Valley Voices

Regulators shouldn’t deprive farmers of a safe pesticide

Gina McCarthy, center, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, discusses pesticide safety while with Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers, on Oct. 20 at a farm near Stockton.
Gina McCarthy, center, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, discusses pesticide safety while with Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers, on Oct. 20 at a farm near Stockton. jholland@modbee.com

Farmers in California have it tough these days. Despite recent rainfall, we continue to suffer through one of the worst droughts in history.

Now state regulators are trying to deny us the right to use one of the best and safest products in the world to protect our crops.

They claim that glyphosate, a popular weed killer, causes cancer. This is sheer nonsense – a cockamamie idea rejected by scientists and regulators for decades. Banning it threatens to raise food prices on consumers, to force farmers to adopt less-tested technologies and, perhaps worst of all, spread unwarranted fear.

The problem started last year, when a French-based unit of the United Nations, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, announced that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Nobody wants to use products that cause cancer. Farmers like me devote themselves to growing healthy and nutritious food, not spreading sickness and disease. That’s one of the reasons we prefer glyphosate. It’s one of the most scrutinized chemicals on the planet. Researchers have studied it for 40 years and they’ve consistently determined that it’s safe for ordinary use, not just by farmers but by gardeners.

When regulators routinely give glyphosate a new look, they find nothing new. “Our review concluded that this body of research does not provide evidence to show that glyphosate causes cancer,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said last year. The European Food Safety Authority agreed.

Earlier this year, however, the U.N. agency went rogue. Everybody should know two things about the agency. First, it has a long history of alarmism. A few years ago, for instance, it peddled the now-discredited idea that cellphones cause brain cancer. Second, its own organizational preamble warns policymakers not to take its findings too seriously.

Despite this, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment decided late last year to change its previous determination that glyphosate is safe. Leaning on the U.N. agency’s disputed claim, it has chosen to reclassify glyphosate as carcinogenic. This is the very definition of a reckless bureaucracy.

Bureaucrats in Sacramento should quit taking their cues from an unaccountable agency in France. They should pay attention to what respected American scientists have said for years about glyphosate and think about the good of California’s people.

Ted Sheely, who raises lettuce, cotton, tomatoes and other crops on a family farm near Lemoore, is a board member of the Global Farmer Network. He can be contacted at tsheely@globalfarmernetwork.org.

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