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Dismay that weedkiller ban may be lifted

Environment group BEST has expressed its disappointment that the ban on weedkiller Rodeo could be lifted.

Products containing concentrated levels of glyphosate “present the greatest risk to everyone”, warned the campaigners, who urged the Bermuda Government to keep the suspension in place until a new training programme is up and running for those who use it. They were reflecting on a new report, commissioned by Government, which recommended lifting the ban from Rodeo as there were no significant adverse health effects detected from its use.

BEST did praise the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources for carrying out testing on glyphosate exposure and its breakdown products in drinking water, aquatic environment and food supplies.

It said in a statement: “BEST is disappointed with the recommendation to lift the ban on concentrated glyphosate formulations as these concentrated products present the greatest risk for overuse.

“We appreciate that DENR and the Department of Health have provided a commitment to monitor human exposure limit standards in other developed jurisdictions, and applaud the strong recommendation that concentrated pesticide formulations be controlled and limited to use by trained personnel, along with annual health assessments for personnel performing pesticide application.

“We encourage retention of the ban until the new training programme is up and running.”

The study led by environmental engineer Geoff Smith was initiated to address concern over the exposure risk from spraying to the public and employees of the Government roadside weed control programme.

BEST stated: “While the results will take some time to evaluate, it is clear that this pesticide and its degradation products were found in most of the samples and there are multiple exposure routes.

“It‘s good news that the study finds that exposure levels are within regulatory limits set by other countries, but as can be seen the levels thought safe, for example for drinking water, can differ quite widely.

“We feel this reflects the ongoing debate across the world about the health implications of exposure to multitudes of pesticides and that for glyphosate the jury is still out. Recent examples include the issues around recertification of glyphosate by the EU, and the scientific debate at this month’s EPA FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel meeting that considered numerous research studies of glyphosate and links to cancer.

“We also recognise the ofttimes successful pressure by Monsanto and other chemical producing companies to influence the work of agencies such as the US EPA and similar European and world health agencies.

“We note that a number of countries have decided that the research supports the banning of glyphosate, and many more have severely restricted its use and have implemented Integrated Pest Management as a way to reduce pesticide use in general. Often restrictions start in public areas, hospitals and schools where exposure has the potential to do the most harm.”

BEST said it applauds the plan for certified pesticide applicators to be required to perform risk assessments for each type of pesticide application, and the use of an Integrated Pest Management approach to determine when and if pesticide use is actually needed.

It continued: “BEST encourages the Government to explore further the IPM concept to assess whether a more concerted IPM policy, similar to the one recently introduced in St Helena, would be beneficial for Bermuda.

“This type of policy could provide an excellent framework for the remaining recommendations in the report, including ongoing monitoring of pesticide impacts, approval of alternative weed control processes, and the development of a communication plan and stakeholder input.”

A public meeting on the study will take place at Wesley Methodist Church Hall on Thursday, January 12, at 5.30pm.