British Crop Production Council attacks Green Alliance's opposition to glyphosate and GM crops

Glyphosate is an active substance widely used in herbicides
Glyphosate is an active substance widely used in herbicides

The EU Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed continues to be deadlocked over renewal of licences for glyphosate use, which, unless extended, will expire on 30 June 2016.

The Green Alliance of 46 MEPs is opposing the renewal.

However, Dr Colin Ruscoe, Chairman of British Crop Production Council (BCPC), has contacted Keith Taylor, Green MEP for SE England, to challenge this stance.

The Green Alliance’s concern is that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) argues that, based on risk-assessment, glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans, despite the view of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic".

The Green Alliance argues that the EFSA opinion is flawed, since it was based on unpublished regulatory studies (which the industry has offered to make available).

"EFSA’s conclusions were based on studies, already comprehensively reviewed by EU regulators, which considered risk as well as intrinsic hazard.

"The IARC assessment only considered hazard, not risk," says Dr Ruscoe. "In addition, their main cancer link to glyphosate are controversial studies on non-Hodgkin lymphoma – which diagnosis is no longer used because it is too imprecise.

"Over 60 good genotoxicity studies on glyphosate show no evidence of harm from any likely human exposure."

The WHO Joint Meeting of Pesticides Residues (JMPR) committee, which provides definitive ruling on safe limits of pesticide residues, has also pronounced that glyphosate residues do not pose a risk to consumers.

"The Green Alliance just focuses on those results which suit their purpose," says Dr Ruscoe.

The Green Alliance also attacks glyphosate as an “antibiotic”, deleterious to soil humus and to mycorrhizae.

"Studies with glyphosate on earthworms, arthropods, and microbial soil nitrogen transformation show no effect from the highest rate used," says Dr Ruscoe.

"I have asked to see the science on which these assertions of environmental harm (and others on the Alliance’s website) are based."

GM technologies

BCPC also challenges the Greens’ opposition to GM (and associated) technologies.

The recent US Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report, covering 900 studies over three decades, found no evidence of adverse effects of GM foods on human health or the environment.

"Given this report, I would like to know how the Alliance can continue to justify its ideological opposition to genetic modification of crops," says Dr Ruscoe.

Finally, BCPC’s letter points out that by invoking the “Precautionary Principle” to counter technologies showing any hazard, despite the evidence of safety from scientific risk-assessment, the Alliance attacks tools essential to feeding rising global populations.

It states that it is paradoxical that the Alliance attacks intensive farming, which results in less land being converted to food production, and so actually supports the Greens’ agenda to preserve the world’s natural environment.

"Such abuse of the “Precautionary Principle” is stultifying progress in a range of innovation-based industries, not just agriculture, and making EU growth in prosperity and employment fall further behind that of other trading blocs – which the EU was set up to compete with," says Dr Ruscoe.

Why is the Green Alliance against glyphosate?

The Green Alliance want glyphosate banned until it is proven to be safe, as numerous scientific and government bodies clash on the subject of whether or not it is a health hazard to humans and wildlife.

The Alliance website says: "It's not just human health that may suffer as a result of glyphosate.

"EFSA found a high long-term risk to animals, including farm animals such as cows and sheep.

"The German Environment Agency has also found significant adverse effects on biodiversity due to pesticides in general and glyphosate in particular.

"Glyphosate does not only kill target weeds, but also useful herbage in and close to fields treated with glyphosate.

"Organic farmers have demonstrated the same thing time and time again - glyphosate is not necessary for productive farming.

"The farming of the future is working with nature not against it.

"The use of Glyphosate is linked to a highly intensive agriculture that is simply not sustainable.