Public responses on glyphosate weedkiller published
11 May 2022
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has publicly released the 465 responses to its call for information on glyphosate herbicide.
"The EPA called for information about glyphosate last year because we felt it was the right time to take another look at the chemical," says Dr Chris Hill, General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms.
It is commonly known as the active ingredient in Roundup, but 89 mixtures containing glyphosate are approved for use in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Members of the public contributed just under half of all responses, at 48 percent. Professional users, such as councils, accounted for 42 percent. Seven percent of the responses were from organisations, and those involved in the supply chain made up 3 percent.
The responses included concern about possible health effects of glyphosate and the potential for environmental harm. People were also worried about the overuse of glyphosate, and the possible effects of glyphosate formulations on bees.
Other people discussed the many benefits of glyphosate, especially how it has enabled no-till agriculture that does not disturb soil. Glyphosate kills weeds when preparing seed beds for planting. Responders said that without glyphosate, outcomes for the environment and the economy would be worse.
Many responders were professional users who said that glyphosate, if used according to controls and regulations, is safe and highly beneficial. Others pointed out that any chemical is dangerous if used incorrectly, but that risk can be avoided or mitigated through appropriate protective measures. A few responders said the benefits of glyphosate outweigh the risks.
Of the members of the public who responded to the call for information, 60 percent do not use glyphosate, and think it should be banned or restricted. The others were domestic users who mainly supported glyphosate use, with perhaps extra restrictions.
The call for information, which closed in October, is the basis of a summary report published today.
Dr Hill says no decision has been made about whether to reassess glyphosate overall. "We initiated the public call for information about glyphosate so we have a greater understanding of the New Zealand context.
"The European Chemicals Agency and the European Food Safety Authority are reviewing the classification and approval of glyphosate, and plan to release their findings in 2023.
"The information we have received from our call for information better prepares us to assess the European findings and consider further actions for New Zealand," says Dr Hill.
The EPA’s next steps include actively seeking the views of Māori about glyphosate. "We need more information about the impacts of glyphosate use on Māori so we will be making efforts to deepen our understanding of Māori perspectives. This will help us make more informed decisions in future," says Dr Hill.
The EPA will review polyoxyethylene amine (POEA), a non-active component of some glyphosate-based products and other pesticides. It is a surfactant added to help glyphosate penetrate into weeds. Some responders noted POEA is more toxic to people and the environment than glyphosate.
"New Zealand has laws and regulations about glyphosate use, and it is considered safe if people follow the rules. These include wearing protective equipment, using sprays in calm and dry conditions, and storing and disposing of products correctly," says Dr Hill.