governments, international regulatory agencies, published scientific reports and multiple pesticide manufacturers. This includes the reviews referred to in the Monsanto Papers.”

It also had access to “numerous individual studies and raw scientific data during its assessment of glyphosate, including additional cancer and genotoxicity studies.”

To help ensure an “unbiased assessment” of the information, Health Canada said, it chose a group of 20 of its own scientists, none of whom were involved in the 2017 re-evaluation, to evaluate the eight notices of objection.

In France, however, a court has banned the use of one glyphosate product.

The French court cancelled the licence Jan. 15 over safety concerns, placing an immediate ban on Roundup Pro 360 in the latest legal blow to the Bayer-owned business.

A court in Lyon in southeast France ruled that the approval granted by French environment agency ANSES in 2017 for Roundup Pro 360 had failed to take into account potential health risks.

Bayer, which said it disagreed with the decision and was considering its legal options, has cited regulatory rulings as well as scientific studies that found glyphosate to be safe.

The French court said ANSES had not respected a precautionary principle in French law, notably by not conducting a specific evaluation of health risks for Roundup Pro 360.

– With files from Reuters

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