GORDON DAVIDSON

AS THE EU prepares to decide on whether or not to re-authorise the herbicide glyphosate for agricultural use, the National Farmers Union Scotland has called on its members to promote the message that the chemical is one that they cannot do without.

After the recent period of uncertainty and temporary approvals pending safety reviews, the union wants to see glyphosate – which reaches the market labelled as 'Roundup' – re-authorised for a full 15 years, with continuing approval for use pre-harvest.

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In 2016, glyphosate was re-authorised for just 18 months, after the EU decision-making process became caught up in conflicting scientific advice and political differences between members states. While the European Food Safety Authority and World Health Organisation had both said the chemical was unlikely to cause cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer argued otherwise, albeit based on research that considered far higher doses than can be realistically expected in food residues.

The matter has since been all but settled by a report from the European Chemical Agency, which sided with EFSA and the WHO by ruling that glyphosate was not a risk to human health.

To highlight that fact – and hopefully avoid a repeat of 2016's political stalemate – NFUS this week launched the #GlyphosateIsVital campaign at McGregor Farms in Coldstream in the Scottish Borders, an arable farm which, like the vast majority of arable and livestock farms across Scotland, relies heavily on glyphosate to control weeds, manage harvests, and reduce grain drying costs.

Union president Andrew McCornick said: “Glyphosate has received a clean bill of health from the European Food Safety Authority, European Chemicals Agency, World Health Organisation, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. This scientific consensus means that if regulation of plant protection products in the EU is to have any credibility at all, glyphosate must now be re-authorised for a further 15 years – including for pre-harvest use.

“Whilst the Union has written to all Scottish MEPs to encourage them to support the re-authorisation of glyphosate, it would be invaluable if these MEPs also heard directly from farmers who use glyphosate about what it means for them," said Mr McCornick. "That message could be delivered even more powerfully if farmers were able to get MEPs on farm to discuss the issue. I encourage all Scottish farmers who want to see glyphosate remain in their toolbox to contact their MEP as soon as possible."

Colin McGregor, of McGregor Farms, added: “My business is founded on attention to detail and doing things right. Alongside doing my part for the environment and taking care of my soils, I need to be able to grow and harvest my crops in the best condition.

“Glyphosate is fundamentally important for me. It helps me maintain good yields and to use less fossil fuels to dry the crops and keep them in good condition. Glyphosate is a safe and invaluable tool for farmers and it is vital that it remains in our toolbox.”

For in-depth news and views on Scottish agriculture, see this Friday’s issue of The Scottish Farmer or visit www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk