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Roundup controversy: call for inquiry into pesticides agency

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Federal Labor has seized on health concerns surrounding the world’s most popular weedkiller to demand a Senate inquiry into the independence and decision-making of Australia’s pesticides agency.

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Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said it was crucial customers had confidence in the agency to review chemicals such as glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, which has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“This issue is too important to the agricultural community, to Australia’s farmers, and to consumers to be left unresolved,” Fitzgibbon said today.

The new concerns come after the ABC’s Four Corners program last night broadcast claims about the “secret tactics” used by chemical giant Monsanto to protect its high-selling product, Roundup.

The Cancer Council has called for an independent review into the weedkiller’s safety, raising concerns that there has not been a formal review of glyphosate in more than 20 years.

Labor also wants to investigate the impact of moving the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) from Canberra to Armidale in northern NSW.

“There is no doubt the government’s decision to relocate the APVMA has impacted on its operations,” Fitzgibbon said.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has thrown his full support behind the agency.

“I back the APVMA. I am confident the APVMA is competent and independent,” Littleproud said.

The minister said the weight of objective scientific evidence showed that when used in accordance with label instructions, glyphosate could be used safely.

National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson said the scientific evidence overwhelmingly proved the chemical was safe.

She pointed to more than 800 scientific studies and reviews, including numerous independent regulatory safety assessments, which affirm glyphosate does not cause cancer.

“There is simply no alternative that is as safe and as effective as glyphosate, for these purposes,” Simson said.

But the Greens want the government to undertake an independent and transparent review of glyphosate.

“If the Coalition government fails to call an independent review, it will be because they are prioritising their big business donors over the health of our community,” Greens senator Janet Rice said.

– with AAP

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