Glyphosate ban relaxation draws criticism


An environmental group has criticised a government decision to relax a ban on the importation of ready-to-use glyphosate products.

The Buzz, which has been campaigning to “dramatically reduce or even eliminate” the use of systemic pesticides on the island, said it was “disappointed by this change”.

It comes after a Ministry of Seniors, Health and Environment spokesman told The Royal Gazette that the use of glyphosate herbicides, which some studies have linked to cancer, is still being reviewed.

The Buzz, which falls under the auspices of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Task Force, stated: “On February 5, 2016, prior to any testing having been conducted, a press release was issued stating that the ban was being relaxed and that the importation of ready-to-use products containing glyphosates would again be permitted.

“We were disappointed by this change especially given the Minister’s recent public expressions of concern and commitment to the health of Bermuda.”

The ministry spokesman stressed last night that the science surrounding glyphosate-based herbicides “is an evolving area that the Ministry is following closely”.

“The current interim position is based on the most recent independent studies available from November 2015, and we are working to develop local data to inform the best local solution,” he said. “It is the Department of Environmental Protection’s position, that until a final decision is made on the use of glyphosates in Bermuda, ready-to-use systemic herbicides at less than 2 per cent active ingredient pose less of a risk to humans and the environment than poorly mixed solutions made from concentrate formulas.”

A six-month ban on the importation of products containing glyphosate was announced in May last year and a study to determine the potential risk to the public from a variety of possible exposure pathways was announced earlier this month. The Ministry said it would relax the ban to allow for the importation of ready-to-use products until a “final” recommendation can be made.

While expressing disappointment in this move, The Buzz also criticised the Bermuda Government for not going further with the ban.

“We would have hoped that the design of the ban would have been extended to include any ‘use’ of the products, thinking that ongoing use during the testing period would likely interfere with the results,” the group said.

But the group also stressed that “glyphosate is only one chemical of concern that is freely available in Bermuda”, with neonicotinoids also potentially posing a threat.

“Our concern is heightened because Bermuda still does not have regulations in place for the sale, application, transportation, handling, storage and disposal of pesticides,” the group said.

“It is likely that Bermuda has neither the appetite, nor the budget, to replicate such an approach — a ban and period of testing — for each of the many chemicals currently being used on the island, let alone those chemicals that will be developed and introduced as nature ‘adapts’ and builds further resistance to current formulations.”

Since 2013, The Buzz has been looking into the island’s declining bee populations and is campaigning for the Government to end the use of systemic pesticides.

“It seems indisputable that one of the causes of the decline is the impact of toxic chemicals,” the group said. “We respectfully urge the Minister to further demonstrate her commitment to the health and wellbeing of the Bermuda people and to take bold action in protecting our environment by developing a vision for a Bermuda where the use of chemical pesticides/herbicides/fungicides is dramatically reduced or even eliminated.

“We believe that such a bold intention could add real value to the Minister’s health promotion strategy and the savings from the purchase of toxic chemicals could be redirected to developing other means of dealing with the roadside weeds and invasive species.”

The group suggests using organic treatments, allowing non-violent offenders from the prison system to control roadside weeds and invasive species, investing in a programme of soil restoration and establishing a national composting centre. Additionally, everyone could be invited to contribute their ideas and expertise to the development and promotion of the vision.

For more information, contact Kim Smith at the BEST office on 292-3782 or e-mail office@best.org.bm

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Published Feb 23, 2016 at 11:13 am (Updated Feb 23, 2016 at 11:19 am)

Glyphosate ban relaxation draws criticism

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