The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday said it has no plans to ban weed-killing agent glyphosate, despite a US jury on Friday ruling that it is probably carcinogenic.
In a trial at San Francisco’s Superior Court of California, agrochemical firm Monsanto was ordered to pay US$289 million in damages to a former school groundskeeper named Dewayne Johnson, who alleged that long-term contact with the weed killer caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.
Bayer, which in June completed its takeover of Monsanto, said in a statement it is confident that “glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer when used according to the label,” and that it intends to appeal the verdict, the BBC reported on Saturday.
In view of the case, the ingredient’s use has gained renewed attention in Taiwan, especially as the nation is the world’s top consumer of agro-pesticides per hectare.
Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Deputy Director-General Chou Hui-chuan (鄒慧娟) yesterday said that Taiwan, unlike the US, does not grow crops that can resist glyphosate, so farmers do not directly apply it to crops under normal circumstances.
While Taiwan used 1,464 tonnes of herbicides containing glyphosate last year, the council has no plans to ban the agent, as its proper use would not endanger crops, Chou said, adding that herbicides that have been proved to be carcinogenic are already banned from agricultural use.
The council last year announced a policy to cut in half domestic agro-pesticides use to 4,570 tonnes, or 6.3kg per hectare, by 2027, and the bureau is planning a classification system of pesticides to encourage farmers to reduce use of more harmful ones, she said.
The bureau has also been working with the Environmental Protection Administration to reduce the use of herbicides in non-agricultural areas, such as schools, parks and graveyards, she said.
Noting that the WHO in 2015 recognized glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” National Taiwan University professor of agronomy Warren Kuo (郭華仁) said the bureau should ask suppliers of herbicides containing the ingredient to place warning signs on the products.
While France and the EU have announced plans to ban the ingredient by 2021 and 2022 respectively, banning a single herbicide is not the best way to protect crops, because other herbicides would still be used, he said.
It would be optimal if farmers would stop using all pesticides and herbicides and adopt organic and environmentally friendly farming methods, Kuo said.
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