If you just read the headline of this article, you’re likely seething on the inside and outwardly threatening to unlike the Hobby Farms Facebook page for propagating such rubbish. Hear me out. This post is in no way meant to condone the use of synthetic herbicides or pesticides on your farm garden, but rather, highlight the latest development in the scrutiny of what is sustainable ag’s perhaps most loved chemical to hate.
This week the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in conjunction with the World Health Organization released a statement professing that glyphosate—the leading compound in Monsanto’s Roundup broad-spectrum herbicide—is likely not genotoxic (leading to cancer) at the levels found in our diets. Although they admit that high exposure to the chemical is connected to increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the general statement that we have nothing to worry about when it comes to this herbicide in our food leaves a lot of concerned farmers scratching their heads, because no less than a year ago, the WHO actually declared glyphosate to be probably carcinogenic to humans.
In an article on The Guardian, the FAO’s senior policy officer Harry van der Wulp said “the latest analysis was the most comprehensive yet, but probably not the final word on the subject”:
“These conclusions relate to exposure through the diet—that is very important. It is not a general conclusion because anything beyond the diet was not in our mandate. It remains less clear what the situation is with occupational exposure.”
This latest report backs the claims of other organizations, like the U.S. Environment Protection Agency and the European Food Safety Authority, which also point to the low toxicity of glyphosate.
However, as an article on TheEcologist.org points out, the FAO and WHO aren’t exactly giving glyphosate a clean bill of health, so don’t get your panties in a wad just yet. There are those advocating for much-needed risk assessments to be performed in order to deem the compound safe—for example, studies on how glyphosate affects people who come in contact with in in real-life situations. This is certainly something to keep in mind as the European Union’s Standing Committee of Member State representatives approaches its critical vote this week to re-approve glyphosate.
So what do you think: Will this report have an effect on agricultural policy here and abroad moving forward? Do reports such as this one affect your thoughts on Roundup usage? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below. My guess is we still have a long way to go when it comes to our understanding of this agricultural herbicide.