By law, pesticides on the market are reviewed every fifteen years. Typically, over that length of time there will be new data on health risks, environmental risks, usage of the chemical, and more. The Environmental Protection Agency reviews all this and then “re-registers” the pesticide for use in the marketplace, or not. EPA can also place limits or conditions on the use of any given pesticide.
Glyphosate, the active chemical in Roundup and its generic equivalents, was originally registered with the EPA back in 1974, and was then re-registered in 1993. The most widely used agricultural herbicide in U.S. history is now overdue for re-registration, and as it turns out, the EPA is in the midst of this process right now.
HERE’S WHAT THE EPA NEEDS TO DO.
One, it needs to take a good, hard look at the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which in the spring of 2015 found that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” More recently the chair of the IARC panel that issued the cancer designation said, “There is not a single example of IARC being wrong, showing something is a probable carcinogen and then later it is proven not to be.”
Two, it needs to take into account that it’s not simply glyphosate that’s sprayed onto our fields, school yards and parks. It’s a cocktail of chemicals that is more dangerous than glyphosate alone. Given recent research about the “inert” ingredients in Roundup, as well as the IARC’s latest findings, this new evidence needs to be evaluated by the EPA as they consider re-registering glyphosate.
Three, it needs to remember that in farm fields, as weeds increasingly grow resistant to Roundup, the reality is that farmers need to use more of the herbicide in order to kill off these “super-weeds.”.
The EPA must move quickly. In October, the agency delayed its scheduled multi-day hearing to examine the cancer data. Reports have suggested that the delay was due to a skirmish over which scientists could be in the room. The pesticide industry even argued for the exclusion of “any person who has publicly expressed an opinion regarding the carcinogenicity of glyphosate.”
As the EPA goes through this process, which is both scientific and political, we all need to weigh in, speak up, and call on the agency to put a premium on public health and to stop delaying.