BC Hydro and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) have recently published pest management plans for the Sunshine Coast that cite the use of glyphosate – the main herbicide in Monsanto’s Roundup – despite classification of the herbicide as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
In March 2015 the IARC assessed the carcinogenicity of glyphosate and found it to “probably” cause cancer, which resulted in the World Health Organization (WHO) recommending a full re-evaluation of the herbicide late last year.
That evaluation is not yet complete.
In the meantime, BC Hydro and MOTI are gearing up to use the herbicide as part of their 2016 pest management plans, which aim to clear invasive plants and noxious weeds from Crown land and locations where BC Hydro has operational or planned facilities.
Bob Drinkwater of Drinkwater Environmental Services, the group tasked with responding to input from the public on MOTI’s plan, said that while MOTI is the lead agency, the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Ministry of Environment will also be using the multi-agency pest management plan (PMP) on the Coast.
“As far as the inclusion of glyphosate in the PMP, it is Health Canada’s direction that is followed in regards to the safety and permissibility of specific herbicides,” Drinkwater said.
“Given the complexities of evaluating and analyzing risks and the environmental and human health threats that invasive plants present, it is important and a matter of law to rely on the agency, Health Canada, best suited and mandated to ensure public safety when it comes to risks from herbicides.”
Drinkwater said there are strict procedures in place in the PMP to ensure that unintentional exposure to herbicides doesn’t occur.
“One approach this PMP uses is to restrict the use of herbicides to management of invasive plants only where mechanical or biological methods are not effective and only for the most environmentally and/or human health threatening invasive alien plants,” he said.
Crystal Chadburn with MOTI added that herbicides can only be used in Canada if they have been evaluated and registered by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada and that the agency “only allows registration of products for which there is rigorous data demonstrating safety.”
BC Hydro spokesperson Mora Scott also said her company follows the guidelines of Health Canada, which has yet to ban the use of glyphosate.
She said it was “important to note” that the WHO has only identified glyphosate for further study, not deemed it a cancer causing agent at this time.
“In fact, glyphosate is currently classified in the same category as alcoholic beverages, mineral oil and salted fish,” she said.
“We will continue to track studies related to glyphosate, and should there be any changes to labelling restrictions or registration use requirements by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, BC Hydro will abide by those decisions.”
Health Canada stated on its website that “an evaluation of available scientific information found that products containing glyphosate do not present unacceptable risks to human health or the environment when used according to the proposed label directions.”
The Health Canada site also stipulates that while IARC has assigned a hazard classification for glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans,” a hazard classification is not a health risk assessment.”
This article was posted in the Coast Reporter on February 26, 2016 by Senior Staff Writer, Christine Wood.