The Irish Examiner has found evidence that lobbying from the chemicals industry may have influenced a Department of Agriculture Food and Marine (DAFM) decision not to ban pre-harvest spraying of crops with glyphosate. DAFM denies the accusation, but documents accessed through freedom of information requests revealed contacts from various companies including Monsanto, the original developers of Roundup which is the best-known and most widely used glyphosate product.
DAFM told the Examiner, “Consumer safety and environmental protection are the primary concerns for the department, when making decisions on product approvals. Any suggestion that this [policy change] arises as a result of industry lobbying is not accepted.”
The decision not to restrict pre-harvest spraying of food crops in Ireland was made “having consulted with industry”, according to DAFM officials. This followed a recommendation by the European Commission that member states ban pre-harvest spraying, or desiccation of food crops. Pre-harvest desiccation is known to leave high residues of the chemical on crops intended for human consumption including wheat grains and potatoes.
The Department also told the Examiner that pre-harvest spraying is only allowed on rape crops, but a statement given to That's Farming last year indicated otherwise. In response to a request for clarification from us last year, the DAFM said that in Ireland, “pre-harvest glyphosate application in cereals will be restricted to those situations where it is necessary for weed control purposes only.” This leaves the possibility of its use on food crops open.
Glyphosate has been linked with cancer through studies carried out by the World Health Organisation which found it is “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Other regulatory bodies have disagreed. The European Food Safety Administration is currently reviewing the safety of glyphosate.