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Gov’t considers Roundup ban amid cancer fears

Published:Monday | March 4, 2019 | 12:00 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer

Amid growing local concerns over the safety of Roundup, the most popular weedkiller in the world, Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw said that an investigation has been launched to determine whether Jamaica should impose a ban on its importation and use.

“It is a cause for great concern and, in fact, already we initiated [an investigation] and requested information about the extent to which it continues to be imported into Jamaica with a view to banning it ... . It is a potentially serious matter, as you can imagine,” Shaw told The Gleaner last Friday.

Jamaican farmers have been getting increasingly worried about whether the glyphosate-based herbicide is safe to use, as the manufacturer of the weedkiller is once again facing allegations that its product causes cancer.

Agro-chemical company Bayer Monsanto was last year ordered to pay US$289 million in damages to an American, 46-year-old former groundsman Dewayne Johnson, who claimed that the product caused his cancer and that the corporation failed to warn him of the health hazards from exposure.

Speaking to The Gleaner last week, Jamaica Agricultural Society President Lenworth Fulton said that while the organisation is particularly concerned about Roundup, it is also critical of other chemicals on the market.

“We do not know behind the scenes what is happening. We only see chemicals coming through various companies and they recommend their use to our farmers, so we are in the dark. And I must tell you, I have been the CEO of RADA (Rural Agricultural Development Authority) as well, where we hear [how] farmers suffered from various chemicals, and it has never been followed up to know whether it’s true.

“So it’s very, very important that we have follow-up on these things because the cancer rate in this country is alarmingly high and we have no true information,” Fulton said, adding that Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the island.

Tamara Morrison, registrar of the Pesticides Control Authority (PCA), said that the agency is aware of the recent developments and indicated that a review of the herbicide is pending.

She said Jamaica cannot arbitrarily place a ban on Roundup, which is still available for purchase at farm supplies stores across the island.

“We are also guided by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization). They did not ban it widespread. It’s different countries that would have to look at it individually and to see what replacements there are before they actually pull something from the market. So there are a number of things that go in the review.”

She is urging individuals who use chemicals to follow the safety guidelines.

“The PCA is guided that the label is the law and the label should be adhered to and proper protective gear should be used when using all these chemicals.”

More than 11,000 people in the United States are suing Monsanto for health-related illnesses from using Roundup and Ranger Pro.