Government won’t ban the controversial and popular weed-killer Roundup and other pesticides at this stage but will instead require a licence to buy them, the Agriculture Minister has told Parliament.
The change is one of many to be implemented in order to manage the use of pesticides considered harmful to human health and the environment as Indar Weir introduced the Pesticide Control (Amendment) Bill.
Efforts have stepped up worldwide to end the use of glyphosate, first developed by Bayer’s Monsanto under the Roundup brand, ever since the World Health Organization concluded in 2015 that it probably causes cancer.
In a landmark case, US courts have found that the chemical caused a frequent user’s terminal cancer.
Weir told the House of Assembly: “The hardware store will not sell these things on a shelf to people who walk off the street and want to pick them up but in truth and in fact you have to have a licence to show that you are a legitimate farmer and approved to use these pesticides.
“We are now moving to have a real structured Pesticides [Control] Board that will manage a lot of what we are seeking to do as it relates to pesticides management in Barbados.
The farm minister said that he took a paper to Cabinet during the COVID shutdown which spoke to the controlled use of RoundUp – chemical name glyphosate – in Barbados.
“The Cabinet did agree that we should set out in very clear terms how we are going to manage pesticides in Barbados and at the same time these chemicals will be accessible by the public,” the St Philip South MP said.
“We are seeking to make sure that a farmer with a licence can still access these chemicals. But that the person who lives in St Philip North or St Philip South which is basically part of the agriculture belt of Barbados or even St George North and wants to use these chemicals to spray their back yard rather than a fork or hoe then we need to manage that and to make sure that people are not just going into a hardware store or a chemical shop and have access to purchasing these things for home use.
“To my mind we have reached a stage where the risk is too great and whilst I understand because the sugar industry for sure still relies heavily on the use of chemicals I am not certain that we need to have chemicals kept in somebody’s kitchen or store room at home.”
The minister also announced a major change to the structure of the Pesticides Control Board.
Weir said: “The Act previously allows for the Deputy Chief Agriculture Officer to be the chairman of the pesticides board.
“The Deputy Chief Agriculture Officer is not necessarily always a trained scientist and he may have to appoint somebody to the board as his nominee. Therefore the simple amendment to this bill is to correct that to allow the Chief Agriculture Officer to become the chairman of the board.
“Previously we didn’t have a Registrar for pesticides. It was a case of anything goes so that is something we needed to correct. So we included an additional clause to make sure we have a Registrar of Pesticides and that person would be responsible for a register of pesticides.”
On two different occasions during his speech, the minister made reference to the landmark case of American former groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, against Monsanto over his heavy use of Roundup (glyphosate).
Johnson successfully claimed in 2018 that the pesticide caused his terminal cancer and that the corporation failed to warn him of the health hazards from exposure.
The minister said the pesticides getting into the water system is also another real concern.
Weir said: “The other thing is that the disposal of containers can create significant problems for the environment certainly to the aquifer. We find that a lot of our people dump in gullies really and truly this all needs to be managed and brought under control.”
The agriculture minister said his ministry believes that their intended goal can only be achieved if there is buy-in not only from all farmers but nationally as well.
He said: “We must now launch a very aggressive PR campaign if we are to achieve our stated objective in terms of how we are going to manage pesticide chemicals in Barbados.
“You simply don’t get buy-in with an amendment to the Act and we don’t get buy-in in silos. We have to start this conversation in a very structured and strategically organised way.
A California appeals court in July denied Monsanto’s appeal against the groundbreaking verdict that its widely used weed killer caused cancer in the groundskeeper, but the judges slashed the damage award from US$78.5 million to US$21.5 million — less than one-tenth the original award.
On Monday, France’s farm ministry announced it will give financial aid to farmers who agree to halt use of glyphosate, after President Macron said he had failed with efforts to ban use of the weedkiller by 2021. (IMC)