The state of California recently claimed a small victory over the corporation Monsanto as they made a move to add glyphosate as well as three other chemical pesticides to their cancer list. This will greatly restrict the use of these pesticides in order to protect public health.
The full extent of these restrictions is still unknown, but it is clear that glyphosate, malathion, parathion, and tetrachlorvinphos will all most likely be classified as carcinogens by California’s environmental protection agency.
Bloomberg’s BNA.com reports:
If the state’s Environmental Protection Agency, also known as CalEPA, places the four pesticides on its list, any knowing discharges of the chemicals into drinking water would become illegal. Also, farmers, pest control companies and any other businesses that want to use the pesticides would first have to provide ‘clear and reasonable warnings’ to the public, according to state law.
The agency’s decision was based on several studies done by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The conclusion of the studies was that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Although the public is free to comment about the proposal, the rules that have been set up in the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act in California mean that these substances will be classified as dangerous, regardless of public opinion. However, because many people are beginning to change their opinions on Monsanto, the use of chemical pesticides, and genetically-modified foods, officials do not expect resistance.
Earlier this year, the IARC issued a finding that the four pesticides at issue here are probably carcinogenic to humans based off of several studies of lab animals exposed to the chemicals.
As a result, the IARC’s findings triggered an almost automatic decision by California to place the four pesticides on its list. In a sign of just how automatic this decision is for the state, Delson said CalEPA will only consider comments on whether the IARC did or didn’t find the pesticides to be carcinogenic, not on whether the IARC’s findings are correct.
Under California state law, chemicals listed as carcinogenic are “subject to drinking water restrictions and use notification requirements.”
Thresholds to be determined
The thresholds of what will be considered to be safe levels of glyphosate along with the other pesticides have not been determined, and this will decide how profound of an impact this legislation will have on the usage of these chemicals. These limits are known as the “safe harbor” thresholds. If they are not determined within a year of this official listing, then no chemicals at all would be permitted in the drinking water. This will also trigger the public notification requirements.
Sam Delson, the deputy director of CalEPA’s scientific review office, is uncertain as to whether or not these restrictions will apply to farms’ pesticide runoff. He is, however, sure that the aforementioned safe harbor thresholds are going to be established within a year. These thresholds will determine whether a large or small percentage of farmers will be affected.
Time will tell
It remains to be seen how far-reaching the restrictions will be. Although it is possible that the listings will make little difference in the way glyphosate and the other pesticides are used – glyphosate is the main ingredient in the weed-killer Roundup and many other herbicides – most environmentalists are hailing California’s decision to list these substances as a very positive development.
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich said in a Facebook post: “Monsanto had a bad day yesterday… it’s finally the beginning of the end.”
With anti-Monsanto and anti-GMO sentiments on the rise around the world, such as Germany’s recent move towards banning GMO crops, perhaps Brockovich is correct in calling it the “beginning of the end.”
One can certainly hope.
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