Sackville’s Deputy Mayor is expected to propose a resolution at next week’s Town Council meeting urging the province to impose further restrictions on the herbicide glyphosate, sprayed by forestry companies to kill unwanted hardwoods and by farmers to get rid of weeds.
At Monday’s council meeting, Ron Aiken, who is a professor of biology at Mount Allison University, told fellow councillors he believes glyphosate, commonly sold under the trade name Roundup, can pose a threat to human health.
Aiken said he came to that conclusion after studying a one hundred page report from the The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which is part of the World Health Organization.
The deputy mayor noted that in 2015, the IARC reviewed more than a thousand scientific studies and found that glyphosate probably causes cancer even though the herbicide itself has low toxicity.
“If I sprayed you with glyphosate in the face right now, you’d get nose and throat and eye irritation, so it would be similar to spraying you with, I guess, lemon juice,” Aiken said.
“But the problem is, they don’t spray pure glyphosate around,” he added. “Any of these chemicals that are sprayed in agricultural fields…are a bit of a chemical cocktail.”
Aiken said that the makers of glyphosate aren’t required to say which chemicals are added to glyphosate, but some of the known ones are more toxic than the herbicide itself.
“At this point, I think it’s wise in terms of what we’ve seen historically with pesticides to go with the precautionary principle,” Aiken said, adding that if there’s a chance it causes harm, then it should be restricted.
He said his resolution supports further controls on spraying glyphosate and asks the provincial government to monitor it closely.
Aiken said it’s not known how much glyphosate gets sprayed in the Sackville area either by farmers or homeowners.
He noted that the town has a bylaw banning the use of “cosmetic” pesticides, but it couldn’t ban the sale or distribution of them.
“It’s certainly been used by individuals for spraying dandelions in sidewalks and so on,” Aiken said.
To listen to the deputy mayor’s five-minute presentation to council this week on glyphosate, click on the media player below.