N.B. glyphosate hearings bring out difference in opinion on forestry, agricultural uses

Click to play video: 'Hearings around glyphosate spraying in New Brunswick reaches third day'
Hearings around glyphosate spraying in New Brunswick reaches third day
WATCH: Hearings into the controversial practice of glyphosate continued for a third day and a divide is beginning to emerge over its acceptance in different sectors. About 90 per cent of glyphosate is used in the forestry sector, which is the primary target of its detractors. Silas Brown reports. – Jun 24, 2021

The third day of hearings on the use of herbicides and pesticides in New Brunswick highlighted divided opinions on the use of glyphosate, depending on what sector it’s used in.

Estimates given earlier in the week suggested 90 per cent of global glyphosate use was in agriculture. But in New Brunswick, agriculture accounts for just 11 per cent of glyphosate usage.

According to a 2016 report from the chief medical officer of health, forestry accounts for 61 per cent of glyphosate usage in the province, while industry makes up another 27 per cent.

It’s those numbers that are most concerning for many of the presenters appearing before the committee on climate change and environmental stewardship this week.

“In New Brunswick, we use it less in agriculture, so it’s forestry that concerns us, and for industrial use especially under powerlines,” said Céline Surette, a professor of environmental chemistry at Université de Moncton.

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Of the three agricultural groups that have presented to the committee so far, just one supports a ban on glyphosate. The National Farmers Union of New Brunswick say the herbicide could be avoided through the use of regenerative farming.

Click to play video: 'Climate change and environment committee focuses on glyphosate spraying'
Climate change and environment committee focuses on glyphosate spraying

But both Bluets NB Blueberries and the Agricultural Alliance say that glyphosate products are integral in modern farming.

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“If New Brunswick’s (agriculture) industry is to move forward we need to use every tool that is out there at our disposal,” said Christian Michaud, vice-president of the Agricultural Alliance.

“Because the countries and the provinces around us will, and we’ll be left at a serious disadvantage.”

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Michaud says he rarely uses glyphosate, only when prepping a new field to avoid over-tilling his soil. According to the same report from the chief medical officer of health, about 60 per cent of the glyphosate used in agriculture is used in the production of corn and soybeans.

While many anti-glyphosate presenters say they aren’t particularly concerned about the agricultural use of the herbicide, some want to see an all-out ban.

One of those is Rod Cumberland, a deer biologist and former instructor at the Maritime College of Forestry Technology.

“If there’s a potential that this is going to affect me and my family and other people in the province, why on earth would we continue to do it?” he asked the committee Thursday.

The health impact of glyphosate on human beings has been a persistent topic throughout the hearings, but has yet to yield any decisive conclusions. Several presenters have cited the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer 2015 classification of glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen.”

But both Surette and fellow Université de Moncton professor Luc Tremblay say not enough research has been done on glyphosate’s impact on human beings and there is no consensus over whether it is a carcinogen or not.

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