Some livestock producers are joining a sector of the grain industry in rallying against a bid to legalise the use of the herbicide on late-growth crops
It’s interesting to see the division on glyphosate in the Australian farming industry. For example, Barley Australia says there is not enough evidence of safety and is concerned about the effects of glyphosate residues on exports to China.
Glyphosate debate divides grain industry, sparks concern from livestock farmers
By Danielle Grindlay
ABC, 31 Oct 2016
The glyphosate debate has divided Australian farmers, with some livestock producers joining a sector of the grain industry in rallying against a bid to legalise the use of the herbicide on late-growth crops.
Grain Producers Australia (GPA) has applied to the national regulator for a label that would allow growers to use the chemical mix – mostly commonly known as Roundup – to tackle crippling weeds in the lead up to harvest.
GPA chairman Andrew Weidemann said glyphosate was an essential tool for growers, who this year were fighting a losing battle.
"Rye grass is causing a major concern right across the major cropping belts of Australia at the moment," he said.
"And particularly with the wet season [there is] the potential for ergot - a fungus that grows on the rye grass - which has a major implication for trade with countries, such as Egypt."
The glyphosate pitch has been denounced by another peak grain body, Barley Australia, which said there was not enough evidence to show Roundup sprays were safe.
Without that proof, Barley Australia chairman Andrew Gee said traces of the herbicide in batches of grain could compromise export markets for the whole industry.
"It must be seen in the context of exports to China – we need to be very clear that we send an unambiguous signal, as to the use of glyphosate as a herbicide, into that market," he said.
"China is a very demanding market, it's a growing market and it's a very key market for the Australian barley industry for both feed and malting barleys."
Livestock producers concerned about meat residues
Some livestock producers share the same concern, saying traces of the controversial herbicide in their sheep, cattle or dairy products could also destroy trade relationships.
"Our Australian meat goes to many markets around the world and some of these countries have very tight testing regimes for residues in the meat," Victorian prime lamb producer Peter Small said.
“If feed grain has residues, it gets into the animal and then gets into the human food chain.”
"We need to be aware that there are many countries in the world now that have banned the product completely."
Mr Weidemann rejected concerns about safety and said weed issues were more likely to impact export markets than small traces of glyphosate.
Grain growers already using glyphosate illegally
Mr Weidemann admitted a large percentage of growers were already using the herbicide illegally, stressing there were no adverse impacts on grain quality or trade.
"I'm more than aware that producers of grain will be potentially using glyphosate this year in crop-topping and to mind there are no concerns for livestock producers," he said.
"In fact glyphosate is one of the safest products that can be used in the world globally today."
As for those livestock producers not sold on the same science, Mr Weidemann said they could pay a premium for their beliefs.
"If they want to receive grain without the usage pattern of glyphosate then they can clearly ask the market to provide that and pay more for it," he said.
Mr Weidemann is confident the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) will put exporters' minds at ease, stressing the regulator is charged with ensuring safety before approving the use and rate of a chemical.
Scientific study needed: Barley Australia
Mr Gee does not share the same confidence and said livestock producers' inquiries were warranted.
"We do need a proper and real scientific analysis undertaken of the impact of glyphosate, its use and its consumption in all markets, be that animal feed [or] cropping industries," he said.
"We need to get the right answer and address this scientifically and properly."
Mr Gee said the regulator's decision should be delayed at least three years while a study was undertaken.
"It would probably take a minimum of three years, being two years to actually grow two repetitive crops so we can test it," he said.
"If all goes well, probably a third year by the time the analysis is completed, remembering that if you have any kind of crop failure in one of those two years it could push it out by another year or so."
The APVMA is expected to deliver its verdict on GPA's application within the week.