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French ban on pesticide not likely to affect local sales

Published:Monday | June 15, 2015 | 2:13 PMChristopher Serju

The decision by France to ban over-the-counter sales of the very popular weedkiller, Roundup, because it could probably cause cancer, is not likely to affect its sale and distribution in Jamaica, where its is widely used by farmers.

"I have asked garden centres to stop putting Monsanto's Roundup on sale in self-service aisles," French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal announced on Sunday via television. That decision was informed by the announcement in March by the United Nation's International Agency for Research on Cancer, that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is "probably" carcinogenic.

The agency's evaluation of glyphosate saw "limited evidence" of a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, as seen in studies in the United States, Sweden and Canada conducted among farm workers since 2001.

Manufacturer, Monsanto, strongly contested this finding, contending that "relevant, scientific data was excluded from review", and insisting that all labelled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health and supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health databases ever compiled on an agricultural product.

"In fact, every glyphosate-based herbicide on the market meets the rigorous standards set by regulatory and health authorities to protect human health," it added.

Meanwhile, Michael Ramsay, registrar of the Pesticides Control Authority (PCA), told The Gleaner that the registration of the pesticide and its approval for and use locally followed rigorous evaluation.

Approved at the time

"We determined this a long time ago, though, that it didn't seem to pose any more of a risk, based on the information we had at the time, than some of the other herbicides and insecticides. And the fact that the agricultural sector needed the herbicide then, we recommended to the (PCA) board that it would be continued to be approved for use in Jamaica," Ramsay explained.

He continued: "But as new studies come, it gives us impetus to look at it again, but we haven't at this time decided to take another look at it yet."

Ramsay said that the regulatory agency was not likely to receive any official correspondence on the ban.

"What may happen is that, if something is not approved for use in the United States or in Europe, if it's going to be exported to Jamaica, then they will send down an advisory telling us that it is going to be shipped and giving us the company that wants to import it and then we have the decision to make as to whether we act on it or not."