“It does what it's supposed to do, but my god it's doing something to us as farmers”
In the wake of the World Health Organisation’s verdict that glyphosate herbicides probably can cause cancer, a CropLife Australia representative (pesticide industry lobby) is quoted in the article below attacking the WHO as “irresponsible”.
That designation clearly should be applied to those companies that have manufactured and marketed Roundup.
In contrast, the farmer who believes his wife’s cancer has been caused by exposure to Roundup comes across as the voice of reason.
Call for inquiry into glyphosate after World Health Organisation cancer claim
Joshua Becker, Sally Bryant
ABC.net (Australia), 1 April 2015
There's a call for more stringent chemical hygiene on farms after it was found glyphosate is a "probable carcinogen".
The World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer recently declared it is probable that glyphosate, commonly found in herbicides, is carcinogenic to humans.
Ron Snape is a beef producer in south west New South Wales, whose wife has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
He said he believes the long term use of herbicides containing glyphosate may have caused the cancer.
"When we sat down with our specialist haematologist up in Canberra, before he asked who we were, or what we did as in income, he said 'farmers lymphoma'," Mr Snape said.
"He said 'what's your occupation?' and he went on to say farmers were over-represented amongst people with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"He went on to say 'it must be something you are doing as [a] farmer'."
Mr Snape said the finding has made him question the safety of chemicals like Round Up that have the active ingredient of glyphosate.
"We were assured by the chemical manufacturer at the time that this was so safe you could drink it, well bugger me, it's not safe and as farmers, we have to have a look at our chemical hygiene a lot better than what we are doing," he said.
"We're just so blasé as farmers sometimes.
"It's easy, it's a very good chemical, it does what it's supposed to do, but my god it's doing something to us as farmers.
"It's shocking for me because I was the one that was using it.
"I've basically done something unknowingly that's done something that impacted on my wife in such a dramatic way."
In the WHO article reviewers cited three studies that suggested that people exposed to glyphosate had a higher incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
But it also references a detailed American study which found that there was no link between the two.
Until the final monograph is released it is difficult to evaluate the conclusions reached by the WHO agency.
Professor Jack Ng from the National Centre for Environmental Toxicology at the University of Queensland said this is a rigorous study and it is the role of the WHO to weigh up all the evidence.
"The group of experts would have to consider negative results as well as positive results," he said.
"They put weight of evidence on the experiment, the design, the approach and the robustness of the study.
"And obviously in this case the positive result outweighed the negative results and hence they formed that opinion."
The herbicide industry has been quick to criticise the report.
Matthew Cossey of Crop Life Australia, the group representing agricultural chemical manufacturers, said the report is irresponsible and could lead to a knee jerk policy response.
"I think it's a little irresponsible." he said.
"I know that farmers know this product is safe, this report needs to be taken in to context, to be recognised that it's not really robust and that some of the conclusions are hard to justify."
However Mr Snape wants an inquiry into glyphosate.
"The WHO is not a crackpot organisation is it? It's right on the money here, we definitely have to have an inquiry into this," he said.
"We have to be sure that what we are using is not detrimental to our health, our family's health or our neighbours' health.
"There is so much evidence that farmers are getting these type of cancers, we can't sweep it under the carpet, don't pretend it's [not] there, let's do it."