Charles Sturt University Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley says a “fear campaign” against glyphosate could have far-reaching impacts on the agricultural industry.
A jury in California recently awarded $US289 million to Dewayne Johnson, who said he got terminal cancer after years of using Roundup – which contains glyphosate – as a school groundskeeper.
It prompted Dubbo Regional Council to investigate the weed killer. Council is currently looking at possible alternatives.
Professor Pratley’s research is centred around conservation farming, herbicide resistance and weed science. He’s also from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.
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In an opinion piece for the centre, Professor Pratley said he was “beyond belief” at the verdict. He said there would be an appeal against the decisions and there was a high expectancy “the truth will prevail and the decisions will be overturned”.
He said glyphosate had been used commercially since 1974 in the United States and since 1978 in Australia.
“If there were to be carcinogenic we would expect that such cancers would be in epidemic proportions these days, given its widespread use,” Professor Pratley said.
The expert said glyphosate was a fundamental part of conservation agriculture, which was practiced by about 90 per cent of farmers.
“The world is moving towards nine billion people in a few decades. We depend on biotechnology and glyphosate to be able to feed them,” Professor Pratley said.
“Fake news serves us poorly. As Academy of Science Fellow Dr TJ Higgins one said ‘red herrings are in plentiful supply but they will not feed nine or 10 billion people’. GM (genetic modification) and glyphosate, however, just might.”
Councillor John Ryan has called for council to do its “due diligence” into the weed killer. He called on council’s Chief Executive Officer to look into alternatives to the chemical, like using steam.
“It’s of concern to a lot of people and judging by the mood from countries from across the world like France, who are looking at potentially banning it, I think it’s incumbent on council to try and stay ahead of the game,” Cr Ryan said.