Glyphosate science and reporting ‘contaminated’

Glyphosate science and reporting ‘contaminated’ says Bayer


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Hot topic: Issues around access to glyphosate were top of mind when Bayer hosted the Future Farming Dialogue in Germany late last month.

Hot topic: Issues around access to glyphosate were top of mind when Bayer hosted the Future Farming Dialogue in Germany late last month.

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The science of glyphosate diverging into two worlds, according to one Bayer boss.

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BAYER’S head of regulatory policy and scientific affairs, Bill Reeves, has warned that the scientific debate around glyphosate had become ‘contaminated’. 

Mr Reeves was addressing journalists during last month’s Future of Farming Dialogue hosted by Bayer at their headquarters just outside Dusseldorf, Germany. 

His comments came ahead of an ABC Four Corners story, set to air tonight, which is expected to include calls from Cancer Council Australia for a new review into the popular herbicide. 

While acknowledging his own conflict of interest, Mr Reeves said it was too easy for both sides of the debate to find peer reviewed ‘science’ to match their arguments and too difficult for reporters to find truly independent sources.

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“You are seeing the science of glyphosate diverging into two worlds,” he said.

“You can go out into the peer reviewed literature and selectively cite your way through and find any number of things that say glyphosate will cause any number of problems and you can go through any number of studies that say it does not.

“These are the kinds of informational tactics that are being used because if you can get the science contaminated, well now you aren’t having to have a science argument anymore.”

It was standing room only during the briefing on glyphosate with journalists from all over world keen to put questions to the makers of glyphosate brand, Roundup, in the wake of Brazil’s recent ban on the chemical, and reinstatement, and a US court decision that found Roundup was liable for one man’s cancer diagnosis.

Having worked as an environmental scientist with the California Environmental Protection Agency before joining Monsanto, Mr Reeves was called on to outline the regulatory process around chemicals like glyphosate.

He said few chemicals had more data behind them than glyphosate.

“One of the things that makes it really unique is the fact that Monsanto came in and we did 100 or so studies to get it registered and then it went off pattern and there were six other companies that came in and did their own data packages,’ he said.

‘It’s unusual to have a crop protection product that has that much data done, so it gives us a lot of confidence in what we know.”

Joining Mr Reeves during the glyphosate briefing was the UK’s National Farmers Union deputy president, Guy Smith.

Mr Smith said the Farmers Union would “fight to the last ditch” to keep access to glyphosate open.

“Once glyphosate is banned, then what’s up next?,” he asked.

“I don't care what Californian juries say about it. I am interested in what appropriate scientists sitting on regulatory authorities say about it. That’s the way to regulate pesticides and that is the principal at stake here.”

Mr Smith said there was a lot of concern that farmers in the European Union would become uncompetitive if glyphosate was banned in the EU. 

“I know the UK is leaving the EU but I suspect EU rules will continue to govern us and there is this concern that if we have this diversity between the way the EU regulates pesticides that puts costs into the European economy against other parts of the world and we would lose our competitive edge,” he said.

“We will simply suck in imports from other parts of the world and that is no vision for a farm leader like me wanting to produce food for its own population.”

  • Penelope Arthur travelled to Germany as a guest of Bayer
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