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Agriculture This Week: Consumers need to research food safety issues

Mixed message of glyphosate safety over the years has to be confusing to consumers.

When it comes to food safety consumers can be forgiven for at times being confused about just what is safe and what is dangerous.  

In was back in 2015 when the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.  

That pronouncement set off an extended debate surrounding the widely used pesticide, sending shudders of concern through consumers worried about food safety and among farmers wondering if a popular weed control option might be more tightly controlled, or ultimately lost.  

Ultimately, the furor died down with regulatory agencies in a number of countries including the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency determining that use of glyphosate following label directions show no evidence of human carcinogenicity.  

Now the storyline seems to have taken a complete turn around.  

In May, Health Canada proposed increasing the maximum residue levels of glyphosate for commodities such as oats, lentils, peas and beans.  

For traditional producers the news will be seen as positive – an affirmation that glyphosate remains a very safe product.   

Given that producers now regularly grow crops which have been developed to be glyphosate resistant, allowing for a steady use of the product in weed control, continued use and higher tolerances are very positive.  

Canadians had 75 days to comment on the changes. The consultation period ended July 20. It will be interesting to see what sort of comments come out of the process, especially given the concerns raised in 2015.  

A larger concern though comes out of the winding road glyphosate safety has been on the last few years, and that is how consumers wade through the increasing volume of information at their fingertips.  

The first step is always to check the source, as the internet is a world where almost anything can be posted by expert or inexpert alike.  

However, the interpretation of research data is not an exact science, and different people will draw different conclusions based on the same material.  

It comes down to consumers needing to thoroughly investigate those things they feel are concerning to them. It is not a case of accepting the first report, or story one reads, but looking to find multiple reputable sources offering their findings and then making the best decision possible.  

It will not always be a simple black and white thing – whether to continue eating a certain thing, or opting not to because of health concerns.  

Instead, consumers must make the best decision to balance what they feel is an acceptable risk with the best conclusions they can find.  


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