Ag Secretary Perdue Defends Glyphosate

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Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has expressed concerns over recent glyphosate rulings and their impacts on U.S. agriculture. At a House appropriations subcommittee hearing, Perdue asserted that it would ‘devastating’ if glyphosate were pulled from the market and added that it has ‘exponentially’ increased crop production in the last 25 years.

“I’m afraid that while groups that oppose these types of uses have not been able to win on the science side, they’ve chosen the litigation route,” he said. “I’m hoping that the appeals court will see through this and make better decisions about that,” he added.

Shortly after, Perdue issued a formal statement in response to the announcement by Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) that Vietnam will ban the import of glyphosate. “We are disappointed in Vietnam’s decision to ban glyphosate, a move that will have devastating impacts on global agricultural production. As I’ve often said, if we’re going to feed 10 billion people by 2050, farmers worldwide need all the tools and technologies at our disposal.

“On numerous occasions, USDA has shared scientific studies with MARD from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other internationally recognized regulatory bodies concluding that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans. This ban flies in the face of that scientific evidence. Furthermore, Vietnam has sidestepped its obligation to notify this regulatory change to the World Trade Organization.

“Vietnam also needs to look at the potential ramifications for its own farmers. In addition to the immediate effect of slowing the development of Vietnamese agricultural production, there’s the very real risk that Vietnam’s farmers will turn to unregulated, illegal chemical products in place of glyphosate,” he said.

EPA approved glyphosate uses and determined that it is not likely to cause cancer. In 2016, EPA released a report from a review of glyphosate carcinogenicity and concluded that it is ‘not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.’ In 2017, EPA released a draft human health risk assessment and again concluded that glyphosate is not carcinogenic. Furthermore, this report found no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used in accordance with the label. 

These findings are consistent with several other science reviews conducted in other countries as well as the 2017 National Institute of Health Agricultural Health Survey. Another example is a re-review of glyphosate conducted by Health Canada and released in January 2019, which includes the following statement, ‘No pesticide regulatory authority in the world currently considers glyphosate to be a cancer risk to humans at the levels at which humans are currently exposed.’

Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide worldwide and has been a preferred herbicide in U.S. agriculture and horticulture, due to its shorter half-life and less toxicity to humans when compared to other broad-spectrum herbicides. U.S. Geological Survey (2016) estimates that nearly 300 million pounds of it are applied annually in the U.S. over a wide variety of crops and environments; environmental horticulture accounts for approximately 10 million pounds of the total.

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