“We think that we could certainly tighten up on the protection of workers,” she said.
This included safety eye protection, sturdy rubber gloves, masks with a respiratory filter and “cotton overalls that get buttoned up to the neck and the wrist so that they’re actually not getting any of the product on the skin”, she said.
On Tuesday, a US jury found in a unanimous ruling that the glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup was a “substantial factor” in causing the cancer of a California man.
The owner of Roundup, German company Bayer, said it was “disappointed with the jury’s initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms that glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer”.
Cancer Council Australia has not called for glyphosate to be banned.
“Our big emphasis is on the safety of people who are required to use it in their workplace,” Professor Aranda said.
“Because you can use it safely. I think that’s the bottom line for us. So I think that many people who claim that their cancer is caused by glyphosate on the basis of the sort of information that’s been in the press internationally, really don’t understand that it’s the very heavy exposure that may be causing a problem,” she said.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research in Cancer concluded that glyphosate was a probable carcinogen to humans.
Meanwhile, the Sydney Institute of Agriculture believes that the eventual restriction of glyphosate should be anticipated in Australia. Even without widespread health concerns, it said relying on a single chemical for weed control was “poor long-term agricultural policy”.
The institute’s director of weed research, Michael Walsh, said weed populations were evolving resistance to glyphosate, meaning it was no longer as effective as it used to be.
“We are already preparing for a future without glyphosate,” he said. “We are putting a lot of effort into the development of alternate weed control technologies.
“We don’t believe we will ever be able to develop a weed control technology as good but that won’t stop us from trying,” he said.
Darren is the mining and agribusiness reporter for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
Natassia is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.