Soil Association comment: Roundup & GM maize research
20 September 2012
The Soil Association welcomes continued and much needed long-term research into the potential health effects of the widely used herbicide Roundup, and the genetically modified maize that has been engineered to tolerate it. The new study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology highlights the urgent need for more research into these products and raises serious questions about the rigour of the tests that chemicals and GM crops undergo before being allowed into our food system.
The concerns raised over both products are potentially far-reaching. Roundup (in which glyphosate is the active ingredient) is widely used in non-organic cereal crop production in the UK, and residues are frequently found in food. Many farmers apply it on wheat and barley just a few days before harvesting to kill the crop and dry it out, making the crops easier to handle but also seeing higher residues of the chemical enter the food system. This year’s wet summer is likely to have seen even more Roundup used than usual. In the USA, where GM crops engineered to survive Roundup are widely grown, use of the herbicide has increased.
The study has attracted attention from scientific commentators, some questioning the approach these researchers used. However, as the study was based on the protocol for testing chemicals like Roundup before they are allowed onto the market, some of their concerns may also relate to the previous studies that regulators relied on when giving Roundup the green light. We encourage critics of this new research to review those previous studies. The science underpinning new product approvals is at least as important a target for their scrutiny.
Organic standards do not allow Roundup or GM crops. GM crops have locked farmers into buying herbicides and costly seed, while breeding resistant weeds. Instead, we support innovations that help produce food with care for human health, the environment and animal welfare, and which put farmers in control of their own livelihoods.
*N.B. This comment was revised at 10:00 21/09/12