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The Ludicrous European Parliament Vote on Glyphosate

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The European Parliament vote has seemingly recognised the risk to the health of transient bystanders and non-professional users of pesticides, but left at risk from exposure and adverse impacts the group with one of the highest levels of exposure, which is rural residents living in the locality of sprayed crop fields.

Agricultural use is by far and away the largest sector not only here in the UK but also across Europe regarding the use of glyphosate.

There are many millions of rural residents across the EU (including babies, children, pregnant women, the elderly, people already ill and/or disabled) who have no protection at all from exposure to this (or indeed any other) pesticide that is often sprayed in the locality of residents’ homes and gardens.

Although Roundup is probably the most well-known glyphosate product there are in fact 431 products currently approved for use in the UK containing glyphosate, the majority of which are for use on farm crops.

The latest Government statistics on pesticide usage show that in 2013 the total area treated with glyphosate on all crops in Great Britain was 1,743,735 hectares, with the total weight applied being 1,471,997 kg.

The original text of the resolution that the European Parliament was voting on last week had already recognised that “76 % of the use of glyphosate worldwide is in agriculture” and that “the general population is exposed primarily through residence near sprayed areas.”

Despite this rural residents will be rather perplexed to know that although MEPs voted not to approve glyphosate for various non-agricultural and non-professional uses, as well as for no approval in or close to public parks, playgrounds and public gardens, re-approval has seemingly been supported by MEPs for the agricultural use of glyphosate in the locality of residents’ own homes and gardens.

It is absurd for all those concerned about the health risks and harm of glyphosate to argue for non-approval of glyphosate in the non-agricultural sector to protect the health of what are effectively short term bystanders and yet for rural residents who are one of the highest exposure groups (far higher than for bystanders!) compromise amendments were tabled and adopted that have resulted in MEPs support of the re-approval of glyphosate on crop fields in the locality of residents’ own homes.

So called IPM (Integrated Pest Managment) referred to in one of the adopted compromise amendments is a red herring and will change nothing significant as it is system that still uses pesticides to some degree whichever definition one goes by.

If the health risks and harm of glyphosate is recognised for some lesser exposure groups it is ridiculous to then not recognise it for one of the highest exposure groups which is rural residents living in the locality of sprayed fields.

If glyphosate re-approval is refused for certain uses because of the risks to human health then it should be in relation to the use of glyphosate full stop!

No doubt many so called environmental NGOs will hail the European Parliament vote as a “victory“ but it certainly isn’t for rural residents, nor regarding the biggest sector for glyphosate use which is agriculture!

Georgina Downs is a journalist and campaigner. She has lived next to regularly sprayed crop fields in the UK for more than 30 years and runs the UK Pesticides Campaign

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