Gov't urges caution in use of popular herbicide

Thursday, April 25, 2019

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THE Ministry of Agriculture has issued a warning to farmers, gardeners, and other users of the popular herbicide products under the Roundup label, to ensure that the products are used correctly and in proper quantities.

The caution was issued by Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw yesterday as he responded to concerns that the products are cancer-causing. At the same time, he said all the international studies examined by local authorities so far to ascertain whether the product is carcinogenic have been inconclusive.

“We must exercise the greatest level of care and due diligence in assessing any likely risk associated with this herbicide, so it's important that our farmers understand that sometimes when something is deleterious and destructive it is because we don't follow the rules on the appropriate use of the product. I am appealing to our farmers, landscapers, gardeners, all stakeholders who use this product to exercise the greatest level of care. Use it wisely if you must and please adhere to all the instructions for correct usage as printed on the label,” Shaw told a post-Sectoral debate press conference at the ministry's Hope Gardens headquarters in St Andrew, yesterday.

The agriculture minister said international studies conducted to ascertain whether the product is carcinogenic or not have proven inconclusive, although a few studies have pointed to few cancer-causing problems. A local 2016 review of international research findings found that seven out of nine studies pointed to inconclusiveness regarding any cancer-causing effect of Roundup.

Notwithstanding the inconclusiveness of the majority of studies, some 25 countries including two in the Caribbean have now either restricted the use of or banned Roundup products.

But Shaw said it would be premature to move to ban the herbicide. “It would be absolutely premature for us to have a suspension of the use of it without having some alternative because that could lead us into other problems. But we are doing the due diligence,” he stated.

He said concerns of the public have been taken seriously, given recent calls for the banning of the Roundup weed killer, which is one of the most popular herbicides used in Jamaica. He said the ministry has launched its own investigation, and has established a multi-agency technical working group to thoroughly investigate the issue and make a recommendation as to how to respond to these concerns. The working group is expected to complete its assessment in eight to 10 months.

– Alphea Saunders

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