In 2008 the Brazilian food safety agency began re-assessing the herbicide glyphosate for safety. It still hasn't finished. Now the Federal Public Prosecutor (MPF), impatient with the delay, has filed a lawsuit to make the agency speed up its work.
In 2008, ANVISA acknowledged that there was evidence that glyphosate, which has been sold in the country since the late 1970s, is potentially harmful to health and the environment. ANVISA said glyphosate would need to pass new safety tests in order to remain on the market. Otherwise, its sale could be banned or restricted in Brazil.
The re-evaluation process involves not only ANVISA, but also the Ministry of Agriculture and the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA).
The Public Prosecutor has now requested that a deadline be set for the evaluation of glyphosate and eight other pesticide active ingredients that have come under ANVISA's suspicion. In addition, the Prosecutor seeks the suspension of sales of these products by the end of this process.
Unlike Europe's food safety agency EFSA, which appeared content to delay implementing rules to protect people from pesticide mixtures for eight years amid accusations of industry influence (http://www.pan-europe.info/News/PR/140204.html), it seems ANVISA is genuinely trying to do the right thing by the public. It was, after all, ANVISA that first blew the whistle on glyphosate's dangers. But the agency is being foiled at every turn by industry interference.
Pesticide manufacturers and industry associations have filed lawsuits to try to block the re-evaluation process. Monsanto owns half the world market share for glyphosate, the main active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. It was first released in 1974 in Malaysia and the UK. In 1978, the product was allowed to be sold in Brazil and since 1984, it has been manufactured in the country. Other companies such as Syngenta, BASF, Bayer and Dow also sell glyphosate herbicides.
Another factor that is holding things up is reportedly that ANVISA is overstretched and under-resourced.
Commenting on the above story, a Brazilian source told GMWatch:
"It's well known in Brazil that agrochemical companies use the courts to delay or block any move by ANVISA to investigate an agrochemical. In the past employees of that agency have stated that there's enormous pressure from the Ministry of Agriculture and Casa Civil [the President's office] to allow lethal agrochemicals to continue to be sold in Brazil.
"In fact, there's one particular agrochemical (emamectin benzoate) which the Ministry of Agriculture authorized last year for import, in spite of ANVISA's objection that it causes neurological problems. It was an agrochemical to be used on GM cotton crops in several states where Bt is not working any more. The Ministry of Agriculture in some situations can even override an ANVISA decision."
More background: http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2014/15365