Presentation on Glyphosate to
Pesticide Control Board Registration Committee
As a first step in the newly endorsed policy and procedures for review and re-registration of pesticides, the August meeting of the Pesticide Control Board Registration Committee (PCBRC) was a session to hear presentations by two groups of petitioners who are recommending a ban on glyphosate. The first group represented six organizations: Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) - Belize, Plenty Belize(PB) and Belize Organic Family Farming (BOFF), Belize Botanic Gardens (BBG), Pro Organic Belize (POB) and Belize Wellness Institute (BWI); the second presentation represented Southeast Watershed Alliance Group (SWAG).
PCBRC members, which include the PCB registrar and representatives from Ministry of Agriculture (MAFFESD&CC) R&D Central Farm; MAFFESD&CC Commercial Imports, Central Farm; Plant Health, Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA); Dept. of Environment (DOE); and Ministry of Health (MOH) as well as PCB staff members listened to facts based on scientific, peer-reviewed publications, over 100 of which were given in abstract form to them.
Glyphosate has become one of the most popular herbicides in the world, with use dramatically increasing in recent years. Over 136 metric tons were imported into Belize in 2015. Of the 565 registrations listed in the official PCB Register of Pesticides 19 are registered glyphosate formulations. They are sprayed widely and freely in Belize to control weeds: under fences along roadways, in playgrounds, around gardens and walkways, around fields, under trees, and in orchards. It is used by major crop growers as well as home gardeners. It is easy to use and has been advertised as safe by the manufacturers. During the time from 1993 when it was approved for registration in the U.S. and now, data has been emerging that point to many health and environmental consequences resulting from the use of glyphosate formulations. For example, the inert ingredients and additives in the formulations have been shown to be 1000 times more toxic than glyphosate alone, the active ingredient on which past studies concentrated.
The fact that glyphosate was detected at all sample sites monitored for three years in the Maya Mountain Reserve in a study published in 2011 by Kristine Kaiser and the fact that 50 – 75% of aerially sprayed pesticides affect non-target organisms show the extent of potential glyphosate hazards to Belizeans.
The presenters cited many of the studies that link glyphosate formulations either directly or indirectly such as the food chain, vaccinations, and water to health conditions and diseases, some of which were not known until the use of glyphosate became commonplace: diabetes, thyroid and liver function impairment and cancer, infertility, birth defects, autism, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, urinary/bladder cancer, gluten intolerance, digestive problems and chronic kidney disease. A study in Sri Lanka that linked chronic kidney disease to the use of glyphosate prompted that country to become the first to ban glyphosate.
When glyphosate formulations affect key species, whole ecosystems are affected – starting with soil. Root colonization and soil populations of the fungus Fusarium and selected rhizosphere bacteria greatly increase after glyphosate application. Glyphosate destroys earthworms, degrades soil micro-organisms, binds to essential minerals and organic soil particles and inhibits protein synthesis which leads to cell death in all plants, fungi and many bacteria species. The toxic effect of glyphosate formulations can impact plants and animals directly by exposure to spray or indirectly by changes in the eco-system; chronic effects are caused by long term exposure in the eco-system. Physiological and behavioral effects on birds and honeybees have caused declines in their population. Studies show the negative impact of glyphosate formulations on the ecology of freshwater systems includes micro-organisms, algae, crustaceans, other aquatic invertebrates, fish and amphibians.
The compelling case for banning the use of glyphosate formulations in Belize stresses the need for making Belizeans aware of the toxicity of the herbicide and for farmers and researchers to find alternative methods for weed control. The PCBRC asked the presenters for their help in the next steps to be taken in the review and re-registration process.